McKinney City Council voted against a motion made by the mayor Friday morning to consider golf courses nonessential and close them.  

“To me, you are starting to nitpick this whole thing,” Mayor Pro Tem Rainey Rogers said. “Give some people some freedom. I love [Council member] Charlie [Price’s idea]. Call golf courses and tell them, ‘You’re being watched and if you’re not enforcing it, we’re going to shut you down’ or fine them. Let’s give people some freedom. We’re so boxed in. 

“And it’s not like this isn’t working,” he added. “The models of this incredible wave of people coming down with this virus is not happening. It is slowing. It is working.” 

The fact that the mayor’s shelter-in-place order seemed to be working, despite a few businesses not adhering to it, led to council extending it until April 30. 

A majority of council members agreed, as did the mayor after his motion was denied, that it was best to call the five golf courses and give them a stern warning: If you don’t comply with the COVID-19 guidelines set up for the municipal golf course, city council will hold another emergency meeting and close all golf courses within city limits. 

Some of the rules for the municipal golf course, which is considered a public park, include practicing social distancing (six feet apart), one person per cart unless they are from the same household and sanitizing golf carts on a regular basis as well as covering or removing ball washers. 

“I’ve heard more complaints about Home Depot and Lowes,” Price pointed out. 

At Friday’s emergency city council meeting, McKinney Mayor George Fuller initiated the motion because residents had been sharing photos of golfers not practicing social distancing guidelines recommended by President Donald Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott.

He also reminded council members that the county has only been able to test 1,000 people out of more than 200,000 in the city and 1 million in the county, and some of those tests are taking seven to nine days to send their results. 

“Plano has closed its golf courses,” Fuller said. “Frisco has closed its golf courses. … I’m going to err on the side that it is not an essential business.” 

According to the Dallas Morning News, while the City of Dallas has closed its golf courses along with its parks, many in Collin County remain open. Plano reopened its golf courses more than a week ago. Two in Grand Prairie reopened this week with special safety precautions. It’s worth noting that the largest golf course in North Texas, Firewheel Golf Club, was closed in mid-March.

“Of course, we are asking anyone who plays there to practice social distancing,” said Steve Stoler, Plano’s director of media relations. “The city strongly encourages golfers to use wisdom and exercise caution when considering any activity outside the home, not just golf. We all have a social responsibility to keep ourselves, our families, and our community safe and healthy.”

La’Shadion Shemwell, District 1 council member, agreed with the mayor on a conference call with council. For the past several meetings, he’d been showing up wearing a gas mask and plastic gloves. He’d been asking for them to meet virtually, but the mayor said they were struggling to implement the technology. 

On the conference call, Shemwell claimed the models Rogers mentioned only works if everyone is following the COVID-19 guidelines recommended by the mayor, other county judges, the governor, the president, and the CDC. 

“Plano, Frisco lead in positive [COVID-19] numbers and already shut down [their golf courses],” he said, reiterating the mayor’s point. “We want to be aligned with them and shutting down nonessential businesses [like golf courses] and to have that regional front.”

He also pointed out that Gov. Abbott considered Lowes and Home Depot essential businesses, no doubt because, similar to other hardware stores, they sell plumbing and electrical supplies which are needed for home repair and construction, an essential industry that is still operating during the shelter-in-place orders in North Texas. 

But he agreed with Rogers that discussing golf courses does seem trivial on the surface until you think about COVID-19’s spread, the fact that it can infect people who, in turn, infect other people without knowing it. “They are not just risking their own lives,” Shemwell said. “They are risking everyone in the community, the entire county, the entire state. … It seems trivial but these conversations affect everyone. Our staff members have tested positive, [the mayor’s] daughter tested positive, [it’s] closer than anybody imagined.” 

Rick Franklin, District 4 council member, suggested that golf courses put golf marshals on the field to enforce the COVID-19 guidelines. “I saw a picture of a driving range, and I can promise that they aren’t three feet apart,” Franklin said. 

Price then recommended that the city contact the golf courses and ask them to follow the COVID-19 guidelines and show the community that they are doing so. He said the golf courses need to look at it as if they are on trial next week. If they don’t follow them, they will be shut down, he warned. 

For more information about COVID-19 in McKinney, visit the city’s website or contact the mayor’s hotline at 972-547-9000. 

Update: On Tuesday, Gov. Abbott told local government officials that golf courses are not essential. Read more about his stance and the McKinney mayor’s response <here>

Christian McPhate

Christian McPhate has been working as a journalist for more than decade. He enjoys tackling true crime stories and late night writing sessions. His work has appeared in a number of publications, including...