ALBANY – New York will allow golfers to hit the course and boaters to hit the water during the coronavirus pandemic after all.


Empire State Development, the state authority in charge of determining essential and nonessential businesses, updated its guidance for golf courses Friday, opening the door for them to reopen to golfers so long as almost all direct employees are not on premises.


On Saturday, New York joined the states of Connecticut and New Jersey to open up their marinas, boatyards and boat launches for recreational use.


Previously, marinas were only open for boaters performing essential services, meaning recreational boating wasn't permitted.


The reversals are the latest steps the state has taken to clarify its list of essential businesses and services, which determine what can and cannot stay open while the COVID-19 crisis is ongoing.


Golfers will have to walk the course and carry their own bags without a motorized cart, according to Dani Lever, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's communications director.


They will also be required to maintain a strict social distance of at least six feet. No gatherings of any kind will be allowed on the course, she said.


Public and private courses will be allowed to open to golfers, according to Cuomo's office. It will be up to the owner or operator to decide whether to open under the ground rules laid out by the state.


The state issued the updated guidance Friday after a week of uncertainty for golf courses.


Last week, Empire State Development classified all golf courses as "nonessential," which meant they were prohibited from having their employees report to work on site.



Melissa DeRosa, top aide to Cuomo, said April 10 that golfing was "counter to the message" the state is trying to send people, who have been encouraged to stay home.


But several prominent golf associations made the case that the nonessential designation would still allow members of private courses to play, so long as no employees were on site and the golfers maintained social distance.


And some municipal courses suggested they could remain open because local governments are exempt from the nonessential designation.


On Friday, Empire State Development made clear that golf courses are still considered nonessential, meaning their employees still can't report to work.


But the courses can employ security personnel -- an essential service -- to ensure that golfers are maintaining six feet of social distance, the state authority said. Landscapers, also an essential service, will also be allowed on the course.


ESD's guidance makes specific mention of private courses, which led some course owners to believe only private courses could open. But that's not the case: Local governments are exempt, so municipal courses can open, too.


The courses will not be permitted to open up their clubhouses or locker rooms, according to the state.


When it comes to marinas, rental boats or chartered watercraft will not be permitted, according to Cuomo's office.


Like at golf courses, marinas and boatyards will also be required to follow strict social distancing requirements, as well as sanitizing requirements, Cuomo said.


Restaurants at boatyards will only be permitted to serve takeout or delivery like all restaurants in the state.


Jon Campbell is a New York state government reporter for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JCAMPBELL1@Gannett.com or on Twitter at @JonCampbellGAN.


Support local journalism


We cover the stories from the New York State Capitol and across New York that matter most to you and your family. Please consider supporting our efforts with a subscription to the New York publication nearest you. Check out the latest offer.