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Last rounds played as golf courses shut down

Hours before the statewide shutdown was announced by Gov. David Ige, golfers all around Maui were enjoying their last rounds for the immediate future on Monday.

Ige’s order is similar to Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino’s “stay at home and work from home” emergency rules that were unveiled Sunday.

Golf courses around Maui were holding meetings Monday to decide what to do in the immediate future.

Ige’s and Victorino’s orders go into effect Wednesday and last through April 30.

“I did talk to a couple who were visitors who were happy to get in their last round right before they were heading out of town, so they were happy to get it in. They appreciated their time on Maui and getting the opportunity to play another round right before they headed home,” said Barry Helle, the general manager of the Wailea Blue Golf Course.

Helle added that the closure for Wailea Blue, Gold and Emerald courses will mirror what Maui County does.

“We’re following the mayor’s mandate, so we’re looking at April 30th,” Helle said. “If there’s any chance that that can be rescinded or moved up, we would welcome that. But we’re adhering to the mandate or the proclamation or the rules set down by the mayor’s office.”

Helle said the courses would be maintained while closed.

“We’re going to maintain the golf courses at a level that will allow us to have it ready to play or very close to ready to play once we get the word that we’re going to be reopening,” Helle said. “We’ll reduce what we do. Our goal is to maintain our product at a level that will allow us to offer a really good product to our customers once we get the opportunity to reopen.”

Wailea Golf also emailed a statement to The Maui News.

“In accordance with Mayor Michael Victorino’s emergency rule ‘stay at home, work from home’ mandate, the Wailea Golf Club will close to the public until further notice beginning Tuesday, March 24, 2020,” the statement said. “This includes Wailea’s Gold, Blue and Emerald golf courses, as well as its practice facilities, pro shops, clubhouses and the Wailea Golf Academy.

“The Wailea Tennis Club is also closed to the public until further notice.”

All tee times and reservations have been canceled with “no penalties” the statement said.

“We regret any disappointment to our guests, and greatly appreciate their understanding during these extreme times,” Anne Takabuki, president of Wailea Golf said in the statement. “The safety of our guests, employees and vendors is our highest priority. We hope to reopen as soon as it is prudent and safe to do so.

“In the meantime, we are grateful to our customers and community for their support, and extend our heartfelt wishes to everyone impacted by this terrible situation.”

Nearly all of the courses who responded said that they will be shutting down today or Wednesday, including the private Maui Country Club and King Kamehameha Golf Club. Late Monday evening, Kapalua confirmed both of its courses — the Plantation and the Bay — will close Wednesday.

Helle said the closure will hurt the bottom line.

“You know, it’s tough times,” he said. “It is what it is. The safety of our employees and our customers is the first thing that is top of mind for us. So, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to make sure that everybody stays safe and that’s what we’re here to support. But we’re hoping for a quick recovery and getting back to business as normal, at least on a level of normalcy once we get past this.”

T.J. Figueroa, head professional at Kahili Golf Course, said that Monday saw a large group of local players squeezing in their final rounds. Kahili neighbors King Kamehameha and is owned by the same company.

“We have noticed just a little bit (of a bump), mostly for the kamaaina, not for the visitors,” Figueroa said. “I think with the visitors, what we’re hearing is a lot of cancellations so they can get their flights out, try to get back home before any lockdowns happen. So, the kamaaina have been wanting to come out and play. Honestly, we’ve seen a big drop-off in rounds. Usually, we’re doing about 150 to 180 rounds per day. We started off today with 27 golfers, and we ended up with 72. Just kamaaina, they are looking to play. The Waiehu (Municipal Golf Course) gang, they played Monday for another option.”

Maui County Mayor Michael Victorino announced the shutdown of the municipal golf course last week.

Figueroa said the Kahili and Kamehameha courses would be maintained to be ready for reopening, but they would adhere to the state and county government rules.

“Right now, we’re planning on shutting down on Wednesday, but if that changes overnight we will shut down (Tuesday), but our plan is to shut down after (Tuesday),” Figueroa said. “We will follow the order.”

All of the courses that responded said that social-distancing practices were in effect Monday, including one cart per person and golfers were instructed to leave the flagsticks in the hole so they would not be touched by one group of golfers after another.

“Everybody is trying to get in their last hurrah before it closes, but hopefully, we can pull together and get through this,” Figueroa said.

Maui Country Club was also among the courses practicing social distancing.

“We have takeout food for the members,” MCC General Manager Russell Goshi said Monday while golf was still going on prior to the decision to shut down today. “We’re full-on the social distancing. You can’t touch the flag. We took out the bunker rakes, we got rid of those. You have to ride in the golf cart by yourself. So, we’re doing all we can to social distance.”

A spokesman from Ka’anapali Golf Courses said that they are likely to close Wednesday.

Scott Reinhart, the head professional at The Dunes at Maui Lani, said the course was still open on Monday with limitations. A final decision on staying open or not will come today, Reinhart said.

“We are open with limited tee times, but our business status is fluid as the state announces new rules,” Reinhart said in a text message. “I can confirm details (today), but 12 minute tee time intervals, max 5 groups per hour. No tournament or club play. Those are the basics I’m hearing. No shared carts.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias @mauinews.com.