CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — After Gov. Greg Abbott issued a statewide shutdown order for all non-essential businesses, there was some confusion as to whether golf courses fell into that category.
Municipal and private courses in Corpus Christi were still open Thursday while courses in nearby cities like Alice and Kingsville shut down on Wednesday.
During Thursday's COVID-19 update at Corpus Christi's City Hall, Nueces Co. County Judge Barbara Canales addressed concerns over how statewide stay-at-home orders apply to local golf courses and whether or not they are deemed essential.
Alice City Manager Michael Esparza told KRIS 6 News they made the decision following an April 7 conference call with the governor. He also said a letter sent out from the Texas Municipal League helped with the decision.
On Thursday, Canales reached out to Abbott's office for clarification and was told that golf courses are not essential businesses.
Until this point, golf courses in Corpus Christi have remained open because they were not directly addressed in Abbott's initial order.
"The clarification is helpful, as it resolves a question raised in the order," Canales said. "Exercise is considered an essential activity, which can take many forms: running, walking, bicycling. While golf is a form of exercise, golf courses are a business providing a service, and the State has determined that they are not essential businesses."
Members and customers at golf courses were following CDC social-distancing guidelines, only allowing one person to a cart, among other rules.
Canales said she will be amending the Nueces County order Friday afternoon.
"I'll make it effective in a way that doesn't happen immediately in the morning, but creates that transition," she said. "My goal is, anytime I figure out that governor's order says something that my order conflicts with, I want to try to cure that as fast as possible."
Golfer Jeff Letzkus was playing Thursday morning at Oso Beach Municipal Golf Course.
“Golf is my way of relaxing, and you know, getting away from the realities of the world," he said. "When you’re out playing golf, you’re really just thinking about golf. You’re not thinking about everything that’s going on.”
Letzkus was nervous that courses would soon be closing.
"This is a great form of exercise," he said. "It’s really a form of social interaction that you can’t get remotely. At least not to the extent that you can out here. Walking down the course and talking. We’re safe. At least according to the guidelines. So yeah, I’d be pretty sad if they closed it down.”
Canales said she is disappointed to have to restrict one more thing.
"I don't want them to lose any dollars either," she said. "I'm sorry. That part is difficult -- to keep losing things."
The Texas Department of Emergency Management has a helpful website to help businesses determine if they can be designated as an “essential service” as defined by Texas Executive Order GA-14.
That website uses the Department of Homeland Security’s list of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce List as a starting point, with additional guidance included in the governor’s orders.