Adam Murray, 27, of South Portland, takes a shot on the South Portland Municipal Golf Course on Monday. The course opened for the season the previous Friday among new restrictions prompted by coronavirus concerns. Sean Murphy / For The Forecaster

SOUTH PORTLAND—Monday was an overcast day, but it was warm, and there was no rain, and on the links at the South Portland Municipal Golf Course, that suited Adam Murray just fine.

“Beautiful day for it. Perfect,” he said as he teed up.

Murray, 27, lives within walking distance of the course, which just re-opened May 15. Prior to May 1, no golf courses were allowed to open due to orders from Gov. Janet Mills, but this month the governor’s phased plan for re-opening businesses includes golf courses, and local residents like Murray are taking full advantage.

Rick Peruzzi, the municipal course’s manager, said he was happy to see golfers returning, as he usually opens for the season the Friday before Patriots’ Day, which this year would have been April 17.

“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.

Like other businesses beginning to reopen, however, golf courses are operating with restrictions. Peruzzi said the clubhouse will remain closed. Golfers may not pay with cash, and there is no restroom access. Bunker rakes and ball washers have been removed, and walk-ups are not allowed. Players must call ahead for a tee time in order to ensure social distancing.

“Since the city’s owned (the course), I don’t think tee times have ever been required,” Peruzzi said.

But the restrictions haven’t gotten in the way of local golfers having fun. Jim Hiltonsmith, 68, said he usually comes every Monday, and worried that the new rules would take the fun out the game, but he said this week that he was pleasantly surprised.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s a lot better than I thought it would be.”

Hiltonsmith comes with a very small group of friends, and they all were enjoying their time outside.

“We’ll be back next week for sure, weather permitting,” he said.

Dick Keniston, 67, lines up a shot at the South Portland Municipal Golf Course on Monday. The course opened for the season on May 15. Staff Photo: Sean Murphy

Dick Keniston, 67, works in the clubhouse, but on Monday was out with his clubs. He noted that asking players to keep a distance from each other was easy, since golf is not a sport that requires large groups of people to cluster together anyway.

“It’s not too hard to social-distance around here,” he said.

Other area golf courses, including the Nonesuch and Willowdale Golf Clubs in Scarborough, and the Purpoodock Club in Cape Elizabeth, were open for business.

At Purpoodock, Tony Decker, head golf professional and director of club operations, said the course opened May 1. He said the club had planned to open the course in early April, but a large volume of players are now coming to play.

“We’re just seeing an unprecedented amount of play here,” he said.

Decker said the Purpoodock’s clubhouse is still not open, but since it’s a private club, there is little need for players to perform any transactions when they schedule and come for a tee time.

“Basically, the members just check in through a window, we give them a wave, and off they go,” he said.

At the Willowdale Golf Club, Manager Pam Lewis said the club opened May 1.

“It’s been great,” she said. “People are happy to get out.”

Lewis said that, like the municipal course in South Portland, players are restricted to tee times only, and must follow other guidelines such as social distancing. She said, however, that players don’t seem to mind, and that the wide-open space of a golf course offers a unique opportunity to get outside.

“I think it’s one of the activities that people feel comfortable and safe doing,” she said.

Sean Murphy 780-9094

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