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Golf and the coronavirus: ways it can still work

After consulting with other superintendents, a workable strategy is presented

March 17, 2020  By Jim Riopelle

So I’ve been thinking a lot about how we in the struggling golf industry can cope and perhaps remain open during this coronavirus pandemic. In my opinion, I think we can remain open, but we would have to institute some very strong restrictions on players and play. Golf being pretty much a “me” sport – and played in somewhat isolation – we may be able to make it work.

Herein, I offer the following recommendations that can easily be tailored to different facilities. Recommendations are based on discussions with golf superintendents across North America. There was by no means a consensus either way (open or close), and there were strong arguments presented on both sides.

So let’s talk about some of the restrictions:

  • All course fixtures (ball washers, bunker rakes, etc) will be removed from the course for the foreseeable future.
  • Course washrooms will be closed.
  • Clubhouse access is not permitted. Food and drink will be takeout only and will be provided through a window or whatever access point is available.
  • Fees can be paid online or by calling the pro shop using an accepted credit card.
  • Carts will be sanitized after each use.
  • One rider per cart – strictly enforced.
  • Tee times will be spaced at 12-minute intervals. Congregating on the first tee will not be permitted, and this will be strictly enforced by the starter.
  • No physical contacts between players of any kind.
  • Maximum of four players per group.
  • Players must maintain a half-hole gap between groups. If this gap narrows, players must remain well back of group ahead before proceeding.
  • Players must leave the flagstick in when putting. Although flagsticks will be sanitized daily, no contact is the rule of thumb.
  • If you are sick, don’t come. You will not be permitted access to the facility.
  • The putting green and driving range will not be open.

These health safety rules will be strictly enforced by on-course personnel. If anyone is not willing to adhere, please don’t come. Players will be removed from the facility for any deviation from these rules. The safety of all our guests is paramount and these are not requests! Please govern yourself accordingly.


I do firmly believe that these measures could work. This virus has put many businesses in a tough position, especially those that were struggling before the outbreak. These are simply proactive options for remaining open and protecting our customers’ health. Somehow the bills still have to be paid, and I don’t think hiding in a “foxhole” is the right thing, either.

Jim Riopelle is a Manitoba-based golf course superintendent.


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