Should you be wearing a mask or face covering when you play golf? A month ago, that seemed a bizarre question. Now, it doesn't.
The Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Control unveiled new recommendations on April 3, suggesting all Americans wear a face covering or mask when they go out in public.
While this is a voluntary measure, recent research from German researchers published in Nature tells us that wearing a face mask can stop 99 percent of droplets of saliva emitted when we speak, sneeze or cough.
In another paper published this week in Nature, results from a five-year study joint study between the University of Hong Kong and the University of Maryland shows that a non-fitted mask blocked 100 percent of coronavirus droplets and aerosol emitted from the mouth and nose. Coronavirus is a heavier, bigger matter, so these coverings can block their release.
The coverings can also somewhat prevent you from inhaling these droplets through your mouth and nose, thus also reducing the potential for you to get sick.
We know from research that these droplets can spread more than the 6-foot distance we have been told to keep from other people. Between the aerosol nature of a sneeze and the wind carrying these heavier droplets through the air, we should be making as much room as possible for each other.
Meanwhile, golfers throughout much of the United States are still able to play golf, with golf courses open in the overwhelming portion of states and localities. The golf courses that can remain open do so with safety precautions in place, like spacing out tee times more than usual, closing the pro shop and other facilities, not taking money or credit-card payments on-site and eliminating shared surfaces, like ball washers, bunker rakes and water coolers from the course. Cups have been modified to be raised out of the ground or lined with a material, like a pool noodle, to prevent balls from going to the bottom of the cup and potentially touching a shared surface.
Throughout a round, golfers typically spend the overwhelming portion of the time spaced well more than 6 feet apart. For most of a typical round, the rare times walking golfers are even within 10 feet of each other is around the putting surface or on tee boxes. However, those situations can easily be prevented with basic awareness.
Which face mask or covering should you wear on the golf course?
Wearing a mask or face covering could be a good idea while playing golf, particularly when in close quarters on the tee and around the green. Golfers don't have to wear surgical-style masks. Besides, they should be for medical professionals, first responders and front-line workers. But golfers can use lighter coverings that are used often in other sports, like Buff products or neck gaiters, which are multi-functional headwear that can be worn a variety of ways, including as a face mask. Buff makes coverings in a variety of styles and with a variety of materials, including cooler, lighter materials all the way up through merino wool. They're a reasonable cost, anywhere from $25-$35 for the most part, and you can wash them after use. You'll also be able to use them when you go fishing to keep protected from the sun, or to keep warmer when you go skiing, and so on. Martin Kaymer famously wore a Buff at different points during the 2011 WGC Match Play.
I personally have a few Buffs and have used them over the years to stay warmer on cool days on the course, and they will do the job here, too.