Golf Amid the Pandemic

 

Up until right now, I’ve been relatively quiet on my stance when it comes to playing golf amid COVID-19. Before continuing on I need to make one or two things abundantly clear.

  • I’m not an Epidemiologist
  • I love golf. It’s why I write, live, play, and breathe the game
  • If you live in a place where golf has been deemed safe to play, I’m Masters green with envy.
  • Respective governments are much smarter than I am

Chances are that if you’re an avid golfer, you’re likely going to hate my opinion and that’s okay. But in my opinion, golf is “not essential” and nobody should be trying to make it out to be. Period!

Do you know want to know what makes me laugh? The image below where people are trying to compare grocery shopping to playing golf. There’s a basic difference here and in identifying the difference, allow me to ask this. Which one of these two is considered to be essential? One puts dinner on the table and has a pharmacy for medications and one doesn’t? People even suggest playing golf is no different than walking a dog. In 8 years, my Labrador Retriever has defecated a total of 3 times in his yard. He won’t do it, so taking him out is essential. Besides a walk might last 30 minutes, versus 3 to 4 hours for a round of golf (18 holes).

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You see, I’m in a very funny place in the midst of the arguments. In typical Canadian fashion, I’m a bit of a fence-sitter and I see both sides. Regarding my views, I come from a family of nurses. My mother was a nurse as were two of my three siblings. My mother was an Emergency Room nurse, while my one sister worked in the ER and ICU Departments respectively. Once upon a time, she was also on a pandemic team. I know and fully comprehend what our healthcare workers on the front line are facing with this “thing”. It’s brutal, and whether you believe that COVID-19 is a hoax or not, that’s entirely up to you. To draw comparisons to SARS, H1N1 and Influenza A (the latter I had in ’02 and almost died from it) those viruses didn’t spread like a “wildfire” in the midst of a drought. Secondly, due to my Diabetes and Coronary Disease, I’m also firmly entrenched in the “high-risk category”. So because of a deeply-rooted love for nurses and my own health history, perhaps, I’m a little sensitive to the potential for unnecessary burden for our healthcare workers.

Nobody in the world wants it to be “kosher” for golf courses to be open again more than me. I’m more than a golf fan. In my case, like many others out there that work in the industry, it’s my source of income and my livelihood. Courses not being open for play right now has taken an income source away from me and others, which is another argument for the “pro-golf” side of the argument. To elaborate on the importance for me here’s a cute little factoid. Working during the golf season supplements my income of a whopping $758/month that I collect on Canada Pension Plan – Disability. That amount isn’t nearly enough to cover the rent every month. Not to mention other bills like medications, hydro, groceries, etc. I literally NEED that income. Factor in that I love to play the game and that much of my content for this website comes from being on the golf course. MY “need” for golf courses to open is much greater than a guy or girl that just wants to play golf or a member that wants to get their money’s worth.

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The 18th at Scenic Woods Golf Club. I can’t wait to get back.

For many, including myself,  playing a round of golf is a form of release. Golf is a chance to get away from the rigors and stresses of everyday life. I’ve used those same words too. Golf is a release for me and I find it quite cathartic. Heck, I’ve used the term “sanctuary” and said often that golf has saved my life because in a way, it has. I suffer from depression and I have been suicidal too many times to count, but ultimately, I guess I’ve “chickened out” on those occasions. Or maybe I found a will to fight. Golf helps me get through things. But sometimes it’s not enough.

Golf courses that have opened, have taken precautions to keep golfers safe and I applaud the efforts. Including but not limited to inverted cups, not touching the pin (or pins being removed completely), one rider on carts (where applicable), contactless transactions, and maintaining physical distancing. But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned through working the golf industry (golf course operations) over the last decade is that golfers (not all) inevitably will screw this up. Pins will be touched, and the “Six-Foot Rule” will be breached. On the best of days, golfers don’t adhere to simple rules like keeping the cart 30 feet away from greens (electing to park on the collars instead) and 90º or Cart Path Only signs being ignored just to name two examples. These examples are offenses that I’ve observed by avid golfers. In fact, members that play more than 100 rounds per year.

As we speak, golfers from all over are signing petitions urging their respective governments to open golf courses. In Ontario, it’s no different. In some cases, it’s the golf course owners or National Golf Course Owners Association(s) that are lobbying so hard to re-open. I have no issue with golf courses being open when it’s safe to do so. I also agree that when it’s safe to do so, golf courses should be near the top of the list of services/attractions to re-open.  Let’s not kid ourselves though. Golf courses don’t want to re-open to let you enjoy the air, seed, and grass. Golf is a business and it’s all about their bottom-line. Owners associations will try to convince the government that they can help with unemployment rates. But I have a question. How does this help in the case where clubhouses are closed and no pro shop or restaurant staff is required?

It’s one thing to be a golfer and enjoy the game and it’s another thing to actually work on the golf course operations side of things. Golfers on social media have mentioned going with “no staff”, contactless pre-paid times. Theoretically good ideas, but from a practicality standpoint it’s foolhardy. Many courses offer their Starters and Marshals golf privileges in lieu of their services. Now we’re entrusting our health and well-being on these “volunteers” to wipe down the carts with sanitizer wipes. Many don’t even do their job correctly in the first place without the additional “work”. So “Walking Only” you’re suggesting next?

With no staff in place, imagine a golfer out there suffering a cardiac arrest or a massive stroke with no employees in place. Oh, the liability issues that would ensue. Even if you have a cell phone and it’s a playing partner of yours (or you stumble upon someone that was out there by themselves that shouldn’t be). You’re a twosome and someone needs to get out to the parking lot or clubhouse. Why? They need to wave down the first responders and then direct them out to the spot on the course where the person suffered the attack. During this time, the victim is left unattended and valuable time has been wasted which could be instrumental in their survival and/or recovery. Believe it or not, golf courses have these sort of contingency plans in place but they’d never work with insufficient staff. Find me an insurance company that would insure a golf course with no staff in place. Sign a waiver? Sure, but good lawyers will find a loophole when there’s a multi-million dollar lawsuit on the line.

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If this isn’t okay, how could golf be? A conservation authority operates the access here.

Here’s another angle that I’m emotionally invested in. In Ontario, as it stands, fishing is okay. Why would fishing be okay and playing golf isn’t? Well, I have a simple answer to that riddle. Fishing can potentially place dinner on the table. However, access points run by conservation authorities like the one pictured above are closed. Riddle me this. With a fly and fly line whipping through the air, who the heck is coming near me? This picture was taken last fall and I was literally the only one on the stream. Much like the current situation with golf, I don’t like it but it’s just how it is.

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A sign of the times.

Golfers aren’t the only ones “suffering”. If anything, in many ways, golfers are showing themselves to be “entitled”, “elitist”, “tone-deaf”, and “above” everything. This is a bad optic to “outsiders”. To me, at this point in time, it’s the children who can’t play in a park or use a skatepark while maintaining physical distancing that are suffering. It’s important in their development both physically and psychologically. Suffering are our first responders, frontline, and healthcare workers working long stressful shifts more than is typical. My wife, Crystal, just started a new job working at a grocery store and that too, is no easy ggi at the moment. The elderly and infirm living in long-term healthcare facilities or those living in palliative care who can’t see their families, they’re suffering thus affecting their mental health and well-being or een will to live.

If you think that playing golf could be considered practicing physical-distancing I would tend to agree, IF everyone was to abide by the rules. In a perfect world, everybody would but this world is quite imperfect. One day, the freeze will lift and we’ll all be back on the golf course again complaining about the pace of play, ball marks that aren’t fixed and so on. For the record, with nothing but speculation to base this on, I have a feeling that golf in Ontario will resume mid-May. Take care, stay safe, stay home and stay healthy.

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The frost of golf ceasing will rise. Photo taken October 18th, 2019 at Scenic Woods Golf Club.

Until the Next Tee!!

#fightandgrind #seeuonthenexttee

 

 

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