In these uncertain times, it can be hard to know what's appropriate and what's not.
For golfers, one of the biggest conundrums is whether to keep on playing or not.
Almost half of all golf courses in Europe have been locked-down as the world tries to contain the coronavirus. In the United States, around 20% of layouts have been closed - a number that is likely to rise in the coming days.
Here in the UK, the official message right now is this - golf CAN continue. All that you have to do is take some simple and sensible precautions designed to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
We've outlined some steps you can - and should - adhere to below.
Stick to these, stay safe and keep well.
1. NO MORE HANDSHAKES
It’s customary at the end of a round of golf to shake hands with your playing partners and, in some cases, even share a hug or a peck on the cheek. For the foreseeable future, that’s a complete ‘no no’. Instead, just give an appreciative nod and a smile and, if you really must go further, try an ‘elbow bump’ or tap clubs instead.
2. PUTT WITH THE PIN IN
On January 1 last year, the R&A and USGA changed their rules to make it permissible to putt with the flagstick in. Under Rule 13.2a(2), “There will no longer be a penalty if a ball played from the putting green hits a flagstick left in the hole.” Plenty of players at all levels of the game have already adopted this practice. Now, it’s time for everybody to do so.
3. HANDLE ONLY YOUR OWN GEAR
No more picking up your playing partners’ ball or markers. Forget carrying their clubs or sharing tees. So long as you only handle your own equipment, you will be significantly reducing the chance of transferring germs. And as for random balls you might find whilst looking for your own in the rough, leave them where they are. You don’t know where they’ve been or who’s been handling them.
4. SAY NO TO THE 19th HOLE
At the time of going to print, the most up-to-date Government guidance was to avoid bars, restaurants and clubs for the time being. As a result, it is in your best interests to forego that post-round pint. Try to limit the amount of time you spend in the clubhouse, even changing your shoes in the car park, if need be. Some people won’t like that but too bad – we’re dealing with unprecedented times and, sadly, ‘proper etiquette’ will need to adapt to these extenuating circumstances.
5. KEEP YOUR DISTANCE
It is recommended that people try to stay a minimum of six feet from one another in order to restrict the spread of the virus. So, stand on the other side of the tee box when your playing partner is teeing off, keep a healthy distance when you’re walking down the fairway and, whatever you do, forget about hiring a buggy.