The country’s not on lockdown just yet but for many, the walls are already caving in with constant coronavirus updates. Whether it be television and radio news broadcasts, social media bombardments or the virus replacing general everyday small-talk around the weather, there seems to be no escaping COVID-19.
But for now, at least, we believe the sanctity of the golf course is one such space where one can still go and clear the head in this time of trouble.
Sure, elite tournament schedules have suffered at the hands of the global pandemic but as of today, Tuesday March 17th in Ireland, a friendly hit remains fair game as sprouts of spring offer hope to an otherwise bleak alternative.
There’s no hiding the fact that the economy is going to suffer over the coming months but it’s local businesses that we’re feeling sorry for here at Irish Golfer Magazine.
Golf clubs have only just started to peek their heads out from a long winter’s hibernation as it is, with many Captains’ Drive-ins heralding the new season this weekend. March is traditionally a bustling time for golf on this island where clubs attempt to hit the ground running to ensure targets are achieved after a lengthy barren spell.
What COVID-19 means for clubhouses and pro shops around Ireland over the coming weeks will largely depend on government directives but the golfing community can be proactive in helping our professionals, assistants, greenkeepers and wider clubhouse staff to get through this extended period of uncertainty relatively unscathed.
For those perhaps unable to dedicate time to golf right now – many of us are confined to home taking care of young families or elderly relatives – we can avail of online vouchers to tide clubs over until this pandemic has passed. Our qualified PGA professionals who rely on busy tee-sheets and one-to-one lessons to survive will inevitably suffer at the hands of COVID-19 but investing in a voucher to be used at a later date will offer them much needed assurances that their employment is secure no matter what eventuates.
And for those bursting for a first hit of the year as the fair weather finally arrives, we’d still encourage it, albeit with proper precaution.
The first thing to note is that if you are experiencing symptoms, then you should obviously NOT be playing golf. Visit the HSE website HERE to learn more but the main things to watch out for are:
- Any kind of cough
- Shortness of breath
- Breathing difficulties
However, if you are feeling fit and ready to play, then no doubt your local club will appreciate a visit. Unlike most sports, golf’s not confined by space. Vast expanses of terrain filled with forestry, rivers and streams are the types of landscapes golf is founded upon and never has the game’s playing fields been more welcomed.
If you play golf like we do in this office, then self-isolation shouldn’t be a problem as our hooks and slices regularly keep us apart. But there are other ways you can enjoy a game of golf today and make it safer than simply avoiding the fairways:
Don’t Shake Hands
Upon greeting each other or finishing up on 18, avoid the traditional handshake. It might feel unnatural but it’s imperative. Elbow bumps are all in these days
If your group happen to be fairway finders, you can choose to walk 2-3 metres away from each other and still chat freely with friends
Avoid Clubhouse Congregating
Socialising around your regular 9/18 holes is one of the game’s great gifts but exceptional times call for exceptional measures so boycott the post-round beer and be grateful you could play golf at all
Now’s not the time to be exchanging scorecards, marking each other’s cards, etc. Download an online scorecard if you must keep tabs on your round or at the very least, mark your own card, honestly of course!
Keep the Flagstick In
As a general rule, if there’s something you can avoid touching, do it, and thankfully the new rules of golf had some bizarre foresight in bringing in a rule that permits leaving the flagstick in while putting. Avail of it!
Take Bunkers out of Play
Now’s not the time to be worried about your handicap. By taking bunkers out of play, there’s no need for golfers to be sharing rakes to keep sand traps playable.
Communal services should be abandoned
On a similar note, divot mix bags, air-sprays for cleaning shoes and hire equipment should be avoided as it increases the risk of spreading a virus that thrives on surfaces
Wash Your Hands
Keeping your hands clean has never been so important. Sanitise before, after and even during your round. If you want to go all out, wear two gloves instead of one. You can’t be too careful
We’re aware that COVID-19 extends far beyond the golf course and the virus has really put things like the importance of sport into perspective in recent days. But we’re also cognisant of the need to look out for one another in whatever way possible over the coming weeks and months and if golf can play some small part in that, then we’re all for it.
The GUI/ILGU joint statement on how we can all promote golf safety at this time can be found HERE