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Stan Grossfeld

On Saturday, there was sanctuary on the golf course, but not for long

At Presidents Golf Course, the fourth hole has a bird's eye view of Boston. The course opened earlier this month but closed Saturday due to concerns of the coronavirus.
At Presidents Golf Course, the fourth hole has a bird's eye view of Boston. The course opened earlier this month but closed Saturday due to concerns of the coronavirus.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

QUINCY — On Saturday afternoon, Presidents Golf Course was paradise.

It was an 18-hole sanctuary from the coronavirus national emergency. Everyone was smiling on the 93-acre course, even after blown tap-ins and sliced drives.

One golfer said he felt as if he just got a “get out of jail card,” and another confessed to seeking a break from his germophobe wife. Most said it was a thrilling return to normalcy.

But beware the Ides of March. Word was soon passed among the staff that the municipal golf course would be closed Sunday until further notice because of the coronavirus pandemic.

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The course already was taking precautions to avoid contamination.

Golf carts were banned to minimize contamination. Some players objected and cancelled tee times, but the slots were quickly taken, and the 52-degree day was a sellout.

In the pro shop there was a “wipe and swipe” sign at the cashier and employees cleaned all common areas regularly.

There was even new etiquette on the course — players were asked not to touch or remove the flagstick, and signs encouraged players to maintain social distance and use “hands free” celebrations for birdie putts that dropped.

A sign warned patrons to avoid using a shared water fountain.
A sign warned patrons to avoid using a shared water fountain. Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

In the clubhouse, the bar at The View Restaurant and Tavern was doing a brisk business, and most of the golfers took the closing in stride. Some were upset.

The golf Saturday was “awesome,” but the closing “stupid," said Kevin Barry of Quincy.

“I think they are overdoing it. This is a golf course, it’s probably the safest place in the world, it’s outside, away from everyone. It’s dumb," he said.

A season-pass holder, Barry said he understood some of the precautions like no golf carts and didn’t mind walking the course.

Michael Mullen, director of Norfolk County, which oversees the club, said in a phone interview the decision to close the course was made “under an abundance of caution and following the trend we are seeing across the Commonwealth and the country. We will be constantly reassessing as we go along, as the public health situation continues to evolve.”

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Told that some golfers thought the closing was overdoing it, he was unperturbed.

“We take our obligation as a governmental entity and our responsibility to the public all very seriously,” he said.

The View Restaurant and Tavern, inside the clubhouse, reluctantly decided to close as well.

“People assume that when the golf course is closed, we’re closed, so we are going to go with the golf course decision, to be safe rather than sorry,” said general manager Bill Fraser, who expressed concern about the effect on his staff and the economy.

It meant that students from North Quincy High and Fontbonne Academy would not be able to work jobs in the pro shops.

The golfers at the bar drank Bud Lite and drowned their sorrows.

“A lot of the golfers are angry,” Fraser said. “But they also understand it’s an unfortunate situation. So there is two sides to it. They’re mad that they can’t play golf but they understand the situation.”

Out on the course, no one worried about their handicaps, and some deliberately didn’t peek at their cellphones. It was old fashioned golf, a throwback to another era.

“It’s freakin’ great,” said Zach Field of Amesbury as he climbed the hill to the 4th hole and had a bird’s-eye view of the Boston skyline, while hoisting a Harpoon beer. “I’m not thinking about the virus.”

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Zach Field of Amesbury played a round at Presidents Golf Course on Saturday.
Zach Field of Amesbury played a round at Presidents Golf Course on Saturday. Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Ryan Acone, of East Boston was grateful for the break and all the safety precautions.

“They are doing everything on God’s green earth they can do and still accommodating people. It’s a good escape to be out in Mother Nature and be social and not touching stuff and not at risk. Here you can still feel a sense of normalcy because if you’re just inside, you are going to get stir crazy," he said.

David Deuren said he was grateful to play, even for just one round.

“It was great to get outside, but I’m really worried about [the virus],” he said.

Randal Sklar was just savoring every moment.

“I’m having a blast out here today,” he said. “I’m not mad. It’s their call, but it is upsetting. It’s tough, a golf course seems like a pretty safe place to be and now you can’t even come out here so it looks like we will be stuck inside for a little bit. I’ll stay inside, have a couple of drinks and watch Netflix.”

Tee times sold out at Presidents Golf Course on Saturday, where two golfers avoided more traditional high-fives in favor of elbow knocks.
Tee times sold out at Presidents Golf Course on Saturday, where two golfers avoided more traditional high-fives in favor of elbow knocks. Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff
Presidents Golf Course will remain closed indefinitely because of coronavirus.
Presidents Golf Course will remain closed indefinitely because of coronavirus.Stan Grossfeld/ Globe Staff

Stan Grossfeld can be reached at stanley.grossfeld@globe.com.