Can we play golf right now? It’s not a closed case

It used to be that the saddest four words in golf were, “It’s still your turn.”

Now we’ve got a new entry: “The course is closed.”

That’s what I heard Saturday morning just as I was getting ready to drive over and tee it up. I was numb but understanding. COVID-19 is tougher than a 1-iron into the wind over the water, and we have to take extra precautions.

But I also feel like applauding when I hear that some courses have remained open despite shelter-in-place orders in California and other states.

As long as we’re healthy and are practicing our social distancing, shouldn’t we have the freedom to go outside and get some exercise?

I don’t see how our great game is any different from hiking – the trail was jammed when I went out there this morning. If golf courses are closed, shouldn’t hiking trails be closed, too? Should we be barred from going outside at all?

That’s what makes this crisis so difficult, and we might have a different opinion in a few weeks. It all might subside by then, and we’ll be wondering what the big deal was. Or it might have germinated (pun intended) to the point where we’ll wonder why we weren’t tougher on ourselves from the start.

For now, though, I’m going to keep playing golf and going for a hike. As long as I don’t feel as if I’m endangering myself or anyone else, it’s the only way to stay sane. Staying home with no golf tournaments or other sports to watch is proving a tough opponent indeed.

I also heard that the courses remaining open are taking some sensible extra precautions, such as having everyone drive their own cart.

I wondered about that as I prepared for my round yesterday. Would my playing partner want to ride? If so, was that a good idea? Some courses are saying it’s not, and they’re not charging extra to make sure you stay apart.

Another sensible change is declaring that all putts from 3 feet in are gimmes. That would save you the hazard of ever having to touch the flagstick unless you made a putt from longer than 3 feet and had to pluck your ball out of the hole.

They must have had me in mind when they instituted that policy – sometimes it feels as if I’m lucky if I make even one putt outside gimme range per round.

As I sat home this afternoon, I still heard the sounds of happy golfers outside my door. It made me realize once more how much I enjoy living on a golf course. It reminded me of how privileged I feel just to be connected to the game, as a player and as a fan.

Maybe every golf course will be closed in a week or two – or sooner. Maybe we’ll have to stay locked up.

But I’m going to continue to look on the bright side of all this. When it’s over – and it will be over someday – we’ll all be that much more thankful for what we have.

We’ll be overjoyed to hear these four words: “The course is open.”

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