New York shutters golf courses, boat launches as coronavirus deaths grow

Joseph Spector, New York State Team
Carl Rogers of Yonkers tees off on the 10th hole at Maple Moor Golf Course in White Plains April, 6, 2020. Playing with him was Chris Durant of Yorktown, Jim Welsh of Mount Kisco, and Rob Wallace of Oradell, N.J. With golf courses in New Jersey closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Wallace said he came to Maple Moor because the Westchester County public golf courses were the closest courses that remained open. New York State has now classified golf courses as non-essential businesses, meaning they will have to close at least until April 29.

ALBANY - New York quietly put golf courses on the non-essential business list Thursday, a move that will force them to shutter at least until April 29.

New York has banned all non-essential businesses from operating until the end of the month as coronavirus cases and deaths grow in the state, with fatalities reaching 7,067 people on Thursday.

Empire State Development, the state's economic development arm, keeps a running list of industries that are deemed essential during the pandemic.

Golf courses were not listed either way until Thursday, leaving it up to local leaders to decide what to do.

The state's guidance said that parks and other open public spaces can remain open, "except playgrounds and other areas of congregation where social distancing cannot be abided."

But it notes, "However, golf courses are not essential" and also "use of boat launches and marinas for recreational vessels is not considered essential."

The state didn't provide an immediate reason for the change in status for golf courses and boat launches, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has increasingly warned that social distancing needs to be maintained, even as the state appears to flattening the curve of new cases.

He has not indicated when the "NY Pause" order on businesses will be lifted, saying it too soon to know when the virus will subside.

"We are flattening the curve by what we're doing, and we're flattening the curve so far," he said Thursday. "We should all be concerned, especially New Yorkers, well, we're flattening the curve, that's good news. It is good news. Well, now I can relax.

"No, you can't relax."

In the neighboring states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, golf courses were shuttered last month, putting pressure on New York to decide whether to follow suit, but in the meantime leading to more crowded courses in the state as golfers crossed the borders.

In Westchester County, its six public golf courses remained open, with County Executive George Latimer saying, “We believe that people do need recreation right now.”

But as the coronavirus persists, New York is further tightening what businesses can operate.

There were a series of other businesses and services that were deemed non essential on Thursday, such as more clearly defining what activities in the construction industry could continue.

The state added and clarified some essential services, including:

• Emergency chiropractic services

• physical therapy, prescribed by medical professional

• occupational therapy, prescribed by medical professional

• landscaping, but only for maintenance or pest control and not cosmetic purposes

• designing, printing, publishing and signage companies to the extent that they support essential businesses or services

• remote instruction or streaming of classes from public or private schools or health/fitness centers; provided, however, that no in-person congregate classes are permitted

Businesses deemed non essential can appeal to the state for a change in their designations through Empire State Development.

Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany