Note: Written Monday 13th April – opinion subject to change relative to Government Guidelines.
Mike, my local cart guy, stands with his rubber gloves on and a Friday 13th face mask. In his left hand is a bottle of Clorox and in his right hand, two sanitizer wipes.
This wasn’t how it was supposed to be; wiping down used buggies.
The particular golf course I’m referencing looked forward to its best financial season since the crash of 2008.
2020 was going to be great but alas…….
But hey ho, the Wet Markets re opened.
So who is Mike servicing? The local members, that’s all – no one from another county or state.
But this isn’t about a package play deficit, is it? It’s not about profit or business building….
This is life and death.
This is about the amazing staff and volunteers of the NHS and global health care workers.
This is about people mourning loved ones with who they ushered 2020 in with but are now no longer with them a mere three months down the line.
And this is about a pandemic that is currently ripping apart communities and families at an alarming rate.
It’s truly numbing.
Can we go back a year please?
Golf is unlike most sports. Because of its reputation as a good walk spoilt, it almost slots neatly under the same category as hiking or rambling which is why until recently its fight to be truly recognised as a ‘sport’, has only just arrived.
The UK Government guidelines encourage walking so long as a two metre gap is present between you and a stranger.
So why, in light of this pandemic tragedy, have they and other governments recommend walking and responsibly: ‘getting out and about’?
For this I defer not to opinion, but to fact:
- Light is essential to our mental wellbeing. Vitamin D, which is derived from light is fundamental to human wellbeing. Vitamin D lamps do not adorn countries in Northern Europe for nothing. They are there to prevent mental illness and suicide.
- Sterile indoor environments breed mental boredom – when stimulus is robbed, the sub conscious wanders inward breeding social disconnection and, well…..dark thoughts.
- Movement induces serotonin and endorphins that switch on and thus your body’s natural happy drug is released.
- The act of something to look forward to breeds optimism and thus, something more to live for and look forward to.
The Governments know this.
Moral is paramount to a nation’s energy and resolve.
In the Hogath era in England in the late 1600’s, Gin would arrive into Shad Thames carried by the shipping vessels travelling between London and Hook. The government, to keep morale up, issued free Dutch Gin to the common man to keep spirits high and fight / work another day; this was known as the Dutch courage. Governments know that when the people are down, anarchy can ensue.
It seems to me, and I am not omniscient so I am willing to be challenged, that private golf clubs fit into the guideline of walking which explains why it is not the Government who has shut down the courses, but its gatekeepers; the GUI, the EGU, the SGU and Golf Wales.
I mention this because of the mysterious juxtaposition between what is being recommended, and what is not. They seem so similar to me, that these two activities could be recommended as one.
Except they’re not.
For a start, golf is much safer than these Government walking guidelines.
But let’s look at something a little more deeply.
For some golf is all they have. So forgive me if you’re a twice a year golfer. This isn’t for you. It’s for the golfer who not only exercises from the game but derives a meaning, a purpose of life and living from it too.
For some, the meaning of life is just that, to sustain meaning to this fleeting existence.
So why is golf safer than what is currently Government recommended which is exercising down the park or rambling in the lane?
- A park is ring fenced and contained – you’re trapped.
- People congregate in an unorganized fashion in the car park of the park.
- There is no route, people are like asteroids, but with legs.
- If there IS a route or a trail, you are inevitably walking BY someone in the process of walking or………. en route back to the group gathering they call the ‘car park’ (parking lot).
- There is no discipline as to where you can and cannot go.
- The entrance to most parks is a narrow one – two lanes – no room for a two metre standoff.
Again I defer to:
‘Being in a wide-open, outdoor space is the least at risk scenario. It’s very reasonable to play with the right precautions’ – Dr. Kelly Cawcutt – Director of Infection Control and Epidemiology, Nebraska Bio-Containment Unit.
‘Can you play Golf amid the coronavirus? With proper precautions, yes’ – Golf Digest
‘Golfers return to the golf course with a promise to keep their distance – ‘’ this is the happiest I have been in 10 days’’ ‘ – Chicago Tribune
In Florida, guided by the state and local health officials, TPC Sawgrass, home of The Players, reopened with the safety of the staff and players being the priority.
So according to the above, the evidence suggests that there ARE best practises that can be followed to allow the game of golf to continue, to give those health benefits and to continue that meaning in one’s life without endangering your fellow human.
The three most valuable employees at a golf course, in order are – The Head Greenkeeper – The PGA Professional – The Club Manager.
A club can react, respond and function with just those entities.
At my club, they’ve got it down pretty good.
Take equipment for example; if you need balls, send the pro an email they’ll be waiting for you by the pro shop door the next day. Not too taxing no?
As if you need it………a word of warning:
Well well well, it seems that some bright spark at the Governmental level has suggested that golf courses should be deemed ‘open areas’ from which members of the public can traipse onto greens, through bunkers and peer into pro shops. Peer into pro shops…let that sink in you PGA Pro’s…
Are you following me?
I have already received notice that one golf course has been decimated by the uninvited using it as a camping ground.
No, the public should NOT be allowed onto your golf course.
So let me see………no greenkeeper and rogue maverick ramblers…let’s do the math:
18 greens either destroyed or irreparably overgrown.
1 green an estimated 30,000 quid
18 x 30,000 = 540,000 quid
The end of golf. Literally.
Golf is a trail.
You start at the first……..go to the second etc etc.
You don’t go from the fourth back to the second.
So, in essence, a round of golf is like a conveyer belt or even an escalator. You get on at number one…..you move through until number 18 and then you get off.
A board game no less.
I believe that with a little divergent thinking, organization and responsibility, golf at some clubs can and should continue.
Here’s a proven way:
- 20 minute tee times – one balls only (a max of 36 players (there could actually be more))
- Do not show up more than 10 minutes before your tee time.
- No putting green and no range usage.
- Walk straight from the car to the first hole – From the 18th green to the car. Goodbye.
- No rakes.
- Cups upside down, no flagstick touching.
If I were you, I’d get used to the rule list above. It will be a new norm.
The above list isn’t the battle plan for the D Day landings. It’s a pragmatic approach to a dire situation and following these guidelines offer little or zero risk.
Because, even when this passes, and it will pass, the playing of golf will have to be reintroduced very very slowly and the above will 100% be adopted in the reintegration period.
There have been concerns that people can crash their cars en route to the golf course; well, there’s certainly less cars on the road and the demographic of most golf club members is of an age where irresponsible driving is at its lowest. I don’t buy it.
I have written this blog not because COVID-19 is a subject to be taken lightly. No, COVID-19 is a deadly virus that transmits when in close proximity with another human or you have touched an infected object.
Do NOT, go near anyone if you don’t have to.
Do NOT, touch anything you don’t have to.
And ALWAYS wash your hands when you can.
We will have to innovate anyway. If a new normal is to impose the restrictions above so be it; it’s a temporary measure whatever your version of temporary is.
We thought the golf rules had been revised in 2019.
They have now been re written in a language and narrative we were not expecting.
Please be safe.
I welcome emails – abusive emails will be blocked.