By Zach Cavanagh

While a large number of businesses and nearly every sports league and facility has closed due to precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, golf courses fought through the first week of major closures.

However, as more businesses paused their operations voluntarily or by government order, nearly all of the golf courses in the tri-city San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano area followed suit, except one.

As of Wednesday, March 25 and per the club’s Facebook post on March 20, Shorecliffs Golf Club in San Clemente remained open.

While every other course in the local area has closed due to precautions related to the coronavirus pandemic, Shorecliffs Golf Club in San Clemente remained open. In a Facebook post, the club said that “golf is a natural social distancing sport.” Photo: Zach Cavanagh

“As golf is a natural social distancing sport,” the post said, “Shorecliffs and many other courses are staying open to support the mental health of the community. We are monitoring the recommendations of local and state officials and will remain open unless we are advised otherwise.”

The post continued by encouraging booking a tee time as a safe and fun way to take in fresh air while exercising social distancing.

That was the argument initially for many golf courses and even those on the PGA Tour. Golf is an activity that practically invented social distancing, with small groups staying far apart from each other. However, like nearly every professional sports league around the globe, even the PGA Tour suspended its operations, and many local clubs have followed suit.

As the only city-run course in the tri-cities, the San Clemente Municipal Golf Course was the first to close in the area as the City of San Clemente closed public facilities on March 16. On March 23, the city extended the closures indefinitely.

Monarch Beach Golf Links in Dana Point was next, as the entire Monarch Beach resort paused operations on the afternoon of March 19. The golf course officially announced its closure on March 20, the first day of California’s stay-at-home order made by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

“As your and our team members’ safety is our number one priority,” general manager Eric Lohman said in a Monarch Beach Golf Links Facebook post, “Monarch Beach Golf Links will temporarily close its golf course, practice area, Golf & Lifestyle retail store and Monarch Café to comply with the recommendations of our government leaders and health officials to do our civic duty in helping reduce the spread of COVID-19. We appreciate your patronage, loyalty and understanding and apologize for any inconvenience.”

San Juan Hills Golf Club in San Juan Capistrano followed suit on March 20.

“Our thoughts and best wishes go out to all those affected by the coronavirus,” the club said on its website. “Our property will be closed to the public until we receive the appropriate permissions to resume our regular operations. We look forward to that time and will continue to keep our website and communication distribution up to date over the coming days and weeks.”

Marbella Country Club in San Juan Capistrano also closed due to orders of precaution related to COVID-19. The decision was made by American Golf Corporation, which closed all of its courses around the country, including four in Orange County.

In San Clemente, Talega Golf Club, a public course, and Bella Collina San Clemente, a private club, both closed their courses on Sunday, March 22.

Talega made the announcement with a short Facebook post that said the course was closed, advised its patrons to be safe and that they hoped “to see you all teeing it up soon.”

Bella Collina made the announcement with a letter from general manager Jay Pesicka on its website.

“Throughout this recent COVID-19 crisis and government imposed restrictions, we have taken steps to ensure your health and safety, as well as the health and safety of our staff,” Pesicka said. “However, due to recent government restrictions imposed on our business and our members, we must now close Bella Collina. We appreciate your understanding during this difficult time and look forward to serving you again soon.”

Other courses in the local area, including Ben Brown’s Golf Course in Laguna Beach, Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club in Mission Viejo and Tijeras Creek Golf Club in Rancho Santa Margarita, were also closed.

Zach Cavanagh

Zach Cavanagh is the sports editor for Picket Fence Media. Zach is a California Journalism Award winner and has covered sports in Orange County since 2013. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachCav and follow our sports coverage on Twitter @SouthOCSports. Email at zcavanagh@picketfencemedia.com.

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