An Open Letter to Club Golfers on COVID-19
An Open Letter to Club Golfers: Take Covid-19 Seriously or Suffer the Consequences by Will Trinkwon
Why do some people seem incapable of understanding and respecting the 2-metre rule? No, this is not a rhetorical question. I am genuinely looking for an answer.
Golf courses have been open for just over a month now and already the fairways are chock full of weekend warriors throwing their weight around. Depending on how well-managed your club is, you may well be in a situation where everywhere you look there is a four-ball slapping each other on the shoulders, or a two-ball not respecting social distancing. Someone else will be fondling flagsticks and another will just generally be making a fool of themselves. Only a few weeks after the Government announced that lockdown would ease, the rules they set to contain and control the coronavirus seem to have been forgotten.
This really worries me.
On a personal level, I have asthma which though thankfully not very terrible is also not the kind that can be brushed off easily, either. Furthermore, golf, with its wide-open spaces and promise of easy exercise, has been a natural haunt for me as, like so many, I seek to get my spirit back after lockdown.
And yet if some of the pay-and-play tracks I’ve visited are anything to go by that’s going to have to all but stop, because the reality is that more and more golfers seem to be forgetting that Covid-19, though perhaps slowing, is far from a spent force. The danger is still there. As golfers flock back to courses, I, like, I suspect, many other players who are still wary about the pandemic, now feel genuinely nervous about teeing up. I go to the course to escape coronavirus; yet when you factor in the risk factor of packed clubhouses, I legitimately worry that, soon, it will be one of the places you’re most likely to catch it.
There were similar fears about play resuming on the PGA Tour. Though this is hardly the Tour’s fault, it was incredibly disheartening seeing players like Ian Poulter (who has since apologised) nonchalantly slapping fists with his caddie and other players, seemingly oblivious to the importance of social distancing.
Unsurprisingly, Nick Watney and Cameron Champs tested positive before the week before the recent Travellers Championship, kicking off a series of uneasy headlines.
Thankfully, the players then cleaned up their acts after that. During the Travellers, the mood was markedly changed from the happy slapping free-for-all of the week before, with players treating the virus with more respect. And with the Tour conducting regular tests, and commissioner Jay Monahan publicly enforcing the seriousness with which the Tour is taking its new anti-coronavirus protocols, the outlook for the pro game is brighter.
But little of this seems to be seeping down to club level, where ignorance still seems to rule, and social distancing, if some of my recent rounds have been anything to go by, is pretty much non-existent.
Playing through groups – something I do quite often as a speedier player – is particularly challenging. As anyone who plays through slower golfers regularly will know, there is commonly an odd and sinister dynamic that is in play. The group that invites you through waves you past with a smile, but simultaneously seems to resent the fact. There’s this lingering sense of ‘I’ll be damned if some Smart-Alec low handicapper is going to-' *tails off with seething rage* '- thinks he’s better than me…’.
Anyway, and unsurprisingly, the type of people who make condescending remarks when you outdrive them and bristle at having to play better players through are also becoming more and more prominent on courses, and just as they think they’re above basic golfing etiquette, so they think they’re above coronavirus too.
The result is that quick-playing asthmatics like me are left in a bind. The choice is: play through and risk ending up in the local Covid-19 treatment ward as selfish coronavirus-sceptics all but smother you, or endure six and a half hours stuck behind players who make P.G. Wodehouse’s infamous ‘wrecking crew’ look like Tiger Woods, Jason Day, DJ and Rory McIlroy playing a TaylorMade-sponsored four ball. Bleak doesn’t begin to describe my mood.
And there’s more. Because it’s not only vulnerable people like me that these selfish golfers’ behaviour risks harming. I wonder if they have glanced recently at the risk factors sheets for coronavirus? Go on, turn away from this article and take a look. Just a little way down from 'asthmatics', you’ll find ‘high blood pressure’ and ‘overweight’ (especially ‘obese’) listed as two of the prominent risk factors, ailments that I bet many of the golfers who are flouting coronavirus guidelines have.
Too-casual golfers, this is an open letter: please respect social distancing. If not, it might not just be me, but also yourselves who your selfishness and inability to follow simple instructions winds up putting in hospital.
If you have been playing golf regularly since lockdown, let us know what your experiences and observations have been compared to Will. Have you seen golfers sticking to the regulations, or is rule breaking widespread? Coronavirus remains a very real threat and we all must enjoy the game responsibly - which gratefully the majority of golfers are.
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