By Ian Davis, TGA Tournament Director
Like everything these days, golf is different. Playing during this
time of the pandemic leads to some additional challenges we don’t face under
normal conditions. The hole is different, the bunkers are different, even the
way we get around the course is different.
How do changes like these relate to playing by the Rules of Golf?
The USGA in March released Rules and Handicapping Guidance during the
COVID-19 era. Additionally, industry leaders recently got together and launched the Back2Golf
includes a number of guidelines to follow on the course.
If you have played in the past two or three months, one of the
most notable changes to golf is the way the flagstick and the hole have
changed. Most golf courses are mandating flagsticks remain in the hole, while
others have gone as far as removing all flagsticks from the course.
Adjustments to the hole have also been made so players are not
required to “hole out,” further minimizing exposure to contact areas around the
greens and promoting the practice of “touch-less” golf. The changes range from
inserts around the flagstick to cups being flipped upside down or pulled above
the putting surface.
Bunker practices have changed as well. Many courses have removed
rakes and now encourage players to smooth the sand with their foot or club
after playing their ball from the bunker.
Before play, it’s important to understand how bunkers are treated
when rakes are not present. Committees have a few options to assist the player,
and it is important to ask about the status of bunkers before you play.
Cart ridership practices will continue to change as social
distancing requirements evolve as we get back to normal or a “new normal.” Part
of that new normal may be more walkers. (As I write this story, pushcarts are
sold out online.) Playing golf while walking is the way the game was intended
to be played, and it’s something that I have recently embraced. I even bought a
Sunday bag to lighten the load during a round. A couple of additional positive
thoughts on walking are an improved pace of play and a greater
“being-in-the-moment presence” while playing.
Today, you can’t open a periodical without seeing a how-to article
about reducing stress, exercising or meditating. Golf gives us an opportunity
to get outside and exercise. If you look for them, you can find each of those
While we navigate this tricky, uncertain time, getting outside to
play golf while adhering to social distancing protocols seems more important
than ever. My advice is to play if you feel ready and keep the experts’
guidance top of mind if you do.
For more on the Rules, click here.