COVID-19 is serious stuff. Health and lives have been put at risk. We have been rightly asked to close our businesses, stay in our homes, and not have physical contact with other people. The virus has also caused unpleasant social (fighting over toilet paper? Really?) and financial (so much for retirement) responses. The overall effect is that there is a weighty drag on daily life.
At this particular time, we all need an outlet. But we are limited in what we can do by Executive Orders from Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown and by appropriate recommendations issued by the Center for Disease Control. So what is a person to do?
Play golf of course.
Navigating the Governor’s Orders and the CDC recommendations, with a little help from the local golf course and the golfer being smart, golf is still available. The Center for Disease Control (and the State of Oregon) has recommended “Social Distancing,” which the CDC defines as “remaining out of congregate [gathering into a crowd or mass] settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distances (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others.” Oregon’s Governor Brown’s Executive Orders and Guidelines essentially follows these recommendations. In her Executive Order No. 20-12, released March 23, 2020, Governor Brown prohibited “Non-essential social and recreational gatherings of individuals outside the home . . ..” The Order went on to state that “Individuals may go outside for outside recreational activities (walking, hiking, etc.), but must limit those activities to non-contact, and are prohibited from engaging in outdoor activities where it is not possible to maintain appropriate social distancing (six feet or more from individuals).” The Order then lists businesses that are specifically prohibited from operations, including gyms, social clubs, and tennis clubs (bars, restaurants, and cafes remain closed under a prior order). Golf courses are not specifically mentioned in the Order.
The Oregon Golf Association performed a follow-up inquiry with the
Governor’s Office as to whether golf courses are intended to be closed under the Governor’s Order. The Governor’s Office responded was the following: Golf is allowed as long as the social distancing measures are in place, country club activities for a gathering would not be allowed. We categorized golf similar to a hike or outdoor activity, rather than through “essential travel” which is meant to stop vacations.
There are, however, other sections of the March 23rd Order that would apply to a golf course if it continues operating: a designated employee to establish, implement, and enforce social distancing policies; posting of signs requiring social distancing; and specific requirements for on-site restrooms.
A day after the Order was issued, some courses closed down. But some courses were open, implementing plans in accordance with the order and guidelines. These plans included: removing ball washers, benches, and rakes; raising cups to be above the ground (so you don’t reach into the cup); and limiting power carts to one person per cart (or not providing carts at all). In addition, some (all?) of these courses require that you book and pay for your tee time over the phone or on the web (you would think that an honor box would work as well). Other courses stated that they were temporarily closed until they could implement plans in accordance with the March 23rd Order.
If you are fortunate enough for your local golf course to put in the work to
implement a social-distancing plan, make sure that you, as a golfer, put in the work to adhere to that plan. Follow the guidelines and orders. Shouldn’t you be at least 6 feet away from your playing partner anyway? This is a good reason to keep your playing partner from crowding you on the tee or the green. And on the fairway, you are probably not going to be 50 feet from each other. Just no high-fives. A discrete yell or deep bow should be sufficient to honor a shot or hole well played.
Don’t touch anything that is not solely under your control. Almost all of what you need to play golf (other than nature) is solely under your control: your bag, your clubs, your tees (and markers and divot tool), your golf balls, and maybe your range finder. You don’t need to touch a flag anymore (did the rule gods see this coming?). The course has removed ball washers, benches, sand rakes, and, basically, carts. That leaves, maybe, a score card and pencil. If you know the course, you don’t need a card or pencil to play or keep score. If you need a card and pencil, wipe it clean after you take it (then wash your hands).
Then there is the bathroom. If there are on-site bathrooms, the course is required to provide soap and water or sanitizer. If there is sanitizer, use it for yourself and to apply to all surfaces that you touch. Note that if you wear your glove to enter and use the bathroom, you really should not keep the glove on for the rest of the round (and wash it when you get home) – so use a towel and/or sanitize your hand and the surface you touch. But the best thing to do is not use the bathroom at all. I am not advocating the use of trees or bushes (other laws may come into play), I am suggesting that you relieve yourself before you head to the course.
Even though the course may be slightly altered with the removal of rakes and raising of the cup, you can still post your score. OGA directs players to follow Rule 3.3 of the Rules of Handicapping so a player posts their most likely score. [Read the rule here. ] So if your putt ricochets off the raised cup by 10 feet, maybe you should give yourself another two strokes. (I believe that scoring a hole-in-one by tapping a raised cup is more dependent on the cost of the drinks the player buys for others in celebration.)
We all need a distraction, and the local businesses that run golf courses really need your business right now. Golfers are very fortunate that they can help their local courses while playing the game and having some fun. But don’t be like the Spring-Break beach goers. Follow the rules of the CDC, the orders of the Governor, and guidelines of the course. Be smart and keep your distance.
There may be a time in the near future that restrictions in Oregon will be
expanded to prohibit golfing. But right now, you can go to a golf course.
And play safely.
In these anxious times, wouldn’t it be great to go outside and play golf, while supporting your local course when it needs it most? Of course it would. So go play.
Prior Articles and Interviews please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to view any of the Prior Articles and Interviews:
The Highest Golf Course In Oregon
Earliest Golf Courses in Central Oregon