Social distancing guidelines issued by the Coronavirus Task Force at the White House have asked Americans to maintain a distance of six feet from each other and avoid social gatherings of ten or more people. The last time I checked, golf is played in foursomes, outdoors, where there’s plenty of room to distance yourself from other players.
As the list of “essential” businesses gets shorter (don’t get me started on gun shop closures), the number of people preaching “just stay at home” rhetoric gets longer. That’s a sensible course of action for a few weeks, even a month or two, but in a prolonged battle against a world-wide pandemic, it’s simply not possible. People need outlets during times like these if they are going to remain sane. Even convicts get yard time once a day.
This morning, I received a message from Dan Bartkus, owner of the Woods of Westminster Golf Course, with a simple request. “Let’s get people outside and start feeling better.” The message was accompanied by a petition, which is being submitted to Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, asking for golf courses to be re-opened using Covid-19 safe guidelines. As of the writing of this article, the petition already had 15,000 signatures.
How to Safely Play Golf during Covid-19
Before the nay-sayers start screaming about how dangerous this is, let me preface this section by telling you I’m fifty-three years old and diabetic, so I’m in a high-risk category. I’ve reviewed the proposal for safe golf carefully and I am 100% in favor of doing this. I signed the petition and put some dough behind spreading the word. I’m hoping you do, too. Here are the guidelines being proposed:
- Allow golf courses to stay open
- Club houses will NOT remain open
- Flag sticks will NOT be used
- Holes will be placed two inches above the ground or inverted so no one touches the hole
- No golf carts will be allowed. Walking is to be encouraged
- Tee time intervals should be no less than twelve (12) minutes between groups
- Clubs should encourage online payments to limit interaction between course staff and customers and avoid congregation in and around the clubhouse
- Players are prohibited from congregating on the putting green or driving range before or prior to their round
- When rounds are completed, customers must go directly to their vehicles
- Strict adherence to all CDC guidelines relating to responsible social distancing
In addition to the above precautions, rakes and ball washers would also be removed, eliminating any possibility of golfers touching anything other than their own clubs and balls (golf only, please). With these guidelines in place, there’s really no reason NOT to allow golf courses to re-open.
There is a Precedent for This
Not surprisingly, the Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia, just outside DC, is still open. Courses in Colorado are open, also. The Governor there issued the following statement.:
“As a practical matter, the most important thing is social distancing and complying with the state and local directives on distancing,” the state wrote in a guidance email. “Functionally, that means no collecting money, no sharing of golf carts, no touching of bags, clubs, balls or anything where the virus could be transmitted. Operators would need to get express approval from a local public authority that they comply with all social distancing directives in the current state and any local orders in effect.
Arizona Governor Tony Ducey declared golf to be an “essential business” and has allowed courses to remain open. Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont initially closed courses, but has since allowed re-opening under new safety guidelines. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has a “shelter in place” order in effect for high risk groups, but has allowed golf courses in Atlanta to continue operating. These are just a few examples. There are dozens more.
Please Sign this Petition
Covid-19 is still spreading and we’re likely to be in social distancing mode for at least another month, possibly longer. Parks and trails are open for hikers. Why not re-open golf courses for golfers? If you agree, please sign the petition.