The coronavirus pandemic has spared no aspects of life from major changes. Golf has gotten a little strange lately, if it's even allowed at all.
Loyal reader Mac brought up a great question:
"Just curious regarding the posting of scores while playing under the 'elevated cup' scenario. It seems to me that a score played under this condition should not be posted for handicap purposes. I have not seen a ruling from the USGA or any dialogue on this issue and assume that the score would not be a valid score for posting purposes."
The United States Golf Association (USGA) has indeed weighed in on several aspects of the game that have needed to be temporarily changed as the pandemic progresses.
Mac's question revolves around the concept of a ball being "holed," which has the following definition in the Rules of Golf:
In order to minimize the potential for infection, several golf courses have placed various objects at the bottom of cups - PVC piping, sections of foam pool noodles and more - so that a ball that enters the cup sits up high enough that it's not necessary to graze the flagstick with one's hand by reaching for a cup all the way at the bottom.
(In some cases, courses have raised the cup above the surface of the green, creating a bumper rather than a hole.)
Of course, this means that on many of the courses that remain open, the ball will remain partially above "the surface of the putting green."
So it's not considered holed per the Rules definition above. That means a round played this way can't be entered for handicap purposes, right?
Not so fast, says the USGA.
In a press release on Saturday, March 21, the USGA temporarily modified the Rules to allow for new definitions of a ball having been holed.
"In these specific cases, provided guidance from health and governmental officials is being followed," reads the release, "a temporary measure is in place within the United States to accept scores played under these conditions for handicap purposes using the most likely score guidelines, even though the player has not holed out."
So, Mac, you are actually allowed to post scores for rounds played under coronavirus-altered cup conditions...provided that the course in question is observing an active season.
In addition to this release, the USGA has published a comprehensive list of COVID-19-related recommendations and FAQs here.