COVID-19 has impacted all of our lives and also has affected golf courses in many different ways – both positive and negative. Since the initial shutdown, courses have followed Back2Golf guidelines and gone through the re-opening phases.
During the initial re-opening of golf courses, I played courses that took strategic approaches to ensure all guidelines were followed. During the process, I found almost all courses were able to create a great pace of play and I believe some of these practices will help going forward as new phases are entered, even as courses enter the final phase. Knowing high school golf can struggle with the pace of play, I’ve outlined the below pace of play best practices during COVID-19 for high school golf administrators:
Intervals – Some courses had as many as 15 minutes between tee times (as opposed to a typical 9 or 10 minutes). One of the first things I noticed was how well we were distanced and how much that helped with pace well under 4 hours (even walking). As courses have lessened gaps to 12 or back to 10 minutes I think it is valuable for courses to reevaluate the pace of play vs. revenue per day based on the number of tee times weighing it against the experience of the golfers if they can play faster. For high school golf matches, encouraging longer intervals and gaps between groups can be a big help for a better pace of play during the round.
Putting with the flag in – I know this can be a hot topic for some Saturday regulars, but there is no doubt that keeping the flagstick in speeds up play. Many groups have make this the norm ever since quarantine started even though the USGA new Rules of Golf allowed for it as of 2019. I think we will see many high school golf matches plays with the pin in for the fall season. This simple rules adjustment will not only help limit the spread of germs, it will help speed up the game for years to come.
Walking & Shuttles – When courses only opened for walkers, I found I was able to maintain an even better pace of play compared to riding in carts. Of course walking is dependent on the course layout, but choosing to walk is something I will continue to do after being forced to do so during quarantine. As it relates to high school golf, some courses are “walkable” versus other golf course are not meant for walking. Ensuring you have coaches or parents for shuttles during the long walks between holes on those “unwalkable” courses is a must if you want to maintain a good pace of play during a high school golf tournament.
We all play a part in ensuring pace of play best practices are followed even as courses open up and enter new phases. If you have other stories of how you have improved your pace of play during Covid share it with us on Social Media (NHSGA Twitter). If you need help or have additional questions regarding the rules of golf, pace of play, or advice for the upcoming fall high school golf season, please send me an email at Matt@highschoolgolf.org.