Turf & Rec

Features Coronavirus Golf
Golf: it’s still a go in some places, but not in others

Golf Canada recommends recreational golfers stay home


March 23, 2020
By Mike Jiggens


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Golfers were out in full force on the weekend at Kings Links by the Sea in Ladner, B.C. Mark Booth photo/Delta Optimist

As the COVID-19 pandemic moves forward with no end in immediate sight, the list of facility closures to dissuade large public gatherings continues to mount.

Some closures have been voluntary while many more have been mandated by the various levels of government. In the turfgrass world, these closures include sports fields and some parks. Most sports, and in particular team sports, involve close contact among players. This prevents the practice of social distancing, and consequently soccer, football and baseball fields are being closed to combat further spread of the virus.

In many Canadian municipalities, most parks have remained open. This has allowed the public to break free from the isolation of their homes and seek an hour or so of fresh air and exercise. Municipal governments and health officials understand the need for physical exercise amid this unprecedented period of self-confinement and have given their blessing to allow walking and jogging to take place in parks and trails…as long as there are no large congregations and that social distancing continues to be practised.

Violations of these suggested practices in some parts of the country have now led to outright park closures.

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Golf courses are another matter entirely. Due to the nature of the game, social distancing can take place in such a spacious environment. But not all golf courses across Canada are on the same page about how best to proceed with the 2020 season. What they all have in common is the closure of clubhouse dining rooms – a move that complies with all restaurant closures.

Those who wish to play golf can still do in some parts of Canada, but not in others. In Quebec and New Brunswick, it has been provincially mandated that all golf courses remain closed until at least mid-May.

To read more about Quebec’s stand on golf and COVID-19, visit https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/golf-clubs-still-hope-to-open-quickly-after-the-covid-19-crisis-1.4861697

It’s a different situation altogether in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland, where golf courses are open for play and business is brisk. Nevertheless, rules have been tweaked to ensure social distancing is practised and that touching of fixtures or other golfers is outlawed. Ball washers are being removed as well as bunker rakes. Once a golfer plays his ball from within a bunker, he is asked to “rake” his footprints and ball mark with his feet.

Vancouver’s municipal courses remain closed, encouraging city golfers to seek tee times at neighbouring public facilities.

To read more about the current state of golf courses in B.C.’s Lower Mainland, visit https://www.delta-optimist.com/sports/covid-19-delta-golf-courses-are-open-and-busy-1.24103662

Golf – where it can still be played in Canada – is now being called “pandemic golf” and follows a new set of rules aimed at keeping golfers safe and not contributing to the further spread of COVID-19. Aside from the aforementioned loss of ball washers and feet replacing rakes in bunkers, the flagstick is to remain in place at all times and not be touched. Golf superintendents have taken the added measure to either turn the cups upside down or raise them an inch or so above the putting surface to prevent hands from reaching inside to retrieve holed balls.

The USGA has even gone so far as to declare putts that hit the raised cup as being perfectly legal for handicapping purposes.

Some courses have outlawed the use of golf cars while others are limiting one golfer to a car. This will keep many seniors away, but it’s arguably the most proactive among the many measures being taken to ensure golfer health remains at the forefront.

To read more about the innovative new rules designed to keep the game going amid the COVID-19 pandemic, visit https://www.golf.com/instruction/2020/03/21/golf-coronavirus-safe-innovations/

Golf Canada, the governing body for the game in this country, wishes to err on the side of caution and recommends all recreational golfers simply stay home.

“Everyone has to do their duty to not come into contact with others,” Golf Canada CEO Laurence Applebaum says. “So we’ll refer to the experts who are giving these guidelines and give Canada a chance to really plank the curve, not just flatten it.”

Applebaum said Golf Canada cannot mandate the closure of golf courses, but the organization strongly recommends they do so for the good of public safety.

To read more about Golf Canada’s stance on the issue, visit https://globalnews.ca/news/6714889/golf-canada-players-coronavirus/