10 surprising innovations golf has made to stay safe during the coronavirus

March 21, 2020
Who knew a pool noodle could help us play golf during a pandemic?

As we all hunker down best we can, the golf world seeks to provide some respite from the grim news of the day. When played under specific new sets of guidelines, golf can still serve as healthy recreation (but only when played carefully and creatively — read more about precautions to take HERE). Here are the 10 course innovations we’re most impressed with.

1. Pool noodles

Sandy Jamieson posted this particular innovation to Twitter: a cut-up section of a pool noodle used to reduce the depth of the hole. Why? In short, the noodle section makes it easy for golfers to hole their ball but still fetch it out without touching the sides of the cup — or anything, really, besides the ball itself. Now that is using your noodle.

2. PVC pipe

Same idea, different medium. Pinehurst posted photos Friday morning announcing it was incorporating this strategy on all its courses: a 2” diameter PVC pipe cut to 2.5” in length, then popped into the hole. Ta-da! No more germ transfer by the hole. (Keep washing those hands anyway, though.)

3. Cash box

Nine Springs Golf Course in Fitchburg, Wisc. has two delightful innovations, per WKOW. The first is a $10 greens fee. The second is a cash box in which to drop your 10 bucks. No handoff necessary, saving both golfer and cashier!

4. Raised cups

This is especially good news for mediocre putters. It’s literally impossible to lip out when the cups are raised above ground, making good every putt that hits the edge. The only question that remains is whether a hole-in-one under coronavirus rules would count or not…

5. Rake by foot

We know, some of you non-raking rascals already do this. But many courses have taken away bunker rakes, which seem like particularly prime candidates for passing along germs. Use your foot to smooth it out a little. Some people have argued bunkers should always be this way — if you want a good lie, keep it in the grass! But in this time of uncertainty we’d hardly begrudge you moving your ball out of a deep footprint.

6. One man at a time

Plenty of golfers have dreamed of having their favorite pro shop to themselves, shopping possibilities galore. In your dream you’d be roaming under different circumstances, for sure. But Beverly Golf & Tennis in Beverly, Mass. has instituted a one-at-a-time policy for its pro shop. Bravo.

7. No pins, period

I lived in Florida for a couple winters and found that private courses were often closed on Mondays, but with the right determination you could sneak on and play — provided you didn’t care about having flagsticks in the holes. You’d be surprised just how well things can work out if you just play to the middle of every single green.

Anyway, that’s the setup this week at Sweetens Cove in South Pittsburg, Tenn., where two holes are cut in each green, but no flagsticks. That’s one surefire way to make sure nobody touches the pin.

8. You can warm up — just not here

As someone who typically pulls into the parking lot five minutes before I’m expected to tee off, I’m well aware that courses typically prefer you’d arrive well in advance. But Salem News reports that Wenham Country Club is flipping the script this week, encouraging people to arrive directly in advance of their tee times. Crowd control!

9. Spaced-out tee times

Y’know those courses that jam groups out every eight minutes to maximize rounds? This approach is the delightful opposite. Arkansas Online reports that The Greens at North Hills is facilitating lower golfer density by spreading out tee times. Times every 20 minutes is a golfer’s dream — you’re less likely to wait for the group in front and less likely to feel the pressure of the crew behind you. Subscribe.

10. Outside check-in

Frequent fliers will agree that outdoor baggage check is a fantastic innovation. The Bend Bulletin reports that Bend Golf Club in central Oregon is taking a page from that book with check-in taking place outside. Fresh air equals lower transmissions rates, the experts say. Who are we to argue with them?

Oh, and the best news of all? In Myrtle Beach, they’ve done away with those pesky starters tickets. That’s one policy we can all agree is a win-win.

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