Don’t touch the flags! Golfers find a fairway to beat coronavirus handicap
How best to exercise with these tricky 1.5m social distancing ground rules in play? It’s more complicated than the offside rule.
A ping pong table is 2.74 metres long so that would seem okay but no doubles allowed. The NRL is on ice while that other contact sport, attempting to purchase toilet rolls at Woolies, seems to enjoy a small but dedicated following.
Sydney golfers, however, have risen to the challenge. While the sport’s governing body Golf Australia seems to have some misgivings, the NSW government advises golf can continue in line with ‘public health orders relating to public gathering limits, social distancing, and the elderly’.
The historic Mona Vale course (sea views and breezes guaranteed) has done everything to comply with the guidelines. Only pairs, not foursomes, to tee off together – well separated from those behind. Only one to a golf cart, no rakes in the bunkers and no need to touch the flag. All the golf carts are sanitised on return to the clubhouse.
The club has never been more booked up, as many see it as an opportunity to get out of the house, get fresh air and exercise. Many consider playing golf a lifeline, which is good for mental health.
There are regular announcements from the pro shop about social distancing as players prepare to tee off, with five minutes separation between pairs.
You can still get a hole in one (the ball just doesn’t drop quite as far down the hole), but the 19th for celebration or commiseration with a G&T is, for the time being, shut.
“I am playing one day in competition, and maybe two afternoons I get out here and play 10 holes, but you have got to book ahead or otherwise you don’t get on [to the course],” said long-time Mona Vale member Rosie Millington. “We don’t want to break the rules because we want to keep it open.”
Golf partner Marg Novaro said it was harder to get a slot as the numbers playing spread throughout the day. “Nobody touches the flags,” she said. “Normally you have got to lift the flag to get your ball out. They have lifted all the cups so you can retrieve your ball without everyone handling the flag.”
The club’s general manager Andy Hugill said the wait list to play a round had increased significantly. “We would normally average about 185 on a Saturday and at the moment the demand is about 245,” he said. “There are just so many people wanting to play golf.”
Club president Ross Fleming said they had implemented rules suggested by Golf NSW to suit local circumstances. “The NSW government has said golf is a game that can be played, while bowling clubs have had to close because you have got to actually touch things. A lot of people are saying thank goodness we can get out of the house and still play golf.”
Ms Millington got a hole in one just before Christmas. She got to wear the house crown and the club paid for free drinks all round. These days punters have to make do with less.
“You wouldn’t believe it – a lady got a hole in one the other day and the clubhouse was shut so it was all a bit flat for her,” Ms Millington said. “Everyone couldn’t have a drink for her. Maybe they will do it after all this has passed, I hope so. After 15 years she got her first hole in one.”