Tag Archives: COVID-19

Golf in a COVID-19 World

I returned to my seasonal job working in the shop at Steamboat Golf Club in May, and have been making up for what I consider lost time (i.e.; winter) by playing as often as time (and my occasionally balky back) will allow there and at our wonderful municipal course, Haymaker. The weather here on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains has been mostly gorgeous, although after another year of abundant snowfall, we use some rain right about now.

Course operations in Colorado’s Routt County (and in pretty much the entire country) have made adjustments to mitigate risks driven by the COVID-19 virus – limited number of players allowed in clubhouses, masks required indoors, heavy applications of disinfectants to rented pull carts, motorized carts, and bathrooms before and after use (Alti-Mate 64 is my new cologne). Rakes have been removed from bunkers, flagsticks are not to be touched, and foam inserts are placed in holes.

Golfers have been, by and large, respectful of these measures, which speaks to the devotion (some call it fanaticism) of this particular sub-species. Even red-hatted science-deniers have cooperated with minimal grumbling. Moreover, because in part of the restrictions on (or cancellation of) other societal activities, courses are busier than ever.

I have people telling me that they’ve returned to game after a long hiatus and are actually enjoying it – or in some cases, at least grateful for having an opportunity to get out of the house while posing minimal health risk to one’s self. Parents are bringing their kids out to hit a few balls – a father brought his two sons out a few days ago, one of whom would typically fall under the category of “sullen teenager.” I went out to greet them after the completion of their round and did my usual “how did it go?” query. Said teenager, practically bubbling over, “Great! I actually got a few shots in the air this time!” I looked at his dad; the smiles beneath our masks were evident.

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Because of the example set by the 1% wealthiest people in the United States – and exploited to the extreme by the current occupant of the White House – golf’s reputation has taken a hit. Unlike where the game was invented, where golf is viewed by the Scots as a democratic game to be enjoyed by all, the roots of the game here lie in old-money clubs, a model that morphed into “aspirational” private courses for the new-monied gentry.

The real story is that the overwhelming number of courses in the USA are open to the public, and most are reasonably priced. Sadly, the game remains primarily white, although when one watches the annual Drive, Chip, and Putt competition that Augusta National hosts prior to the Masters, the number of children from Indian and Asian families participating is remarkable and encouraging.

One segment of the population that is helping to keep the game afloat is increased participation by women, a fact that probably has my father spinning in his grave (an often repeated – although totally inaccurate – bromide is that the word “golf” is an acronym for “Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.” You can ask Mary Queen of Scots about that one). When Title IX passed, many parents suddenly learned of scholarships available via collegiate women’s golf programs and got their daughters interested in the game. Professional women discovered the advantages of entertaining potential clients on the course. And others, like their male counterparts, found the challenge and frustrations of the game too enticing to resist.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that a golf renaissance is on the horizon as a result of COVID-19, but in a country that, to use the gentlest language possible, is struggling to grasp the seriousness of the current pandemic (as well as witnessing the boiling over of long-simmering racial tensions), finding refuge by taking a walk (that’s another thing, people – it’s a walking game, dammit!) in park-like surroundings while taking whacks at the little white spheroid seems like a reasonable escape for a few hours.

Although I hear fly fishing has its charms, too …

 

 

 

COVID Blues

Hello, darlin . . . it’s been awhile . . .

(Oops, wrong site)

But it HAS been awhile, and given the current state of affairs (in case you missed it, we’re in the midst of a major pandemic or a gigantic hoax, depending on whether or not your head is in the sand or in some other dark place that shall remain nameless. I prefer to believe the former), I thought it would be an appropriate time to check in on the state of things in the world of golf.

As you doubtless know, pretty much all of professional golf activity is on hold, and there is a great deal of variance among the states (and in some cases, in individual counties within states) as to how to proceed locally with the game. Here in the higher elevations of Colorado, this has been until very recently a moot point, as snow cover had pretty much rendered our courses unplayable; however, in other parts of the state, courses have been open for a good part of the winter. Once the realization set in that what we were dealing with was a bit more serious than the common cold, course managers took what have come to be the standard precautions – maintain social distance, don’t remove or touch the flagstick, cups are raised so that a ball is considered “holed” if it strikes the cup, a single rider per cart (if carts are allowed at all).

Steamboat Golf Club, the track at which I’m employed during the summer, is ready to play; however, the county powers that be have required that it stay closed until “stay at home” orders have been lifted on April 26. Meanwhile, over in Moffat County (a mere 40 minute drive from Steamboat Springs), Yampa Valley Golf Club in Craig CO opened 9 holes this week. While Steamboat Springs is dealing with over 30 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (and one death), Moffat has reported zero cases, which either means they are extremely fortunate or are about to get slammed.

Not even an admitted golf addict like myself would consider the game an essential business (essential to one’s being? A different matter altogether), but the variance in policy has led to some minor malfeasance. Massachusetts, for example, has closed all golf courses. Bordering Rhode Island has issued an edict stating that anyone entering from out of state would need to undergo a 14 day quarantine. Three golfers from the Bay State took the rather desperate measure of meeting at a McDonald’s and transferring their clubs into a vehicle with Rhode Island plates. An employee of The Arches turned them in; they now face a court date.

This so much reminds me of those days growing up in Massachusetts, where the drinking age was 21, but in neighboring New York, being 18 got one into a liquor store or bar. This led to some pretty harrowing trips back across the state line after a night of partying for my friends and me – and I’m sure there were plenty of grim outcomes for a lot of would-be revelers.

As someone who walks the fine line between believing in the innate goodness of people versus witnessing truly idiotic behavior, I find myself torn on whether or not course should be open at this time. The Optimist tells me that the majority of people who play the game would have enough sense to observe the special rules in place and be grateful for the opportunity to interact with friends who would otherwise be unable to do so. The Pessimist … well, there’s too many reasons to list.

For now . . . it’s hitting balls off of the deck while wearing a mask for me.