Reaction: What's been your golf experience during the pandemic?

Readers sound off what they love/hate about COVID-19 golf.
A golfer wears a protective mask at the Shorecliffs Golf Course in San Clemente, Calif., in March during the start of the pandemic.

I knew that sharing my column about the positive changes of golf during the pandemic wouldn't be popular with everyone.

Golf is such a personal game. What's good for one player, isn't always so for another. My perspective as a middling handicap who likes to play for fun is often very different than that of my colleague Tim Gavrich, a plus-handicap who loves to compete.

I touched on many controversial points that get golfers riled up: riding versus walking, leaving pins in, rakes out of play and pace of play. I'm guessing the majority of golfers can't wait until flagsticks can be pulled and bunker rakes return. I think they're just distractions that slow down golfers who don't know how to handle them properly. Golfers are so worried about etiquette - Who's away? Should I pull the pin or leave it in? Should I rake while my playing partner is hitting? - that they often cause pace-of-play delays.

With the game surging in popularity, your comments about what's working and what isn't are important. Operators and course owners would be wise to pay attention.

We've pulled a handful of comments from readers to give you a sense of what your fellow players are thinking about golf during the COVID-19 era. In case you didn't see the original story, here it is:

4 Min Read
September 3, 2020
The pandemic has changed golf, in many ways for the better.

Pace of play

Story: "Without messing around with the flagstick and raking bunkers, groups are moving at a consistent pace. Even with the supposed influx of new players and juniors, I'm not seeing the massive slowdowns during rounds."
Reader Ken: "You are so right. My partners and I are in disbelief at how fast we are playing. Like you said you just show up and play."
Reader Barry: "1 per cart is great and to me, that speeds up the game more than anything else."
Reader Rich S: "Since I teach and our school closed in March I have gone on a golf tear. I have played 67 rounds on 67 different courses in 16 states. The biggest thing I noticed is that courses are packed everyday. This leads to the issue of slow play which is a killer."

Bunker rakes

Story: "I also love that the bunker rakes have been ditched, too. I hope they never come back."
Reader Gary UK: I’m dreading the return to rakes and play as you find (the ball) though, the 6” place rule means no plugged ball or iffy lies. Never had so many sand saves!
Reader Roman: "Great article. I agree, let's not go back. Flagstick in, rakes out, walk if you can, remove ballwashers, trashcans, cleat cleaners...the simpler the better."
Reader chiller1: "Pace of play being a key to enjoying and keeping some newbies interested, the flagstick and rake policies must become permanent. I still see some who insist on a pulled pin. Raking traps wasted lots of time. Jason's suggestion for preferred lies / free drops are spot on for most all types of play."

Flagsticks

Story: "I hope the "flagstick in" movement is here to stay. You don't have to worry about stepping in anybody's line to tend the stick. You don't have to worry about leaving it in or taking it out, depending on the length of the putt. It's a non-factor."
Reader Don: "As disruptive as Covid has been to sports, it actually improved amateur golf. No rakes, no pins and faster play. How nice."
Reader Michael: "Absolutely loving no rakes for the bunkers and leaving in the pin. Please never change those back!"
Reader Peter: "I disagree with most of this article. The "stick in" rule causes the ball to pop out on many occasions if like me you putt to hit the back of the hole. Bunkers not being raked causes unfair lies especially in competitions."

Book early...or else

Story: "In fact, I feel like the new surge has forced me to be more proactive with my schedule. If I want to play once a week, I need to book it. It puts something on my calendar to look forward to during these days of gloom-and-doom news broadcast nightly on the national networks."
Reader Alex Chavez: Im having a good time. It's just hard to get my buds to understand u cant wait till last minute to book."
Reader Dante: "I've played weekly for the past decade and I don't really see a benefit of Covid at all. It has become strangely more popular and booking tee times has become much more difficult. The dismissal of the single waiting list, and closures of putting greens are the worst of the new policies. The best thing about the past events is the less traffic and travel times to courses and around town. I can appreciate the author trying to shine a positive light on what were all experiencing but the sooner we can get trough this the better."

Golf as an escape

Story: "For millions, golf is serving as a brief escape from all the nasty election-year politics, civil unrest and protests in cities across the country, pandemic safety debates and the economic uncertainty that dominate daily life."
Reader Rick: "Overall I like the changes better than before. I do miss lunch at the clubhouse after a round but support the closures due to the risk of indoor spaces during a pandemic. Without golf I would be almost entirely confined to my home and would likely be stir crazy long before now."
Reader Vicky: "The author makes some good points about COVID golf, but for me the most significant benefit has been its contribution to mental health. Even during those dark days of April, when only grocery stores were open, a round of golf (course were never closed in my state) got me outdoors, and away from the distressing news if only for a couple of hours."

If you have any more thoughts to share about golf during the pandemic, feel free to share them in the comments below.

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 1,000 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfadvisor and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
21 Comments
Commented on

Golf courses from the start of this virus had made available one cart per player. Now some courses are forcing players to double up again. Last I heard, we are still under the threat of this pandemic. The courses are telling the players that they are running short of carts when in fact they are not. At one course I had to pay an extra cart fee in order to ride by myself. At the end of my round I noticed that there were plenty of carts on hand and hardly anyone on the course or waiting to play. Today, I had an early start time and was being forced to ride with my playing partner, not family or a close associate. It seems like its about complacency and/or course economics. I recommend that players call before booking their tee-times tp check on their cart policy.

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I have no issue with no rakes because 70% of players don't know how to properly rake. The flag is a preference, I've had 5 or 6 putts stay out because a flag wasn't in properly. There is the sound of the ball going in the cup that I miss most. Place of place has slowed in my opinion because of more new players. Its golf, I love it no matter what.....

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If you're not going to maintain the sand traps, then get rid of them and replace with grass. But then lower the price of the round. But we know that won't happen either. Pace of play is not the issue because the longer you're on the course the more beer get sold by the club. So sad but true.

Commented on

Unfortunately some golf courses have let the condition of their track go down hill. Greens not cut regularly, fairways shaggy and tee boxes ripped to shreds with broken tees everywhere. There is no “Covid” excuse. Courses are rammed with eager golfers. Money is coming in. There are fewer maintenance tasks (ball washers, flag changes, sand traps, food service and sand traps). A lot of courses need a wake up call!

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While not raking bunkers has helped quicken play, having all 4 golfers ready to play proves it should not take 4 hours to play a round of golf. I only hope that Head pros get rid of their target times of over 4 hours and put a reasonable time of 3.5 hours or less. Leave pins in unless it is really windy and the flag shadow impacts short putts.

READY GOLF

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Commented on

I don't get all the comments about eliminating bunker rakes. How easy do you want this game to be? I say return the rakes and USE THEM! What next? 6" holes on every course?

One rider per cart should be permanent. That alone speeds up the game. And how much wear and tear on the course can that cause versus zigzagging back and forth across the course from Player 1's ball to Player 2's ball and back again.

Pin in? You bet. If it's good enough for the PGA it's good enough for everyday players.

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I'm personally enjoying the "new" style of golf. Although here in Michigan as probably most parts of the country there's more people playing due to being unemployed I presume. Flags in for me are great and I liked it when they changed the rule for that and have been with it in since. I'm ok with the bunkers not having rakes too,..preferred lie seems to be working great. Pace of play has been outstanding,..haven't played a round in over 4 hours all year.

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Personally, not much has changed golf-wise since the pandemic hit. Social distancing is really only required on the tee box and perhaps on the green. Other than that, since we are not professionals, our own shots appear to create some social distancing. Pace of play during the pandemic has been great. All rounds are well under 4 hours now, with 3.5 being the norm. Since everyone gets their own cart, you just drive to your ball and play ready-golf. We still have rakes in our bunkers which some people don't use. I get it. Since the rules regarding leaving the flag stick in were changed earlier this year, I don't view leaving it in as part of the pandemic to be a game changer. The one major change appears to be helping each other out with clubs left on the green while the last person putts. We used to pick up clubs for our partners to help speed things up. Now, you just worry about your own clubs. That's my take. I play 3 rounds a week, year round. Love it!

Commented on

Overall faster play is a huge plus. But I would tend to disagree on WHY the POP is better.

-Golf courses spacing their tee times better and not as many courses allowing 5somes has made a huge difference.

-I do not see the no rake thing as much of a speeding up POP issue. I say that because probably 1/4 of all players did not use them when they were present and a good % of those that did use them did a mediocre job at raking.

-Flags in definitely assists somewhat.

The 2 biggest changes for the better???

1-Single player carts are the single biggest change for the better on POP.

2-Something I notice big time is that many on course services are not being offered with COVID protocols. The weekend drunks who used to take 10 minutes getting their beers for the rest of the round are no longer being allowed to hold up the entire course behind them in doing so.

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Love the faster play and single carts! Speeds up the day ! It’s too bad we can’t visit more after the round as most clubhouses are too crowded. Leaving pins in with apparatus for popping ball out of cup is nice as is no raking in the traps. Only problem is trap lies can be a bummer if not raked!
All in all golf has been great and shorter time to go around pleases the family!

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Reaction: What's been your golf experience during the pandemic?