On-course actions help golfers deal with pandemic while enjoying their game, and that’s nothing to be laughing at, guys
Golf is, in many ways, the perfect pandemic sport. Players are able to “socially distance” themselves with ease; they play with their own equipment and use their own balls.
But there are some steps that need to be taken to maximize safety.
The Country Club at Wakefield Plantation, my club in Raleigh, N.C., has done a great job of thinking through its operation from top to bottom so it can stay open as a community resource during this challenging time. Some of the steps that the club – and the other 13 properties within the McConnell Golf network in the Carolinas and Tennessee – have taken provoked laughter from the more cynical members, but most of us really appreciate what is being done. Here are some examples:
- removed all rakes from sand traps and bunkers, because multiple hands would touch them; we have a “lift, clean and place” rule now for bunkers;
- asked all golfers to leave flagsticks in the holes, to limit multiple touching;
- removed water coolers and replaced them with water bottles available straight out of the package;
- closed ball washers;
- encouraged golfers to grab their own towels upon starting, but they are not placed in carts;
- carts are sterilized twice a day, and golfers are encouraged to wipe them down with their own wipes. The club has a generous supply of wipes available, along with new hand-sanitizer stations;
- eliminated shotgun starts for larger events and tournaments;
- strongly advised members that anyone who does not feel well should stay home until he is well;
- in my large group of senior golfers, we have replaced the traditional handshake at the end of a round with an elbow bump.
There are many other seemingly small steps taken that collectively have a big impact. On Saturday, which was a nice day, with no live sports on TV, our course was packed with appreciative golfers.
I hope more clubs will follow this exemplary model.
Unanswered questions as the weather breaks
Here in Minnesota, we are extensively shut down by state government – schools, bars, restaurants, recreation centers, you name it, plus golf courses and country clubs. A background in clinical laboratory work tells me that this is the right thing to do. Slowing the spread of coronavirus hopefully will prevent health-care facilities from being overwhelmed by a sudden influx of cases.
But back to the golf courses. It is not clear yet what this order means as golf courses here are not yet open, although some normally would open in the next week or two as snow in the Twin Cities is mostly gone. We’re not too concerned with temperatures. Food and beverage sales are probably out, but will they be able to collect green fees?
Golf is the ultimate social-distancing sport. Played in a large, open-air environment, with no need to be anywhere near fellow competitors. (With some of the characters with whom I play, this is always wise.) Bunker rakes are the only communal item that a player might need to touch, so perhaps bring your own. No partner in your cart. It would seem to be a great break from isolation.
So, here we are. Will the clubhouse be closed except for green fees, or totally? If it is locked, will someone come out and tell you that you can’t play if you try to tee off? Because officials have a lot on their minds right now, this isn’t clear. I hope that last scenario isn’t the case.
But what really matters are all the seasonal workers. In Minnesota, many are students and retirees who depend on that seasonal gig. If similar events occur in states with year-round golf weather, full-time workers could lose their jobs. The negative financial impact is likely to be great and long-lasting.
It’s dangerous out there, so try to support the people losing their jobs and income who likely have no cushion or fallback position.
And try not to breathe.
St. Paul, Minn.
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