Is it time to relax COVID-19 restrictions on the golf course? Most definitely. We have learned that the disease primarily spreads through sustained physical contact with an infected person and not through contact with hard surfaces. Many golf courses have instituted guidelines designed to protect players against contacting the disease from objects we touch. These are over-protective and can be recinded. Since the game is played outside, social distancing is an easy way to protect players from real transmission and keep the sport one of the safest activities around. Let’s review what restrictions should be maintained and what we can dispense with.
Chances of contacting the virus through the handling of bunker rakes and flagsticks are quite remote and can be rescinded. Most courses have also implemented modifications to the hole to prevent the ball from falling to the bottom. These usually consist of a restraint that allows the ball to rest just below the surface. Either way, the player still needs to retrieve their ball from within the circumference of the cup and the virus isn’t living in golf holes. Let’s resume smoothing footprints in sand traps and putting into regular cups.
Most courses have restrictions on riding in carts. You are prevented from riding with individuals other than those you have been sheltering with. It makes sense to maintain these protections. Riding side-by-side for four hours with someone who may be infected is asking for trouble. A side benefit of maintaining current cart policies: I think a foursome with four carts can play faster than the same group with two carts because some aspects of joint passenger cart etiquette don’t apply when everyone drives to their own ball. At least that’s been my observation. Issues with rationing and cart shortages are being managed well by most courses.
This one is a big concern. As we hit the hot summer months, removal of cold drinking water from everywhere on the course is not a good idea. In a round last week I was walking, and it was hot and humid. My cold Gatoraid was finished by the 9th hole and I was left with two additional bottles of drinking water. By the 12th hole it felt like I was drinking hot tea. The only benefit was that it was wet. I have a vested interest because of an unpleasant heat exhaustion episode I suffered through a few years back. There was no cold drinking water on a course I was playing in Myrtle Beach, and I had to quit after seven holes after falling quite ill. I think it’s fine to bring back the coolers and keep them filled. Maybe store a dispenser of Clorox wipes next to the paper cups for those concerned.
I know there is a concerning uptick in the infection rate in many of the southern United States. It may not seem like an opportune time to reduce COVID protections, but this outbreak is being observed because of unwise behavior in bars and gathering spots, not on golf courses. Golf is one of the safest social distancing outdoor activities you can play. It’s time to return to a sense of normalcy.