More than two months after restrictions to contain the spread of COVID-19 forced their closure, golf courses in Scotland look set to re-open this Friday.
For those who play the game, it will be a welcome step towards normalcy but it’s important, for everybody’s sake, to recognise that it won’t be business as usual. Not to begin with, anyway.
With the threat of coronavirus still very real and very present, it’s vital that people observe the guidance that has been put in place to mitigate the risks of re-opening.
With that in mind, here are some simple ‘dos and donts’ for what you need to do when you get back on the course...
Don’t touch the flagstick
Courses will be allowed to have pins in greens but it is strongly advised that players do not touch them as this is one of the quickest and easiest ways to transmit infections.
Do follow social distancing guidelines
Very simple: stay at least two metres from your playing partner(s) at all times.
Don’t shake hands
It might be the customary thing to do at the end of a round but unprecedented times call for unprecedented behaviour. If you feel your really must do something, try bumping elbows or tapping clubs.
Do mark your ball thoroughly
By ‘thoroughly’ we mean you to make it identifiable without needing to be handled. For example, if you hit a shot into the thick stuff, you need to be able to identify your ball without having to handle it. We’d recommend doing something like drawing a dotted line all the way around the ‘equator’ of the ball’. If you can’t be certain it’s your ball, don’t touch it.
Don’t share equipment
And we don’t just mean clubs. We’re talking about things like Strokesavers, rangefinders, tees, pitchmark repairers, golf balls, bottles of suncream, drinks and so on.
Do book your tee times in advance
This one is particularly crucial. After two months without golf, demand for a round is going to be extremely high, as we have seen in other countries where golf has re-opened. To avoid disappointment, unnecessary ‘hanging around’ and to help clubs ensure they have an accurate record of who has played and when in the event that contract tracing may be required, you MUST book in advance. Do NOT just rock up expecting to play.
Don’t hang around afterwards
When your round is over, make like a tree and leave. Don’t use the putting green, don’t hang around at the clubhouse door for a chat, don’t go for a browse of the pro shop. Hop in the car and hit the road.
Do bring hand sanitiser
And use it regularly throughout your round.
Don’t play if you are feeling unwell
For obvious reasons.
Do try to smooth over bunkers
Clubs and their greenkeepers have been advised to remove ‘communal equipment from courses. That includes rakes. So, if you do find yourself in a bunker, do your best to smooth the sand over with your feet or with a club.
Don’t use the clubhouse facilities
Most clubhouses will be locked with the exception of locker rooms and toilets. Unless you absolutely have to, try not to use them. For example, if you need to retrieve your clubs from your locker, fair enough; but don’t go getting changed in them when you have the option of arriving dressed and ready to play.
Do enjoy it
It’s been a long few months. A testing, uncertain and worrying few months. But the re-opening of the country’s courses is a sign that we are moving towards normalcy. So, don’t get too wound up by the bad shots you’ll inevitably hit. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to play well. Instead, just relax, enjoy the walk and have some fun. You’ve earned it.