The Ettiquetteist: Why you shouldn’t feel guilty about playing golf in these trying times

March 18, 2020
golfers walk in the fairway

Golf is an ancient game, but guilt is even older.

Too bad the two often go hand in hand.

For every duffer who takes to the tee with a clean conscience, there are untold others who go about their rounds with the nagging sense that they should probably be doing something else.

Like, say, spending time with family, or advancing their careers. You know, trivial stuff like that.

While these conflicted feelings are nothing new, they have now taken on a new a dimension.

Given the current climate, the question is: should we feel guilty about playing golf at all?

In many cases, matters of golf etiquette are at least loosely covered by the Rules of Golf; we can look to the governing bodies for some guidance.

In this instance, though, we should look first to the government itself. As in, the rule of law.

A number cities and municipalities around the country have issued shelter-at-home orders. In these areas, all non-essential businesses have been shuttered, including golf courses.

If you’re sneaking out to play in any of those places, you aren’t just breeching etiquette. You’re breaking the law.

In much of the United States, though, golf continues and The Etiquetteist would argue that that’s more than okay. It is, in fact, a boon for the common good (and for both mental and physical wellbeing), provided that those courses are abiding by public health guidelines and the golfers themselves are taking proper precautions — common sense measures that you can read about here.

In a tweet Wednesday morning, none other than Phil Mickelson said that he’d just played golf while following these guidelines. “. . it was nice to get outside, be active and still be safe for myself and others.”

That’s pretty much the sum of it.

Public health is paramount, of course, but mental health is also important. So long as the latter doesn’t compromise the former, golf can still be played in the same way that it should always be pursued: with a sense of gratitude, and, yes … guilt free.

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