In an effort to catch a break from anxiety, boredom and coronavirus news nonstop, I made a trip to the golf course the other day.
This was not long after Gov. Doug Ducey issued his March 23 executive order identifying “essential services” to be immune from closure orders during the COVID-19 quarantine period.
Ducey’s decision to include golf courses on that list has drawn a ton of criticism since then, from mayors statewide to scolding pundits to the self-appointed social media quarantine police.
Me? Personally, I felt safer from COVID-19 infection on the golf course than I have in the grocery store, the gas station, the pharmacy, driving through a fast food joint, on local hiking trails and in casual face-to-face conversations with friends and neighbors—chats held at a distance of at least 6 feet, of course.
Equally importantly, because of the acreage of the golf course and the social distancing rules in effect, I can’t imagine how I could possibly have infected another soul, if for some reason I’m a coronavirus carrier.
What was different between a typical golf round and playing 18 amid a pandemic?
The Arizona Biltmore course, where I played, has instituted a comprehensive set of rules for golfers, beginning with restricting players to walking or a maximum of one person per golf cart.
No more than four golfers were allowed into the pro shop at one time. Staff members were outfitted with rubber gloves and enough sanitizing equipment to disinfect a toxic waste dump.
The restaurant was closed to guests, leaving “to go” food as the only option.
Nor did the protective measures end once we teed off. Carts were sanitized before and after the round. Golfers weren’t allowed to touch the flags when putting. Rakes were gone from the sand traps.
The biggest change was to the actual golf holes: The course had flipped the cups upside down, so any putt that hit the plastic rim counted as good.
This made one of the world’s toughest sports a lot easier—and stopped golfers from making contact with the cups and flags.
The course also asked people to avoid the traditional post-round handshake. I’ve never witnessed more “air” high fives in my life.
As for the potshots aimed at Ducey, I think the governor—who has done far better than most elected leaders at handling this crisis—did himself no favors by declaring golf as an “essential service” along with businesses like beauty salons.
But that seems mostly a semantic problem having to do with the word “essential.”
Could a human being live for months or years not going to the golf course? Sure. Golf is optional, unlike buying groceries, fueling up the car or having a prescription refilled.
But at a time when safe forms of recreation and businesses that put people to work are in short supply, I think Ducey made the right call.
It’s easy to portray golfers as privileged nitwits sacrificing the health of the public while the state descends into chaos. The trouble is that has zero to do with reality as Arizona is currently living it.
Every credible medical authority I’ve read or heard in the last month has suggested that we should exercise abundant caution for as long as this crisis persists.
If you can get some exercise—and a mental health break—on the golf course while taking care to practice social distancing and cleanliness, I don’t have a problem with it.
I had fun on the course for four hours, which is more than I can say for the days immediately before and after. It was, to paraphrase the famous quote about the game, a good walk sanitized.