Playing golf during the COVID-19 pandemic: What you need to know

Golf courses that remain open are adjusting their operations to comply with social distancing guidelines. Golfers must also do their part.
Golfers practice social distancing at Westchase Golf Club in Tampa, Fla.

The global coronavirus pandemic has had significant effects on daily life throughout the world. Here in the United States, where there are almost three times as many cases as any other country, massive temporary changes to the public sphere have had to be enacted in order to slow the virus' spread.

The central pillar of all official organizations' recommendations about avoiding exposure to the virus is social distancing.

What is social distancing?

The Center for Disease Control defines social distancing as "keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home." Three more specific guidelines are attached: keeping at least six feet between you and others, avoiding gathering in groups with friends and acquaintances and avoiding "mass gatherings."

Local and state governments have broadly accepted these recommendations but their responses have varied. An increasing number of states have imposed temporary shelter-in-place orders, ordering all "non-essential" businesses to temporarily suspend operations. Citizens have generally been advised not to venture outside their homes except to buy essential goods or to get periodic exercise, all the while observing social distancing practices.

Golf during the coronavirus pandemic

The question of exercise and recreation is where golf has come to occupy a unique place in society during these trying times. In short, whether or not golf is "essential" has been decided by state authorities, with varying results. For instance, governors in the states of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and a dozen more states have decreed that golf courses be closed in accordance with their stay-home orders. But in Florida, a similar order is in place but Governor Ron DeSantis has not specifically ordered golf courses closed, but municipalities like Palm Beach County, where coronavirus cases are more widespread than in other places, have ordered courses within their borders closed for the time being.

One governor, Nevada's Steve Sisolak, announced on April 8 that he was ordering all of the state's golf courses closed amid golfers flouting social distancing guidelines.

“I’ve had a multitude of pictures sent into me that showed me people were not practicing good social distancing, not arriving one in a cart," he said. "They were congregating on the greens. We tried it. It didn’t work because some folks chose not to follow the rules. As a result we are closing golf courses.” Citizens of other states are keeping an eye out for golfers who don't follow social distancing guidelines as well.

They are doing things the right way. Very conscious of Social Distancing & providing sanitized carts (even set up outside to check us in).
Recent Golf Advisor review of Heartland Crossing Golf Links in Indiana

Golf and social distancing are more compatible than most activities, but only if all participants do their part. Recognizing any outside activity carries some risk, Geoff Dreher of the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine put golf "on the milder end" of such a spectrum. If golf courses are permitted to remain open amid the pandemic, they need to be safe. The Golf and Health Project, sponsored by the World Golf Foundation, posted these safety guidelines for golfers and operators during this time of heightened risk. Here are some of the key takeaways for golfers:

Play away, please. Maintain at least a six-foot buffer from anyone else in your golf group. Walk any round you can. If you must ride, take your own cart whenever possible (many courses are mandating this) or at least make sure to share a cart only with someone you live with.

Respect the facility's rules. Golf courses that have remained open during the pandemic are working hard to sanitize surfaces and reduce points of contact from arrival to departure. As a customer, it is your responsibility to honor that work by respecting the restrictions on the normal golf experience. Leave flagsticks in when you putt and pick your ball out of the cup carefully if your course is placing foam or plastic in the cups to let balls rest higher up than normal.

Suspend tradition. The post-round handshake is almost sacrosanct in golf...except in times of potential disease transmission. Tap putterheads, bow or do an air-five to acknowledge and thank anyone you've played with, but leave the skin-to-skin contact aside for the time being.

Don't linger. Once your round is over, go home. Even while course restaurants are closed, some golfers have been congregating in the parking lot after their rounds. One of these impromptu tailgates led to a Connecticut course being closed when a citizen noticed golfers standing close together and then complained to the mayor's office about the violations. You don't want to be known as the golfer who ruined things for everyone else. Golf courses are under pressure to limit the flow of players daily in the name of social distancing. Help them adhere to the guidelines they've been given (e.g. this "Park and Play" checklist from the National Golf Course Owners Association).

Play healthy. If you have even the slightest feeling of illness, stay home. Even if you plan to be perfectly compliant with social distancing guidelines, do not risk exposing fellow golfers if you feel ill at all.

This a premium course and is in excellent shape. Supporting the ‘social distancing’ model, all four players had their own carts which eased anxieties and allowed us to focus on having a great time!
Golf Advisor review of The Legacy Golf Club in Arizona

Federal, state and local officials continue to adjust their directions and definitions of "essential" businesses. On April 9, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo closed the state's golf courses through at least April 29, declaring them nonessential. Some avid golfers have decided against playing all together, even under these new guidelines.

If your city or state is currently permitting golf and you feel as though you can play golf during this time, using extreme caution is paramount. Careless golfers have caused the closure of not just their home course but are leading to the suspension of play at courses statewide and are impacting the perception of the game everywhere.

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
72 Comments
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We offer a unique experience in Chile: a professional 18 holes golf course for a family or a group of friends, or only for yourself. This was a personal project developed by my father (RIP) who built his own golf course for him and friends.

It has a lodge of 600 square meters with 5 bed rooms (each one with its private bathroom), a big dinning room for 12 people, a big living room with chimney, a Pool and Bridge room, a barbecue area by the swimming pool, and wonderful terraces around the house. It also has grass tennis lawn and large trekking and bike circuits across hills over a 400 acre land. The course is surronded by almond trees, pines, and native trees. It's a 2:30 hour drive from Santiago airport.

Any would be interested?

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Are rounds played using Covid rules able to be used for GHIN?

Staff
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Yes. We wrote about it here a month or so ago:

https://www.golfadvisor.com/articles/coronavirus-usga-golf-round-score-posting

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IN GEORGIA DO YOU HAVE TO LEAVE THE FLAG ON THE HOLE DURING THE PANDEMIC ?

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Many courses are putting styrofoam in the cups that the flagstick goes thru eliminating picking the flag up and making it easier to get the ball without touching the flagstick. The problem arises when putting, in that the foam in the cup, while below the lip of the cup, can deter the ball from staying in the hole and causes lip outs that normally wouldn't have occurred. How do you rectify this?

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My tee shot hit the raised cup liner on a par 3 and rolled back about 12”. Can it be considered a hole-in-one. Is a hole-in-one possible with new safety rules?

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Well I just did the same thing this past weekend and we are counting it :)

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All it takes is for everyone to realize the real danger of non-social distancing. In Johns Creek, Georgia, we are fortunate that our course has remained open even while the clubhouse and restaurant facilities are not. The owner/manager continuously stresses social distancing and members appear to be heeding his directions. Rivermont Golf and Country Club is to be praised for its efforts to keep members playing and exercising during this horrible time.

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I am retired and love to golf, please don't take this away. life would not be worth it if we can't stay active. I think people can golf and be safe, let not over react.

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6 feet distance means nothing outside in even the slightest wind. 30 feet would be the safe golf distance giving the spittle time to disperse before contaminating whoever happens to be downwind.

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If a citizen as so much opens their mouth and butt's into my business they will get smacked across the face as a 1st warning. Similar to the corrupt government thinking they can shut down whatver the hell they want. Who the hell made them God? Oh wait maybe the god of this world? People need to go ind their own business, the government needs to stop pretending they are for the people and care about our health. You k ow the same people that force vaccinations, put flouride in your water to protect your teeth of course and lace our food with sugar whime maintaining that mcdonalds, burger king, wendys, and the like are essential businesses. Just not anything good for your health.

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One golfer per cart or walking only. Leave the flag in, in all cases. Once you start to putt, complete it. Raise the cup one inch. If your ball hits the raised cup, consider it a made putt and retrieve your ball only. Then advise your golfing partner to putt. Do not shake hands after the round. Maintain "social distance" through out the round. When finished, wave good bye. Go home.

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sure sounds easy to me-especially if it gets us out of the house and
generates some dollars locally.

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If members use their private cart, can a husband and wife play a round in their own cart?

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Playing golf during the COVID-19 pandemic: What you need to know