News Story

Village Clerk Warns: Golf Course Lockdown Scofflaws Could Face Jail

In off-season residents take walks on 9-hole course; playing golf during virus emergency risks penalties

Visitors to the homepage of the village of Grand Beach’s government website are greeted with a rotating series of photos, including a close-up of a golf ball and the words “Grand Beach Golf” and “Play Here.”

Except, during the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic, anyone who takes the village up on its invitation risks getting a ticket.

A March stay-at-home executive order issued by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer included exceptions for “outdoor activity, including walking, hiking, running, cycling, or any other recreational activity consistent with remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s household.”

On March 26, the state of Michigan issued guidance on how to interpret the order’s provisions, in a document of frequently asked questions. Among other things, it clarified the order’s application to golf courses:

Q: Are golf courses allowed to stay open?

A: No. While EO 2020-21 contemplates outdoor activity, opening a golf course to the public does not fall under the designation of critical infrastructure. Consequently, a golf course may not designate employees as critical infrastructure employees and authorize them come to work.

On April 3, the clerk for the Berrien County village of Grand Beach, population 278, updated the village website. It says that not only is golfing prohibited, but village police will monitor the community’s nine-hole golf course for violations. Violators could be ticketed and face criminal prosecution and $1,000 fines. The warning read:

“As of yesterday, fines were increased to $1,000 per incident for those not complying with executive orders banning gatherings and non-essential businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to a fine, criminal charges may be included and could include jail time.”

The message added: “Our police department will be monitoring these areas and instructing violators to leave. People who do not comply will be issued tickets.”

The village clerk and the police department didn’t respond to emails seeking comment.