Golfers feel driving ranges should be allowed alongside course play

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - Golf was the first sports to return in Wisconsin during the pandemic, but driving ranges remain closed despite pleas by players and operators who feel they can transfer safe protocols from the course to the practice facility.

"I feel like it's pretty realistic," said golfer D.J. Rhodes of opening ranges. "I mean as long as people know ahead of time the things they have to stay aware of."

"I think driving ranges are OK because you are already 6 feet apart anyways," said golfer Gary Pierquet.

"We are already wiping down all the carts and the doors to get in and out of the building, and all that kind of stuff, so it's just another step in the whole thing," said Mid Vallee Golf Course's Scott Van Dyke.

Many golfers feel it's safe to return to the driving range during the pandemic. But while golf course operations are up and running aside from those ranges, not all practice facilities are connected to courses.

Some operators, like Bob Burns in Appleton, feel left out in the cold bringing in no revenue at all. Burns feels that to be deemed a non-essential businesses is to be deemed an expendable business as well.

"I mean we need to be open," said PGA Pro Bob Burns. "We have to have the income. Now is when we would be doing the most business. I can't survive. There's no way we can survive."

Burns plans to bleach the range balls, sanitize everything, and even keep golfers as much as 20 feet apart if and when he is allowed to open.

For years, Burns has worked to help handicapped golfers find a way to play with prosthetics. Wayne Schmalz is both incredibly thankful for Burns' help, and incredibly worried about the future of Burns' business.

"I found a place where I'm not looked at differently," Schmalz said. "He has done so much for my self esteem to go out and play golf. I'm scared for him. If it doesn't open up he is going to go out of business."