While the ‘Rona continues to wreak havoc on the entire planet, there are some bright spots (in the golf world, at least). Hope remains for a salvaged 2020 Tour schedule, including the Masters, PGA Championship and Ryder Cup, and more and more states and municipalities are opening courses.
Interestingly enough, golf was one of the few *non-essential industries that never really came to a halt due to the pandemic. Up to 23 states had some kind of restrictions in place on courses — some allowing local municipalities and counties to decide, some forcing shutdowns statewide, and many others remaining open. As of Wednesday the majority of the country is open to play, with most of statewide closures concentrated east of the Mississippi. But the trend is shifting, thankfully.
Speculate all you want about the longterm impact on the game, it’s hard to know what we’re really in for. Right now all we know that it’s going to be different — you can already tell.
On the course, things feel almost the same. Almost. Hanging out with the crew is as good as always, but it’s weird not being able to share a bowl, a bottle, or even a cart together. Honestly it kind of feels like you’re a single that’s been paired with another group, even though they could be some of your best friends. I never considered a golf cart to be such an important social space until they took the keys away from us. You miss out on conversation, camaraderie and all the little stupid shit you take for granted. Really, without the social aspect provided by golf carts, it’ feels like a completely different game.
It’s also weird seeing packed parking lots but not being able to walk through a lively clubhouse to check-in, and depressing to see the starter shack shuttered on a Sunday morning, with no one around to ask about the pin locations — very ghost town-esque. We’re told we can’t show up any more than 10 minutes before our tee time — no range, no pro shop or anything else. The cups are modified so we don’t touch the flagsticks, scorecards are gone, etc, etc.. Basically, once you tee off it’s just you, your clubs, a ball, and the course. Call me cliche, but the simplicity of it all is pretty relaxing — something we all need a little more of right now. There’s also something about walking the course that makes the game feel more intimate. I’d never once walked CGB’s home course, King’s Deer Golf Club, before all of this, but fee like I know the layout even better now. You have A LOT more time to think about your game, course management and the highs and lows of it all between shots. It’s an experience all golfers should have in their lifetime (mandated or not).
All that said, we should be thankful we’re allowed to play at all. It’s a luxury many other hobbyists can’t enjoy. But there are, of course, things to consider before you head to you local club.
Make sure to call or check the course website before you book your time for specific restrictions and rules in place — things are changing daily so you want to make sure you have some idea of what to expect when you get there. If you’re new to walking, I’d highly recommend enlisting a lightweight golf bag with comfortable straps, or your own push cart to make the transition a bit easier. Viruses and bacteria can stick around on the surfaces of a golf cart for quite awhile, and the cost to disinfect each one after each round would be exponential, so it’s hard to bank on cart availability. Next, keep pace. It’ll never not be an issue in the game, but when everyone’s walking it’s all the more important. Play ready golf, we’re not on Tour here. On the flip side, be patient, aka don’t be a dick. That’s an easy one. Lastly, support your local courses and the staff. Frustrating as it may be, they’re trying their best in order for us to be able to keep playing. Take care of the course, order food and drinks to-go, buy gift cards and anything else you can do to support them, and do what they say so they can stay open.
I miss seeing the pro shop and restaurant staff and messing around with the cart barn guys. I miss the bev cart and golf carts — and I even somehow miss post-round handshakes. That will all come back, for now it’s long walks down the fairway, and just being outside with my friends that I look forward to most. I’m just glad to be playing once again and savoring the experience more than ever.