While golfers around the world have seen the professional game come to a halt as precautions surrounding the coronavirus outbreak are taken, health experts, by and large, agree that playing golf is generally safe so long as golfers can modify their behaviors on the course slightly.
Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, and Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, associate director of infection control and hospital epidemiology and Nebraska biocontainment unit member at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, both offered their stamp of approval for golfers to play during the pandemic so long as they take the proper precautions.
“You’re not in contact with a whole lot of other people, and it’s not like basketball where you’re touching and very close to other players, so you could maintain several feet of distance between people,” Dr. Troisi told GolfDigest.com. “With the caveat that there’s a lot about this virus we still don’t know, it is a kind of virus that has an envelope, which means that it’s more easily killed than some other viruses. Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that that is true for this novel coronavirus, as well. So I would say in the actual playing of golf, you’re not at much risk.”
“Being in a wide-open, outdoor space is the least at-risk scenario,” Dr. Cawcutt told Golf.com. “Precaution is the name of the game. It’s very reasonable to play if you are smart about it and follow the proper guidance. You’ll have to follow precautions that you normally wouldn’t have to, but I would play under that guidance.”
Can you play golf amid coronavirus concerns?
— Golf Digest (@GolfDigest) March 15, 2020
One of the primary precautions that golfers need to take is one that has largely been accepted in broader society about the transmission of the coronavirus: social distancing.
“As much as we know anything for now, we know that if you’re more than six feet from somebody, they’re not going to spread it to you. So even within your foursome, you just stay a little bit farther away than you might ordinarily,” Dr. Troisi said.
As a result, most experts are recommending golfers either walk or take their own cart in an effort to limit their close-range interaction with others.
While we know that COVID-19, the disease brought on by this novel coronavirus, can have a more drastic effect on people over the age of 50, with risk increasing as you get over 65, 70 and 80 years of age, Dr. Troisi warned that the risk of playing is the same for golfers of all ages, the results of doing so can be more dangerous for those older participants.
As it’s important to sanitize regularly when in public, doing so while playing golf is no different. Both Dr. Troisi and Dr. Cawcutt recommend having a bottle of hand sanitizer in your golf bag and using it often.
If you’re planning to play golf over the next few months, here are a few suggestions made by health experts to ensure you limit your potential risk:
- Be mindful of your local area’s overall health; stay home if there is a widespread outbreak in your area
- Make good decisions before a round; avoid crowded driving ranges or putting greens
- Practice social distancing by walking, riding in your own cart and staying six feet away from your playing partners
- Sanitize often; especially after touching inanimate objects such as the flagstick, golf cart or other players’ clubs
- Avoid handshakes or direct contact with others’ hands; instead use elbow bumps, shoe bumps or club taps
- Think twice about going into the 19th hole; congregating in close proximity is not encouraged
“Social distancing doesn’t mean you’re being a hermit,” Dr. Troisi said. “Relieving stress helps your immune system and we know that physical activity boosts your immune system, so for both mental and physical health, it’s good to get activity however you can get it without putting yourself at risk. So anything outside where you’re not putting yourself in close proximity to a lot of people can be good for you. Being in nature helps your mental health, as well.”