I am not a doctor. I have never played a doctor on TV. I have not stayed in a Holiday Inn, watching medical shows and then claim I am a doctor.
My medical knowledge is quite limited. I know how to apply a bandage. It is nowhere near the expertise of Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Deena Hinshaw.
She has been a rock in delivering the message about COVID-19. Politicians should record her press conferences to see just how you answer questions from the media.
So, it is with great trepidation I step out of the box to disagree with her on the decision to close golf courses in our province. I know, this is selfish on my part as I am one of the over 43,000 golfers who enjoy the game at dozens of golf courses in Alberta.
First let me state I am fully understanding of the severity of COVID-19. My family and I have been dutifully practicing self-isolation. We are following all protocols when venturing to the store for grub. I have absorbed so much sanitizer and soap I am sure my inner organs are sparkling clean and will be for many more years.
Back to the decision by the good doctor. She has said she encourages Albertans to look at other ways to exercise without jeopardizing the health of others. She admits exercise is important for one’s physical and mental health. I am on board with that line of thinking.
Edmonton has closed off fenced dog parks, but people can still take Rover out for a romp if you keep your distance from other pooch walkers. If it gets too crowded, the next move is to shut those down. They are getting a short leash, but it is a leash. The city has also closed off lanes on some roads to allow for bikers to bike and walkers to walk so maybe we can allow golfers to golf.
Liquor stores and marijuana outlets have been deemed essential services. I have not heard an explanation for this decision, so it has me wondering. There needs to be a balance between essential and non-essential but also what is safe and not safe. You will not get 100% safety unless everything is shut down which doesn’t seem workable.
So, I am puzzled by the decision to pull the flags out on golf. With all due respect, I feel she has missed the fairway with this drive.
If there was ever a sport which social-distancing was a thing before COVID-19, golf is it.
You can easily play as an individual and never see another soul on the links. Even playing with three other players, rarely are you ever within six feet of each other on a fairway or a green. Players can easily give you some distance during any shot.
Many courses were ready to implement new rules which would drastically restrict the contact between golf course staff and players.
If you wanted to walk but use a pull cart, bring a disinfecting wipe with you and clean the handle. If you need to ride, you go alone in the cart and wipe it down.
Tee times can easily be booked online. You show up on time, wave at the staff and head to the first tee. We can separate tee times by 10-12 minutes so your chances of another group getting close to you are reduced. The course marshal can keep order on the course and if they see someone breaking the new rules, off the course they go. No argument. Maybe even take names and pass them along to other courses so these folks get their toys taken away like a misbehaving child.
Rakes and ball washers can be removed from the course and either the flags are pulled (which makes you hit for the centre of a green and that can be your best bet anyway) or the cup is raised slightly above ground. Any ball hitting the cup is considered in as long as the ball stays withing 18 inches of the hole. Some courses in Arizona have cut down a pool noodle and stick it on the bottom of the flag so the ball never falls in the cup. For some of us that result is nothing new.
Washrooms on the course can be shuttered with the only washrooms in the clubhouse, to be used with restrictions.
Once your round is finished, DO NOT shake hands. DO NOT hang around the parking lot discussing your round. Hop in your vehicle and get yourself home! If you feel even just a little ill, stay home!
If we follow the rules, we can make this work and not raise the curve. If things get out of hand because a bunch of knuckleheads take it upon themselves to go rogue, then we all pay the price-some more than others. This is like being given a little breathing room when grounded as a kid. Step outside the lines and the punishment is worse.
We all know the tragic results of catching this insidious virus but is that enough to keep the vast majority in check. I don’t have the answer. Maybe this is an opportunity to save many jobs and keep a business open in these tough times?
Thanks Dr. Hinshaw for all you have done so far.Making these decisions cannot be easy. You have plenty of support, but maybe give golfers a mulligan on this one? We promise to play safe! If we don’t, take the privilege away. Golfers may not like it but we get it.