Residents question golf as an essential activity as rounds soar at Richardson course

Nuanced language that allows certain outdoor sports but leaves others open to interpretation has sparked outcry from some residents who say golf does not pass muster as an essential activity.

Executive orders issued by Gov. Greg Abbott do not explicitly prohibit golf. As a result, some courses in Texas have remained open, including city-owned Sherrill Park in Richardson.

City leaders have put in place safeguards to reduce in-person contact, but residents who live near Sherrill Park say those efforts are thwarted by the sheer number of golfers turning out to play.

Misty Keasler, whose home of six years backs up to course, said shelter-in-place orders meant to discourage gatherings have instead brought golfers out in droves.

“Every day was like a packed weekend,” Keasler said of the weeks that followed stay-at-home orders. “Golfers were kind of on top of each other.”

The golf course has seen an uptick in rounds played over the past few weeks, Deputy City Manager Don Magner said. Over the entirety of March, Sherrill Park averaged 196 rounds per day. In the first three weeks of April, it averaged 252 rounds per day.

The increase in play can be explained in part by the widespread closure of nearby courses, Magner said.

“Those [courses] that are open are seeing a higher level of play,” he said.

In late March, Richardson resident Andrew Laska sent an email to Mayor Paul Voelker along with several other city officials asking why golf courses remain open while other recreation facilities are closed.

In response, the mayor said golf requires minimal contact between players and is therefore a valuable escape opportunity for residents.

“Golf differs in important ways from those recreation activities that have been ordered to cease operations during this crisis,” he wrote. “Participants do not have to share equipment or break social distancing guidelines to participate, for instance.”

To minimize contact between players, the city canceled tournaments, closed the pavilion and limited golf carts to one person per ride. In his email, the mayor encouraged residents to report violations of social distancing guidelines by calling 9-1-1, but Keasler said police have enough on their plates.

Fees paid by golfers at Sherrill Park act as a revenue source for Richardson’s operating budget. In fiscal year 2019-20, golf fund revenues totaled $2.3 million. Keasler said keeping the course open undermines the city’s position that it is committed to flattening the curve.

“The city has decided that all of these other businesses need to be closed, but our business that is going to impact us should stay open,” she said.

Magner did not address the revenue issue but said the decision to keep the course open is in accordance with officials at various levels of government, including the governor. On April 11, state Attorney General Ken Paxton issued an informal letter that defines golf as an essential activity.

“The city is cueing off of Gov. Abbott’s guidance as well as the attorney general’s guidance and the county judge’s guidance that says you can do outdoor activities—golf is an outdoor activity—you just have to make sure you’re adhering to CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines,” Magner said.

Abbott’s executive order singles out visiting parks, hunting, fishing, jogging and bicycling as essential activities but makes no mention of golf. However, the governor has OK’d golf during news conferences, Magner said.

On April 11 the city announced the temporary closure of Sherrill Park. Magner said the decision came on the heels of an April 10 news conference during which Abbott said courses can remain open as long as certain services, such as the booking of tee times, are done remotely, Magner said.

“At the time we did not have the technology in place to be able to do that,” he said. “We wanted to make sure we were compliant, so we decided to shut down.”

The city’s IT department quickly upgraded its booking technology, and the course reopened April 15. Magner said the decision to reopen was rooted in the city’s desire to offer a safe way for residents to get outside when many are pent up at home.

“We are keeping the golf course open because we have people in the community that consider it an amenity,” he said.
By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


(Community Impact Newspaper staff)
DATA: Thousands of Dallas County residents turn out to vote early in Democratic primary runoff

According to the Dallas County Elections Office, 41,901 county residents have cast ballots in person since polls opened.

The restaurant serves a variety of noodle dishes. (Courtesy Sakhuu Thai Cuisine)
Sakhuu Thai Cuisine now open in Richardson

The restaurant serves a variety of dishes, such as sakhuu stuffed wings, Bangkok lo mein noodles and panang curry.

Despite a pandemic, Richardson sales tax receipts increase by 10% in May

The city collected $3.2 million in sales tax in May, which is up from the $2.9 million collected at the same time last year, according to data from the Texas Comptroller’s Office.

In compliance with Gov. Greg Abbott's July 2 executive order, the University Interscholastic League is requiring the use of facial coverings when practical to do so for all summer activity participants, among other guidelines. (Graphic by Ronald Winters/Community Impact Newspaper)
UIL releases guidelines for conducting summer activities during COVID-19 pandemic

The University Interscholastic League released udpated guidelines for schools conducting summer activities such as sports training and marching band practices on July 8.

Richardson ISD will resume online and in-person classes on August 19. (Courtesy Richardson ISD)
Students in Richardson ISD can attend school online or in-person this fall

Approximately 67% of families said they intend to send their students to school in-person, while 32% have chosen to remain online, according to a survey from the district.

Early voting is underway in Collin County. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
DATA: More than 20,000 Collin County residents cast ballots in the first week of early voting

As of July 7, 15,423 votes had been cast in person, and 5,173 mail-in ballots were received.

Census worker
2020 census: Bureau prepares nonresponse follow-up field operations

For individuals who have not responded to the 2020 census, one of about 500,000 census takers will visit the their household between Aug. 11-Oct. 31.

Dallas Area Rapid Transit saw a 55% decrease in ridership since March. (Courtesy Dallas Area Rapid Transit)
DART officials report 55% hit to ridership since March

The transit agency anticipates continued declines due to the ongoing spread of COVID-19 as well as major event cancellations, such as the State Fair of Texas, which brought millions of riders to DART.

The following map shows UT Dallas student enrollment by country or origin. (Courtesy UT Dallas)
Federal order means thousands of UT Dallas exchange students must return to in-person learning this fall

International students are limited in the number of online classes they can take outside of a pandemic, but those restrictions were relaxed earlier this year when COVID-19 forced many universities to shut down.

Emler Swim School's Emler@Home curriculum features instructional videos for teaching children how to swim at home or in a local pool. (Courtesy Emler Swim School)
Emler Swim School offering online curriculum for children 10 and under

The program offers parents instructional videos for teaching children how to swim at home or in a local pool.

The Texas Education Agency released guidelines about on-campus activities, attendance requirements, and health and safety precautions for the 2020-21 school year. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Education Agency issues guidelines for 2020-21 school year

The guidelines address on-campus activities, attendance requirements, and health and safety precautions that should be enforced at Texas schools this year.