Most State Golf Courses Go Cashless, But Some Oppose It

ALBANY — Some older golfers are balking at the state’s decision to only allow cashless transactions on state-operated courses this year.

The shift to cashless transactions aims to increase efficiency at a time when many businesses only accept debit and credit cards.

Electronic transactions allow staff to spend savings on other yard operations, said Dan Keefe, spokesman for the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.

This year, cashless transactions are mandatory at state-operated golf courses.

Survey shows older Americans not ready to embrace cashless transactions

On Long Island, no cash payment will be accepted at Bethpage, Montauk and Sunken Meadow State Courts. Sag Harbor State Course will continue to accept cash.

Sen. James Gaughran (D-Syosset) last week introduced a bill to ban “mandatory use of credit cards as payment” at golf courses in the state.

“Our state parks are a treasured sanctuary, meant to be open and accessible to everyone,” Gaughran told Newsday.

“It is shameful that the New York State Parks Department is trying to limit who can access and enjoy our public golf courses by eliminating the cash payment option,” Gaughran said. “This offensive anti-cash policy will prevent a large part of our population from accessing our public golf courses.

Peter Sabia, 68, from East Northport, has played on public courses for 52 years, since he was a teenager and has cycled from his home in Hicksville to one of Bethpage’s courses.

Today, his favorite course is the Sunken Meadows State Park Golf Course, which offers 27 holes over three courses.

Sabia says using cash is a better way to manage her money.

“There are quite a few unhappy people,” said Sabia, a retired postwoman.

“I am a retired senior. I have limited income… and I don’t have a credit card everywhere with me,” Sabia said.

He said he was also concerned that young golfers under the age of 18 would not have debit or credit cards, although many banks offer debit cards for young people aged 13 and over.

State officials say cashless worked well in 2020, when debit and credit cards were needed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic to reduce the spread of the virus.

Keefe said efforts are underway to help golfers permanently adjust to the cashless policy.

“We anticipate that some golfers may have issues with the return to cashless payment, and we have been working to ensure they are aware of this and prepared for when golf courses open for the season,” Keefe said.

Keefe said notification efforts include email blasts to golfers, park newsletters and golf course signage.

Additionally, golfers can make reservations online using credit cards, and golfers can use prepaid debit cards or gift cards.

The conflict between an older generation of customers and the trend towards cashless transactions is not new.

In 2019, the Long Island Rail Road reversed its three-week decision to ban cash transactions on trains following public comments from passengers, including students and elderly passengers.

The powerful advocacy group AARP found in a 2017 poll that older Americans aren’t ready to go without cash, even as the use of credit and debit cards for day-to-day expenses is increasing.

But Ronnie C. Miles of the National Golf Course Owners Association based in Charleston, South Carolina, said: “Since the pandemic, many golf courses have been forced to move to a cashless system.”

Miles noted that cashless transactions were driven by health and safety concerns.

“However, while health and safety issues remain, operators have found that a cashless system improves internal controls,” Miles said.

Michael C. Ford