Whether you're able to play golf during these strange days depends almost entirely upon where you live.
Golf courses are becoming the latest domino to fall in the effort to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, causing temporary closures all around the world. Meanwhile, the courses that are open are operating under a very different set of rules.
Maybe golf isn't the outdoor distraction from the virus that we all had originally hoped? Here's the latest news from a golfers' perspective:
As of press time, The Netherlands had closed all schools, restaurants, cafes and sports clubs, which includes golf, until April 6. The same goes for golf courses, clubhouses and driving ranges in Belgium. As one of the countries most impacted by the virus, Italy has closed "just about everything," according to this report. France is on a 15-day lockdown, meaning people need a permission form just to go outside and leave their homes, according to business insider.
In the United States, we have learned of at least 400 U.S. courses that have closed for COVID-19. Some of the larger pockets of closures are in the Chicagoland area, as well as in New Jersey around New York City and Philadelphia. A handful of casino-affiliated courses, like the Journey at Pechanga in Temecula, Calif., and Rocky Gap Casino Resort in Flintstone, Md., have also temporarily closed.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health has recommended course closures in four counties: Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery. Winter Park, the popular nine-holer outside Orlando, has closed indefinitely. Residents of California's Bay Area - staff writer Jason Scott Deegan included - have been ordered to "shelter in place" for three weeks until April 7. What's ironic is some courses will remain open, although nearby Pasatiempo in Santa Cruz has closed. The municipal courses of Austin, Texas, closed briefly but have reopened with no services. Read the official update here.
Meanwhile, an executive order by Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer led to brief confusion that every one of Michigan's 650 courses would close. According to additional reporting by the Detroit News, golf can be played after all, but clubhouse restaurants and bars must close until March 30.
Golf resorts are being impacted as well. The Wynn Las Vegas and MGM - a family of casino resort hotels where golfers must stay to play Shadow Creek - have closed all their hotels nationwide, including Las Vegas. French Lick Resort in southern Indiana has closed its hotels as well, but its Donald Ross and Valley Links courses remain open (the Pete Dye course is scheduled to open at the end of the month).
How to stay safe playing golf
Pandemic or not, many golfers are still playing, at least according to anecdotal evidence. Busy tee sheets were reported over the weekend in Phoenix-Scottsdale. It's also prime time in the Grand Strand and while there have been cancellations, online course booking engines still show plenty of bookings.
If you are lucky enough to be able to play, then you should still take precautions. This varies from course to course. Pine View Golf Course in Ypsilanti, Mich., for example, is only allowing five people in the pro shop at a time. We outlined some tips last week in this article and others have emerged.
Carrying hand sanitizer has become as essential an item in your golf bag as balls and tees. Wiping down carts, or foregoing them altogether and walking, seems like a great idea. So is putting with the flagstick in at all times, keeping contact with the pin to a minimum.
Jason Haines, the superintendent at Sunshine Coast Golf & Country Club in British Columbia, Canada, has taken this concept to another level, announcing on Twitter that his staff is elevating the cup, so balls don't drop into the hole. This takes touching and reaching into the cup out of play. "Made" putts will touch the cup and finish within a putter's length. Bunker rakes have also been removed. Golfers are encouraged to "smooth" out the sand with their feet as the rake.
Elevating cups could become a trend during this unique era of golf.
In an effort to keep our customers safe but also provide a recreational outlet we have raised all the cups 1” above the surface @RichterParkGC Putt till you hit the cup and then pick up ball and move on, no need to touch the flagstick. @MayorMark pic.twitter.com/L7xGNhaUhi— Robert Dorsch (@RichterSupt) March 17, 2020
KemperSports, an Illinois-based management company, released a statement that its top officials are meeting daily to keep up with a "fluid" situation.
"We believe that with the right precautions, golf can be a safe activity during this time," CEO Steve Skinner said in the statement. "It enables people to get out and safely exercise in the fresh air, while following recommendations for social distancing."
Galway Bay in Ireland posted precautionary guidelines to their Twitter on Tuesday, which include not using ball washers or touching the flagstick. They are also offering reduced green fees.
We have now introduced, going forward, a reduced green fee for visitors to Galway Bay Golf Resort.— Galway Bay Golf Resort (@galwaybaygolf) March 17, 2020
€30 for 18 Holes every day, 7 days a week - Send us a DM to Book or Call the Pro Shop from 7am.
We have Protocols in place to prevent contact on the Golf Course, see attached. pic.twitter.com/6d1TU0hiz5
How have your rounds of golf changed since the coronavirus pandemic? Let us know in the comments below.