Golfing During the Pandemic, What You Need to Know

Warwick Hills Golf & Country Club, Grand Blanc, MI — April 27, 2020

With the extension of Michigan’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” executive order some good news emerged from the latest revision. Golf clubs are now allowed to open and give Michigan residents an additional outdoor recreational activity to participate in. As with so many things since the COVID-19 outbreak, a trip to the golf course will be a bit different.

The Lasco Press spoke with Darren Husse, PGA Professional at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club in Grand Blanc, about what golfers can expect when they return to the course.

Darren Husse, PGA Professional at Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club / Lasco Press Photo
“Be Prepared to Get Lots of Exercise”

While courses are open, motorized carts are not allowed. If you own a pull cart you can bring it with you. Courses are allowed to rent pull carts, however many do not have a sufficient supply to accommodate all golfers. A carry-bag is recommended, start by walking nine holes and build up your stamina.

The obvious question is why can’t golf clubs put out one person in a cart to achieve social distancing. According to Darren, “You have to look at that issue from the perspective of how many people it takes to clean and turn around carts between rounds. Golf courses are trying to minimize the number of people it takes to operate in a safe manner. Rushing to clean up a cart because a patron is waiting could lead to the possibility of inadequate disinfection.”

“Don’t Touch Those Pins”

Next to golf carts, the most touched objects on a golf course are the flags used to mark hole locations on the green. A recent change in the rules of golf allowed pins to be left in place while putting, there is no longer a penalty for a ball touching the flagstick while putting. There is still the matter of retrieving your ball after it drops into the cup.

“I have seen various means to address touching the cup and flagstick while retrieving your ball from the hole.” Said Darren, “A common method is to not sink the cup fully. Leaving a portion of the cup above ground level keeps the ball from entering the hole. You hit the cup, your given credit for sinking the putt.” No more lip-outs.

“Another method greens keepers use is to fill the cup with a few inches of a pool noodle. The hole in the middle of the styrofoam allows the pin to be centered. The ball falls into the cup but remains near the top of the hole for easy retrieval.”

Warwick Hills Golf and Country Club / Lasco Press Photo
“Add Some Extra Equipment, Like a Damp Towel, to Your Golf Bag”

In an effort to eliminate all contact points on the course, most clubs are removing ball washers, sand rakes, and sitting benches. “A damp towel will adequately clean a golf ball, a small kiddie rake will smooth a sand trap, and a folding tripod stool that fits in your bag gives you the option of sitting down and taking a rest.”

No rakes? At least have the courtesy of removing divots from sand traps by using your foot to return the sand to a flat surface.

“Make a Tee Time and Pay in Advance by Telephone”

Most courses would prefer to not take cash and prepayment keeps the transaction touchless. If you need to enter the clubhouse make sure to have your mask or face covering on. No more than two people at a time indoors. Many clubs serve food, purchasing a hot dog and a beverage to take out on the course with you is allowed. Check with your course to see if such services will be open.

Beverage carts are also allowed, we suggest a generous gratuity is appropriate under the current set of circumstances. Not having to make change limits personal interactions. Check with your club in advance to see if this form of takeout service is available and their restrictions for bringing personal beverages to the facility.

“No Goods, Supplies, or Services Are to Be Sold” 

“Don’t expect a bag boy to greet you when you drop off your clubs, no caddies, and no lessons from fabulous PGA Professionals” said, Darren. “Also no starters or rangers to keep play moving. It is important to show up for ready to golf for tee times and be courteous to fellow golfers. Let’s fully enjoy this opportunity to play the game we all love.”

Pro shops are likely to remain closed until more restrictions are lifted as sales are currently banned. Bring enough balls and tees to complete your round. Remember, with not carts searching for lost balls will be more difficult. While common sense would seem to indicate the purchase of these items essential to the game would be possible, interpretation of the ordinance’s specifics may vary by individual courses.

Driving ranges and putt-putt courses remain closed. Practice facilities at private clubs are subject to some restrictions, check before you assume a particular activity is acceptable.

Follow Safety Protocols

As directed by the Governor’s office, golfers must adhere to the
guidelines in place:
• All individuals who leave their home or place of residence must adhere to social
distancing measures recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(“CDC”), including remaining at least six feet from people from outside the individual’s
household to the extent feasible under the circumstances.

Stay Safe and Have Fun. Enjoy the sport at the great courses Michigan has to offer. Specific questions should be directed, in advance, to the management of individual courses you plan on visiting.