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August 2020

Searching for a Level of Comfort

By Jared Williams

Everyone has been waiting for things to return to a sense of normalcy. For golf, even in the midst of the pandemic, this has happened earlier than it did for many of our fellow sports enthusiasts. Golf was one of the first sports that was allowed to be played with distancing requirements. Fortunately, things started to normalize.

There were many concerns about the very real possibility of coronavirus spreading due to various inefficiencies within our work environment. We cleaned our carts, hands, and shoes better. We even changed the way we distributed our carts: some courses required walkers only, others required single-rider carts, those courses that used caddies were forced to make changes, and rarely did we see carts allowing double riders.

While we no longer had rakes in bunkers and our food and beverage supply was extremely limited, we were tolerant so long as we could enjoy the game we love. There are no more tee-side coolers. Social distancing is highly encouraged and everyone is forced to eat either six feet apart or place to go orders. Additionally, our flags are now accompanied with foam fillers placed at the bottom of the cups to help prevent us from touching the flagsticks. It started as a little bit uncanny but is now overwhelmingly accepted in our new way of life.

Yet, just as we started to settle into playing golf from an amateur standpoint, we have now had professional events being played as well. At our local facilities we have had a number of individual events played, with no real drawbacks or concerns for COVID-19. Frankly, people are somewhat playing golf as they did prior to the pandemic. I know I have seen a number of amateur events, member-guests, club championships etc. where there have not been intensive social distancing requirements. This isn’t the case everywhere and honestly has not impacted play.

I’ve personally sat in golf carts with a number of different playing partners. Sometimes we were practicing social distancing, other times we didn’t. Social distancing, also called “physical distancing,” means keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. To practice social or physical distancing requires people to stay at least 6 feet from other people. Social distancing seems to work best when you are playing with someone you don’t know. But what we are learning now is that the social distancing is actually more likely to spread from person-to-person. We haven’t used masks on the course.

This entire thing has really been a learning curve for all of us and we are now learning that even in practicing the strict forms of social distancing, we are still exposed to the virus due to a lack of facial protection.

I know that when the PGA Tour began its rounds of play, social distancing was encouraged. Yet, no one wore their masks to compete. Ever. Whether it was the practice events with Rory, DJ, Matt Wolff, and Rickie) or the mixed events with (Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Phil Mickelson & Tiger Woods), no one wore their masks to compete. Masks for competition just didn’t seem logical. We could ride our own carts, refrain from shaking hands, and limit interaction between players, but masks were off limits.

Now that we are seeing a large number of positive COVID-19 tests in our industry, what do we do next? Brooks Koepka, Graeme McDowell, Cameron Champ, and Webb Simpson are all out this week (close contact with a carrier or from being exposed). Should we be prepared to shift all of our operations back to a stay at home order? Will you require masks to be worn by all patrons who visit your course? Can you effectively schedule your tournaments as planned? What is your plan of action if the spread likely extends down to your amateur members who may or may not be wearing a mask or being checked daily?

We’re always interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions. What do you see as the solution here? I want to hear from you, contact me at jwilliams@ngcoa.org.

 

 

 

 

 

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