Golf courses open after encouragement from Washington Co. officials: 'We need to get people back to work'

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HARTFORD, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A handful of golf courses opened up Saturday morning in Washington County after county officials encouraged them to do so.

Washington County Executive-elect Josh Schoemann sent a letter Friday encouraging all private and public courses in his county to open immediately.

"The restrictions of safer at home have been well-intentioned, I think, and have been doing what they're intended to do, but at the same time, we need to get people back to work and back to normal," Schoemann told CBS 58.

Gov. Tony Evers' office confirmed to CBS 58 that the changes to his "Safer at Home" order, including those allowing golf courses to reopen, do not go into effect until 8 a.m. on April 24.

The Wisconsin State Golf Association is asking courses not to open before then, as tempting as it may be due to nice days expected this week.

"Anybody not following the order, I think, would potentially put it in jeopardy, which we don't want," said Rob Jansen, executive director of the Wisconsin State Golf Association.

Schoemann said he consulted with the county's health officer before making his decision.

"From our perspective in Washington County, there's really no substantive difference between today and (Friday), and so it seemed like a nice small step to give people just a little bit of freedom," he said.

Several golfers at Washington County Golf Course said they were glad to be out Saturday morning and getting back to a "sense of normalcy." The course sold out of tee times for both Saturday and Sunday.

Schoemann said courses are following all social distancing guidelines laid out by the governor, including only scheduling tee times online or by phone, and closing all clubhouses and pro shops. 

Sheriffs in a handful of other Wisconsin counties have released statements saying they won't enforce Evers' order, but Schoemann said that is not something he has asked the Washington County sheriff to do.

"We haven't gone that far. We're more spending our time on coming up with a pragmatic, science-based and common sense blueprint to how we can open things back up," he said.

All parks and trails are also open in the county. Schoemann said that was the first step in a tied plan he's creating to reopen the county. He said he will release the plan over the next few days and it will be somewhere between the plans President Donald Trump and Evers are releasing.

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