Singapore: Underscoring its reputation as a safe and healthy activity, golf has been at the forefront of sport’s return as Covid-19 lockdown measures ease up.
While restrictions remain for most contact sports, golfers have been allowed to return to golf courses around the region to enjoy a welcome combination of fresh air and exercise.
“It’s been fabulous to see the re-opening of golf clubs. In many countries, golf was the first sporting activity to be allowed to resume,” said Eric Lynge, Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Golf Industry Federation.
“Governments and health officials have seen the many benefits that golf offers, hence their decision to resume the sport. The industry has played its part in some cases, reinforcing evidence that golf with precautions is safer than most other sports and, in many cases, essential activities such as going to the market,” he added.
As well as the physical benefits of being outdoors and active, numerous reports have quoted medical and well-being experts as saying being on a golf course helps relieve mental stress.
Lynge said: “Australia led the way in developing a golfing only practice, where most clubhouse functions were closed but golf is allowed with limitations on flight size and flight spacing. Meanwhile, best sanitisation processes for both golfers and maintenance staff were implemented. In this way, most of Australia’s golf courses stayed open during their version of lockdown.”
Asian courses have all adapted similar practices in staying open or re-opening. In the past 45 days, courses in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, India, Pakistan, New Zealand and Hong Kong, as well as the Middle East, have all resumed golfing activities.
Golf courses in Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia, Myanmar and Cambodia, like Australia, mostly stayed open.
“We have been interviewing club General Managers from across the region on our Asian Golf Industry Federation podcasts and the adaptation to the new normal by clubs has been impressive,” said Lynge.
While fundamentally the sport remains unchanged, golfers are having to become accustomed to the introduction of local rules that have been adopted to enhance safety, while still observing the rules of the game.
As well as the spacing out of tee-times, most clubs enforce a one person per buggy rule, while players are reminded to avoid physical contact with their playing partners, dispensing with hand shakes and high-fives.
On the courses, bunker rakes have been removed, while foam-based implants have been installed inside the holes to prevent golf balls from dropping to the bottom of the cup. The purpose of removing bunker rakes and form inserts is to prevent golfers from touching items such as rakes and flagsticks that would normally be contacted by many people.
Furthermore, at many clubs Moveable Obstructions, such as waste bins, directional signs and ropes, are being deemed as Immovable Obstructions in order to prevent golfers from touching any of the obstructions on the course.
Another noticeable change is the absence of printed scorecards with players encouraged to keep track of their scores digitally. Scorecard submission boxes and shared handicapping computer terminals have also been removed at many venues.
While courses are open, clubhouse facilities are limited at most venues and food and beverage service is restricted to takeaways.
Not that golfers seem too concerned. They’re just thrilled to be back playing the game they love.