Should You Golf During The COVID-19 Outbreak?
To golf, or not to golf?
That is the question currently being weighed by players, courses and governments all across America.
Several leisure activities have been shuttered by the coronavirus outbreak.
Currently, 16 states in the USA have put golf on the list of banned activities as part of shelter in place or quarantine regulations.
Should golf courses be opened? Is it wise to allow players to tee it up in order to gain a brief respite from the constant barrage of COVID-19 news? Most importantly, what are the risks that would be entailed by allowing golfers to play through the virus?
The clear answer to these questions is that there isn’t a clear answer. As the virus spreads, humanity is like the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria sailing out in search of the new world in 1492.
We’re all traversing uncharted waters. Every day is an adventure in uncertainty. The world’s leading infectious disease experts are learning on the go about this novel coronavirus.
Stay at home orders vary from state to state, adding to the confusion. Are some states underreacting? Certainly. Are some states overreacting? Possibly. But as the old saying goes, better safe than sorry.
How does golf fit into this equation? That depends upon where you live.
On The Tee, Or Out Of Bounds?
Where does your state fall in the COVID-19 golf debate?
According to the Golf Course Superintendents of America, these are the 16 states where golf is completely shut down – Washington, California, Nevada, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, New York, Maine, New Jersey, Maryland, Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
However, that list could grow exponentially in the coming weeks. Decisions on whether to keep golf courses open are pending in Alaska, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Colorado.
In other states where golf isn’t prohibited, such as Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, and Utah, some counties are nonetheless opting to shut down courses as a public safety measure.
PGA Tour Eyeing Return
If all goes according to plan, the world’s best golfers will be back on the course by early June. The PGA Tour announced a proposed return to the links for the June 8-14 Charles Schwab Challenge at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan indicated that the plan was for the first four tournaments to be held absent of spectators. Following those events, this part of the equation would be reassessed in consultation with leading public health authorities.
Naturally, hearing that the world’s No. 1 brand in golf was projecting a date to tee it up has local hackers currently drydocked from their favorite course dreaming that they soon will also be back to flailing away at a tiny white orb.
Still, it should be noted that PGA Tour has already seen proposals for a return to the links fail twice making online golf betting halt. Originally, the plan was to return to the links at the previously-scheduled start date for the Charles Schwab Challenge, which was May 18.
That was scrubbed, and a new target of June 1 at the Memorial Tournament was established. The PGA Tour has pushed that start date back yet another week.
Logistics Of COVID-19 Golf
In areas where the game is forbidden, golfers have been quick to offer gameplans by which they should be able to play COVID-19-safe golf.
On the surface, some of the plans make some logical sense. For starters, they could pay their greens fees online in advance, eliminating the need for any exchange with clubhouse employees. As well, staggered start times would be booked via the course website. This makes a starter at the first tee unnecessary. The extra space between tee off times should create effective social distancing between groups.
Once out on the course, that’s when the flaws in this plan begin to surface, though. Both the hole and the flagstick are metal, and that’s a surface which is proven to hold coronavirus germs for long periods of time. Neither should be touched by anyone, let alone groups after groups of people.
A grounds crew would need to be employed to maintain the upkeep of the course. Is it fair to ask people to literally put their lives on the line in order for others to partake in a non-essential recreational activity? A course marshal would also need to enter the picture, because as players get out on the course, human nature will take over.
Not all groups will maintain social distancing from each other. And what happens when a faster group comes upon a slower foursome? Playing behind a slow group is annoying. But playing through a slow group could prove fatal. All it takes is one golfer unknowingly afflicted with the virus to spread it to others and cause an outbreak.
The simple assembly of a group to play golf also defies stay at home orders which discourage people from different addresses gathering for social activities.
Clearly, there’s no easy answer here. And the frustration among golfers in states where the warm weather only visits briefly is understandable.
At this point, there’s only two paths to take. For golfers in the states where playing the game is still allowed, take all the necessary precautions and stay safe. And for those in states where golf is prohibited, treat it like the backup at the tee box of a par-3 hole.
You’re just going to have to be patient and wait it out.