First round back: Coming to terms with your ‘new’ golf routine is key
Ed. note: The economy is reawakening, and so is golf. As states begin to loosen restrictions on the game, tee sheets at America’s courses are filling up again. To help chronicle this process and illuminate how the coronavirus pandemic has changed the game in ways both large and small, we’ve tapped our fleet of writers and editors — who are spread out across the nation, from New York, to Arizona, to Texas, to California — to document their first rounds back.
Previous installments: James Colgan on Bethpage State Park, on Long Island; Josh Sens on Turkey Creek GC, in Northern California; Sean Zak on Cherry Hills Golf Course, in Wisconsin; Alan Shipnuck on Pebble Beach, in California.
As a car-less Manhattanite weathering the quarantine, I wasn’t sure when I’d make it back out to a golf course. I’ve always relied on a combination of subways, trains and Ubers to get to the links, but even with protective measures, none of those options felt socially responsible during a global pandemic.
Then when I heard about Getaround from a friend, I thought it was my best shot. It’s basically like an Airbnb for cars and is super reasonably priced. For some reason, pre-quarantine, I’d never thought about renting a car with public transportation being so readily available. My first takeaway from my first round back? I should always rent a car from here on out. It’s so much easier — in some cases even cheaper — and makes so many more courses accessible.
Since this was my first round in a while, I figured I might as well play a new course for the first time, too. New York Country Club feels like your typical suburban golf course. Located in Spring Valley, N.Y., and about 35 miles from Midtown, the clubhouse sits atop a large hill and overlooks most of the course below. You can even see the city skyline from the 10th tee and 18th green.
New York State reopened golf courses a few weeks ago, so at this point I was a late bloomer getting out there. I think because I’ve already read about my colleagues’ experiences and have been keeping up with the changes courses are making, nothing felt too unexpected upon my arrival. I didn’t expect to go into the clubhouse or hit the practice green. Coming to terms with your new golf routine is key.
I played with two friends and a man from New Jersey who’d come to NYCC because he couldn’t get a tee time at his club, where they’re only allowing twosomes. Once we got off the first tee, like Sean Zak said, social distancing is quite easy. In fact, when you’re out on the course, life almost feels normal. That said, not being able to pull the pin, the guards in the cups and the lack of rakes were constant reminders of the state of the world right now, but even from six feet away, the golf course is still my favorite place to build friendships.
I almost always walk when I play, so I didn’t feel the impact of the no-cart rule. While I’ve been taking my fair share of walks around the city, it was nice to be able to smell the grass and the trees — something I surely took for granted before. However, like I said, the clubhouse sits on a hill, and the climb back up was no joke. The ninth hole (we teed off on 10, so it was our final hole) is basically straight uphill, so it felt like we got in more exercise than we’d bargained for — another pandemic positive, if you will.
But overall, the golf didn’t feel that different, which was a huge relief as I find my footing in this “new normal.” I feel so lucky that my favorite activity is still possible and really hasn’t required many modifications. In a world where so many things feel uncertain, golf feels like more of an escape than ever, and I am so, so thankful for that.