This week, the game’s allied organizations, which include the LPGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, USGA, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, Club Managers Association of America, the National Golf Course Owners Association and others, released a three-phase national framework as well as operational guidelines to assist golf operators in reopening courses around the nation.
According to PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh, who spoke to a small group of reporters this week, the initiative, dubbed “Back2Golf,” established guidelines in conjunction with the CDC that were informed by the White House’s “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.”
“We were, quite frankly, surprised and pleased by the cooperation and engagement we encountered from the CDC,” Waugh said. “Officials there were certainly happy to hear from us and eager to help.”
Jay Karen, CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association, told LPGA.com that the guidelines were “written for the golf course owner and operator who wants to reopen and do so in as responsible a manner as possible,” but admitted that where the guidelines run contrary to executive orders or local ordinances, “the law is the law.” No organizational guidelines will take precedent over governing officials.
“The guidelines are broad enough and presented in three phases so that operators throughout the country, which may be in very different places regarding COVID-19, can apply them to their situations,” Waugh said.
As of May 8, almost 90% of courses in the United States were opened for some form of play as long as golfers adhered to social distancing rules and other restrictions. Most courses require that flagsticks remain in the holes, and many operators have removed bunker rakes and water coolers. The USGA even made special accommodations so that scores could be posted under these modified conditions for handicap purposes.
Some clubs have seen rounds increase by as much as 40% during this time as people who are home use golf as a tool to get outdoor exercise while remaining a safe distance from others.
“The Back2Golf Playbook and Guidelines that the PGA of America and golf's allied organizations have put together are both comprehensive in nature and, most importantly, lay out a responsible way to get back on the golf course,” said Dr. Bradley Connor, Clinical Professor of Medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College and an Attending Physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell campus. “The guidelines emphasize social distancing and other preventative measures in alignment with the plan established by The White House and CDC. Golf is a terrific recreational outlet that offers a number of physical and mental health benefits.
“While we all must remain vigilant and continue to take precautions, this plan allows golf to be played in keeping with social distancing best practices,” Dr. Connor continued.
“I applaud the golf industry for helping to be part of the solution to get us back outdoors in a healthy and responsible manner.”
“The importance of social distancing and responsible behavior during this pandemic has become a part of everyone’s daily life,” Waugh said. “Reopening golf responsibly under strict social distancing practices is something we can all unify behind. While we recognize there is no perfect solution and various areas of the country will progress in these phases at a different pace, it is imperative that we reopen golf in a way that prioritizes the health and wellbeing of the entire golf community.”
Back2Golf is another example of the industry coming together in a time of crisis and collaborating for the good of the game and its millions of participants.
“Golf inherently provides many health and fitness benefits, including the opportunity to spend time outdoors with family and friends, which is needed now more than ever,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of World Golf Foundation. “It is a sport that naturally lends itself to social distancing and the ‘Back2Golf’ guidelines. We greatly appreciate the collaboration between all the allied golf organizations.”