Playing Golf Under COVID-19 and an Update on the World Handicap System

Playing Golf Under COVID-19 and an Update on the World Handicap System

Well, what a start to the 2020 Golfing year. First we have courses unplayable because of torrential rain and now, just when the season should be getting underway we have COVID-19 pandemic and total lockdown.

But, with the UK Government suggesting that we have passed through the first phase of the crisis, there is optimism that there may be an easing of some lockdown restriction.

The Golfing industry has taken this as very promising and several of golf’s governing and professional bodies have issued separate guidance to clubs on five main areas as the industry develops how the game could be played when lockdown restrictions start to be lifted, and bear in mind that Social Distancing and COVID-19 may be with us for a while to come.

Separate guidance statements have been released:

One from the R&A, one from England Golf, and a joint report from the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), British Golf Industry Association (BGIA), British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA), Foremost, Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA), TGI Golf, and the UK Golf Federation.

The guidance covers everything ranging from bunker rakes to flagsticks, the number of holes we are allowed to play, and clubhouses being reopened.

You can read each statement by following the links below:

The R&A statement suggests that, Clubhouses should be closed and competitions shouldn’t be played during the initial period when golf returns from the coronavirus lockdown and covers five main areas – course set-up, before, during and after the round and Rules of Golf related issues – after working with a range of UK bodies on how golf could be played when the government decides it is safe to begin easing the current restrictions.

On a lighter note, England Golf has today published an update to its information on the World Handicap System scheduled to be introduce in GB&I on 2 November 2020.

Their statement reads:

‘The hard work behind the scenes continues as we prepare for the launch of the World Handicap System in just six months’ time. Next week, we will roll out the latest stage of our education campaign to golfers ahead of the 2 November start date. There will be an easy to follow, step-by-step series on the key elements of WHS:

  1. An introduction to the World Handicap System
  2. Your Handicap Index
  3. Submitting scores
  4. Maintaining your Handicap Index’

You can read more by following this link:

England Golf – WHS 2020

Enjoy your weekend as much as you can under these unprecedented circumstances, stay positive safe and well and we all will enjoy playing golf soon; albeit, not quite in the format we are used to for the time being.

Best wishes


Golf After Lockdown – Golf Under COVID-19

Golf After Lockdown – COVID-19 Restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland

Several of golf’s governing and professional bodies have issued separate guidance to clubs on five main areas as the industry develops how the game could be played when lockdown restrictions start to be lifted, and bear in mind that Social Distancing and COVID-19 may be with us for a while to come.

The separate guidance statements that have been released are:

One from the R&A, one from England Golf, and a joint report from the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), British Golf Industry Association (BGIA), British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA), Foremost, Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA), TGI Golf, and the UK Golf Federation.

The guidance covers everything ranging from bunker rakes to flagsticks, the number of holes we’re allowed to play and clubhouses being reopened.

You can read each statement by following the links below:

The R&A statement suggests that, Clubhouses should be closed and competitions shouldn’t be played during the initial period when golf returns from the coronavirus lockdown and covers five main areas – course set-up, before, during and after the round and Rules of Golf related issues – after working with a range of UK bodies on how golf could be played when the government decides it is safe to begin easing the current restrictions.

Their advice forms part of a submission that they are taking to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

I have reproduced the R&A guidance in full below, but you can download a copy of each guidance by clicking on the download buttons at the bottom of the page.

Playing Golf in the UK Under COVID-19 Restrictions

The UK Golf Industry has carefully considered how to ensure the safe management of a golf facility when government COVID-19 restrictions are eased.

Detailed industry guidelines have been issued for the benefit of all staff, including greenkeepers, club professionals and golf facility managers, administrators and, of course, all golfers.

There are many different types of golf clubs and golf facilities, requiring “safe golf” procedures to be finalised and implemented locally.

However, the fundamentals are the same throughout the sport, which has a good record of compliance with rules and procedures.

These procedures will include all aspects of the golfing experience, from arrival in the car park shortly before the round to departure straight away on completion of the round.

Golfers will be required to comply with the rules on social distancing throughout. Some temporary provisions in relation to the Rules of Golf will also be necessary to ensure safe play (see below).

While each club/facility will need to adapt its procedures to ensure compliance with government restrictions, the following aspects of the golfer experience, divided into the five following categories, will need to be considered: 1. Course Set Up, 2. Before the Round, 3. During the Round, 4. After the round, 5. Rules of Golf Related Matters.

1. Course Set Up

For up to date guidance on essential maintenance, please refer to the most current version of the “Essential Maintenance Statement for Golf Courses during COVID-19 Outbreak”.

On-Course Items

  • All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed.
  • Ball washers and drinking fountains to be covered up.
  • Benches and bins to be removed, covered or sign-posted in such a way that players don’t touch them.
  • All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions.

Hole and Flagstick

  • Flagsticks can be retained but it is strongly recommended that a sign is put on the flagstick stating that it is not to be touched.
  • A method of inserting the hole liner to be used that means that all of the ball does not fall below the surface of the putting green and can be easily retrieved by handling the ball only.

Practice Areas

Practice areas, including practice nets, to be closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

2. Before The Round


  • Clubs/facilities to organise a system of booking and allocation of tee times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers.
  • The maximum number of golfers in a group per tee time to be confirmed by the club/facility and must be in accordance with any government requirements.
  • There is to be a minimum of 10 minute intervals between tee times, but longer intervals may be more appropriate depending on the club/facility.

Arrival and Waiting to Play

  • The clubhouse and locker room facilities will be closed. Limited essential access (for example to use the toilets) may be allowed by the club/facility.
  • Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the club/facility, for example not leaving cars until a certain time before their tee time.
  • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place to ensure social distancing requirements in the area of the professional’s shop or starter’s building in advance of golfers teeing off.
  • No trolleys, carts or other items to be available for hire unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.
  • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green, for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to tee off.

3. During The Round

Guidance and reminders should be provided by clubs/facilities to golfers is to ensure that they keep at least 2 metres apart during the round. 

Teeing Areas

Remind golfers to keep 2 metres apart at teeing areas due the normal close proximity of golfers to one another when tee shots are being played. 


Remind golfers to stay more than 2 metres apart when walking to the ball, searching for a ball and playing shots.

Remind golfers not to touch stray balls. 


With no rakes allowed on the course, remind golfers to make their very best efforts to smooth the sand using their club and/or their feet. 

Putting Green

Remind golfers to keep 2 metres apart on the putting greens and not to touch the flagstick.

4. After The Round

Remind golfers that social distancing is as important after a round as it is during the round, so when the round is over they must leave the course and the club/facility immediately so that there are no gatherings around the clubhouse area.

5. Rules of Golf Related Matters

Until further notice, the following provisions are considered acceptable on a temporary basis:

Forms of Play and Scoring

  • It is recommended that non-competition play is used during the initial period of golf being played, and that stroke play competitions involving players in different groups are avoided.
  • If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be used that does not require any handling or exchanging of scorecards.
  • Committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in stroke play that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b. For example:
    • Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is not necessary for a marker to do it).
    • It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place.
    • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.
  • As provided in the Rules of Golf, scorecards can be electronic, which could include emailing or texting scores to the Committee. 


If golfers take due care when smoothing bunkers, there should be no need to provide a Local Rule for bunkers. But if the Committee feels that the enjoyment of the game is being significantly affected by there being no rakes, it may introduce preferred lies in bunkers and provide that a player may place a ball in the bunker within one club-length of the original spot and not nearer to the hole than that spot.


  • Golfers are required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times and not to touch it. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule.
  • As a temporary provision, flagsticks can be used for the purpose of player safety which do not meet the specifications in Part 8 of the Equipment Rules.

Hole and Holed

  • The hole liner (sometimes referred to as the hole ‘cup’) is to be set in a way that means that all of the ball cannot be below the surface of the putting green, so the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the surface of the putting green.
  • To minimise the need to lift the ball from the hole, it is recommended that the Committee provides that a ball is holed with the next stroke if it is within 12 inches of the hole (which is just over the length of a standard putter grip). This does not prevent a player in match play conceding a stroke that is outside this length.
  • The Committee may decide to have the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treat a ball as holed if it strikes the liner.

Note: Consult the relevant handicapping authority on whether scores using any of the above provisions are acceptable for handicapping purposes.

Safety Information on Avoiding COVID-19

A detailed note on avoiding COVID–19, issued by the Johns Hopkins University, a research institute in Baltimore USA:

* The virus is not a living organism, but a protein molecule (DNA) covered by a protective layer of lipid (fat), which, when absorbed by the cells of the ocular, nasal or buccal mucosa, changes their genetic code.  (mutation) and convert them into aggressor and multiplier cells.

* Since the virus is not a living organism but a protein molecule, it is not killed, but decays on its own.  The disintegration time depends on the temperature, humidity and type of material where it lies.

* The virus is very fragile; the only thing that protects it is a thin outer layer of fat.  That is why any soap or detergent is the best remedy, because the foam CUTS the FAT (that is why you have to rub so much: for 20 seconds or more, to make a lot of foam).  By dissolving the fat layer, the protein molecule disperses and breaks down on its own.

* HEAT melts fat;  this is why it is so good to use water above 25 degrees Celsius for washing hands, clothes and everything.  In addition, hot wagter makes more foam and that makes it even more useful.

* Alcohol or any mixture with alcohol over 65% DISSOLVES ANY FAT, especially the external lipid layer of the virus.

* Any mix with 1 part bleach and 5 parts water directly dissolves the protein, breaks it down from the inside.

* Oxygenated water helps long after soap, alcohol and chlorine, because peroxide dissolves the virus protein, but you have to use it pure and it hurts your skin.

* NO BACTERICIDE SERVES.  The virus is not a living organism like bacteria;  they cannot kill what is not alive with anthobiotics, but quickly disintegrate its structure with everything said.

* NEVER shake used or unused clothing, sheets or cloth.  While it is glued to a porous surface, it is very inert and disintegrates only between 3 hours (fabric and porous), 4 hours (copper, because it is naturally antiseptic; and wood, because it removes all the moisture and does not let it peel off and disintegrates).  ), 24 hours (cardboard), 42 hours (metal) and 72 hours (plastic).  But if you shake it or use a feather duster, the virus molecules float in the air for up to 3 hours, and can lodge in your nose.

* The virus molecules remain very stable in external cold, or artificial as air conditioners in houses and cars.  They also need moisture to stay stable, and especially darkness.  Therefore, dehumidified, dry, warm and bright environments will degrade it faster.

* UV LIGHT on any object that may contain it breaks down the virus protein.  For example, to disinfect and reuse a mask is perfect.  Be careful, it also breaks down collagen (which is protein) in the skin, eventually causing wrinkles and skin cancer.

* The virus CANNOT go through healthy skin.

* Vinegar is NOT useful because it does not break down the protective layer of fat.

* NO SPIRITS, NOR VODKA, serve.  The strongest vodka is 40% alcohol, and you need 65%.

* LISTERINE IF IT SERVES!  It is 65% alcohol.

* The more confined the space, the more concentration of the virus there can be.  The more open or naturally ventilated, the less.

* This is super said, but you have to wash your hands before and after touching mucosa, food, locks, knobs, switches, remote control, cell phone, watches, computers, desks, TV, etc.  And when using the bathroom.

* You have to HUMIDIFY HANDS DRY from so much washing them, because the molecules can hide in the micro cracks.  The thicker the moisturizer, the better.

* Also keep your NAILS SHORT so that the virus does not hide there.

You can download a copy of this information by clicking on the download button below:


Temporary Changes to Rules of Golf During Coronavirus Crisis

Temporary Changes to the Rules of Golf during Coronavirus Pandemic

During the Coronavirus Pandemic, where some Golf Clubs are still allowing play (mainly in the USA), or re-open when allowed to by the Government, the R&A and USGA have introduced some temporary changes to the Rule of Golf.

These have been reprinted below, but you can download a copy by clicking on the download button at the bottom of the page.

The R&A has received a number of enquiries from organisers of golf competitions seeking guidance on the Rules of Golf in view of the Covid-19 outbreak. The purpose of this communication is to provide some guidance on the Rules of Golf.

It is not the purpose of this communication to make recommendations or offer guidance in relation to the playing of golf at this time. Please refer to the appropriate body in your country for such guidance.

Scoring in Stroke Play (Rule 3.3b)

In view of concerns around handling and exchanging scorecards (which may be in paper or electronic form as already provided in the Rules), on a temporary basis, Committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in stroke play that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b.

For example:

  • Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is not necessary for a marker to do it).
  • It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place.
  • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.


Committees may choose to adopt the following policies on a temporary basis:

  • Requiring that players leave the flagstick in the hole at all times. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule.
  • Not have flagsticks at all.


No modifications to the Definition of Hole are offered, but if a Committee chooses not to follow the requirements in the Definition of Hole, which may also have an impact on the Definition of “Holed”, the Committee should consult its national association for guidance on whether scores submitted in such circumstances are acceptable for handicapping purposes.


If rakes have been removed from the course, or if the Committee has requested that rakes not be used, it is recognised that bunkers may not be smoothed as well as when there are rakes on the course. But it is recommended that no modification is made to the Rules of Golf in such circumstances, and that players are requested to smooth bunkers using their feet or a club.

If, as a result of there being no rakes, the Committee decides to introduce a Local Rule relating to bunkers, the Committee should consult its handicapping authority for guidance on whether scores submitted under such Local Rule are acceptable for handicapping purposes.

This measure is temporary and in effect within GB&I until advised otherwise by the R&A.

The above guidance will continue to be updated.

Download a copy by clicking on the button below:


England Golf – Coronavirus Updates

England Golf – Coronavirus Updates

In view of the Coronavirus outbreak, England Golf are publishing regular updates,.

These statements must continue until 19 July 2021 when the UK Government relaxes COVID-19 Restrictions.

You will find a link to a recent document from England Golf on playing golf after Monday 19 July 2021.

By clicking on a Button below you can access these updates, which now include recommendations for those areas in High Risk Tiers 2,3 and 4.

By clicking on the Download Button below you can download a copy of the England Golf Play Safe Framework updated for 19 July2021:

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UK Golf Courses to Close as of 23 March 2020

Statement from England Golf on Monday 23 March 2020 in light of the UK Prime Minister’s Action to contain COVID-19 Pandemic

Clubs, courses and facilities must close

Following on from the Prime Minister’s statement tonight (23 March), in which he sated that everyone must now STAY at HOME (with some exceptions), certainly for a period of three weeks, a period that will be reviewed, golf clubs, courses and facilities in England must now close.

It is England Golf’s position that this deeply regrettable, but highly necessary and responsible course of action must be implemented with immediate effect and be maintained until further notice.

The government has identified an urgent need to introduce new restrictions on public life and on non-essential businesses opening their doors.

This has been done to limit the spread of the coronavirus and relieve the growing pressure on our National Health Service.

Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated policy of government which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency. 

The health and wellbeing of the nation is the only consideration that matters at this moment in our history.

These are incredibly testing times for the country. The golf industry cannot be shielded from the economic and social ramifications caused by this temporary shutdown of normal life.

We would like to assure the golfing community that England Golf staff will continue to work remotely with all affiliated golfers, clubs and counties to try and minimise the damage caused by this suspension of regular golf club life.

We will continue to signpost clubs and counties to the latest government advice and schemes designed to help the economy cope with the disruption caused by coronavirus.

You may read the full announcement by clicking on the link below

England Golf Full Statement on COVID-19

Hope we will all be back to playing golf again, soon

Best wishes and please stay safe


Playing Golf Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

Playing Golf Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

In view of the current Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) crisis I have been researching recommendations and advice for golfers who may wish and are able to play golf during the crisis.

Please note that as of 21 March 2020, it is a UK Government Mandate that all persons regarded as ‘at risk’, i.e. those who have underlying or pre-existing chronic diseases, over 70 years of age or living with a vulnerable person must self-isolate and have no option but to do so.

Anyone not adhering to this is not only compromising their own health and welfare but that of the rest of the UK.

Table of Estimated Death Toll In UK COVID-19
Estimated Death Toll from COVID-19 in UK March 2020

I am not an authority, but this page is my best attempt at collating information that I have been able to obtain from reliable sources both in the US and UK.

It is not exhaustive and as the crisis progresses the information may well change, even daily, and I will attempt to keep the information as up to date as I can as further information comes to light.

The message coming out of England Golf is that it is still OK to play golf, but one of the biggest determinants to play, however, is actually the players themselves.

You can read an up to date England Golf Statement by following the link below:

Golf is a great sport for people generally to get out and about, exercise and enjoy fresh air. It is played in an outdoor setting where the risk of contracting COVID-19 may be low.

And a statement made by the UK’s chief Scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance would seem to support this.

Responding to a question put to him by Dean Russell MP, “Exercise is going to be key, especially for older people. If someone wants to play golf, can they still do that if they are not close together?”

Sir Patrick said, “We’re not asking everyone to be completely isolated. The specific advice is to avoid close contact. A walk is OK if you keep your distance”.

The reply was a little naïve in comparing a person playing golf to going for a walk and made no reference to players in the ‘at risk’ category, nor the risks that there are in playing golf at this time and what necessary precautions golfers should paying attention to.

All golf clubs should, at this time, be mindful of the safety and well-being of their members, visitors and staff.

Playing golf would also appear to be supported by Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, golf as it’s normally played outdoors, with natural social-distancing built in, “would be fairly safe.”

Provided golfers adhere rigidly to certain guidelines, and take comfort in these guidelines, as they think about the game as a possible escape from the current headlines.

It is considered that the way the game is different from other activities that makes it a viable alternative to locking yourself indoors.

What is Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV)?

It is a new form of Coronavirus, similar to that which caused SARS and MERS around 2002

It causes COVID-19 a life-threatening respiratory illness that can cause fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

In an attempt to stem the spread of the virus, extensive guidance has been published for anyone who has potentially come into contact with a carrier. In addition to good personal hygiene, self-isolation is seen as the best way to contain the spread. If that happens at a golf facility, the club could find itself without its entire greenkeeping, catering and/or clubhouse staff for an extended period and its long-term security could be placed at risk.

What are its symptoms?

COVID -19 Symptoms Compared to Other Conditions
Dry CoughCommonMildCommonSometimes
Shortness of BreathCommonNoNoCommon
Aches and PainsSometimesCommonCommonNo
Sore ThroatSometimesCommonCommonNo
Runny NoseRareCommonSometimesCommon
*Sometimes for Children
Sources: CDC, WHO,American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology

How is it spread?

People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus. The disease can spread from person to person through small droplets from the nose or mouth which are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or exhales.

These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19 who coughs out or exhales droplets. This is why it is important to stay more than 6 feet (2 metres) away from any person who is sick.

The risk of catching COVID-19 from someone with no symptoms appears to be very low.

However, many people with COVID-19 experience only mild symptoms. This is particularly true at the early stages of the disease and it is therefore possible to catch COVID-19 from someone who has for example, just a mild cough and does not feel ill.

To date studies suggest that the Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets rather than through the air.

There’s a lot about this Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) that experts still don’t know, it is a kind of virus that has an envelope, which means that it’s more easily killed than some other viruses.

Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that that is true for this new Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV), as well.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is assessing ongoing research on the ways that COVID-19 is spread and will continue to share updated findings.

What does “social distancing” mean with respect to playing golf?

Generally, the key is to be more than 6 feet (2 metres) away from others.

As much as the scientists know for now, if you’re more than 6 feet (2 metres) from somebody, they’re not going to spread the virus to you.

But that is not set in concrete, if you can smell what someone had for lunch, garlic, curry, etc., you are inhaling what they are breathing out, including any virus in their breath.

So, within your Pairs, Three-ball or Four-ball, you must stay a little bit farther away than you might ordinarily do.

What you, as a golfer, need to remember is that the benefits of social distancing aren’t explicitly about protecting yourself as much as they are an effective means of controlling spread of the virus.

For an otherwise healthy 35-year-old, the odds are very high that, even if they did get sick, they would be fine.

The problems come with infecting more vulnerable members of the community, and of course, as you get older, your immune system doesn’t work as well and, of course, the average age of a UK golfer is older than 50, and in some Golf Clubs there’s a high percentage of players who are 70-plus.

Another point is that golfers need to be aware of what’s happening in their area.

If they are in a location where the disease has been shown to be spreading widely, I think people will start to want to stay home and not go out into crowded settings.

They should also be mindful of the demographics of their area, is there a high population of vulnerable people e.g. retirees and are there enough intensive care beds to cope with a large outbreak of cases.

Within the context of a round of golf and with respect to what social distancing means, a golf course rarely constitutes a crowded setting. Like any other public setting, golf facilities have busier times than others, so you run even less risk playing at times when fewer people are around.

More concerning might be indoor simulator facilities and golf-ranges that that have bar and catering facilities.

It would also seem wise to refrain from large golf outings or group clinics where golfers might be gathered for significant periods.

Also, extended face-to-face conversations during a delay on a tee box should be avoided because it poses the risk of an inadvertent cough or sneeze.

So, should the vulnerable or those over 70 curtail their time on the golf course?

Though the risk of playing golf is the same as for non-vulnerable and younger players, the results might be more dangerous, and observations indicate that there were significantly higher death rates in China for people older than 65 and those rates increased greatly in those older than 70 and particularly for those 80 and older.

What is not certain, in China, is whether there were other underlying conditions, but the scientists do know your immune system doesn’t work as well as you get older or suffer from certain medical conditions, so it is certainly something to consider if you are in those groups.

Senior golfers, just like all golfers, should be especially vigilant about the current Government, Public Health England and other organisations for Disease Control guidelines for vigorous handwashing. Since handwashing might not be a practical option out on the seventh tee, for example, hand sanitiser is an effective alternative and should be in every golfer’s bag. In terms of killing germs, a hand sanitizer works just as well as washing with soap and water.

The virus lingers on hard surfaces for long periods of time, such as a Buggy, Flagstick or Golf Ball?

Although golf is being considered a relatively safe activity in the current situation, there should be some changes in behaviour from how people currently enjoy the game.

Riding in a buggy with a friend, for instance, puts you within the 6-foot (2 metre) range, which is a reason to consider walking or taking your own buggy.

As for the flagstick, it’s probably best to leave the flagsticks untouched for the entire day.

That said, some important things to remember:

  • Under laboratory conditions the virus has been shown to stay contagious for two to three days on an inanimate object, in sunlight, as mentioned earlier, the odds are it could be a much shorter time.
  • Touching an infected surface does not give you COVID-19, the disease brought on by this new Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV). Touching an infected surface and then immediately touching your face is the problem. The virus travels through the viral droplets from a sneeze or cough and gets in your cells through the nose, ears and mouth. But reports state that it definitely can be transmitted over time from an inanimate object. So, like in all aspects of life, restrict touching your face and wash your hands or use a hand sanitizer after you touch anything that isn’t yours.
  • That goes, as well, for handling someone else’s clubs. Though it might be a temporary seismic shift from the typical fellowship of a round of golf, when it comes to direct person-to-person contact, keeping to yourself and keeping your distance is still the correct way to go.
  • Of course, that means the 18th-green handshake needs to be abandoned, at least for now. “Start a new tradition—elbow bumps, shoe bumps or a thumbs-up for instance.

What about the 19th hole or the changing room before and after the round?

Experts agree on one thing with regard to Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV):

These are unique times, and they quite simply require fundamental shifts in behaviour. “If you go to a crowded bar where you’re up one against another, that’s a lot different from going to a bar where you’re spread out. The bottom line is there’s no absolute indication not to go to bars and restaurants, but in practising good public health – which is a responsibility for everybody in the country, really think about how you can decrease those close contacts.

The traditional drinks at the bar after the round need to be rethought. The time before the round and what you do after the round might be where the risk is. When you have a drink after, you’re not going to sit 6 feet (2 metres) from a friend in the bar. Maybe for the time being, it’s best to say your goodbyes in the car park.

There’s a lot that the experts don’t know. But Social Distancing has been imposed before, it was introduced during the ‘Spanish Flu’ pandemic of 1918-20 and proved that in areas that strictly adhered to it, there were fewer cases and fewer deaths than in areas that didn’t.

There is, of course, the  mental aspect to all this, being indoors all the time can take its toll on some people.

Fighting the Novel Coronavirus (2019 n-CoV) is a communal effort, but from an individual basis, it also has much to do with our immune systems, and the fact is our immune systems do not work well when they are stressed. Golf, even for those of us who know the absolute outrage of a severe shank or the third three-putt in four holes, can and should be good for reliving stress, and that’s a good thing.

Social distancing doesn’t mean you’re going to have to live in total isolation. Relieving stress helps your immune system and it is known that physical activity boosts your immune system, so for both mental and physical health, it’s good to get activity however you can get it without putting yourself or others at risk. So, anything outside where you’re not putting yourself in close proximity to a lot of people can be good for you. Being at one with nature helps your mental health, as well.

Less stress, physical activity, being outdoors, taking in nature. Maybe hitting more practice balls on the range or even walking the course at some time with a club and a few balls., could be a good idea, but be careful out there.

So, what does all this mean in practical terms?

BIGGA, The PGA, and the GCMA, supported by the R&A, have collaborated on the guidelines which offer advice on the running of a golf club in the possible absence of key staff, planning for the longer term effects to the business and the importance of communication to staff and to members.

You can download a copy of each guideline by clicking on a download button below:

So, if golf clubs really want to encourage players and players want to play golf, what are the best procedures to follow.

Prior to the game

Video courtesy of the R&A

  • The older age profile of golf club memberships than of the general population must be borne in mind
  • Prioritise online services for entries, bookings, and scoring
  • Take payments using contactless means or online prior to the game
  • Players with any colds or coughs or any symptoms of Covid-19 should be asked not to play
  • Changing/Locker rooms and Toilets should be closed to avoid players being near each other. Allow the changing of shoes in the car park
  • Shotgun starts with people congregating before and after are discouraged for the time being; groups having close and prolonged contact should be avoided.
  • Children/Juniors should not be allowed to play. Children are very susceptible to respiratory infections and can carry viruses without necessarily showing any symptoms of infection. They easily shed viruses so spreading infection easily and also do not have the same level of hygiene as most adults.
  • The social aspect of golf clubs should be curtailed, including limiting the potential for various types of social interaction in accordance with the guidelines as issued today.
  • Prolonged near contact as may happen during Bridge nights, Committee Meetings and other clubhouse-based activities is to be avoided.
  • Visitors either require some form of screening or should be discouraged for the time being.
  • Golf buggies should be taken out of use or used by single individuals and cleaned afterwards
  • Airlines should be disconnected and kept out of use
  • Putting green closure should be considered for larger events.
  • Take flags out of the holes, again this is a shared surface environment. Or,
  • Leave Flagsticks in but raise the hole liner about an inch above the putting surface, any ball striking the liner will be considered to have been holed
  • Remove Flagsticks and locate all holes at the centre of the putting green, together with raising the hole liner if desired.
  • Think about drawing circles on the ground that players putt and chip towards rather than a cup that offers a hard surface for the virus to live on

Golf Clubs should also observe the need for the following:

  •  Increase social distancing through greater space between individual seating in the clubhouse
  • Availability of hand sanitisers
  • Regular changing of towels
  • Ask members not to come into the clubhouse with colds or any symptoms of COVID-19
  • Regular cleaning of surfaces including door handles – hourly in public places
  • Handling of scorecards in club competitions is a vulnerability – especially for Committee members tasked with finalising results (wearing gloves is strongly advisable in these circumstances). It should also be borne in mind that since the revision of the Rules of Golf in 2019, scorecards can now be in electronic form (via phone app etc) and the Committee can specify a method of electronic certification if this option is taken.
  • Society bookings where food and social interaction is involved afterwards should be limited in accordance with the latest guidance​
  • Common courtesies – handshakes and other embraces associated with the etiquette of the game – should be avoided and participants may bump elbows as an alternative.
  • Social meals for groups in the clubhouse, including at inter-club matches, should be avoided

 On the course

  • Insist on social distancing (2-metre rule) on tee-grounds, greens and throughout the rounds
  • Remove rakes and any other pieces of course furniture that golfers may touch – the greenkeeper team will prepare the course, and where possible, re-rake bunkers during the day. Golfers can and golfers can wipe their own golf balls on a towel
  • No divot bags provided
  • Drinking fonts and ball cleaners taken out of play
  • Air lines for cleaning shoes following the round should be closed
  • Golfers should only pick their own ball up
  • Do not share any equipment, such as golf clubs or rangefinders
  • Don’t shake hands before or after your game
  • Have hand sanitisers available as golfers leave the golf course
  • Skip the driving range and practice tee and other warm-up areas where it’s difficult to keep your distance from folks.
  • That extra space in your golf bag next to your tees or balls? Put your hand sanitizer there. And use it. Frequently.
  • Follow precautions that you normally wouldn’t have to, but I play under that guidance
  • If you’re feeling any of the symptoms, hold off for now and get back to the game at a later date. No one wants you to spread the infection or to put someone else at risk just to play the game.
  • Temporary changes to the Rules of golf have been issued by the R&A, 20 March 2020 during the Novel Coronavirus Crisis and these can be read by following the link below:

What other precautions should a player follow throughout the round?

  1. Hand-sanitising and hand washing should be as welcomed as hitting the fairway off the tee.

As you go through the game, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when you’re able to, or alternatively use hand sanitiser liberally. If you have contaminated hands, no one wants you touching your mouth or face. No one wants you to get the virus on your hands.

  1. On the tee, fairways and greens, practise “social distancing” even with groups outside your own – about 6 feet. Minimize that close contact. Minimize the risk of getting the virus.
  2. Golf Clubs –

Players should wipe down the parts of the club that touch a golf buggy, along with the parts of the bag.

Wipe down the edges of the bag, the handle of the club, the parts that touch a golf buggy,” Resist renting clubs. There are varying types of handles, but wipe down the handles. It’s just to reassure yourself that they are as clean as possible.”

  1. How should you handle your golf balls?

Use of hand sanitiser and hand washing should again be as welcomed as picking up your ball from the cup after a birdie. If you’re picking up random golf balls, don’t touch your mouth, perhaps leave it behind.

  1. How should you handle your golf glove?

Use a hand sanitiser for your glove, though not ideal, as it will create some slickness.

But if you’re willing to put it on your glove, use it, it’s the safest route to go down. Something to keep your glove clean is ideal.

  1. How should you handle the golf buggy?

Walking and using a golf trolley might be the way to go, but if you ride, you wipe.

Wipe the steering wheel and seat and minimise the risk of contamination from other people who have used the buggy, It’s something different, but doing that will give you a sense of security.

  1. How should you handle your Mobile Phone during the round?

Best to wait until you get home.

Keep it somewhere where it’s not put directly on the dashboard of a buggy.

If you have to carry a phone, try to keep it on one person. If you have a phone that can be wiped down, that’s good.

How should you handle the drinks buggy?

Get your drinks here, if possible, rather than the clubhouse.

Ask your club for drinks buggy workers to use gloves for everyone’s safety,

Getting drinks from the buggy may be safer than in a crowded clubhouse. Use hand sanitiser before drinking from the can. Avoid touching the mouth of any bottles or cans as best you can.

“Hand-sanitise before you pop that top.”

  1. How should you handle the clubhouse?

Get in, get out and keep your distance.

Social distancing is increasingly advised to slow the spread of infection, avoid time in crowded clubhouses. Sit outdoors with that 6-foot (2 metre) radius from others, if possible.

Again, wash your hands or use hand sanitiser after touching any high-touch areas like door handles, desks, etc.”

  1. How should you handle playing partners?

If you’re playing with friends and family, check that they’re feeling well. If you’re playing with strangers, keep your social distance. If you’re playing with the friendly types, words speak louder than actions this time.

In general, don’t shake hands and do something else, like an elbow bump, as elbows are not high-contaminated areas, Do welcome your playing partners just find different ways from a handshake to express gratitude.”

After the game

  •  Handling of scorecards is a vulnerability, especially for staff members tasked with checking cards and finalising results. Arrange for this to be done online where possible
  • Adjust your catering provision to reduce physical contact through greater space between seating in the clubhouse if possible
  • Use disposable plates and cups, have hand washing facilities available on every table
  • Hand sanitisers should be made available throughout the clubhouse
  • Regular changing of towels in bathrooms (advice recommends every hour) would be required and regular cleaning of surfaces including door handles
  • Society bookings where food and social interaction is involved afterwards should be limited in accordance with the latest guidance
  • Follow Government advice as mandatory closure of clubhouses may be introduced in the coming days.

Robert Maxfield, PGA chief executive, said: “We need to work together as an industry. By following positive but sensible set of guidelines which we can all adhere to and then communicating those to golfers, we can continue to enjoy the sport in the months to come. The game can offer a level of social interaction which will be vital for certain sections of the community.”

Phil Grice, GCMA chairman, added: “We are aware that these are very uncertain times for all businesses and their employees and golf clubs are no exception. This also follows a difficult winter where many clubs have already been severely impacted.

“The well-being of our teams, including catering, course and professional staff and their teams should be a priority for the operators of golf clubs and volunteer committees.

For the full document, visit the PGA’s Covid-19 hub. For up-to-date information about the coronavirus outbreak, visit the NHS website.

This is a very fluid situation and all clubs need to monitor the latest advice regularly.

Noting and acting upon the advice and guidance issued by the UK Government and various Health Organisations

It is important that we all work together, following the advice of experts, in controlling the spread of COVID-19 infection.

Are you planning to support your club by playing at the weekend? What measures are your club taking to reduce the coronavirus risk? Please let me know in the comments on this page.

Resources used:

BIGGA. British and International Greenkeepers Association

GCMA. Golf Club Managers’ association

PGA. Professional Golfers Association

Dr. Catherine Troisi, Infectious Disease Epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston

Albert Ko, Epidemiology Department of the Yale School of Public Health

Public Health England

NHS England

Public Health England

WHO. World Health Organisation

Et al.