Sheriff: Private golf course members can use grounds

Coronavirus

CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) —  As Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home order continues, questions continue to arise.

Many viewers have asked News 8 why law enforcement hasn’t intervened after a photo showing people gathered at a local golf course sparked controversy on social media.

A courtesy photo sent by a WOOD TV8 viewer of a golf course during the stay at home order. (April 11, 2020)
A courtesy photo sent by a WOOD TV8 viewer of a golf course during the stay at home order. (April 11, 2020)

The picture, said to be taken Saturday, shows dozens of people out golfing at the StoneWater Golf Course in Caledonia.

State officials have made it clear that golf courses should not be open at this time under Whitmer’s order. But the Kent County Sheriff’s Department says this is not a violation they can enforce when it comes to a private course like the StoneWater Country Club.

Kent County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Joel Roon said the agency consulted with the county prosecutor’s office and the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and ultimately reached the following conclusion:

“Private golf courses are allowed to permit members to walk on and use the grounds if they choose,” Roon said. “They cannot be open in any way, no pro shop, bar, etc. But if a member shows up with their own cart and decides to start playing, this is not an enforceable violation of the executive order.”

Roon added that those who are members of a private golf club are still expected to follow everything included in the governor’s executive order, such as keeping 6 feet away from other people as a part of social distancing.

In a statement to News 8 Monday, the Attorney General’s Office said that while people can have access to grounds to “engage in outdoor physical activity,” but not to actually golf. It said it had seen photos of large crowds not obeying the 6-foot rule and was working with authorities to manage that:

“The Governor’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order only allows critical infrastructure employees to leave their home for work. That means golf courses – whether public or private – may not be open to golfers. The order allows people to leave home to “engage in outdoor physical activity,” but social distancing is required, regardless of activity. The photos we have seen continue to show golfers ignoring social distancing and we are communicating with local law enforcement agencies to offer our assistance.”

Officials say they can, and likely does, have an “essential employee” on duty to act as security, ensuring only members are on the grounds.

News 8 reached out to the StoneWater Country Club for comment but has yet to hear back.

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