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 Golfers enthusiastically look forward to the day when their favorite courses reopen to players each year. That anticipation was even greater in 2020, when social distancing measures forced many courses to stay closed even as the weather warmed up.

 Golf courses were among the first businesses given the green light to reopen as governments began to lift restrictions.

 Golfing in the era of social distancing may not be quite the same as it was prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, but golfers can still have fun as they hit the links. That’s especially true when they take steps to understand just what it means to golf while social distancing prior to teeing off.

 • Assess your personal health before going to the golf course. Golf attracts athletes from all age groups, including some that are more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), age is a risk factor for COVID-19, as older adults are more vulnerable to severe illness if they are infected with the virus than younger adults.

 Social distancing requires a collective effort on the part of everyone to keep vulnerable people safe, and golfers are no exception. Golfers young and old who are under the weather or experiencing even mild symptoms of COVID-19 should avoid golf courses until they feel better. In addition, young golfers can choose tee times when they’re less likely to come into contact with older golfers. Early morning tee times tend to be popular among older golfers, but speak with staff at the course to see if they have rules in place to safeguard older golfers. If they do, respect those rules. If they don’t, work with staff to choose a tee time when you’re less likely to be around older golfers.

 • Disinfect clubs before and after playing. Disinfecting clubs and other equipment before and after playing is a simple measure that can reduce golfers’ risk of getting the virus or spreading it if they have it but are asymptomatic. Simply wipe down clubs and other equipment with disinfectant or an

alcohol-based cleanser that is at least 60 percent alcohol. If playing with a friend, resist the urge to share clubs, no matter how tempting it may be to take your playing partner’s new driver for a spin on the first hole.

 • Decline valet service. Many courses have temporarily stopped offering valet services to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Golfers who visit a club that is not taking such precautions can opt to decline the service. Doing so decreases the risk of getting or spreading the virus by limiting the number of people with whom you come into direct contact.

 • Pack supplies. Contact the course in advance to determine if the dining room is open and if the course is providing hand sanitizer at each tee. At-risk golfers may want to skip dining at the course after their round is over, opting to pack their own lunch or eat when they arrive home after playing. If the course is not offering hand sanitizer at each hole, pack your own as an extra precaution.

 Golfing in the era of social distancing may be different, but there’s no reason golfers cannot still enjoy a summer on the links.

Golf is a valuable recreational activity

Social distancing — The essence of the game inherently allows its participants to practice proper social distancing

Burns calories, prevents chronic illnesses — A round of golf averages 12,000 steps. Exercise helps prevent heart disease and other chronic illnesses and produces mood-boosting endorphins

Boosts mental well-being — Fresh air, greenery, and sunshine boosts the already powerful esteem-enhancing and anxiety-busting effects of exercise

Accessible and inclusive — Golf is not just for a few people. More than 24.3 million people played a round of golf last year and another 9 million participated in off course golf activities.

Provides jobs — Employer of nearly two million individuals in the United States, including 350,000 maintenance staff workers

Stimulates the economy — $84.1 billion industry that also delivered more than $4 billion in charitable donations

Source: pga.org

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