If you're an avid golfer, or even a hacker who simply enjoys the fresh air and challenges of the game, chances are you've probably already booked a tee time by the time you read this. 

If not, you should probably do so now. 

With Gov. Charlie Baker's announcement on Thursday that golf courses across the state of Massachusetts would be allowed to officially open during the COVID-19 crisis, available slots to get out on any of the many public links are filling up fast.

"We're all very excited up here in Gloucester," said Mark Turner, a former St. John's Prep golf standout and member at Bass Rocks. "The courses across the state look like they're in incredible shape due to the hard work by maintenance crews over the past few months.

"It's awesome to be able to play a sport that we love when it seems like we've done everything imaginable in the house to try and pass the time."

It's safe to say that Turner, currently a member of the Dartmouth College golf team, speaks for virtually all golfers. With most other necessary restrictions still in place amid the coronavirus pandemic, folks are eager to turn to one of the more popular outdoor options. 

"I'm looking forward to getting back out on the course ASAP," added Danvers' High golfer Michael Papamechail. 

At the time of Baker's announcement, Massachusetts was the only state that hadn't lifted its ban on golf.

While the news is mostly positive, the opening does come with restrictions and guidelines. That includes, but is not limited to, a 15-minute window between tee times; no golf carts allowed; no caddies allowed; flagsticks must remain in the holes at all times; practice putting greens and driving ranges must remain closed as well as course facilities such as the clubhouse, golf shop, restaurants and locker rooms; and all golfers must maintain proper social distancing of at least six feet at all times.

Golf courses may have a bit of a different vibe for foreseeable future, but the important thing, say the players, is that they're open. 

"I was thrilled to hear the Governor's announcement. I felt they never should have been closed in the first place," said Peabody native and recreational golfer Mike Dellisola. "I think golf might be the activity least affected by social distancing and COVID-19 guidelines. I think this gives people hope that we're on the road to getting back to normal. You have to start somewhere."

Dellisola says he plans to get out for his "weekly" round this Sunday. 

"I'm really looking forward to it. Like everyone else, I feel like I've been cooped up long enough," he said.

Nick Giannino can be reached at NGiannino@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter @NickGiannino_SN. 

GUIDELINES FOR GOLFERS AND COURSES

- Security personnel can be delineated by each club (ex. A pro and the head starter) and will be present to enforce social distancing. There can be no other employees working at the recreational component of the golf operation.

- All staff must wear face coverings while on property.

- Course facilities including but not limited to the clubhouse, golf shop, restaurant, bag room and locker room must remain closed.

- No caddies allowed.

- No golf carts allowed.

- Push carts may be used. Players must either carry their own bag or use a push cart.

- All golfers must maintain proper social distancing of at least 6 feet at all times.

- Groups of players are restricted to no more than 4 players at one time.

- Members-only clubs can allow guests as determined by the security personnel on the golf course.

- Private clubs that allow non-members to make reservations can do so at their discretion.

- Maintenance personnel are permitted to work on the golf course.

- Tee Time Policy must be 15 minutes between groups.

- Golfers must stay in their car until 15 minutes before their tee time and must return to their car immediately following play.

- Online and remote payment options must be utilized.

- All golfers must use their own golf clubs. Sharing golf clubs or rental golf clubs is not allowed.

- Flagsticks must remain in the hole. Hole liners must be raised so picking a ball out of the hole doesn’t occur.

- Bunker rakes must be removed, and ball washers must be removed or covered.

- Practice putting green, driving range, and chipping areas must be closed.

- Facilities must have readily accessible hand sanitizer.

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