Like every other sport realizing its proper place in a society in crisis, the PGA and professional golf around the globe is undergoing major shifts in its schedule. Today, the British Open was canceled for the first time since 1945, while tournaments over on this side of the pond have been shifted to late summer or the fall.
The U.S. Open, for the moment, will be in September. The Masters will be in November, which should make for interesting debates among Southerners between that and college football on the Saturday of the tournament, and certainly not one they won’t completely wet themselves over having to go through. The PGA Championship has been moved to the first week of August, though that seems the most tentative of the bunch. The lower-profile tournaments are still to be filled in.
There certainly is a contrast in the R&A completely canceling their biggest event slated for the middle of July, whereas the PGA is talking about trying to stuff some tournaments into that exact spot and the one vacated by the Olympics later in July, as well as June. Wouldn’t be scrambling for TV money and viewers, would they? Perish the thought. Europe is slightly ahead of the U.S. on its coronavirus timeline, but that hardly means anyone has the end in sight or even in prediction. And that would also mean Europe could hold tournaments before the U.S., which is distinctly not happening. The European Tour won’t commit to starting before late June, while the PGA is still holding out hope for late May. And seeing as how that European tournament is in Germany, you can be sure it won’t take place unless the German government is absolutely sure it can safely.
Must be nice to have a leader not completely made of bugs.
All of these delays, rescheduling, and cancellations are in even starker contrast to the general public being allowed to play the game right now at many public courses. While most places won’t allow a gathering large enough to get together a pickup basketball game, and certainly no rink is open for rat hockey (and the requisite parking lot beer-up afterwards), golf courses have been still within the scope of limitations, for the most part. Here’s a handy guide to where you still can chuck your six-iron in frustration before watching it careen off a tree and snap in two and further adding to your bill. The big surprise is that it’s still allowed anywhere. New York, the epicenter of the virus, didn’t mandate the closing of golf courses till April 9, when Governor Cuomo updated non-essential business guidelines to include recreational marinas & golf courses.
Ultimately, people shouldn’t be leaving the city to head to other areas for recreational purposes, no matter how separated they think they might be once they get to their destinations.
Golf as an activity is probably sliding under the fence with all of this because of the perceived easiness to keep one’s distance from anyone else on such acreage. But as we know, if you allow people anywhere specific, chances are at least the mouth-breathers among us will congregate, no matter the rules a course institutes. Certainly the pros didn’t think it was worth the risk even with no spectators. Neither do some states. So if they’re not up for it, why are the masses? Also, the pros won’t be downing six-packs during their rounds (John Daly joke goes here), which won’t exactly help normal people adhere to the rules to keep us all safe.
Of course, the owners of said properties feel just a touch different. What could be the connection between gun shop and golf course owners and patrons? Certainly wouldn’t have anything to do with a great majority being white, I’m sure. And regular golfers are the ones who tend to bitch most, and also tend to carry some influence to make life hard on others.
Even if golfing for most can be done safely, it’s not like it’s an activity for all. Even with the best of intentions, golf courses are providing recreation and exercise for only a certain section of the population, and mostly those in the suburbs.
With that as a centerpiece, there’s been some debate on whether golf courses should remain open, but not for golf (this was in the U.K., but the same debate has taken place here). Anywhere that has a shutdown has still encouraged people to get outside once a day for exercise, but has also had to deal with popular places for that activity being overrun with people. There is a chain of thought that more greenspace should be available, not less, to spread people out. What effect this would have for those living in a city is debatable, given the lack of golf courses within city limits. Still, you can see how many people you can space out on a golf course to do their own exercise routine and easily picture a noticeable effect as well. Chicago, which saw the mayor having to shutdown the popular lakefront trails for biking and running due to crowding, has seven public courses in the city, including a few in poor neighborhoods that are already starving for more greenspace. It’s a tough balance.
Of course, some of our most enlightened thinkers have had ideas of golf courses in the past anyway.
Once again, this feels like yet another field where a national policy and enforcement would come in handy, as golfers in varying states partake in another tiring exercise of whataboutism. However, given the priorities of our brain-damaged Orangutan in charge, we know where that would go.