From The Inbox

Golf and common sense: a win-win

Regular walker sees game as a natural outlet during coronavirus pandemic, provided that practical considerations are observed

The golf course is one of the very best places to be during this coronavirus outbreak. Fresh air, exercise, sunshine, and the sport’s natural distance between players already are in place.

If common-sense practices, such as limiting physical contact with hand shaking, etc., are used, then I don’t see much of a threat at all.

For those still concerned, more measures such as removing golf carts could be taken. But I already walk.

There are always a few people milling around in a golf shop, but not enough to be a real problem, to me. It’s not a concert, play, church service, or a PGA Tour event, with hordes of people lining the ropes.

I grumble some but can go along with the raised-cup approach. So, it really annoys me to see some of the courses closing altogether. That seems to be overkill to me.

Use common sense, but let people get out in the open and enjoy the game. Let the courses stay open.

Jon Lucas
Little Rock, Ark.

What a letdown
It could be that Morning Read will be as close to golf as I come this spring.

Four of us were going to have our first outing of the season Friday morning at Laytonsville Golf Course, one of our favorite courses in Maryland, where we live. We knew up front that there would be no food or drink service, that ball washers and bunker rakes had been removed along with all drinking-water stations. Leaving the flagstick in was recommended.

But we were still game on.

Then overnight we learned they were basically blocking all holes so balls wouldn’t go in. But the killer was that they were removing all golf carts indefinitely.

Sad, as all of us are over 70, and some have mobility or other limitations.

Staying safe and healthy makes sense, and we can’t argue with these moves. But, gee, it’s frustrating.

Alex Belida
Rockville, Md.

Trying to find an alternative in Pennsylvania
Here in Pennsylvania, the governor has forced the closure of all “non-life-sustaining businesses,” which includes golf courses. I fully understand this directive, but I do think it’s possible to keep courses open and still maintain social distancing.

The ways to make that happen have been well-documented in previous Morning Read editions, and they are all good, sensible ideas: no food and beverage; prepay online; wipe down carts after use or require walking only; leave flagsticks in; treat bunkers as “waste areas,” with no rakes; no handshakes/high fives or even fist bumps; no touching other players’ clubs or golf balls (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 20; March 19; March 18; March 17).

People need to get out and get some exercise. Other than a solo walk through the neighborhood, this is the next-best way to do it.

I might just go over to my course and work on the putting green for an hour. Not much exercise there, but at least I can work on my game, which needs it.

Gregg Cook
Mechanicsburg, Pa.

MERS survivor advises caution
I had Middle East respiratory syndrome, aka MERS and a type of coronavirus, 6½ years ago. That virus was much less contagious and more deadly. I’m one of the few to survive it.

It was very aggressive, so most never had the chance to spread the virus. I’ve had nine surgeries and more than 25 medical procedures since then. I loved golf, and I still do, even though I can’t play.

To those who do not take the warnings seriously: unless you or someone whom you care about are ready to breathe through a straw, and have loved ones look on while tubes of all kinds are hanging from your body, please take this disease seriously.

Use common sense. Keep your distance. Play with hand sanitizer in your pocket.

We all hope to play for years to come.

Kevin Odell
Claxton, Ga.

The 8 a.m. routine
We’ve not changed a thing concerning golf.

We are early-morning players (8 a.m.), and at our course we’re the only ones who tee off so early. We play five days a week and we walk, so we don’t have to worry about carts being infected somehow. We wave to the pro as we walk by the shop so he can check us in. We’re fast golfers, so we finish by 11 a.m.; by then, there are numerous other players around. We walk by them and say hi (staying at least 6 feet away) and toss our clubs into the car and go home.

The next day, we repeat.

In fact, I’ve got to get ready to go right now.

Michael Hoff
Rocky Face, Ga.

Sitting this one out
I normally enjoy playing golf a couple of times a week. But at the present time, I will respect the world we live in by isolating myself and not playing golf. I do not want to be infected by coronavirus, become a carrier and possibly infect others.

So as I write this, I am in Florida, sitting on a patio, right across the street from a par 5 on a golf course, wishing that I were able to play. Other golfers must feel the same way, because in more than an hour’s time, I have not seen a golfer.

Manny Ramalho
Colonia, N.J.

Don’t forget the low-wage worker
It’s hard to argue against the professionals who say we must pretty much go into hiding under our bed until the number of coronavirus cases level off, just as it’s hard to argue against the professionals who cite the greater death rate each year from the flu. Maybe they’re both half-right and the truth is somewhere in between.

But the real damage is to the laid-off, low-paid, hourly employee who is not getting a paycheck during this shutdown. Once this is over and we’re allowed to return to “normal,” what will happen to those laid-off employees? Businesses have lost revenue during the shutdown; so many will look to recoup lost profits. Where’s the first place to cut costs? Staff and wages. Maybe an employer will figure out that instead of rehiring the 10 workers who were laid off, that only nine need to be rehired. Nine won’t be able to provide the same level of service as before this pandemic, but consumers, after going through weeks of virtual shutdown, will readily accept a lesser version of what they had before.

I’d like to see a statistic two years from now that compares the number of deaths in the U.S. from coronavirus to the number of murders/suicides as a result of money problems caused by the shutdown, including those that resulted from stock-market losses.

I hope my $1,000 check from the government arrives before I have to pay my April country-club dues.

Charlie Jurgonis
Fairfax, Va.

A solution from the grill
Those favoring “safe golf” in the current times have neglected a very important detail: the consequences of removing the ball from the cup.

From personal experience, I think that it is virtually impossible to consistently remove a ball without touching the flagstick or the cup. (Moreover, the ball itself will have touched those surfaces, presenting a risk to whoever handles it.)

Given the relatively small area of the cup and the lowest, exposed portion of the flagstick, it’s reasonable to conclude that the virus could be communicated from an infected golfer to players.

A solution: carry a small barbecue tong, the kind for grilling steak or hot dogs. Use it to handle your golf ball if you or your playing partners (socially distant, of course) insist on holing all putts.

Once a geek, always a geek.

Ken Olshansky
Wellington, Fla.

Viewing golf as a form of protest
Our course is still open. Management has taken all precautionary measures as mentioned in previous letters to Morning Read (“From the Morning Read inbox,” March 20; March 19; March 18; March 17).

Our group has continued to play. Although ever the optimist, I am exercising more caution, more thinking of my actions to protect my health and those with whom I play.

As a group, I believe we are respectful of one another. Most of us are walkers, easily maintaining the recommended 6-foot distance. With a tip of the hat at the end of the round and forgoing our normal beverages and b.s. session after the round, we arrange our next tee time.

I look at the opportunity to playing golf in these uncertain times as a positive. It is a small protest that we will not be defeated by this epidemic.

Life will go on, and playing golf precludes us from being out looking for toilet paper.

Dave Richner
St. Johns, Fla.

Don’t yield to Damocles, but be careful
This is yet one more example of how the public will treat a situation that affects the entire country. When the future is unknown for threats, people are on edge and afraid to behave as they did prior to the change.

I don’t think that I will refrain from playing golf. My golf group starts up for the year in April and usually runs through September. Apart from possibly keeping a reasonable distance from fellow players and acknowledgement of the non-necessity for a handshake greeting, I don’t think it will be that difficult to get in some open-air exercise and semi-social activity. There will be more walking golfers than before until this thing blows over. This would allow you to keep a safe distance from everyone yet still converse and have a good time. The 19th hole might be gone until this pandemic is gone, though. No big loss there. I have a recently replaced knee. It has healed, but walking 18 is still so tiring that I can’t quite do it. So, a cart all alone might be my ticket.

People compare this pandemic to 9/11. I don’t see the resemblance at all. The Sept. 11, 2001, disaster was over in one morning. Once the air travel was stopped altogether, the looming threat to those of us throughout the country was over. No more airplanes to use as weapons were possible.

This, however, is a different story.

You never know whether the neighbor you shake hands with might have just had contact with someone who traveled abroad to Italy or China. Carriers can’t be identified that easily. They have to show symptoms, and by that time they already have been exposed to many others.

It is everyone’s duty to act as if he or she is a carrier and everyone out there is one as well. Not until no more known cases are revealed for a few weeks will this sword of Damocles be taken from above our heads. Until then, be careful but still live life in a modified format.

Bruce Kalapach
Fort Worth, Texas

‘A nightmare beyond words’
My club, Boca West, is dealing with social distancing in this way: Our three clubhouses are closed, and two of our five restaurants are open for takeout. We order and pick up at valet.

We sign in at our first tee on each of our four courses: Palmer I, Fazio II, Palmer III and Dye IV. We drive in separate carts. A food cart drives around.

It’s working well at this difficult time. As of today, we are keeping our fingers crossed that they don’t close the golf courses.

Tee times must be made to play before 1 p.m. so the carts can all be returned by 5 p.m.

Those of us lucky enough to own our own carts can go out after 1.

If clubs have to close their courses, I was wondering whether they would be able to have crews to cut and maintain the grass. It’s a scary thought for clubs to have their courses become pastures.

This is a nightmare beyond words.

Rene Leoni
Boca Raton, Fla.

A memorable experience
My experience playing golf during the past week at my club is one that I will always remember.

For the first time, I brought my wife, a nongolfer, and our dog (inspired by Alistair Tait’s recent dog-and-golf story in Morning Read) along. That was our threesome. We played with no other person.

I checked in via my cellphone and never went inside the building. The cart guys disinfected the cart, but I brought along my own disinfectant and did it again, using it on everything that could be touched. Unfortunately, I have Achilles’ tendinitis at the moment and couldn’t walk the course, as I normally do. Walkers never touch anything. I brought our own filled water bottles and tees. I wore a glove on each hand.

I’m glad I already had a couple of gloves for my right hand. We enjoyed riding along Horsepen Bayou in southeast Houston. Had our little dog not been on a leash, she would have liked to have gotten into it with a gator along the bank below the seventh hole. We saw other golfers on other holes, but none came on the hole where we were.

Rakes were removed, hole cups inserted upside down and water coolers were removed. When we were through, I put my things back into the car and disinfected my hands. I carry my spray bottle of disinfectant with me everywhere. When I got home, everything, including my golf gloves, went into the washing machine, and I showered immediately. It was a memorable experience, for sure.

I am expecting the Texas governor to place our state on lockdown soon, so this was probably my last time to play for the duration.

Daryl Lott

Playing golf now simply might not be worth it
I might not play again until the coronavirus pandemic is over.

After seeing California and other states shutting down and so many people where I live not heeding the enormity of this situation, I might shut down.

I took every conceivable precaution while playing golf Tuesday at Delray Beach (Fla.) Golf Club, and I still am not sure whether it was enough. I had so much fun playing that I now must weigh that against the harsh reality of not living.

My underlying health issue is the main reason, but even if I did not have it, the thought of playing one round too many is weighing on me. The decision might be made for me, if courses are forced to close.

Bob Geismar
Boca Raton, Fla.

New rules in McKinney
Our two courses have implemented the following.

1. Sanitize the carts after washing at night.
2. Put your own bag on the cart.
3. No scorecards, pencils, towels or sand containers.
4. No raking traps; smooth with foot and move ball from footprints, etc.
5. Turned the cup upside down so don't have to handle the flag or reach down in the cup as it will be slightly above ground. If you hit it, consider it holed.
6. No coolers on the course; bring your own drink.
7. Do not use ball washers.
8. All tourneys and leagues canceled.
9. Both clubhouses closed; meals to go available at curbside.

As an aside, we are going to play one to a cart.

Michael Merrill
McKinney, Texas

Still friendly, though at a distance
Here in The Villages, Fla., known as “the friendliest place in America,” golf still thrives daily, and it hopefully will continue.

We have many golfers who choose to ride solo. We still are lining up to pay our money for the opportunity to tee it up and enjoy a day with our buds. Pools are closed, restaurants are at half capacity and grocery stores have been devastated, but golfers are moving along. We still rake the traps (coronavirus is going to struggle in near-90-degree heat) and still gather for a post-round beverage.

The rule to stay apart is managed carefully, and we elbow bump instead of fist or handshake. Our lives are restricted more than ever, but as seniors we manage to survive.

I’m calling a carport party next week between neighbors so we can have some appetizers, adult beverages and adult conversations while awaiting the release of our pent-up energy after having being locked down somewhat.

Garen Eggleston
The Villages, Fla.

Playing golf safely
Arriving at the club, we don our washable pair of Fit 39 golf gloves before opening the door. We walk in to check in with a “good morning” and a wave and walk out to the course or the range.

On the course, we generally walk, now more than ever. If we had to ride, we wouldn’t share a cart.

We enjoy solitude or company from a distance. Instead of handshakes or fist bumps, we’ve adopted the wonderful bow and greeting namaste.

When it’s over, we take the gloves off and wash them every time.

Golf still can be safe and a joy.

Jim Jewitt

Golf’s latest distance craze
Thank you, Ted Bishop, for taking the time and care to write this article (“Course operator sees a way forward with golf,” March 18). Hoping more to follow in the coming season.

One thought: If necessary, golfers could be instructed to call in for tee times, give credit-card information over the phone and just come on out and sign in, etc.

Glenn Salwak

A transatlantic thank-you note
I want to say thank you to Ted Bishop and his team at The Legends Golf Club for providing a little bit of light to a darkening world (“Course operator sees a way forward with golf,” March 18).

I live in the United Kingdom and will continue to play golf as often as possible while we are permitted.

I always thank the golf course workers I come across, and I hope that Bishop’s players do, too.

If I ever get to Indiana, I will make a point of visiting Bishop’s club.

Richard Morgan
Gerrards Cross, England

Coronavirus and weather teams against Chicago golfers
Ted Bishop made a nice, well-thought-out plea for golfers to play (“Course operator sees a way forward with golf,” March 18).

He's absolutely right. There's no reason not to walk and play. You don't have to ride in a cart unless you're unable to walk. Then you can take your own.

I wish the weather here would be more cooperative.

Mitchell Sklare

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