Golf's back, baby!
The most recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions in WA means things are quickly returning to normal.
And yes, that means you can once again experience the uninhibited joy of teeing it up and chasing birdies, all at the revised 2 square metres of required social distancing.
Golf was the lone beacon of hope on the sporting landscape during COVID-19 restrictions and it reinforced just how much the game means to people.
So now's the time to stock up on gear, head to your local course and start searching for your A-game.
And with the intrastate borders now removed, you can head to a regional gem and make a long-awaited weekend of it.
Have you found the information about playing golf in Australia right now a little confusing?
We're here to clear things up, and the good news is golf courses haven't been locked down in Australia just yet.
It remains safe to play as long as we're all practicing the social distancing requirements - a maximum of two players per group, and keeping at least 1.5m apart.
The same distancing rules apply on the driving range and practice greens - but do check with your local course if there are additional requirements in place to maintain a healthy playing environment.
1:1 lessons are also fine with the 1.5m proximity rule in place - which is good news if you still need to sharpen your skills.
Golf remains the safest sport to play - and will keep you in shape physically and mentally.
HOW TO STAY SAFE ON THE GOLF COURSE
Many golfers are probably wondering exactly where golf fits in a world that has suddenly been turned upside down. With grocery shopping now considered a full contact sport, and those dreaded gyms and their treadmills turning you away – now really is the best time to head out for a hit.
The good news is that golf is naturally a social-distancing sport and as a result appears to be one of the safest to play under current circumstances; provided some common-sense precautions are taken.
While the professional golf tours around the world have been suspended, most golf courses are still open for play. You may not be able to celebrate on the 19 th for a while, so be sure to keep a tab on who owes what for those little course indiscretions.
By following a few new guidelines to minimise your risk, you should be able to play golf and enjoy its many benefits - albeit with some minor variations to the norm.
Golf has a massive advantage over most sports in that it can be played on your lonesome out among the fresh air of the great outdoors.
As Phil Mickelson said after a recent round where he adhered to the new guidelines: “It was nice to get outside, be active and still be safe for myself and others.”
THE GUIDELINES TO FOLLOW
Golf is uniquely positioned as a safer-than-most sport through its equipment requirements.
Unlike team sports, where there's a common ball being pursued and handled by a multitude of different players, each golfer plays with their own clubs and ball, limiting contact between players very effectively.
But to play it extra safe in these times, it's best not to hire a set of clubs or try out a mate's new driver. And maybe leave that ball you've spotted in the bush where it is if it's not yours.
The wide, open expanses of a golf course mean that the current gathering limit guidelines aren't likely to be exceeded, but adhering to the 4m social distancing rule out on the course is the sensible and appropriate thing to do.
Walking the course is also safer than hiring a cart, especially if you were planning on sharing a ride with a playing partner. The upshot of walking is that it allows you to fully appreciate the intricacies of course architecture that you would otherwise miss when speeding your way around in a golf cart.
If you are playing in a group, handshakes and high-fives can be exchanged for nods and calls of “nice shot”, “played” and “ouch/oooh”.
And lastly, keeping hand sanitiser in your bag is also a wise investment, with regular applications between holes recommended.
It might be like gold bullion at the moment but it's an excellent last line of defence.
Extraordinary times do call for extraordinary measures, and golf's considerable on-course etiquette needs tweaking in these abnormal times.
As far as bunkers go, leave the rake where it is and smooth it out with your feet to avoid contact with the rake handle – or pack yourself some disposable latex gloves. Or just treat bunkers as GUR and play your ball from the nearest point of relief.
Flagsticks are also to be avoided but the recent rewrite of the rules of golf has come at an opportune time. Leave the pin in while putting and if it's within gimme distance, be kind to yourself and pick it up.
Some courses are positioning the cup sleeve as high as possible so a player's hand only touches the ball when retrieving it from the hole. And courses are even inverting the cup sleeve so it sits completely above the hole; if your putt hits the cup sleeve consider it holed.
If you have never worked from home, or your only previous episode of interaction isolation was due to the nasty after effects of a particularly spicy vindaloo, it's a new reality that can be hard to get a handle on.
That's where golf can be a beacon of hope in these times.
Playing golf and exercising stimulates the production of hormones such as endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine, the body's natural feel-good chemicals.
And escaping the indoors and the 24-hour coronavirus crisis news cycle for a quick nine-holes will clear your mind, boost your mental health and help you to reset.
Just remember, you will get through this and golf will return to normal on the other side!
GOLF'S STRESS-REDUCING PROPERTIES
Golf, while it can be known to create stress at certain times, is mostly a great outlet to combat the stress of the coronavirus and the worry of a share market that is in free-fall.
As proven in several university studies, stress can actually make your body more susceptible to respiratory illness. So taking time to hit the course and unwind, even if it takes only a couple of hours to play nine holes or even better, a full four hours to play 18 holes, is actually helping your body develop its immune defences.
Just remember, don't take your game too seriously. Have fun, enjoy it and let the stress of these current times fade away for a good few hours.
In times like these a lot can be said for playing a round on your own, a unique experience that can deliver many benefits to your game while also socially distancing in a casual manner.
While socialising on the course between shots is part of golf's attraction, playing solo provides the solitude that allows total commitment to working on your game.
And given the lack of things to talk about apart from the coronavirus, shopping shortages and entire absence of any sport, solo golf suddenly becomes more attractive than ever.
Solo golf offers a rare chance to devote complete attention to your own game, a time to see where your game is really at.
Either treat it like on-course practice and work on those sneaky shots that have always troubled you or see what is possible when you offer total concentration on every shot you hit.
You might be surprised at what you can achieve when you put your mind to work with total focus on every swing and every putt throughout the round.
It'll also enhance your interaction with the natural surroundings a golf course has in abundance, to provide a moment to recharge your batteries - which are no doubt in need of a charge in the current climate.
With the solo round leading to no post-round catch-up with your mates, it's a great opportunity to just call or text them to see if they are doing OK.
BEFORE AND AFTER THE ROUND
Playing golf isn't just about the on-course action but unfortunately in these times the before-and-after round festivities need some curtailing.
Some courses may have shut the clubhouse but have kept the course operating, but it's important to remember to abide by the recommended spacing requirements if you are in common areas.
Unfortunately, as good as golf is for limiting contact out on the course, close contact is sometimes unavoidable before and after the game in a crowded setting.
If that's the case, then it might be best to keep to the social distancing requirements and head straight from the carpark to the tee, and vice versa.
THE BOTTOM LINE
If you are feeling unwell or showing any symptoms of a cold or flu, do the right thing and avoid the golf course entirely.
Self-isolate and seek medical help if needed - remember, there will be plenty of other chances to hit the course when you're feeling better.
PRACTICE AT HOME
There's an abundance of golf training aids that can turn your home workplace into a golf training academy so you can keep the swing lubricated during this time.
Full-swing practice nets for the backyard or smaller chipping nets will keep things moving in the right direction and a plethora of putting trainers will help your touch to remain supple if you can't avoid "working" from home.