With no basketball, spring training baseball, hockey, futbol (soccer), tennis, golf, or even XFL football, what is a sports fan to do on the weekend? GOLF! Golf is the perfect participant sport during the COVID-19 quarantine, but there are a number of precautions that you need to take:
• Skip the driving range. Players are too close on the driving range and you have no idea who touched those range balls. Give yourself a “breakfast ball” on the first hole (even if it is afternoon) and maybe some mulligans during the round.
• Walk. Do not ride in a golf cart. First, a 5-mile walk carrying your golf bag or pushing your own push cart is good exercise. Second, no matter how much the golf course claims that it cleaned the golf cart, it is still a bastion for germs.
• Before leaving for the golf course, wash your golf towel. It is going to be your best friend on the golf course. Also, wash your golf clubs, including the grips. Even though it may only have your germs, it is good to do because you probably have never washed your golf grips before!
• Maintain social distancing with your golf partners. I use the same 6’ rule for social distancing and for gimme putts! Use fist bumps and elbow bumps sparingly (like for birdies); otherwise a simple Phil Mickelson “thumbs up” is sufficient.
• Many courses are turning their golf cups upside down or inserting some apparatus in the hole so the ball does not drop to the bottom of the cup, thus avoiding people putting their hands into the hole to grab their golf ball. This is a bit of a red herring for me because I rarely actually putt the ball into the cup. Interestingly, the anecdotal evidence is that putting improves when you have a two-dimensional “cup” rather than the standard three-dimensional cup.
• Wear a golf glove on both hands, like Tommy “Two Gloves” Gainey (but don’t emulate some of his other traits). You can buy rain gloves at any golf store (somehow they get more tacky the wetter they get, but that is not relevant for our purposes). You may look a bit odd with two gloves but your golf buddies will envy your forethought (although they will not admit it and will likely make fun of you)!
• Do not use the ball washer! The soapy water is not a replacement for washing your hands. Keep a portion of your golf towel wet to clean mud, dirt, and grass stains from the golf ball. You can also use the golf towel to clean your golf clubs. If you are a COVID-19 purist and disagree with using the golf towel, bring some handwipes for the same purposes.
• Leave the flagstick in the hole! Anything you can do to reduce “touches” is a benefit. Under the new Rules of Golf (effective 1/1/19), it is not a penalty if you putt a ball on the green and it hits the flagstick left in the hole. This will speed up the round and you are equally likely to benefit from the ball hitting the flagstick as you are to be harmed.
• Don’t rake the bunkers. If the golf course has not already removed the rakes, don’t touch them! Treat bunkers as “ground under repair” and remove the ball from the bunker, find the nearest point of relief, and drop the ball within one club length no closer to the hole. By alleviating the fear of hitting out of the bunkers, you will likely not hit any balls into the bunkers. That is one of those otherworldly aspects of golf.
• Skip the 19th hole!
EDITOR’S NOTE: The Governor’s order today, titled “Stay Home, Stay Healthy, Stay Connected,” includes a strong focus on mental health. The order encourages Arizonans to participate in outdoor activities, as long as they are accompanied by social distancing measures. Additionally, it stresses the need for “social connectedness” — a concern of public health officials, especially among our senior population and those struggling with depression and suicide.
Jay Kramer is an attorney with Fennemore Craig, P.C. He chairs Fennemore Craig’s real estate practice.