Enjoy your game”, said a nice man as myself and a friend left the first tee at Aberdour on Sunday afternoon. I’d never seen him before in my life, but, of all the days for someone to say that out of the blue, it was actually quite comforting.
Given everything going on at the moment due to the coronavirus, I had a feeling that someone could actually have been waiting on that first tee to say we shouldn’t be going out to play golf.
If truth be told, I’d been put on edge slightly by someone highlighting on social media earlier in the day about the dilemma of having to pull out the pin or rake a bunker without touching them.
As a result of that, from start to finish I paid a lot more attention than normal to what I was doing on my way around the golf course. But, hand on heart, there was hardly anything that has left me with cause for concern about continuing to play over the weeks and months ahead.
I accessed the clubhouse with a swipe card and retrieved my clubs and golf shoes from my locker, feeling very comfortable about that. The only time, in fact, that I felt someone could have picked up on anything before actually getting out on the course was that I had to push a button to exit the locker-room.
As for those aforementioned concerns about pins, bunker rakes and also picking the ball out of the hole, they actually proved easy to overcome bearing in mind, of course, that golf is a game that, for most people anyway, already involves wearing a glove.
As is now permitted in the game, even in competitions, we left the pin in all the time. I normally take my glove off when I’m putting, but I didn’t on this occasion and had no worries whatsoever dipping my gloved hand into the hole. I also used that hand to pick up a rake on a couple of occasions.
Once or twice, I had thoughts going through my head – when placing a tee in the mat, for instance – but, honestly, there was absolutely nothing that left me thinking that golf should not be encouraged in the current situation.
It has built-in “social distancing”. Rarely do you ever find yourself crowded or with someone in your face on the golf course. And, of course, the maximum number of players you can have in a group is four.
To me, it has to be one of the safest places anyone could be at the moment and, by the sounds of things, the medical experts are of the same opinion. “You’re not in contact with a whole lot of other people,” Dr Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston told golfdigest.com.
“Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that that is true for this novel coronavirus, as well. So I would say in the actual playing of golf, you’re not at much risk.”
Yes, of course, adjustments need to be made around the actual playing part and that, unfortunately, is probably going to see clubhouses a lot emptier than they would normally be, especially with some better weather hopefully just around the corner.
However, at a time when an antidote is badly needed, golf can be just that. As that friendly man in the group behind us at Aberdour on Sunday would say, keep enjoying your game!