• Alistair Tait

Golf matters in these troubled times

I’m playing golf on Thursday and Friday. I might even play Saturday and Sunday too. The royal & ancient game matters in times like these.

If ever we needed respite, then it’s now. And the golf course provides that.

I agree with friend and colleague Martin Dempster in today’s Scotsman when he says we’re lucky to play a game where we can still get exercise and entertainment in these troubled times. If we’re being advised not to go to the pub, a restaurant, cinema or theatre then those of us who love this stick and ball game are fortunate we can head to the golf course.

If ever there was a sport that practises “social distancing” then golf is it. As those who have played with me will attest, I never get too close to my playing companions anyway. I’m the guy usually playing from the trees at Woburn while the other three in group are in the middle of the fairway.

I played on Sunday and it was obvious Woburn members were already putting into place the government’s guidelines on not shaking hands. We bumped elbows in what could become the norm going forward. We don’t have to worry about refraining from hugging: we’re not that friendly.

Martin quotes Dr Catherine Troisi from a piece on Golfdigest.com. She’s an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. She advocates golfers continuing to play. She says:

“You’re not in contact with a whole lot of other people. Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that that is true for this novel coronavirus, as well. So I would say in the actual playing of golf, you’re not at much risk.”

There are things clubs can do to minimise that risk. Hesketh Golf Club has issued a six-point plan to members that many clubs would do well to follow: They are:

· Rakes have been removed from bunkers – treat as GUR

· Please leave the pin in the hole and removed the ball with utmost care

· Bins and ball washers have been decommissioned

· Only pick up your own ball

· Do not share equipment

· Keep your distance – 2 metres apart

Hesketh ends its missive with three very important messages:

· Enjoy your game

· The golf course gives fresh air, exercise and respite

· Keep on smiling

I say hear, hear! We can keep enjoying this game as long as we’re sensible and smart, albeit we might not always be smiling as we do so considering how bloody hard this game is.

So I’m heading to the golf course with my faithful friend Izzy as often as possible until told to do otherwise.

Golf may be an insignificance considering what we’re going through, but the game really matters at times like this.

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