Wow. It has been a crazy few months as we adjust to life with COVID-19. The pandemic has impacted how we interact with friends, how we get our restaurant food, and how safe we feel in public. The game of golf has not been immune either.
The good news is that almost all courses have now reopened, and you are able to go out and play the game you love. Golf is a great way to get some exercise and get some sun, while still being safe. Potentially even spend some time with buddies you have not seen in a while. If you are heading out to play for the first time this season, you will still enjoy the round, but be prepared for some things to feel different.
Look for the Positives in the Changes
When you head out to the links you will most likely experience some new rules and restrictions. While different, they are not all bad. Here are the key ones you can expect to encounter.
- Flagsticks are “No Touch” – golf courses will ask you to leave the flag in at all times and they may alter the hole slightly so your ball doesn’t fall to the bottom (the most common approach is a small piece of pool noodle). This allows you to play the hole without touching the flag and when you make a putt, you can safely retrieve your ball. You will be surprised how quickly you get used to putting with the flag in. We wonder if this will become the new norm after the pandemic is over.
The other nice thing about the flag staying in is that you can get your yardage from the fairway while the group in front is on the green. If you are a serious golfer, you need a rangefinder that locks in on the pin and gives you a jolt to let you know you have the correct yardage. Since the group in front of you must putt with the flag in, you can use this feature while you wait on them to finish. We can all agree – anything that speeds up the round is a positive.
- No Rakes – you will not find rakes in the bunkers, so the sand traps will probably be a mess (footprints, etc.). We recommend playing lift, clean, and place. Agree with your playing partners prior to starting that you will “improve your lie” if you need to play from the sand.
Ideally, you will not visit the bunkers very often, but we can agree that improving your lie helps.
- BYOB – golf courses have removed their water coolers, so you will need to bring water, Gatorade, or your beverage of choice. Many courses will now allow personal coolers as well.
You are saving money by not buying drinks in the 19th hole – that is a positive.
- Group/Cart Restrictions – depending on the course, they may have rules related to “one person per cart” or they may only allow twosomes vs. foursomes. If this is going to impact your decision on where to play, definitely inquire when you make a tee time. You do not want to be surprised by these types of restrictions when you arrive at the course.
Our recommendation – the best way play golf during COVID-19 is to walk the course and avoid carts all together. We could all use more exercise after being quarantined in our homes and it is quite easy to socially distance when you are walking the fairways, instead of squeezing into a cart.
Even in these times of COVID-19, golf is a social and competitive activity that you can safely enjoy. Be open to the idea that your experience will be slightly different, but you can still roll in that long birdie putt or break 90 for the first time. Maybe take a few bucks off your friends.
Grab your carry bag and maybe a pushcart. Head out to the links and walk 18 holes. Do not forget your rangefinder and your refreshments. You need to stay hydrated and you need to be able to quickly get your yardage and pick a club. If you are currently looking to buy a rangefinder, make sure you find one with jolt/pin lock and slope adjustment.
Getting back on the course can be a step towards feeling normal again. Play well!