The measure, which covers all types of smoking, including vaping and marijuana, was passed by both state houses and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul with little opposition, but with jurisdictional limitations and huge questions regarding enforcement, questions are plentiful. “How would we enforce it? I don’t see any way for us to enforce it,” says Robert Fraioli, Director of Golf at Rockland Lake State Park Golf Course. Fraioli estimates up to 80% of the golfers who frequent his club smoke there.
A recently enacted state law in New York could affect people who like to smoke on the golf course, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported. But with jurisdictional limitations and huge questions regarding enforcement, questions abound.
Golfer Pete Capobianco disagrees with the new state law banning smoking on public golf courses because he doesn’t feel smoking outdoors affects other people, the Journal News reported.
“I think it’s ridiculous. We’re outside. You know,” he said. “So people that smoke cigars can’t smoke or smoke cigarettes. What does it affect? It ain’t affecting people.”
He said he will abide by the new law when it goes into effect.
The measure has its supporters, the Journal News reported. Ossining, N.Y. resident Trevor Forde cited possible elimination of unwanted cigarette butt litter and his daughter, Sarah, liked the idea of being in a smoke-free environment, the Journal News reported. But Stanley Bell, a former smoker who also lives in Ossining, feels differently.
“On golf courses, it’s 99% adults and you’re so spread apart that it really doesn’t really matter. I mean I play with guys that smoke cigars and I could care less,” he said. Bell, in fact, considers the law “ridiculous,” the Journal News reported.
Still, the measure, which covers all types of smoking, including vaping and marijuana, was passed by both state houses and signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul with little opposition, the Journal News reported.
It theoretically bans smoking on both all state and municipal properties that are used for recreational purposes, except for associated parking and walkway areas, the Journal News reported. But the law could conceivably affect only state-run golf courses.
That’s because, while not explicitly spelled out in its language, the legislation is not designed to supersede local public outdoor smoking ordinances, nor serve as a mandatory addendum to them, the Journal News reported. If a county, town or village has any public outdoor smoking ordinance whatsoever, it can choose to ignore the state law, even if local rules don’t cover things like golf courses, explained Pierce Brix, the communications director for state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Forest Hills), who was one of the law’s chief sponsors.
“The vast majority of the state has localized restrictions. This is not going to step on the feet of them,” said Brix, who said the legislation was “written intentionally broad in scope to be interpreted broadly.”
While this may appear to render the legislation largely a toothless tiger, all municipalities may, of course, choose to follow the new law, the Journal News reported. And, moreover, state courses fall under the directive.
But local golf officials question how the ban could be enforced, given the fact courses cover so much acreage, the Journal News reported.
“Nobody is going to enforce that,” Dave Fusco, Head Professional at Stony Point, N.Y.-owned Patriot Hills Golf Club, bluntly predicted.
While Fusco noted that each morning at 7 a.m. his course hosts a group of golfers who approach the first tee with cigars in hand, smoking is not as popular as it once was, the Journal News reported.
Fusco and Patrick Wynn, General Manager of the Harrison, N.Y.-owned Harrison Meadows Country Club, both estimate only 10-15% of their patrons smoke on site, the Journal News reported. So if those courses chose to initiate a ban, opposition would likely be somewhat limited.
Not so at Rockland Lake State Park Golf Course, which, owned by the state, falls under the ban, the Journal News reported. Robert Fraioli, Rockland’s Director of Golf, estimated up to 80% of the golfers who frequent his club smoke there.
And with 25,000-30,000 rounds played at Rockland each year, that’s a lot of golfers, the Journal News reported. Throw in the fact golfers are scattered over a large area and there’s the question of who’s going to be assigned to search tees, fairways, greens and woods for violators, who, according to the law, face $50 fines for each offense.
“How would we enforce it? I don’t see any way for us to enforce it,” said Fraioli, who noted the state parks department had considered a ban a few years ago but ultimately didn’t go through with it.
The second local state course that will feel the ban’s impact is James Baird in Pleasant Valley, N.Y., the Journal News reported. Currently, smoking is allowed there, according to one golf course worker.
The no-smoking measure, signed into law July 15, becomes effective August 3, the Journal News reported. But regardless of the date, means of enforcement appears to be an overriding question.
Westchester County’s multiple golf courses are on its parkland and smoking is banned at county parks, the Journal News reported. But parks spokesman Linda Lovallo admitted that it’s impossible to stop all smoking on county courses, since the sites total more than 18,000 acres.
She said county golf course workers respond to smoking complaints, the Journal News reported. But golf course smoking doesn’t appear to be a major issue in the Hudson Valley.
Jim Monaghan, the Supervisor of Stony Point, which owns Patriot Hills, said, “I’ve never heard of anyone making a complaint about smoking [at Patriot Hills].”
His town has smoking restrictions at its parks (the course is not designated as such) and, therefore, does not need to abide by the new state law, the Journal News reported.
Whether the Town of Wallkill, N.Y. will have to codify its existing outdoor smoking policies to avoid enacting the ban at Wallkill Country Club is unclear, the Journal News reported. But Town Clerk Louisa Ingrassia, who remarked golfers at the club have been known to enjoy cigars, said, while not actual law, “no smoking” signs are posted at what is the largest of the town’s 13 parks, as well at its Little League field.
Putnam County Deputy Commissioner of Parks Chris Ruthven noted Putnam bans smoking in its county parks, the Journal News reported. But Putnam County Golf Course is not on designated parkland and smoking is allowed there.
While that seems unlikely to change, if that or any of the public courses he plays adopts a smoking ban, they can probably forget seeing Capobianco again, the Journal News reported. After initially indicating he’d reluctantly abide by any ban that’s instituted, the 40-year smoker reconsidered. If the public courses he plays institute a ban, he said, he’ll simply join a private club that allows smoking.
New York isn’t the only entity to have addressed smoking, of course. C+RB reported in January 2020 that revisions to a Canton, Mich. Parks and Recreation Ordinance would prohibit the smoking of tobacco and other substances, as well as the use of vaping products, in the township’s facilities, properties and parks. Areas were designated at Pheasant Run GC and Fellows Creek GC where smoking was allowed, but lighting up at a tee box was forbidden.
In October 2015, C+RB reported that a smoking ban in Rockville, Md., would apply to golfers at the city-owned RedGate golf course. The city had already banned smoking inside city buildings, outside the Rockville Swim and Fitness Center, within 50 feet of entrances to community centers, and within 40 feet of city playground equipment.