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


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