ALBANY — New York is still officially banning golf carts on the courses due to coronavirus, but will now allow them for individuals with disabilities.
The updated guidance, quietly provided to courses, this week is aimed at complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm.
The state initially banned golf on April 9, then, amid protests from courses, let golf resume April 18 only for those who walk. Non-essential employees were banned, and only workers who do maintenance and security on the courses are allowed.
"Under the current guidance, golf courses are not fully open in New York State as they are not considered an essential business and the only employees allowed to work on-site at golf courses are for essential services (e.g. maintenance and security)," the guidance states.
"The use of motorized golf carts would require non-essential employees to work on-site and is therefore prohibited."
But the guidance was updated this week, the state agency said, that "on a case-by-case basis, the use of a motorized cart may be permitted for any individual with a disability who is seeking a reasonable accommodation to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)."
The guidance had not yet been listed on its website as of Friday.
It adds: "So long as it does not require non-essential employees to be on-site and so long as social distancing, as well as appropriate cleaning and disinfecting protocols, are maintained."
The agency did not provide any more details about how it will enforce the new measure or how carts could be provided if staff is not there to make carts available.
But a spokeswoman told the Times Union in Albany that a golfer who wants a cart would have to provide documentation to the golf course that he or she has a disability.
Personally owned carts would also be allowed, the agency told the paper.
“If someone has their own personal cart, and the golf course says, ‘We’ll allow you to bring your own cart,’ sure, because no one has to go in and clean that. The idea with this entire thing with golf carts is we’re limiting the number of nonessential employees that are forced to work at a golf course,” the spokeswoman said.
The changing guidance in New York comes amid a confusing landscape for golfers.
Westchester County, for example, opened some of its county courses and allowed carts, but restricted to a single rider. Pro shops were opened to accept greens fee payments.
"We’re opening them in sequence to make sure that we have the right social distancing protocols in place, the right protection for our workers," County Executive George Latimer said April 30.
In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy this week gave counties the authority to open golf courses at their discretion if they can ensure social distancing and urge golfers to wear masks. A similar stance was taken by Gov. Ned Lamont in Connecticut.