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Amid public pressure, Silverado closes its two championship golf courses
Recreation

Amid public pressure, Silverado closes its two championship golf courses

A group of golfers seen Wednesday morning at Silverado Resort.

A group of golfers seen Wednesday morning at Silverado Resort. A number of groups of walkers, some with dogs, were also seen on and near the golf course. 

Despite a county shelter-at-home order in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Silverado Country Club has been condoning “low-profile” play by members at the resort’s two golf courses.

At least until Wednesday.

Amid mounting public attention to the ongoing play at the resort, clearly visible from nearby roads, the club announced that it would close both courses.

Napa County’s updated April 2 shelter-at-home order closed shared-use golf courses. The sight of golfers in subsequent days teeing off at Silverado teed off onlookers, who complained to the county and the local media.

Just days before the closure, resort ownership was telling residents that it was fine to play on the courses, though they warned that excessive public attention might force the play to end.

“Our best course of action is probably just to keep a ‘low profile,’” wrote Tim Wall of the resort’s ownership group in an April 3 letter to Silverado members. “In other words, the less people that know about Silverado members golfing and playing tennis, the less likely complaints will be made.”

Wall wrote that hard work by resort General Manager John Evans and help by county Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza had put the resort “in a favorable position” with the county.

The resort had been advised by county officials that it remained in compliance with the intent of the county’s shelter-at-home order, he wrote. However, the resort needed to be “very cautious” and earn the faith placed in it by county officials, Wall wrote.

Evans told the Register on Wednesday that management thought it had taken sufficient precautions to protect golfers.

“We felt we could keep people safe with all the changes we made,” he said, adding golfers can play without touching anything touched by anyone else.

The resort worked with the county seeking clarification on the new, more stringent shelter-at-home rules. As of Wednesday, Silverado closed the golf courses and tennis courts, he said.

He also noted the difficulties of keeping members off golf courses with a porous, four-mile perimeter surrounded by 1,100 homes. Members get in their own golf carts at their homes and enter the courses at various points.

Wall’s April 3 letter said social distancing and various steps taken by the resort would keep members from spreading the virus. Playing golf allows members to be outdoors to get fresh air and exercise. The pro shop, member clubhouse and other resort features had closed, the message stated.

The county has received complaints about the ongoing golfing. One shared by the complainant with the Napa Valley Register said more than 75 people played golf at Silverado on a recent afternoon. People also played tennis.

“In fact, management has inverted all their cups so that golfers don’t have to reach into the hole to get their balls,” the complaint said. “This is a good practice, but why would they do it if the course was closed?”

The complainant wondered why Silverado didn’t put up closure signs, lock the tennis courts and have security – in short, do something.

Pedroza, a Silverado resident, discussed on Wednesday his role in this affair, given Wall had singled him out for thanks.

“My support of Silverado has been allowing them to get clarification of what’s allowed,” Pedroza said.

Golf is not allowed. Tennis is not allowed, Pedroza said.

“I think our priority has to be stopping the spreading of the coronavirus in our community,” he said. “We need to also always evaluate what activities we can allow, that can be done reasonably ... this scenario we’re in is changing daily.”

He, like Evans, noted that the Silverado courses have multiple entry points. The courses are places where members not only play golf, but walk with their dogs and children, he said.

The Napa Valley Register on Wednesday asked Deputy County Executive Officer Molly Rattigan for the official county word on Silverado. Rattigan said in an email that the resort sought clarification of the county’s shelter-at-home order, given the golf courses are the backyard of residences.

“Silverado golf course and golfing operations are closed and it is the county’s understanding that the area remains open only for passive use by residents such as walking for fresh air and exercise,” Rattigan wrote.

At mid-morning Wednesday, with the two golf courses closed, people could be seen walking their dogs on them – and two small groups were playing golf.

Editor’s Note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/.

You can reach Barry Eberling at 256-2253 or beberling@napanews.com.

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Napa County Reporter

Barry Eberling covers Napa County government, transportation, the environment and general assignments. He has worked for the Napa Valley Register since fall 2014 and previously worked 27 years for the Daily Republic of Fairfield.

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