In April, competitive tournament golf is scheduled to begin in Northeast Ohio. A number of events are upcoming. But can tournaments still be conducted with the ongoing concerns about COVID-19? Is there a way to play an event while keeping social distancing in mind? Can tournaments be healthy and safe?

The short answer is yes — but only with some major changes to tournament operations and full consideration from the players themselves.

A number of medical experts have stated that an outdoor activity like golf is a safe, so long as players are mindful of their actions and they maintain social distancing.

Golf course operators have stepped up and adjusted their facility access and use policies to further ensure this safety, with cleaning and sterilization processes based on local and state recommendations and guidance from the CDC.

So after review of a number of healthcare resources, in consultation with golf course operators and a number of tournament directors, the following is a series of operational steps that will allow tournaments to be conducted.

In essence, golf tournaments cannot be social events for the foreseeable future. Instead, tournaments must be smartly-adjusted rounds of golf with online social/results components engaged in from home before and after. In other words: sign up, show up, play golf, go home, check results online.

By combining common-sense social distancing, golf course sanitizing practices and a few Local Rules, tournament golf can be an important way to give players an activity, an outlet and a focus as the world deals with the COVID-19 virus.

Of course, if anyone has an elevated temperature or feels ‘off’ in any way, it is critical that person STAY HOME! Respect the health and well-being of every other player, course staff member and event manager. It is up to each one of us individually to look out for us all!

LOCAL RULES AND OPERATIONS FOR SPRING 2020 GOLF TOURNAMENTS

– Tournament entries must be pre-paid online before a set deadline using services like Venmo, Zelle, Paypal, etc. to eliminate the exchange of cash or the handling of credit cards on-site. Players should expect that some events may charge a $2-3 credit card fee above standard costs to keep prize payments unaffected.

– Event check-in will be handled at the first tee only, to avoid gatherings in the clubhouse or pro shop.

– The interval between tee times will be extended to at least 10 minutes per time (or more) to prevent multiple groups of players from gathering at the tee.

– A player should check-in at the first tee only after the preceding group has teed off and left the teeing area, again to negate gatherings.

– The Rules Sheet for the day’s play will be posted online only, accessible by a mobile device as needed, so that extra paper need not be handled or passed around.

– Walking is encouraged. Otherwise, single rider carts should be used.

– No caddies, spectators or non-players are permitted to attend any event.

– Some courses may remove flag sticks from the course, and if so an online pin sheet will be provided. If flag sticks are in use, they must remain in the hole at all times and should not be touched; players may not pull the flag stick to chip or putt.

– Players should use their glove hand for ball-in-hole removal whenever possible, then disinfect or discard that glove after the round. Some courses may adjust cup depth using an interior ring so the ball is closer to ground level for easier removal.

– To further reduce touching the cup, Big Skins games and scramble events with teams of 3+ players should consider a Local Rule allowing par putts to be considered “good”. Individual and 2-player team events might consider bogey or any third putt on a green to be “good”. Stableford events should enforce picking up after a point cannot be earned.

– Bunker rakes will not be available. Players should smooth the sand with their foot after playing out of a bunker. The committee can decide to play the ball as it lies (bunkers are hazards, after all) or allow for “foot-rake and place”.

– One scorecard should be used for scoring all players in a group, so that cards need not be exchanged. After the round, scores for the group will be confirmed and collected verbally at an outdoor scoreboard, so that multiple players and Directors do not need to handle scorecards. The player keeping score for the group will read the card first to each player then to the Director to post to the board. Scoring confirmation then must be made verbally by each player to the tournament director after the hole-by-hole numbers for that player are posted. After posting, cards should be dropped into a box for safe-keeping, but will likely be discarded without being touched.

– Once a group’s scores are posted to the board, players must immediately leave the scoring area. Scoring results for an event will be posted online in short order after play. Players may not remain standing or seated around the scoreboard after completing their round.

– All ties split, including ties for first place. There will be no playoff, so players need not stay at the course after play.

– Prizes will be awarded via mail or online only, distributed within a short time frame after the completion of the event. Sending prizes prevents the need to handle cash or gift certificates immediately after play, and eliminates the need for players to congregate at one location after an event.

 
New ideas, edits, local rules or variations may be posted to this story as operational realities become apparent.

Registration requirements will be listed on the Tournament Calendar page for each event, so be certain to read them.

Don’t miss a signup deadline or skip a pre-payment or a registration process if you want to play this Spring. These are health and safety measures, so it’s not too much to ask that they be followed if you want to play…

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