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North Idaho golf courses told to limit play to Idaho residents

It was a difficult week at the office for Darrell Hull, director of golf at The Links.

At the direction of the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO), Hull spent last weekend informing out-of-state players that they wouldn’t be permitted at the Post Falls course to comply with Idaho Gov. Brad Little’s stay-home orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“We went from 88 percent capacity on Tuesday to 21 percent when we started calling all these people,” Hull said. “About 60 percent of our revenue went right out the window.”

North Idaho courses for several weeks had been accommodating large numbers of Washington visitors with Eastern Washington courses closed under Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-home directive.

The Highlands Golf Course in Post Falls has signs at each entrance that read: “Attention Idaho Residents Only Thru April 30,” and, “We are required to tell you that we are only accepting tee times for Idaho residents thru April 30, per the Governor’s orders.”

The front page of Prairie Falls Golf Club’s website has a similar message: “Idaho residents only through April 30th (per Idaho Governor Brad Little orders).”

Phone calls to the Coeur d’Alene Public Golf Club’s pro shop hear the following message: “As of Monday, April 20, we are open to Idaho residents only for the statewide stay-at-home order … We do ask that you do your part as we continue to do ours during this uncertain time.”

CdA Public general manager Brent Walsh said he was asked by the Coeur d’Alene Police Department to post “Idaho Residents Only” signs by last Monday. A similar message can be found for those attempting to book tee times on the course website.

Not every North Idaho course has heard from local law enforcement agencies.

“We haven’t been contacted to be honest,” Coeur d’Alene Resort pro Andy Mackimmie said. “I know Prairie Falls and Links have been.”

Rules have differed across the nation whether golf courses should be open or closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Roughly 47% of U.S. courses were open as of April 18, according to the National Golf Foundation.

North Idaho courses are operating with social distancing and numerous other safety measures in place. Those typically include one rider per cart, removal of rakes, benches and ball-washers from the course and discouraging customers from touching the flagstick or other players’ clubs. Several courses have closed putting greens.

Little’s stay-home order allows people from out of state to enter Idaho if they are performing essential services or those who live outside of Idaho and work or gain essential services in the Gem State.

Inslee said Friday during a Spokesman-Review Northwest Passages Community Forum that he’s considering lifting restrictions on Washington courses in the near future.

“We love our out-of-state golfers when they come over here,” KCSO Sgt. Chris Wagar said last week, “but due to the Governor’s order it’s something that can’t be allowed currently.”

Forty of The Links’ 70 season-pass holders live in Washington.

Hull and his staff have been asked to check IDs when people check in before their round. The course has turned away at least one golfer from Montana and another from Alaska. Out-of-state players also aren’t permitted to use the driving range.

One visitor hoping to hit balls on the range walked off after being asked to show his ID. Another played at a different course in Idaho on Wednesday but wasn’t allowed to play The Links the following day.

Hull said he wasn’t aware of any Washington golfers receiving tickets.

“They (some other courses) aren’t getting hit as much as we are,” Hull said. “They’re not having to check IDs. When you start checking IDs, some people get really upset.

“This isn’t what I signed on for when I became a golf pro. It’s just crazy and people don’t understand. They think it’s something we’re doing. And they just rip us every time they call.”