Welcome Back to Golf, Now Make Sure You Follow the Rules

Credit:

FRANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images

Welcome back to golf, wherever you are.

While some states never closed their courses due to the COVID-19 pandemic and others have been open for a few weeks, New Hampshire permitted courses to open for business Monday, meaning that all 50 states have now instituted that declaration.

Granted, some individual cities and counties – not to mention Washington D.C. – have ordered courses to remain closed for the time being, we have collectively reached a tipping point: If you live in the U.S., you may now drive to a course in your state and play golf.

Those words should be music to the ears of any quarantined hacker who wants to get back on the links, but this doesn’t mean that golf has returned just as it’s always been.

There are some new rules now, regarding playing during the pandemic. Here are 10 of ‘em to abide by the next time you tee it up:


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1. Don’t touch anyone else.

You probably know this already, but just in case you needed a reminder: No hugging, no chest-bumping, no butt-slapping. It doesn’t matter if your partner made a crucial 5-net-4 on the No. 7-handicap hole and you just absolutely need to show your gratitude.

Phil Mickelson has made an entire career out of smiling and giving a thumbs-up from more than six feet away. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for you.

2. Make sure everyone brings a mask.

In today’s climate, we really can’t be too careful. We need to take every possible precaution to help contain exposure to the virus. We need to ensure not only our own safety, but the safety of others.

In related news, wearing a mask should help mute the guy who chirps too much about his one birdie and the other guy who wants to explain all his bad breaks in painstaking detail.

3. Channel your inner Bryson DeChambeau.

No, this isn’t slow-play innuendo or a 20-pounds-of-added-muscle reference. I’m talking about putting with the flagstick in. Wherever you are, whether the cups are normal, just barely under the hole or raised above ground, you’ll have to get used to putting at a target with a metal stick in the middle of it. Most golfers would rather have it out, but try to look at the bright side: Now you’ve got a built-in excuse.

I recently witnessed a buddy leave his third putt short of the hole, then grouse, “I hate putting with the flagstick in!” Pretty sure that’s not what kept the ball from going in, but hey, anything that deflects blame for your own faulty flatstick is a bonus.

4. Don’t make fun of your buddies.

Remember going home for winter break during your first year of college and seeing which of your friends had gained the Freshman 15? Well, you’re about to witness the Quarantine 20. Life has been different these past several weeks. We’ve all started drinking earlier and kept eating later.

You’ll undoubtedly notice that some of your buddies’ swings have a different plane, while also noticing they’ve created a new notch in their belts. Well, it’s not polite to say anything. Besides, they’re bigger than you now, so it’s probably not smart to say anything, either.

5. Don’t let your buddies make fun of you.

You know that old line which states that if you’re sitting at the poker table and can’t spot the fish, then it’s probably you? Same goes for this. If you’re playing in your regular foursome and don’t notice that any of the guys have gained weight during the quarantine, well, then it’s probably you.

Just don’t let them snicker about your new swing plane or belt notches. That’s not polite. Besides, you’re bigger than them now, so it’s probably not smart to say anything, either.

6. Carry hand sanitizer.

We’ve all gotten used to this one recently, meticulously rubbing our hands together with alcoholic gel to keep them clean. We should do this on the golf course, too. Not just now – always. Think about it: During the course of 18 holes, you pick three wedgies, pee in the woods twice and dig your ball out of a plugged lie in a hazard at least a half-dozen times.

You’re gross. Keep your hands cleaner, pandemic or not.

7. Take some liberties.

Chances are, there won’t be any rakes in the bunkers when you play. And you might not be armed with any divot mix, leaving more potential for balls to land in fairway divots. Hey, you’ve always suspected the other guys in your foursome of giving themselves a little foot-wedge in these situations anyway.

Now you can do it, too, all without a guilty conscience.

8. Use all your pandemic-related puns.

This is a one-time-only offer: In your first round back, you’re allowed to howl any appropriate one-liners you’ve been silently crafting while quarantined. Slice a drive off the tee? I’m just social distancing from the fairway! Top one 20 yards? I’m just flattening the curve! Make three straight double-bogeys? It’s an epidemic! Your dad jokes were all very humorous when nobody was actually listening to them. And you stayed inside long enough that you should be allowed to use these – one time each.

After that, your playing partners have the right to socially distance themselves from your usual tee time.

9. Don’t get suckered in to big wagers…

Ah, now for the most important stuff. Invariably, one of the guys in your foursome will suggest that since you’re making up for lost time, you might as well play for double the usual bet. Be very wary of this person. Nobody’s been playing golf lately, huh?

Well, that might be true, but you never know who has rigged up a net in the garage and a putting course throughout the house. Actually, yes you do: It’s the guy who wants to play for more money than usual.

10. …unless you’re doing the suckering.

Some people have simply been more productive than others during this quarantine. While your buddies were binge-watching reality shows on Netflix, you built your very own practice facility around the house and spent every day hitting irons into a net, chipping balls over the roof and hitting putts down steps and into an old coffee can.

In that case, make sure you talk them into playing for more than usual. Hey, you’re making up for lost time, after all. Double the bet? Let’s triple it instead.

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