Playing golf while social distancing? Here’s what you need to know

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Image: | Playing golf while social distancing? Here’s what you need to know | Can you still tee up during the coronavirus pandemic? If you are obsessed with your birdies and computing your stats in a Golf handicap calculator, chances are this outbreak is crushing your spirit. Golf is an outdoor sport that has been severely affected by this invisible enemy, with no known end in sight as of the moment. Until a vaccine is created, fear will linger. 

Right now, everyone is advised to self-quarantine and social distancing measures. Does this mean you must live like a hermit now? Of course, exercise and nature are both beneficial to your health, too. 

Most golf aficionados are trying to balance out everything because it is also unhealthy for your mental health to be forever cooped up at home. The main issue now is how you approach the game safely. 

While people still fear to leave their homes, there are many golf courses around the world that have opened their doors to golfers and are committed to providing all the necessary resources for the betterment of the community.

What Is Social Distancing?

Social distancing is a measure encouraged by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) to keep the contagion at bay. This means keeping a safe distance of at least 6 feet from anyone who does not share the same house with you. 

This literal physical distancing limits your close contact with people and reduces your interactions to prevent the spread of infection. The imposed distance means that the virus is impeded from “jumping” from person-to-person. 

This makes golf the perfect sport to enjoy during the ongoing medical crisis because one can be out in the open, fresh hair and enjoy nature and its wonders, all the while staying away from people for a safer environment for guests and employees.

Is Playing Golf Be OK During The Coronavirus Pandemic?

Currently, there are 16 states where the Governor has issued an Executive Order that has put golf on pause. These states have identified golf courses as a non-essential business, so they have closed golf clubs, driving ranges, and courses. 

However, some states have mentioned that golf is not a non-essential business, so they have allowed courses to continue operations amidst the recommendations to isolate at home. Again, it varies per district, and guidelines can be confusing and are constantly changing. So, it is best to call your municipal hotline if you are not sure.

To illustrate, in the State of Connecticut, the Governor has permitted private clubs to operate as long as they follow appropriate regulations to prevent the spread of contagion. Noteworthy, local municipal guidelines, such as in the hard-hit area of Fairfield County, do not allow the play. Currently, the National Golf Foundation stated that 44% of courses in the county still permit the sport. Until the curve of COVID-19 is flattened, returning to your golfing experience may not be the same as how you played the game last summer. Unfortunately, if your course is closed, filling out your golf handicap calculator may have to wait until everything is stabilized. 

Here are some basic, safe etiquettes to follow on the golf course if you manage to find an open course for your game:

  • avoid using ball washers on the course
  • carry your own golf equipment, if possible (that includes clubs, carts, etc.)
  • try giving fist bumps or elbow dabs instead of handshakes after a good game
  • bring hand sanitizers and use them as frequently as possible
  • keep that 6 feet of distance from people
  • avoid touching your face too often

While it is imperative for gamers to take every bit of safety precaution before their game, golf courses also need to keep their safety measures intact to ensure the wellbeing of the golfers coming inside their premises. Here are some of the rules that an ideal golf course should be following in such trying times:

  • guest and staff screening upon arrival.
  • on-site health care providers
  • ensuring only take-out food and single-serve beverages for guests and employees
  • thoroughly sanitizing areas of high traffic & high touch 
  • minimizing the staff’s touch of visitor’s golfing equipment
  • provide necessary info about all best practices during visits 

Is It Safe For Senior Citizens To Go To The Golf Course?

It is a pressing issue for most seniors because age and comorbidities play a massive role in how your immune system will react to this pandemic. If golf is your passion, it is totally understandable how staying “imprisoned” at home is depressing and slowly killing your spirit. 

While it is true that golf would be considered as being on the milder end of sports and risks, there are still risks with shared spaces like golf courses. This is especially true for senior citizens going into locker rooms and dining areas, or where there’s contact with people moving through.

However, if your locality allows playing golf, with the proper safety measures, you should be OK. After all, staying outdoors and engaging in exercise are necessary practices to boost your health. Just be very careful while you are out there.

Make sure you wear a mask, bring a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, and engage in social distancing. Don’t gather in the tee-off spot like you used to with your buddies. Stay one meter away from everyone, unless you are playing with a housemate. Do not pick up tees and balls other than what you own. 

Hopefully, your course has raised the cup, so you won’t have to put your hand in there. But in the event that you have to, be sure to sanitize your hands immediately. After your game, do not linger any more. Most of all, make a conscious effort not to touch your face. Once you get home, sanitize your shoes, golf clubs, golf bag, and your clothes. Take a shower immediately. Enforce strict hygiene measures to ensure your safety.

Doesn’t The Virus Linger On Surfaces Or On An Object For Long Periods Of Time?

Since COVID-19 is a novel virus, meaning it is new, scientists are still uncertain how long it survives on surfaces. Currently, the assertion is that it behaves like other coronaviruses. Initial reports say that COVID-19 can stay on any surface for at least a few hours up to several days. How does this affect you? It means that you have to implement strict hygiene habits if you venture out to play in your favorite golf course. Follow the tips mentioned above because your safety is paramount. 

What About The 19th Hole Or The Locker Room Before And After The Round?

It is best not to linger after your game. Unfortunately, the risk is too big, so talking with your buddies in the flesh and having drinks after the last hole is discouraged. Don’t hang out in the locker room and take a shower in your own home. If you must discuss your game, you can still do it with Zoom after you have cleaned up. It is best to err on the side of caution. 

Rules And Handicapping Guidance During Covid-19 Era

The USGA encourages golfing aficionados to follow the health guidelines of their government officials to deter the coronavirus spread. Golf course operators are urged to heighten their awareness of exposure to surfaces, such as golf balls, bunker rakes, flagsticks, carts, tees, and even scorecards. Everyone is encouraged to do their part and their utmost best to respect the advice of health officials by making the best judgment choices to protect one another. 

Currently, the Committee Procedures stated that many of your current questions over this unique circumstance have been challenging to address because there is no precedence. There are no existing guidelines because this novel virus is new, with no history. Right now, the most frequent questions received on the Rules of Handicapping are related to the acceptability of scores for posting to a particular player’s scoring record. 

Questions arise regarding modifying the hole and requiring players not to “hole out,” which is a requirement in the Rules of Golf. This has been done to minimize the spread by leaving the hole liner raised way above the putting surface or placing objects inside the hole to make it a lot easier to get the ball with minimal hand use. In the US, a temporary measure is in place to accept scores played under these new conditions to calculate your handicap. For the complete guidelines, check here. 

Golf course opening hours and maintenance are now being regulated and restricted based on the recommendations of the CDC, along with the State and municipal governments—because safety is a priority. Until a vaccine is created, no one can make concrete predictions of what is going to happen. 

How to approach your favorite game can change in the forthcoming days based on the number of infections and death tolls in your area. While staying home to keep safe is a sound choice, no matter what happens, this beloved sport of golf can and will always have a place in your life.