WEST ORANGE, NJ — Rock Spring Golf Club will open at sunrise on Saturday after Gov. Phil Murphy signed an executive order on Wednesday allowing the reopening of state parks and golf courses with social-distancing requirements to be mandated at all facilities. 

Under the executive order, Murphy left it up to local and county officials to decide whether to open municipal and county parks. Although other municipal parks are still under review, the county announced on Thursday night that parks and golf courses that are part of the Essex County Parks System will also be reopened to the public beginning on Saturday at 8 a.m., including Eagle Rock Reservation and South Mountain Reservation in West Orange.

The Turtle Back Zoo and paddle boating at the South Mountain Recreation Complex will remain closed as well as all playgrounds; tennis, basketball and bocce courts; dog parks; baseball, softball, soccer and football fields; and exercise courses.

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Due to an anticipated extraordinary high call volume at the Rock Spring Golf Club, which officially became a West Orange Township property in 2019, golfers are advised that the most expedient way to secure a tee time will be through the website: www.RockSpringGolf.com.

“We are excited to have all of you back,” said Rock Spring Golf Club general manager Chris Parker, adding that specific social-distancing guidelines for course play will be in effect and will be posted on the website.

Golfers returning to RSGC "are specifically reminded to drive cautiously at all times throughout the adjoining residential neighborhood and to obey all traffic regulations," according to the township press release announcing the course's reopening.

The status of municipal parks in West Orange is still being determined.

All Essex County parks will be open to the public for “passive use only,” and Essex County golf courses will offer modified play. Those who visit the county parks are required to wear a face covering and practice social distancing.

“We are pleased to be reopening our parks and golf courses in accordance with Gov. Murphy’s Executive Order,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., Freeholder President Brendan Gill and Vice President Wayne Richardson said in a joint statement. “Our county parks always have provided an outlet for our residents to enjoy the outdoors, get some fresh air and exercise…

“We hope visitors to our parks enjoy our open spaces. We strongly encourage everyone to be respectful of others in our parks, wear face coverings, avoid large groups and practice social distancing. Just because our parks and golf courses are open, does not mean we have beat the coronavirus. We must continue to be vigilant and protect ourselves as much as we can.” 

All park buildings and restroom buildings will also be closed as well as the zoo parking decks.

Essex County golf courses—including Francis Byrne Golf Course, Hendricks Field Golf Course and Weequahic Golf Course—will offer modified play. In order to minimize touching common surfaces, the holes have been raised so the flags do not have to be removed.

Golfers will only be allowed to play in groups of two instead of the usual four, and each player must use their own golf cart. Golfers will also begin their rounds 16 minutes apart, and tee times must be made through the automated tee-time system.

The online tee time system will be open on Friday, May 1. Payments must be made with a credit card, as no cash will be accepted.

The clubhouses will be open to allow golfers to get their clubs from the locker room. The county also noted that gathering will not be allowed and indoor restrooms will not be open.