Golf courses under fire

HARLINGEN — Like Robin Brown, some Rio Grande Valley residents want golf courses to shut down, arguing the private clubs are violating federal orders limiting gatherings as part of the drive to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

But the private courses argue they’re offering golfers a place to exercise as they comply with the federal mandate ordering social distancing.

“I think they’re trying to make it a political issue,” Brown, a retired paralegal in Laguna Vista, said, referring to golf course owners who argue they have constitutional rights to operate their private clubs.

“It’s not about politics,” she said. “It’s about public health. People don’t get it.”

Like some residents, Brown believes the golf courses are violating federal orders.

“They’re not sheltering-in-place,” she said, referring to the order mandating residents stay home to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus. “It’s not a recommendation. It’s an order. It’s a legal instrument that orders law-abiding people to shelter-in-place.”

On Wednesday, the South Padre Island Golf Club, which residents like Brown have been pushing to close, did not respond to messages requesting comment.

“It’s closed to the public but it’s still open to its membership. They’re practicing social distancing,” Laguna Vista City Manager Edward Meza said. “People feel they have their right to golf and do what they please.”

McAllen shuts down golf course

In McAllen, officials are getting tough.

On Wednesday, they closed the Palm View Golf Course to the public.

“Due to the number of people at the Palm View Golf Course, McAllen Mayor Jim Darling ordered that it be closed until further notice,” a city press release stated.

“In light of the amount of traffic we continued to see and the fact that players were congregating in certain areas it is best to close the golf course for the safety of the public and our employees,” City Manager Roy Rodriguez stated.

County judge warns clubs

On Tuesday, Cameron County Judge Eddie Treviño said some golf courses aren’t complying with his orders limiting gathering sizes.

“I spoke with a couple of the operators and owners of golf courses. They understood our concern and they complied,” Treviño told reporters during a press conference. “Others, I’m understanding, are again trying to look for loopholes or excuses to say it’s a private course or they pay their memberships.”

Golf course complying with orders

In Harlingen, the popular Stuart Place Golf Course is complying with federal orders while giving golfers a place to exercise, a club owner said.

“You can’t congregate in the clubhouse. They maintain social distancing,” Marvin Davis, a member whom the owner requested speak with the media, said.

Davis said the golf course is taking steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

“The carts are wiped down after every use — one person in a golf cart,” Davis said. “You don’t touch the flag, you don’t move the flag. We don’t have enough employees to sanitize the pole.”

Last week, Harlingen officials closed the city-owned Tony Butler Golf Course.

The Harlingen Country Club and the Treasure Hills Golf Club could not be reached for comment.