Social Distancing and the Perfect Golf Day

How to Keep Playing and Observe Social Distancing During Coronavirus

We are by now about a week into giving up everything we love to do, or at least most of it. However, golf doesn’t need to disappear along with movie theaters, restaurants, and concerts. Social distancing is hard to achieve in places like that, unless you do what we did by being the only ones at the theater, watching the oddball movie no one else wanted to see. Among golf’s many natural advantages for such a situation is its use of the wide-open spaces. Here’s my obsessive take on what one needs to do in order to continue playing golf.

Being mindful of the six-foot buffer between humans isn’t enough, but you can do it. I prefer about twelve feet or more. Many of us also need a constant reminder that this virus can live on certain surfaces for a long time. So here goes, assuming that everyone at your house is virus-free. Early morning, clubs into car, with no one helping – got it. Wipe down steering wheel if it makes you feel better, but if your spouse has the bug and drives your car, forget it, you’re already toast.
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Driving to the course is a snap, so long as you’re not picking anyone up, or getting stopped by a policeman who has tested positive. The first problem, after maneuvering into the clubhouse, is paying for the round. Stand far from the counter, get out your card, take a breath, and see if you can hold it through the entire transaction. This might require stepping away once or twice. Wipe down your credit card with whatever you’ve got. Avoid fingering new merchandise you’d love to have and head straight for the exit, holding your breath if anyone else walks in.

Don’t share a cart. Everyone gets their own, or walks. This is just social distancing, not being unfriendly. Bring your Purell and/or other disinfectant? Get to work on everything you’ll touch on the cart. No one stands around the tee except the person ready to drive. Come to the tee from four different directions. Conversation on the fairway is at a distance, even if one is coaching another’s shot. Don’t carry anything for anybody, even if they appear ready to crawl across the desert for an oasis.

The green is the next danger zone. Now it’s social distancing in a small space, and only one person should occupy the short grass at one time, at least at twelve feet or more. Remember that the flagstick has been touched by foursomes who got up earlier than you did. New rules allow putting with the stick in. And be careful getting the ball out of the hole. It’s hard to know how a virus could get itself down there, but it probably can. If you’re super obsessive, use throwaway gloves.

Attractive as she may be, and thirsty as you might feel, the beer lady is off limits, even more than usual. In addition to what else she might have brought with her, cups and handing things from one person to another is a no-no. Other unexpected encounters might occur if someone hits a ball into an adjoining fairway, or if you do. If a “Is that my ball?” situation arises, just give it to them and drop another one, without the penalty stroke. Of course, no shaking hands with the winner, loser, or anyone suggesting a beer after the round. Get in your sanitized car and go home, stopping for nothing along the way.

Having considered these points, some of which are a little tongue-in cheek for the non-obsessive, it is now your job to decide whether a round of golf is worth it. It is to me, but if you’re overly squeamish, wait until late summer when courses are getting ready to close in some areas – your choice. The whole process resembles the precision astronauts employ when preparing for a blast-off or spacewalk. Of course, that’s another idea for perfect social distancing, if you think you can swing a club in a space suit. If you choose that one, touch and hang out with whatever and whomever you want. If it goes like it did for the guy who hit one on the moon, remember that his drive went 700 yards.
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