Michigan Gov. Whitmer says golf courses can’t be open but enforcement rules aren’t clear

If the seasonal flu kills tens of thousands of people every year and we don’t shut down the economy, why are we closing everything for the coronavirus (COVID-19)?

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued an Executive Order that shut down golf clubs amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, but some golfers are still on the greens.

Golfing during the stay-at-home order has been a very hot topic. Whitmer has ruled golf courses are not essential and should be closed.

The Local 4 Defenders keep getting tips about people using golf courses anyway and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about whether it’s OK to golf.

Defender Karen Drew went to the governor’s office and the attorney general’s office for answers. Whitmer’s office said its Executive Order is clear -- golf courses cannot be open.

It doesn’t matter if it’s public or private. Many police agencies have told Local 4 off the record that they are not enforcing the order.

With the weather warming up and the grass turning green it’s the time of the year people want to hit the golf course. Local 4 Defender cameras captured people doing just that last week over in Commerce Township and in Royal Oak.

MORE: Defenders cameras catch video of golfers at Commerce Township country club despite stay-at-home order

“It’s not critical infrastructure, it’s just not. They are not necessary to sustain life,” Whitmer said. “To be candid just by engaging in it can expose people to risk.”

Her Executive Order states that golf courses may designate workers whose in-person presence is necessary to conduct minimum basic operations. That does not include serving the public.

That means golf courses can’t collect fees and arrange for golf carts but if the owner of the property gives consent to golf -- it appears that is allowed as long as people keep their social distance.

The attorney general’s office said if a closed golf club does allow people to golf and the golfers don’t keep their social distance then the responsibility falls on the club.

“I’m not going to send somebody out on foot away from their patrol car because you can’t drive on the course,” Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard side. “As long as they’re keeping their social distance -- according to the Attorney General last week that was permissible.”

The Attorney General’s office told Local 4 the photos they have seen of golfers shows that they are not keeping their distance. That lands in the hands of local police and that’s the issue -- confusion over the order and police not having resources and time to be tracking down golfers.

READ: What happens if you violate Michigan’s stay-at-home order?

About the Authors:

Karen Drew is the anchor of Local 4 News First at 4, weekdays at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. She is also an award-winning investigative reporter.

Kayla is a Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit. Before she joined the team in 2018 she worked at WILX in Lansing as a digital producer.