Golf’s pandemic rise creating headaches

Fowl Play



When I was in Houston a few weeks back, the starter at the Hermann Park Golf Course said something that I knew but never thought about.

“What Tiger Woods did for golf, COVID matched that 10 times.”

He was right. At the height of the pandemic while we were all at home figuring out how to bake sourdough bread, doing zoom happy hours or configuring our garages to be home gyms, one thing remained open: golf courses. It was the only place you could get exercise, socialize with friends and drink a few cold beverages. I played numerous rounds at the Pleasanton Country Club and other courses around the San Antonio area during the pandemic. So did many others.

According to the National Golf Foundation in an article in Golf Digest, a record 24.8 million golfers were playing in the United States in 2020. A total of 6.2 million new players were counted last year.

The article went on to put those numbers into perspective against jumps in numbers after Woods won his first major in 1997 and when he won the US Open in 2008 on a broken leg.

Again, it makes sense. What else were we going to do to keep from going stir crazy while also not taking too drastic a risk with our health? Golf courses allowed you to ride in separate carts to maintain social distancing.

That same starter also mentioned the headaches that come with that re- markable increase. These new players were not as adept at the intricacies of etiquette in the sport such as pace of play.

Foursomes of new players hold up “experienced” golfers on the course, like myself (by experienced, I mean people who have played for years and understand golf etiquette. I’m still a 15.5 handicap and struggle to break 90). I’ve seen this at numerous courses over the last year.

While on vacation in Galveston at the end of June, the foursome I was playing in got held up by four groups of three or more players and there was a massive log jam that led to us getting soaked.

After the rain cleared, our group joined up with a threesome behind us because most everyone behind us hightailed it to dry land. Around the 14th hole, our group of seven caught up to the threesome immediately in front of us. They had to wait on the foursome in front of them who was maybe 40 yards in front of the forward tees.

That simply can’t happen in the game of golf.

I’m not saying the inexperienced player shouldn’t head to their local courses. I enjoy playing with anyone and everyone because it makes the experience more enjoyable for everyone.

But if you are new to the game, ask about those subtleties in golf etiquette. Any seasoned player will gladly explain them to you and it will make your round go by smoother.

It also means you won’t anger anyone behind you. Now, I’ll get off my soapbox.

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