By nature, golf is a sport that lends itself to social distancing. But even with the relatively solitary nature of the sport, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association has released guidelines for modifying the sport, in an effort to promote social distancing in the age of COVID-19.
But compared to most sports, golf's modifications shouldn't alter the way the sport is played.
Instead, the guidelines are focused on making sure everyone stays out of groups. The first guideline mentioned says that "players should not be using the Clubhouse, except for use of the restrooms, one by one."
From there, contact continues to be limited. The MIAA is banning "handshakes, fist, or elbow bumps among players" for the golf season, and all players must use their own equipment and golf balls. Players should not be touching anyone else's stuff. On top of the MIAA guidelines, players and coaches will also have to abide by all safety protocols put in place by individual courses.
Prior to matches starting, the visiting coach is tasked with sending a full list of their participants to the home coach. The home coach, in exchange, will send a copy of local rules to the visiting coach to eliminate the need for unnecessary handouts.
Once at the course, face coverings "must be worn and social distancing of six feet must be practiced in all common areas of the golf course," including putting greens and driving ranges. Face coverings can be removed for competition, "but must be returned to the face anytime players need to be within six feet of each other."
If social distancing is not possible before a match starts, the MIAA guidelines call on participants to "remain in or near their mode of transportation until it is time to move to the 1st tee." Home coaches are responsible for enforcing all of the guidelines.
As of Tuesday night, Berkshire County schools that are currently going forward with golf teams this fall are Mount Everett, Monument Mountain, Mount Greylock and Wahconah.
When the players are ready to tee off, they will all do so from one hole while remaining socially distanced. Single tee starts "should be staggered, at a minimum of 10 minutes between groups," per the MIAA's guidelines.
Scorecards will still be handed out to players — home coaches will be responsible, and must also wear gloves during the exchange — and golfers will have to keep score for their competitor. But, when the match ends, the verification of scores will be done audibly, with social distancing guidelines in place. During this process, face coverings must also be worn.
Once the scorecards are submitted, there will be no hanging around the course. "Once scores have been officially recorded, each group of players will then return to their mode of transportation," the guidelines stipulate.
And, if everything goes according to plan, golfers will head home, clean up, and get ready for another day of golfing.
Geoff Smith can be reached at email@example.com, @GSmith_Eagle on Twitter and 413-496-6254.