WEST ORANGE, NJ — As spring-like temperatures ushered in the reopening of the Rock Spring Golf Club (RSGC) in West Orange over the weekend, nearly 188 rounds of golf were played as golfers donned masks and practiced the recommended social-distancing guidelines. According to the township, RSGC is booked at 90-percent capacity for the next eight days as of Monday.

Following weeks of home confinement, residents were able to return to some outdoor activities in accordance with Gov. Phil Murphy’s executive order allowing municipal and county governments to reopen parks and golf courses at their discretion. The Township of West Orange, which became the official owner of the RSCG property in 2019, jumped at the opportunity to resume operations at the course beginning on May 2.

Prior to Murphy’s executive order on Wednesday, the West Orange Township Council unanimously approved a resolution that would reimburse up to $200,000 in emergency funds spent by KemperSports Management, Inc on expenses related to the maintenance of the RSGC since ceasing operations on March 21.

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According to township attorney Richard Trenk, these funds were intended to enable KemperSports, which manages Rock Spring on behalf of the township, to reopen the golf course within 48 hours utilizing “whatever social-distancing parameters are permitted by the state.”

“If the course goes unmaintained for any period of time, we would actually lose the course,” said Chief Financial Officer John Gross, adding that maintaining a golf course is “a science.”

Noting that KemperSports was unable to obtain a loan under the Payment Protection Program and does not possess business-interruption insurance to cover cost of halting operations during an emergency, Trenk said the governing body has “come to the conclusion that [the township] literally need[s] to maintain this asset” by adopting a resolution that would make it easier to be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

According to RSGC General Manager Chris Parker, the course had been operating at the bare minimum to ensure as smooth of a reopening as possible, which meant that a total of 19 seasonal employees were furloughed as a result of its closing.

Council President Michelle Casalino commented that although golf is “safe for social distancing” by nature, additional adjustments will need to be made to ensure that participants still follow the governor’s guidelines.

Golfers are currently allowed to play in groups of two instead of the usual four, and each player must use his or her own golf cart. Golfers must also begin their rounds 16 minutes apart. Those wishing to book a tee time at RSGC can do so at www.RockSpringGolf.com.

Parks and golf courses that are part of the Essex County Parks System have also been reopened to the public, including Eagle Rock Reservation and South Mountain Reservation in West Orange. The Turtle Back Zoo and paddle boating at the South Mountain Recreation Complex remain closed.