While Americans and others around the world are highly encouraged to stay home as much as humanly possible, many golf courses are remaining open and serving as a beacon to golfers who are looking to get outside and some needed exercise.
For golf courses that are open, they're taking precautions to make sure golfers have as safe of an environment as possible. Some are practical and simple. Some are innovative and clever.
What steps are golf courses taking?
Golf courses have removed shared surfaces from the courses wherever possible, including removing rakes from bunkers, divot seed bottles, water jugs, ball washers and first-tee boxes with extra pencils and tees.
Superintendents have come up with various ways to encourage golfers not to touch the cup or the flagstick. Some have raised cups out of the ground and declared the ball holed when any part of it touches the exposed cup. Some have placed objects in the cup to allow the ball to go in the hole but not go all the way down to the bottom. This way, golfers can more easily pluck their ball from the hole without touching the flagstick or cup. Some courses have removed flagsticks altogether and are offering pin sheets.
Many courses are not taking cash payments. Payments may be made online in advance or at the course with a credit or debit card. The pro shop may only allow one person in at a time to complete payment and check-in.
Golf courses are closing clubhouses, dining spaces and locker rooms to prevent crowding and potential spread.
Courses are ending caddie programs temporarily and asking golfers to handle their own bags at the bag drop.
Many courses are requiring players to walk to play. Courses which are allowing carts may require golfers to clean out their own cart before a staffer sanitizes the cart and keeps it out of circulation for hours.
Courses are spreading out tee times to prevent crowding in common spaces, like the practice green and driving range, if they're open.
What should golfers do to keep safe?
Golfers should take steps to practice social distancing and protect themselves as much as possible while playing golf.
Golfers should remain at least 6 feet away from all of their playing partners at any time. On the tee box, players can spread out while each player hits. On the green, players should remain 6 feet away, and players should be allowed to putt continuously until their ball is considered holed.
Golfers should strongly consider walking over taking a cart. Many facilities have taken carts out of circulation, but some are offering carts for solo riders.
There shouldn't be a post-round handshake or hug. Maybe just a wave of gratitude, a tip of the cap or an elbow bump would do the job.
Players shouldn't linger at the course pre-round or post-round. Golfers should get to the course with 15 minutes before their tee time, get to the first tee and get on with play. When golfers are done, they should get to their cars and leave as soon as possible. Avoid the clubhouse and locker rooms.
Golfers should consider disinfecting their equipment before and after the round. Players should not pick up their playing partners' equipment. Keep hand sanitizer or sanitizing wipes in your golf bag.
If you are 65 years old or older, or you have a pre-existing medical condition (particularly affecting heart, lungs or the immune system), you should seriously consider not playing golf at this time.