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Stay Safe, But Keep Playing Golf For Now

By: | Mon 16 Mar 2020 | Comments

IT IS inevitable that club golf is going to suffer as a result of the coronavirus. As of yet, clubs in England, Scotland and Wales still have their doors open but action is being taken in Ireland to attempt to minimise the impact of the virus, and it is advise that we should all be following.

The Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golfing Union has released a series of recommendations for all Irish golf clubs. These include social aspects of club life being avoided, hourly cleanings of doorknobs, regular changing of towels, discouraging visitors and/or introducing a screening process, cancelling events with shotgun starts, which cause large gatherings before and after the rounds, and replacing handshakes and hugs with elbow bumps. It is all common sense.

While it is obvious that we all need to take some precautions, there is no evidence yet to suggest that golf clubs should be closing their doors as long as the measures listed above are adhered to. This could, of course, quickly change. 

According to Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Centre at Houston, golf as it’s normally played—outdoors, with natural social-distancing built in—“would be fairly safe.”

Speaking with Golf Digest, she said: “You’re not in contact with a whole lot of other people, and it’s not like basketball where you’re touching and very close to other players, so you could maintain several feet of distance between people,” she said. “With the caveat that there’s a lot about this virus we still don’t know, it is a kind of virus that has an envelope, which means that it’s more easily killed than some other viruses. Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that that is true for this novel coronavirus, as well.

“So I would say that if you play golf there is not much risk.”

However, she does recommend staying at least six feet away from those you play with. “As much as we know anything for now, we know that if you’re more than six feet from somebody, they’re not going to spread it to you. So even within your foursome, you just stay a little bit farther away than you might ordinarily,” Troisi said.

Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, associate director of infection control and hospital epidemiology and Nebraska biocontainment unit member at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, agrees. “Being in a wide-open, outdoor space is the least at-risk scenario,” Cawcutt said. “Precaution is the name of the game. It’s very reasonable to play if you are smart about it and follow the proper guidance. You’ll have to follow precautions that you normally wouldn’t have to, but I would play under that guidance.

“Obviously, you should not play of you don’t feel well. We do not want people spreading the infection, putting themselves and others around them at risk. You know how you feel, and if you’re feeling the symptoms, stay at home.

"As you go through the game, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you’re able to, or alternatively use hand sanitizer liberally,” Cawcutt said. “If you have contaminated hands, we don’t want you touching your mouth or face. We don’t want you to get the virus on your hands.”

Cawcutt said that players should wipe down the parts of the club that touch the golf cart, along with the parts of the bag. “You should wipe down the edges of the bag, the handle of the club, the parts that touch the golf cart,” said Cawcutt. “I know that people have varying types of handles, but wipe down the handles. It’s just to reassure yourself that they are as clean as possible.”

The problems come with infecting older people, and that means that senior golfers need to exercise ever greater care. Obviously, if the virus continues to spread then seniors really should be thinking about staying at home until the worst is over, and health experts believe that we will not see the worst in the UK until June or July. Dr. Troisi said all golfers should be especially vigilant about hand-washing. Since hand-washing might not be a practical option on the course, she suggests that all golfers should start to keep hand sanitiser in their golf bags - of they can find any! “In terms of killing pathogens, a hand sanitizer works just as well as washing with soap and water,” she said.

Julian Tang, a virologist and professor at the University of Leicester, says that long conversations on the tee should be avoided. “If you can smell what someone had for lunch you are inhaling what they are breathing out, including any virus in their breath,” he said.

This is a fluid situation and one which we will be returning to as the situation develops.

If you are heading back onto the golf course, don't forget to get your game ready by signing up for our new #SeasonStarter Tuition Series, but if you would rather work on your fitness in isolation, you should enjoy our Get Golf Fit Series.

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