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NYS now allows some golf use of motorized carts

By Sandra Hutchinson, Chronicle Chief Operating Officer

New York State on May 6 issues revised guidelines that now allow for some use of motorized golf carts.

The New York State Club Association sought the clarification.

Golf bags have ‘come a long way,’ says Glens Falls Country Club head pro Tom Haggerty. Some work like backpacks.

It reads, “If an individual is seeking a reasonable accommodation in the form of a motorized golf cart and the private operator is permitting individuals who are members of the public access to the course, it is within the discretion of the private operator to consider and, on a case-by-case basis, fulfill a request for a motorized golf cart 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, can be maintained.”

The Chronicle checked in with some local courses to see how this revised language has changed their procedures, if at all.

“There’s a lot of grey area in what’s been coming down from the State,” said Travis St. Clair, manager of his family-owned Skene Valley Country Club in Whitehall.

He said he interprets the rule that “If someone has a physical disability or impairment or even something as simple as asthma, if they say they have a medical reason to take a cart, I take their word for it. I don’t ask for medical records.”

He adds, “It’s a tricky spot we’ve been put in.” Mr. St. Clair says they are allowing use of the cart by single riders who say they need the accommodation. He says he personally disinfects the cart after use.

At Airway Meadows, in Gansevoort, owner/operator Joan Heber says they will make decisions on a case-by-case basis. As of Tuesday morning, May 12, she says no one has yet asked to use a motorized cart.

She says she feels the standard is met if someone tells her they have an issue and can’t walk the course. If it’s a young person and there’s no apparent issue, but the person offers proof (like a medical note or car placard), they will accept that.

If a senior says they can’t walk the course, she thinks providing a cart is a reasonable accommodation, without requiring proof.

She says, for example, “It’s reasonable to think someone over 70 should not be walking the course.”

At Glens Falls Country Club, the only local private club, head pro Tom Haggerty says he has accepted as proof a handicapped car placard or a note from a medical professional.

Last weekend, he says they had a couple of carts go out on Saturday, and three or four on Sunday.

He says he would not allow an individual club member to use his or her own cart, both for liability reasons, and for fairness to other members who don’t own a cart.

Mr. Haggerty notes that the carry golf bags have “come a long way,” and now many are like a backpack, making carrying clubs easier.

Mr. Haggerty says that he feels bad for the public courses, since they depend heavily on cart rental revenue. He says he hopes that this week, on May 15, the State will make a decision “to open up a bit of freedom at the golf clubs.”

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