With everything from major professional tournaments to local sports leagues being put on hold, COVID-19 has paused most of the sports world. However, many golf courses, under some new restrictions, are still open for golfers to tee up.
During this uncertain time, for many people (me included), a game of golf can be both a passion and a stress-reliever. With a few modifications, you can still get outdoors and play the game. Let’s go over some tips for playing golf with the proper precautions during the COVID-19 crisis.
Wear a mask and avoid touching high-use surfaces
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced their recommendation for all Americans to wear a cloth mask when in public (these masks are different from surgical masks or N95 respirators, which the CDC now recommends reserving for healthcare workers). Whether you make this mask yourself or buy from a manufacturer, the face covering is one more layer of protection for yourself and others on the golf course.
In addition to wearing a face mask, there are changes to common golf rules to minimize touching high-use items. For instance, many courses are now taking bins and ball washers out of play, as well as removing rakes for the bunkers.
Another adjustment for golfers: although many believe leaving the flagstick in makes putts being holed slightly more difficult, it is now better not to touch the flagstick. Holding the flag or laying it on the ground for yourself or others may be normal practice on the course, but in these times, it is advised to leave the flag as-is. To encourage this practice, some golf courses have even started to put segments of swimming noodles in the cup around the flagstick, raising the ball and allowing for easy removal without touching the cup or the pin.
Finally, consider avoiding other points of physical contact that may normally occur in a golf game. If you see a stray ball, do not add it to your shag bag; sharing tees between a foursome should be avoided. And unfortunately, even though a golf game traditionally ends with handshakes between players, we may all need to switch to 6-foot “air fives” for now.
Bring disinfectant for gear and for your hands
You should use your disinfectant wipes to clean everything you come in contact with on the golf course. If you are using a cart, use your disinfectant to wipe down the steering wheel, the handles, and the buckle and strap holding your clubs. You will also want to spray your ball after putting it into cups, and wipe down all of your gear before you finish and pack up for the day.
If you are unsure which disinfectants to use, check out these resources:
- The EPA provides a list of registered disinfectants for use against COVID-19
- For a homemade disinfectant, the CDC recommends making a bleach solution by mixing 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water
You will want to make sure you try to sanitize your hands during the game as well. Since handwashing could be difficult out in the middle of the course, carry hand sanitizer in your golf bag to ensure you have an accessible alternative to soap and water.
Play at courses that are implementing responsible safety practices
Many golf courses are now implementing more thorough and frequent cleaning regimens. If you are unsure what your local course is doing, ask—and if they do not have a plan in place, consider looking for a different course for now.
Your course should also be implementing common sense practices, such as minimizing points of public contact during booking, requiring golfers remain in possession of their own bags, and increasing the spacing between tee times.
Finally, to avoid crowds or busy situations, consider choosing courses that are further away from population centers, or if you are able, pick tee times during non-peak periods.
Ride in you own cart, or walk
With social distancing rules during COVID-19 recommending people maintain a distance of six feet apart or more, sitting shoulder-to-shoulder on a golf cart is no longer the norm.
If you must ride a cart during times of social distancing, it is best to ride alone. Not only does one person per golf cart follow social distancing, but it also allows you to properly sanitize and clean your cart.
However, If you are able to walk on your course, this is a good option during these times. Not only is it healthier in a time of social distancing, but we could all use a little extra exercise after spending this much time at home!
Limit in-person interactions
When booking your tee time, see if you have the option to book online. If you must book at the clubhouse, try to stay six feet away for the counter, or follow the rules and guidelines set by the course. If possible, use contactless payments or use a card, minimizing any points of contact between you and others.
Even while on the course, do your best to avoid long face-to-face conversations while waiting for the tee box. Although getting to know fellow golfers is usually one of the joys of the game, during the current pandemic, it poses a risk of an ill-timed cough or sneeze. If you miss the conversations on the course, consider joining an online golf community or starting your own local Facebook group.
Golfing during COVID-19
Many of us turn to sports not only as a hobby, but as a way to relieve some stress. Many sports are on hold because of the coronavirus, but luckily, golf is one of the few sports where you could play 18 holes and not come in close contact with another player.
Although you may need to make a few adjustments in your game, playing golf with a few restrictions in place ensures you are doing your part to keep yourself and others healthy. Stay safe and stay healthy out there on the course!