What it’s like out there on the course these days

Last week, I wrote about the saddest four words in golf, 2020 style:

“The course is closed.”

Today, I have much happier words:

“I played golf yesterday.”

It really wasn’t that much different than any other round except that …

  • The door to the pro shop was propped open.
  • The employees behind the counter were wearing surgical gloves.
  • The carts were thoroughly washed down. I’ve never seen such clean carts.
  • The spots on the driving range were socially distanced.
  • The mini-flags on the putting green and the ball washers and water dispensers out on the course were gone.
  • At the end of the round we removed our caps and … bumped elbows.

I didn’t touch a flagstick all day and grabbed a rake in a bunker (with my gloved hand, of course) only once. Frankly, I was surprised the rakes were still out there. On my other visits to the sand, I followed the new protocol and simply smoothed my footprints with my feet.

The course was crowded – one of the workers said every single tee time was filled from dawn to 3:30 – and yet it moved right along. Is that a sign that we needed a pandemic to get golfers to play faster?

Overall, though, you couldn’t sense any concern about being in a social gathering place. I looked out at other groups and saw lots of foursomes who were within 6 feet of each other on the tee and green.

I know that’s a concern for a lot of people. It gave me pause, too. I don’t profess to know that it’s a good idea for courses to remain open – we can’t argue that golf is as essential as groceries, no matter how strongly we feel about our great game.

But I think there’s something to be said for being outdoors while taking the proper precautions. It also got me thinking about what our golfing future looks like.

Once this scourge is over, it will be interesting to see how society reacts.

Will restaurants, movie theaters and sports venues be filled with people relieved to enjoy those activities again? Will photos of large clusters of people be all the rage on Facebook?

Or will the COVID scare continue well past its supposed expiration date? Maybe people will be so fearful of its return, elbow-bumping will replace the traditional handshake and surgical masks will be the new fashion accessory.

I don’t see it affecting golf in a big way. Even if the ball washer and water jug become things of the past, those are challenges easily solved – just wet down a towel and bring your own water.

You’ve got to wonder, though, how it will affect your local fitness center. Wiping down the equipment already was recommended before all this; now it might be policed.

And what about the sport of bowling? How do they ensure that the ball you borrow is without any trace of a virus?

But those are questions for another day. For now, those of us who still have accessible golf courses just are thankful to get out there and enjoy the beautiful weather.

I, for one, don’t miss raking bunkers and taking out the flagstick. It’s the 2020-style way to speed up the game.

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