We highlight the best and worst things about how playing golf is different now the courses are open again

Best And Worst Things About Playing Golf After Lockdown

The majority of golf courses in England are now open and no doubt most of you have experienced your long-awaited first round.

Golf is different now to what it was before and there is no telling when or if it will return to its previous state. We’ve played two rounds now since the restrictions lifted and here are our thoughts on the best and worst things about playing golf after lockdown.

The Best Things

Just being out there
It was a fantastic feeling to be walking the fairways again bathed in sunshine. We know the physical and mental health benefits golf can provide and we fully experienced this (we were pretty tired come the 18th hole).

It was easy to maintain 2m social distancing, in fact 4m or 5m would have been just as easy, and with the measures in place around removing bunker rakes and being able to retrieve balls from the hole without touching the flagstick, we don’t see any risk of transmission or contamination, especially given hand sanitizer was available and its use encouraged beside the first tee and 18th green.

There were some situations where you had to think twice, for example when retrieving your playing partner’s unused provisional ball – we ended up kicking it down the fairway until it reached him, which probably didn’t look the best but it ensured any unnecessary handling of their balls, so to speak. Then when looking for a ball in the rough, you just need to be conscious of where you are in space and not accidentally walk into or close to each other while looking downwards trying to locate it.

Condition of the course
Given the lack of traffic and recent warm weather, the fairways were lush with hardly any divots and the greens had great coverage. There’s nothing better than looking out on vibrant fairways with clear definition between the different grades of rough, our course looked superb and really boosted the spirits.

Faster round times
Naturally playing in a 2-ball means you will get round much quicker than if you were in your usual 3- or 4-ball. We were round in about three hours. Putting with the flag in certainly helped in this regard, as did not cleaning your balls in ball washer before teeing off.

Additionally, with driving ranges, practice putting greens, pro shops and clubhouses shut, there is simply no need for the usual pre- and post-round activities most golfers would indulge in. Perhaps a bucket of balls, a quick practice putt, a natter with the head pro or and cold beer in the bar afterwards. If you’re short on time, perhaps due to family commitments, you’ll find yourself out of the house for much less time overall, although not everyone will appreciate that fact! 

Playing surprisingly well
Most golfers would have had nightmares about their first shot after two months away, many having not hit a single shot in all that time. While some inevitably hit a stinker, others will have been surprised at how well it went (one person even made a hole-in-one). During the course of the round, we’re confident everyone hit a few decent shots to remind them why they love the game and give them the confidence that their A-game is lurking inside them somewhere ready to be unleashed with a few more rounds under their belt.

The Worst Things

Booking tee times
Unsurprisingly, most courses will have experienced high demand for tee times once they became available with golfers scrambling to secure a slot in peak times. In most cases, slots available per day are a low percentage of the total membership, meaning many will have missed out on even getting a time at all. Golfers just need to be fair, not be greedy and adhere to any limits their club has set out and not seek to bend them in any way.

Most courses are only open to members initially, which means those who aren’t a member of a club may struggle to get a game.

Condition of the course
While generally our course was in decent shape, given the club has been operating with a skeleton staff it was a little rough around the edges. We appreciate the greens, fairways and tees take priority, which is why the bunkers looked a little tired – not helped by the fact golfers aren’t able to rake them properly afterwards.

Bunkers without rakes arguable look much tidier

This also led to some pretty shocking lies that pre-lockdown we would be cursing for weeks, but now seem somewhat trivial. Bunkers are now proper hazards, which makes it even more crucial to avoid them. The key here is to patient, not to expect too much too soon and just be grateful for the fact we’re out there playing again.

Quiet atmosphere
Despite the course being fully booked, the atmosphere across the course during our round seemed strangely quiet. It didn’t seem as busy as the tee sheet suggested and seeing the clubhouse terrace deserted under glorious sunshine was especially strange and a little disheartening.

No competitions
For those golfers who thrive on the adrenalin on competitive golf, sadly you may be waiting for some time before teeing it up with an official scorecard in your hand. The ramifications for handicap remain unclear too, but perhaps singles knockout competitions can restart soon providing no admin where contamination could occur is required.

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