Golf Is The Answer

Golf takes a beating, and rightfully so, for some of its norms.

Playing 18 holes takes too long, it’s expensive, the game is too difficult and not even the best players understand the rules.

And some of the outfits look like they belong in the 1970s, not on a guy shooting in the 70s.

But if the coronavirus that uprooted daily life, killed more than 110,000 Americans and locked down parts of the country for months has proven, it’s that golf is the one sport left standing.

Golf is like twinkies after a nuclear bomb: It survives.

Yes, all the major professional golf tours stopped operating in mid-March because galleries greatly enhance the opportunity to spread COVID-19. The Players was canceled after the first round, the Masters (Nov. 12-15), the

PGA Championship (Aug. 6-9) and the U.S. Open (Sept. 17-20) were rescheduled. The British Open was outright canceled, but the Ryder Cup (Sept. 25-27) stayed put.

Golf was suspended in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties as politicians dealt with a once-in-a-lifetime crisis. But, throughout the state, golf as it’s meant to be played – alone or with up to three partners – still was being played. And not just by weekend hackers.

And why not?

Golf is played outdoors, under the sun, with plenty of fresh air and room for social distancing. (We golfers always ask about our distance on the course!)

“If there’s any sport that can be played during the coronavirus, it’s golf,” said Brett Burton, the head professional at Heritage Ridge Golf Club in Hobe Sound whose father, Nelson Burton Jr., is a Hall of Fame bowler.

“You’re out in the open, the weather is warm and you have all the room in the world. It’s the perfect sport for what we’re dealing with right now.”

So take that all, of you golf mockers. Who’s laughing now, especially when the three aforementioned counties reopened courses in late April and early May?

No club, public or private, was spared as the coronavirus hit the United States. Tournaments were eliminated, clubhouses closed, food and beverage service eliminated. Only one player per cart, if there were enough carts at the facility.

“You’re out in the open, the weather is warm and you have all the room in the world. It’s the perfect sport for what we’re dealing with right now.”
          – Brett Burton, Head Professional, Heritage Ridge Golf Club

Private clubs lived up to their names and stopped guests from playing, limiting it to members. Most clubs have discontinued the use of caddies, taken rakes off the course and asked members to keep the pins in the holes to cut down the risk of spreading the virus.

Valet service had been eliminated – oh, the horror of self-parking – carts were and are being wiped down before and after every round and hand sanitizers have been placed course-wide.

All prudent measures. But golfers continue to play through. And that’s prudent, as well.

“I’d rather spend four hours on the golf course on a great day like this than sit in the house and watch the depressing news,” Jeff Moffett said in late February after completing a round at Lake Worth Golf Club.

Across the Intracoastal Waterway, no golf was being played at Palm Beach Par 3. One of the world’s most picturesque short courses was the first one in South Florida to announce it was closing because of the virus.

“It’s a shame we had to close because we were having the best year ever,” said Tony Chateauvert, Palm Beach Par 3’s general manager and head professional. “But the town decided to put safety ahead of revenue. You put it that way, it’s a pretty simple decision.”

Most South Florida courses have reopened, still hoping to weather the lingering coronavirus storm. And that’s a great thing in these bizarre times.

Chasing a little white ball is a distraction over the seemingly endless bad news that’s unfolding in our world. Playing 18 holes can cleanse the mind, work up a sweat and remind us of simpler times.

Like three-plus months ago.

The Honda Classic was so fortunate it ended March 1, before people were worried about washing their hands or standing within 6 feet of the person near you. A record weekly crowd of more than 200,000 showed up at PGA National.

Had this been next year’s Honda Classic, there wouldn’t have even been one. Honda officials asked the Tour to move its event to March 15-18. The Valspar Championship, which had those dates this year.

South Florida course operators were also lucky the virus hit during the end of the lucrative tourist season, not at the start of it. Most area courses were having record years.

Alas, the virus has taken a large bite out of the business, and it almost certainly will continue in the coming weeks and months as tee times remain limited, travel is curtailed and the economy in general has its own mind.

“There’s no question there are going to be challenges in revenues and it’s going to affect the bottom line of all facilities,” Geoff Lofstead, executive director of the South Florida PGA, said this Spring. “Fortunately, we have gotten through a significant part of the season. Many were having record seasons until this hit.”

Some in the industry believe the virus may actually help golf in the long run because it has brought back former players and introduced newcomers to the sport because they are desperate to do anything outdoors.

Almost 6 million viewers tuned in to watch “The Match: Champions for Charity” involving Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning at Medalist. Yes, the sport was missed.

Time will tell, though it’s difficult to believe there will be many winners when the coronavirus is over – if it’s over.
One thing is certain: Golf has provided a much-needed respite in miserable times. What other sport can say that?

Leave A Reply