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Sunday, May 31, 2020

Golf Rounds Surged as Coronavirus Advanced. Now the game is retreating.

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Barely a week ago, amateur golfers gathered on the fairways of public and private golf courses to home stay guidelines and lifestyle bans caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The golf course, with its large open spaces, always seemed safe.

In New Jersey Somerset County, the five municipal golf courses had 6,501 rounds of golf in the first 19 days of this month, a 300% increase from the number of rounds played in March of last year. A similar push in the game, with players observing social distancing and other limits on close interactions, was happening across the United States.

“The turnout almost overwhelmed us,” said Matt Kammeyer, golf manager for the seven courses in Salt Lake City. “Just a lot of happy and thankful people enjoying a round.”

This week, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the stay of golf has been short-lived. With tougher measures on public gatherings, our games, like everything else, live in the domains of the past and the present.

Over the weekend, dozens of cities and counties overseeing hundreds of golf facilities have closed or suspended play indefinitely on their courses, usually under the direction of government agencies. This included courses in Somerset County and Salt Lake City and in some Trump Resort properties. Dozens of courses remain open, but every day the mushroom calls to golf complexes with closed shutters.

“Some guys I talk to plan to go to Pennsylvania because some of their courses are open,” said Tom Avers, who plays about 100 rounds a year at Somerset, New Jersey courses, on Monday morning. “But I think they will probably close soon too.”

Kari Phoenix, the chief professional at Fort Myers Country Club in Fort Myers, Florida, said she still sees about 250 golfers on her course every day, but did not know how long it would last.

“It’s day after day, who knows?” she says.

Fort Myers is home to the Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins spring training complexes and is a popular winter destination for Canadians. But in the space of two weeks, baseball fans and tourists are gone. Nearby beaches, tennis courts and community pools have closed. Social gatherings in many retirement centers have been canceled. But thousands of retirees from the Fort Myers area stayed and played golf.

“They are mostly men, and many of them are widows and have nothing else to do,” said Phenix. “What are they supposed to do? It’s walking, biking and playing golf. They are very grateful that we are open – everyone stops to say thank you. “

Last week, the pandemic had brought about some noticeable changes in the world of recreational golf that would have been unimaginable a month ago. For example, golfers seemed less inclined to grumpily complain about their bad shots, cruel bogeys and heartless rebounds.

“The complaints are down,” said Bob Ransone, deputy director of the golf division of the Somerset Park Commission on Saturday, before his operations closed. “People are too grateful to be in a beautiful environment.”

Walking the course instead of driving a golf cart had become a new standard, which many golfers have advocated – to no avail – for decades because of the health benefits.

And the United States Golf Association, usually rigid, responsible for the laborious regulation of golf, even did everything possible last week to make the game and its rules easier.

In order to minimize contact between golfers, most golf courses had closed clubs and snack bars, bunker rakes and ball pucks removed, no caddies, and encouraged the use of online payment options. But an unsanitary condition of play remained: after having extinguished, golfers had to sink their hands into the golf holes to recover their ball, after dozens of golfers had done so before them.

Solutions from golf superintendents quickly abound, including foam inserts to keep the ball near the top of the hole. Many golf courses have even started to lift the cut of the white liner, which is normally inserted into a hole, about two inches above the ground. In this way, an approaching ball could not fall into the hole but would rather bounce off the cup.

Friday, the USG.A. has temporarily changed its rules to say that a ball bouncing off a cup in this manner would count as a sunken putt for the official score.

Golf without putts that pitilessly lift? For a week, golfers had another reason to smile.

It is not known when the majority of the nationally closed golf courses will reopen. It is also unclear how long the courses currently open will remain open in many disparate regions of the country. Private golf clubs, where most of the clubs are already closed, may or may not discourage play, but many are unlikely to be willing to stop their members from walking the course with a golf bag. Golfers also sneak onto some public courses.

“I passed on a closed public course yesterday and saw people playing golf on it,” said Avers, a golf enthusiast who lives in Morris Plains, New Jersey. “It’s probably safer than going to the grocery store.”

Dr. Kryssie Woods, epidemiologist and director of infection prevention at Mount Sinai West, a Manhattan medical center, wrote Sunday in an email that golfers should follow the advice of heads of government and health care professionals. staying at home.

“The more we follow the quarantine advice now, the sooner everyone can get back to normal life – including returning to the golf course,” Woods wrote.

Avers has stated that he accepts, understands and will heed the warnings.

“I guess I will do more landscaping and read a lot of books,” he said. “It’s going to be pretty boring.”

A week ago, the sun was up and Obverse was on a golf course. Monday brought heavy rain and even snow in parts of the northeastern United States.

“It was great,” he said. “Now it stinks.”

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