During the current COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, our world has certainly been turned upside-down, and golf is no exception. Professional golf has halted play, and courses – at least those that are allowed to stay open – are taking all or some the following measures to make playing the game as safe as possible:
Removing rakes and water coolers from the course
Raising the cup so the ball bounces off it on the putting green, or putting a pool noodle into the hole
Removing the flagstick entirely
One rider per golf cart
No shaking hands after the round
No food and beverage except for takeout
No congregating in the pro shop
Closing the clubhouse
While a number of infectious disease experts have weighed in that it is difficult to get sick from playing golf in normal conditions, the severity of the COVID-19 coronavirus in some people mandates that these extra precautions be taken. The USGA has also made some changes to allow scores played under these circumstances to be posted for handicap purposes. For example, in the case of raised cups so the ball bounces off them, the USGA has said that “the most likely score” can be recorded for that hole. Competitions that are still being held at various clubs are not required to use the traditional method of scorekeeping, where scorecards are exchanged and attested at the end of a round. And it’s okay to smooth a bunker and place your ball if that bunker has no rakes. Again, all scores played under these conditions are acceptable for handicap posting.
It remains to be seen when things can return to normal when it comes to playing golf, not to mention returning to our normal way of living. Estimates range from mid-April all the way to next year. Obviously, we all hope for sooner rather than later. The game provides a healthy outlet in these most trying of times.