News & Opinion

Play golf or not? Hawk & Purk take sides

Money on the golf tee box

As coronavirus pandemic divides golfers regarding sport's relative safety, John Hawkins and Mike Purkey tee up opposing arguments

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey, who co-host the weekly Hawk & Purk podcast on, also discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Should golf courses remain open while the world tries to get a grip on the coronavirus?

Hawk’s take: Defeating COVID-19 is all about the greater good, not one’s personal needs or financial stake. The entire world is dealing with a life-threatening pandemic, and we’re attempting to employ a prevent defense here in the best interests of common sense and humanity. Recreational golf should not take place if for no other reason than to honor that premise.

Is the municipal course down the street an essential business? Of course not, and given the extremely contagious nature of this health endangerment, we should be practicing every practical precaution to keep it from becoming any worse than it already is. There’s a lot we still don’t know about the virus. Golf facilities that do remain open are taking extreme measures while allowing play to continue, but in that context, is the universal risk really worth the individual reward?

There are a lot of decisions that can be justified with good intentions and poor eyesight. Our vision should be focused on containing this deadly scourge and limiting the time in which we are all impositioned to as short of a period as possible. That should mean no golf. Period. When so many lives are being turned upside-down, putting a little white ball at an inverted cup amounts to defiance disguised as ignorance.

Purk’s take: I know some people – perhaps many people – don’t think we still should be playing golf through this coronavirus pandemic. I get that. But courses in many parts of the country remain open and are taking every precaution against transmission of the virus.

I’m part of a big group that plays twice a week. We believe the game offers everyone who plays an important respite from the oppressive news that continues to pile up daily. We don’t think golfers are taking chances if we continue to do the right thing.

We’re outdoors and can practice social distancing pretty easily. We don’t shake hands; we elbow bump. We’re using hand sanitizer diligently. We aren’t touching flagsticks, and cups have been replaced. Bunker rakes have been removed, as have sand bottles and coolers from carts, which are being wiped down with disinfectants. Many more people are walking. Snack bars have closed and water coolers removed.

With all that, is playing golf as safe as not going out at all? I live in Charlotte, N.C., and we are now under a “stay at home” order. One of the things we are allowed to do is play golf. If health officials think it’s safe, that’s good enough for me.

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