• Alistair Tait

Golf is not essential right now


That sound you hear?

It’s my jaw hitting the floor. That was my first reaction to the news Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has decreed golf is one of his state’s “essential services and activities.” Golf courses remain open in Arizona.

It means golf tournaments can also take place, which is why, as former colleague Beth Ann Nichols reports, this week’s Cactus Tour event can take place at Sun City Country Club. It features 19 players who will play in two balls (wonder who’s going to be designated Billie no mates). The tournament follows on from last week’s event, when winner Sara Burnham earned $2,800 and a roll of toilet paper.

Cactus Tour boss Mike Brown has vowed to keep his circuit going as long as courses are open. It’s clearly a controversial move, and Brown is ready for criticism. He said:

“I can take the heat, so the girls don’t get it,”

Arizona, like many states, currently has a stay at home order in place. Yet, according to Jason Lusk, another former colleague, the National Golf Foundation of America reports that most U.S. golf courses remain open during this pandemic.

Unbelievable!

Golf is essential to my career, my life, but playing the game right now isn’t. The thought that we can carry on playing while the world crashes around us proves yet again why golf still retains its elitist reputation. The message it sends out is not a good one when we are being told to stay at home so as not to spread the coronavirus. If golfers can congregate on golf courses, then why not walking clubs, running clubs, climbing clubs, etc?

I’m sure those playing the Cactus Tour this week will be trying to practise social distancing, as will the majority of those recreational golfers taking to the links. However, with the best will in the world, there will be times when players come within two metres of one another, when players touch the flagstick out of habit. And, of course, that many people heading to golf courses means more people on the roads. At some point they have to fill up their cars and potentially come into contact with others.

As I’ve said before, there’s nothing I’d like more right now than to head to the golf course for some respite from this nightmare. However, we all have our part to play at this time and that part is to stay home, stop the spread and save lives. Why that message isn’t being strictly adhered to by golfers in the United States, and by a small minority sneaking onto golf courses in the British Isles, baffles me.

Surely those who play a game built on strict adherence to the rules, on etiquette, on doing the right thing, should know the right thing to at this present moment is to stay at home?Maybe they think they’re the dance band on the Titanic.

I’m reminded of a quote from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe:

“The hardest thing to see is what is in front of your own eyes.”

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