10 ways to play golf safely as courses open up across U.S.

Golfers putting.

These two golfers are keeping a safe distance and aren't touching the flagstick — top marks!

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Across the U.S., many non-essential businesses remain closed in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus. But leaders are increasingly likely to allow golf courses to open for some sort of play, recognizing the ability of golfers to socially distance while on the course. As a result, it’s the responsibility of courses — and golfers — to figure out how to play safely. In short, golf is a privilege! Let’s not screw it up. Here are 10 things to keep in mind as you head to the course.

1. Bring a mask.

There are plenty of times during play where you won’t need a mask. There’s plenty of room on the fairways (and in the rough, and in the trees) to maintain proper social distance from your playing partners. But there are potential contact points, most likely at the beginning and end of your round, where you’ll want one. Checking in, say, or mingling by the putting green, or interacting with staff. Remember that wearing a mask isn’t about you — it’s mostly about protecting the people you’re interacting with.

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2. Stash some hand sanitizer.

If nothing else, this will make you feel better if you come in contact with someone or something else that could be a potential point of transmission. Keep some hand sanitizer in your golf bag and use whenever necessary! Especially all you habitual face-touchers.

3. Don’t shake hands!

This goes for hugs, high-fives, low-fives, fist-bumps, belly-bumps and any other sort of physical contact, whether for greeting, celebration — anything, really. The 18th-green handshake was a nice tradition, sure. But it’s hardly necessary to enjoy each others’ company on the course. Keep those hands to yourself!

4. Walk it out.

Yeah, there are measures courses are taking to sanitize golf carts — and if you’re unable to walk, by all means consider taking a cart by yourself. But if you’re trying to decide between riding and walking, opt for the extra steps. Golf is a particularly good way to get outdoor exercise at the moment and walking maximizes that exercise while minimizing additional risk of transmission. I’m sure your cart guys are diligent and all, but this might not be the time to take that chance.

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5. No sharing!

It’s amazing how much we typically share during a round of golf. There’s that temptation to try a buddy’s new driver, or borrow a glove because you forgot one, or toss a ball to your friend because he just hit his in the water. Don’t do it! Usually, sharing is a sign of generosity. Now it’s the opposite, no matter your intentions.

6. Don’t grab any of the stuff you normally grab.

Bunker rakes. Flagsticks. Abandoned golf tees. Ball washers. Cups of water. Lost golf balls. Your buddy’s dropped towel. There are a nearly endless number of touchable items on a golf course, but if there’s a chance someone else has touched that same thing, better stay away.

golf courses open

7. Give your partners plenty of space.

Some courses are restricted to twosomes, but regardless of the number in your party, leave plenty of space. We all know about six feet for social distancing by now, and on the massive expanses of a golf course there’s no need to occupy the same airspace. This is especially true on tees and greens. Resist that temptation to crowd your opponent over a big putt. Hopefully next year you can get back in their grill for intimidation.

8. Use the bathroom pre-round.

Sorry, I know you’re not visiting this glorious website for advice on when to visit the latrine. But public bathrooms are a bit of a fraught scene at the moment, so I’d recommend using your home facilities before you head to the course.

9. Bring snacks.

With clubhouses and pro shops shut down across the country, this is the time to dial in your on-course nutrition. Granola bars. Beef jerky. Water bottles. White Claws. Whiskey. The only bummer is we’d recommend no sharing.

This is extremely dependent on your course’s setup, of course. If your facility is offering food and beverage services, we’d recommend supporting them, if you’re able to — even open courses are fighting lessened revenue streams for a litany of reasons. Bring some wipes, sanitize that cocktail-to-go, and head on down the fairway. Which brings us to No. 10:

10. Enjoy yourself!

There are plenty of health risks associated with staying home, too — both mental and physical. Take the opportunity to enjoy your time outdoors and remember that playing golf, when done the right way, is good for you. Yeah, there are some modifications you’ll have to make, but none of them will change the game at its core: you and some friends in the outdoors hitting a ball towards a faraway target. Golf, we hope, can be a respite from the uncertainty.

Be careful out there! Have some fun, too.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier

Golf.com Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/GOLF.com. The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.