Golf in the Time of Corona

If you are in your 70s in this month of March 2020, you are probably suspected of being infected by the Corona Virus – which brings us, of course, to golf. Daily life for everyone in March is grinding to the halt we elders experience all the time. In many cases they want to forbid us to leave the house. Recreation is generally a no-no.

However, comma, your personal practice does not qualify as “recreation.” Golfing practice is not play; it is introspection, perhaps even meditation. An abandoned football field can be all you need to spend the time they are trying to take from us. Even if you have just a small patch of land to escape to, they cannot shut it down, like they can a real golf course. A lot of park space may be even more empty than on work days. Or a sandy beach can be all you need to perfect shots in your Short Game. (Make a circle in the sand and hit to land within it.) And you don’t have to be in a group. You don’t even need a friend. Your golf club is friend enough.

We have earned that time by ourselves, by mingling a lifetime with the maddening crowds. Now, if we are confined to the house as 70 year olds, we might die safely in our rockers, or see some dear old movies come round again. Those of us with eyesight may rediscover reading. However, it turns out to be a great time to rediscover – and replenish – your golfing skills. There are probably 1000 short, free golf videos that can improve your understanding of parts of your game, and you can even get golf instruction by sending online instructors videos of your swing. There is always living room — or hall way — practice in putting… just find about 10 feet of unobstructed carpet. Many golf instructors say you can improve your overall consistency and club speed by taking 100 swings a day (, in a back yard or alley where you won’t destroy your ceiling).

Or, if you are exceptionally lucky, you may find a golf course open to the public. It may be the ultimate compromise in social isolation. The very threat of flying golf balls automatically keeps everyone at a distance. There are broad, wide open fairways with sweet air circulating freely and filling your lungs and pulsating like the beating heart of God. Only your own golf balls and your own clubs to touch. Vitamin D from the sunshine – even it is a little chilly as it is in Seattle now. But if Seattle can allow its courses to be open, semi-quarantined as we are, then any place can allow golf.

Here’s what our local municipal course is doing: 1. Limiting lines in the golf shop so only one or two players are inside to pay ( – soon that should all be online). 2. Closing the snack shop/restaurant. 3. Closing the driving range because eventually balls touched by one person can carry disease to another. 4. Raising the cups in the holes on every green (photo above), so one doesn’t reach into a much used cup for the ball, or need to remove the flag stick. Because your ball just has to touch the raised cup, at any speed, this should help everyone’s score.

I would suspect that soon they will stop renting germy carts, so everyone will be walking as golf was in its healthy beginnings. As it is, every golfer seems very careful to touch only his or her gear and balls. As far as I can discover from Google, corona virus on shoes and the ground is not an issue since respiratory droplets dissipate in the ground. But that solitary finding was in the China Daily News, so I’ll try to find other scientific opinions.

It may be my last such walk for a while, but yesterday was a glorious day for Golf in the Time of Corona. Minus chunking a few dirt balls and watching a few long slices disappear into thick forests, our outing was as satisfying as the first day of Spring. In fact it was the first day of Spring. So, here’s hoping that that your expansive golfing refuge remains until the scourge passes, when everyone of every age can mingle and joke… and touch… again.

Copyright 2020 — David Hon


Golf in the Time of Corona – Part 2

It has been 4 weeks now since our State closed down the golf courses completely, as part of a large shutdown of all non-essential businesses, including restaurants and bars. The reasoning for shutting down all recreation, even when public course operators modified our local golf to keep immense distance between players, and hands off anything touched by anyone else, is a little unclear. One local public health official said shutting down golf was necessary because if the public saw golfers having fun, that public would not think other prohibitions like, say, against arm wrestling in taverns, were actually serious. Golf probably spreads no viruses; nothing at all but joy (and a little disappointment on a few shots). However, now golf has to suffer as well.

Those of us who doubted they could shut down a large golf course pressed our noses against the closed steel gates. Most golfers put their clubs in the garage and turned to TV or procrastinated yard work. .After a burst of activity the state closed off even mountain hiking trails. The officials here in Seattle wanted us to wear masks to go to the stores and doctors’ offices, but still allow us to walk maskless only around the neighborhoods for exercise. That’s when I decided to take my golf to the streets.

If you are in your 70s you can walk with a golf club like a cane and no one knows what roguery you are up to. A couple of balls in a pocket or fanny pack, and you are off on a jaunt through the various small parks in the city. Moving from one to the other, you will most certainly have the opportunity to practice a few shots in most of them. Like any good city park golfer, you must watch closely for baby carriages, or couples sneaking about to smooch behind some shrub. Dogs may seem far away, but nothing attracts them like a ball flying through the air. If they have a lightweight owner, he or she may get dragged for several yards, running after, digging in heels, and maybe sliding on tummies or bottoms behind the romping dog.

For this reason, I would suggest you take only a pitching wedge, and do not hit in any area in which 30-40 yard shot could get away from you. Have a target like a tennis ball that you can toss out that far (but again watch for romping dogs dragging their owners across the grass), and don’t make any swing if you can’t absolutely 100% control. One-quarter swings are best. Work on short distance accuracy in these small parks. Yelling “fore” is not an alternative either. The pedestrian always wins the case against the driver.

A good idea would be to carry a few whiffle balls or sponge rubber balls, which you can buy cheaply online if you’ve never bought any before. Any of these will help you develop a stroke that swoops exactly between the ball and the ground, and lifts the ball up for a short distance from you until some breeze catches it. The best of these “substitute balls“ are foam rubber with a dimple hard shell, and they slice if your usual ball would slice, and fly about one quarter the distance your usual ball would go if you hit it well. It does look like a real golf ball, however, and may well terrify mothers with baby walkers, so be kind.

Just recently they closed off roads into all of the larger city parks, limiting them to walkers, so now without families and their little picnics, I have many more opportunities to hit. Except for one thing. I do not know what action the police or the maintenance people in the parks will take if they see me hitting on a nice expanse of grass. I’m sure their first instinct, if confronted, would be to forbid golf. Actually, I don’t want to be forbidden, so my best bet is to watch out for their vehicles. If they spot me, I start leaning on my club as a cane, covering as much of the head as I can with my hand. It seems to work. After all: who could deny an old man with a cane his walk in the park?

Copyright 2020 — David Hon


Golf in the Time of Corona – Part 3

When you are 75 years old, they will first chase you off the golf course…and then chase you off the streets. While walking with my golf club disguised as a cane, I came across several baseball fields. They are ideal for hitting balls up to 80 yards, and some even have fences that protect corona golfers from the intrusion of dogs and kids on bikes and moms with baby carriages. And no one is playing baseball, because even a sandlot game requires 10 players in some proximity. So why did the maintenance crew throw me off the field,  for merely hitting little balls a short distance? I think it was because I looked happy.

H.L. Mencken  observed how with our Puritan streak comes the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy. I will add that it seems OK to be working out. However, don’t be caught doing anything that remotely resembles play. (Playing in your 70s is even worse because, after all, statistics say you may die on the spot!)

(You may have seen this coming.) There are basically two kinds of people in the world: those who work out, and those who play. There are those who work out so that they can play better, but they always aim to play. I certainly do. I reveal here that I hate working out just to breathe hard and sweat. I believe I can only play now. Working out for its own sake is often a modern flagellation like those Middle Ages sinners who whipped themselves in penitence to God. Now the sin is being fat, I guess, or worry about getting fat or weak…or old. And in fairness we can remember that the ancient Greeks devised the Olympic Games to keep their soldiers always fit for war.

People also used to walk or run just to get someplace. Catching a bus or a criminal ( or running from a crime, of course). Trekking on trails in the forest. Little of that now, with Uber on our phones and mountain bikes with studded tires. Add to that racers who just like to exceed everyone else…but then that verges on play, does it not?

Then I noticed a little boy, spinning a hula hoop around his waist. This did not look like torture. He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere, either. He was simply defying gravity, for a short vacation. We elders are pretty far from defying gravity by now, but I caught myself wishing he would forget his hula hoop. If he did, then I could hit golf balls at it from 20-30 yards. What fun that would be.

He did forget to take the hoop with him when he ran off to join others, but his mother remembered, and peered at me oddly as she swooped in to rescue her son’s hula hoop (- just in time to vitiate my first shot). Why, I thought, should I not have my own hula hoop? On the way home, I stopped in a nearby “dollar” store. I bought four small hula hoops, each two feet in diameter. I’m going to leave you to imagine what I will do next with these hula hoops. Hula? Hardly. One hint: it will not be working out. It will not be torture. I’m also going to leave you to wonder what people on the street thought when they saw an old man with a cane (or golf club?) carrying 4 small hula hoops in his left hand. Hoops are very hard to hide.

Copyright 2020 — David Hon