OPINION: Fun and games as golfers get back in the swing
The Covid-19 pandemic in the UK has claimed almost 40 000 lives, but the political powers that be have deemed enough of a flattened curve to return unrestricted living to a kind of normal earlier this week.
And golf courses were among the first to report activity on Wednesday, when more than 200 000 golfers took to clubbing out their frustrations of the past six weeks.
The UK started lockdown late and finished early and despite the obsession of many with golf, the Daily Mail reported that there wasn’t the expected stampede but more of a consistent flow of traffic on golf courses around the country.
This obsession with golf as a recreational activity won’t sit easily with the masses, whose only obsession currently is survival.
It may be painful to absorb, but golf factors large among the privileged and is massive in the professional global sporting landscape.
One of the most-asked questions daily on social media platforms involved golf.
Why socially was it a threat? When would it return as a spectator sport, and why couldn’t it be played professionally, given it was not a contact sport?
You may have an opinion or a preconceived prejudice at the arrogance of these questions, but please don’t shoot the messenger.
Golf is big business, recreationally and professionally.
In the UK, like in many other countries, there seemed to be a greater focus on whether golf clubs would survive the economic shutdown than there was on businesses that speak to our everyday lives.
What interested me more than the spoilt and privileged bemoaning that they’d lost out on their “twice-a-week” golf days, was how the sport would facilitate the return of the professionals.
A 37-page working document, leaked to the Daily Mail, revealed all:
Players will be subjected to three coronavirus tests in a questionnaire, a thermal reading and a nasal swab or saliva test before they travel to a tournament and once they arrive at a tournament.
This will be followed by a further questionnaire and a thermal reading every day when they get to the course.
Caddies can carry bags but they may not touch the player’s club. They must also keep a physical distance.
The caddies, outside of being bag carriers, are allowed to offer verbal input to the golfer from a distance, and manually may rake the (sand) bunkers and hold flagsticks on the greens. They have to wipe down this equipment with disinfectant before and after use.
The players will also travel to events via charter flights, with no more than 170 players and caddies on any flight.
All player families and support crew, with the exception of the caddies, are banned from the course. Spectators are banned.
Each player is allowed one coach and interpreter, but they must always be 2 metres apart and may not touch any equipment.
The event attendance will be limited to 40 members of the media, security staff, PGA Tour officials and rules and scoring officials.
Estimates are that 1000 people will be in attendance, with players and caddies making up 150 of those at each tournament.
Everyone has to submit to the tests or they won’t be allowed on to the course.
Positive tests will result in a 10-day self-quarantine. If a player tests positive during the event, the player will be withdrawn immediately and given the prize money of finishing last.
This is the theory, at least, and all of it will be tested with the game’s first PGA tournament since its suspension after the first round of the Players Championship in March.
Is it just me, or do you also see the irony in the first event, to be played on June 11-14, being the Charles “Schwab” Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas?
* Mark Keohane is an award-winning sports journalist and a regular contributor to Independent Media.