Well that escalated quickly, didn’t it?
No sooner had we published Golf Australia’s position statement on Covid-19, an explosion of outrage and utter vitriol hit our Facebook page. It provided an alarming insight into the mentality of Aussie golfers right now – they just want to play golf, and they think it’s safe enough to do so without jeopardising the health of others who may or may not be up to fighting this life-threatening virus that now has a global mortality rate of 5 per cent.
We can’t question their passion and love for the game. The benefits of getting outside and chasing a little white ball – for both young and old – are common knowledge. It’s why golf’s the greatest sport in the world. But there can be dire consequences for doing so in times like these. It’s why both the state and federal governments are asking everyone to exercise extreme caution, albeit in different forms and measures.
At last count, our initial post breaking the GA news was nudging 700 comments, 99 per cent of those slamming the statement and indeed golf’s governing body. While some articulated their points with well-reasoned and impassioned pleas, others demonstrated complete ignorance to the issue at hand, amplifying what has become a self-righteous and entitled narrative that’s put the sport of golf in negative headlines.
Of course, we all want to play golf. Here at this publication we want it more than most because for our staff, the sport is our livelihood. It’s in our best interests to have players competing on tour. It’s in our best interests to have everyday amateurs like you playing at your local course. It’s in our best interests that golf retail and company marketing is flourishing. But it’s also in our best interests to remain healthy, not just our staff or their families and friends, but you, your families and your friends, too.
With that said, here’s another opportunity for you to get all riled up or reassured – whatever floats your 4-iron. We thought we’d cherry-pick some of the more considered responses and sprinkle them with some of the absolute worst, addressing both with some thought-provoking messages.
Let’s all try to remain calm and supportive, and whether you insist on continuing to play or not, please exercise common sense and respect EVERYBODY’S decision – and opinions – during these unprecedented times.
Marcus McKinnon: Can anyone make there god dam mind up or what! Yes, No, yes & no…whats it going to be tomorrow.
We hear you, Marcus. It’s been the most frustrating and confusing issue of all – conflicting messages from national and state bodies, all brought on by mixed directives from state governments. Not ideal at all – and a poor reflection of the federated systems of golf and politics in Australia. It’s moments like this you really wished we had one body – with the power of governance – delivering one clear message based on the advice of one qualified medical source.
Scott Morrissey: What GA recommends is rubbish. Will they delve into there deep pockets to keep clubs afloat and staff employed? I guarantee they won’t.
We’re constantly on the case of our governing bodies – both state and national – about how they redistribute affiliation fees and the like back into the game. It will be interesting moving forward, how all concerned, come to the golf clubs’ aid as we bounce back from this pandemic. Things are going to change, that we can guarantee.
Grant Fennell: I’m certainly having a very good look at the clubs that were able to use their common sense and interpret recommendations over the last couple of weeks and continue to adapt to create safe golf for their members under existing government recommendations. I don’t need Golf Australia or a club committee to keep me safe , I will leave that up to the Australian government and their advisors and when they turn the tap off that’s when I will except there is no more golf , I just need the club I pay my fees to , to operate with in the guidelines, use their brains and keep the club open as long as they are allowed to do so . These clubs that have remained open are doing the right thing and should be congratulated.
One of the more measured takes in the “We’re Playing” camp, Grant. Tip of the cap to you. Indeed, if clubs are exercising every possible precaution and safety measures to keep members and guests safe, there is no reason they should not be operating, at least legally. Until the Australian Government turns the tap off, the question you and every golfer in Australia should be asking of their respective clubs is, are you turning the tap on? By that we mean, Are you hosing down and sanitising carts after each use? Are you sanitising flagsticks, bunker rakes, cup holes, sand-bucket handles, hand rails and any other objects that are being touched? According to a report in The Guardian, The New England Journal of Medicine just published a study that tested how long the virus can remain stable on different kinds of surfaces within a controlled laboratory setting. They found that it was still detectable on copper for up to four hours, on cardboard for up to 24 hours, and on plastic and steel for up to 72 hours. Scary stuff that could leave you exposed at your club if they are not following through on these safety regulations. Something to keep in mind.
Ray Harris: My club is open. 2 ball golf only, 1.5 mtr distance, separate carts, good exercise. This all fits in with Government directives. Golf Australia have simply got it wrong.
Sounds like a smart club, Ray. But remember, it only takes one person who’s unknowingly infected with Covid-19 to turn what is seemingly a safe haven into a disaster zone. Know the risks and keep on top of your club’s practices during this time.
Ricky John: It’s not essential to go for a walk or a ride or a swim either but people need it for their sanity and exercise has been recommended by the government. It’s exercising with a ball and equipment.
Indeed it is, Ricky. Exercise is a crucial element to keep one happy and healthy. But how do you explain this to those gym junkies, tennis aces, beachgoers, team-sport enthusiasts and so on, who are all heeding the various health warnings and finding other exercise alternatives at home to get them by? As much as we genuinely want it to be, why should golf be an exception here?
Scott Bailey: Tell me how I get COVID driving to the course in my own car alone, pushing my own buggy and clubs that only I touch, paying online, not touching the flag, buckets or bunker rake and playing alone?? When Bunnings closes, I’ll stop playing because there’s a whole lot more risk going there and nobody wants to shut those doors!!
We guess household items available at Bunnings are still considered “essential”. While your comparison between golf courses and enclosed areas like this has merit, the argument put forward by those on the “Stay At Home” side is every activity or measure that isn’t essential should just be avoided to stop the spread. It’s not rocket science. Consider this scenario: you’re at Bunnings or at your golf club, it doesn’t really matter which. You touch an item that is later touched by a 70-year-old cancer survivor, whose immune system is low. You didn’t even know it but you were carrying COVID-19 without showing any symptoms, and now this unfortunate person has it, and is in intensive care fighting for their life, with no respirator because hospital staff have had to prioritise all the younger, fitter patients, as per health protocols. There’s added responsibility on all of us here. It’s our choice, regardless of government advice.
Jay Welsh: While Chief Medical and government officials are saying Golf falls within the VERY FEW permitted outdoor activities, why is our peak body passing the buck by ‘Recommending’ clubs close? Once this all comes out in the wash AND IT WILL, I can only pray that those in the key positions who have made decisions to run this stance as it’s the ‘easier option’ are held responsible by the industry it’s CRIPPLING for the sake of political correctness and erring on the side of way over the top caution! There is NO medical evidence to support that whilst the current restrictions on outdoor gatherings and social distancing rules are adhered to (which they easily can be on a golf course) people shouldn’t be able to play.
To be fair to Golf Australia, taking the “easier option” here would have been not to release a statement at all. Alas, they’ve risked member backlash to recommend what is the sensible approach here, not the popular approach, clearly, but the sensible approach. Images of patients in European hospitals with plastic bubbles around their heads while they cough up their lungs, New York streets lined with refrigerator trucks that have been transformed into makeshift morgues – these are horror-movie scenes being beamed across the world and represent what can – and will – happen when the greater population doesn’t take the early stages of this outbreak seriously. If the worst-case scenario hits Australia – like it has done in Europe, the UK and the US – we can’t say we weren’t warned, right?
Jon Parer: It’s clearly based on 80 or 90 percent of the population doing the right thing. If we stay at home this virus will be defeated. Or you can be self-entitled douches who disregard this evidence and go about your life as normal… then complain when your grandpa or grandma or mum and dad die from the virus. The choice is yours, golf now or have some regard for others and wait three months? The choice is yours.
Eloquently put, in the end, Jon. Not a popular statement for most but one that seems to have far more logic to it than risking the unknown. It’s important we think about everyone else – not ourselves – before we leave the house.
Geoff Pearse: A reasonable time for exercise in this lockdown situation is about an hour or so daily, not 4 hours or so daily. All other sports have to sacrifice their game so why should golf get special privileges.
It’s the argument we continue to face in the mainstream media, Geoff. And it’s getting increasingly harder to defend without sound self-righteous and entitled.
Ian Broderick: 516 comments golf Australia (so far) and the majority criticising your stance. The people have spoken back off and shut up !!
It’s frightening, whichever way you look at it.
Charlie Wintle: As much as I love my golf I’d rather miss a couple of months than be dead in a couple of months. I am in the older age bracket though so being cautious.
Well done, Charlie. There’s a bigger picture here. Stay safe and see you out on the fairways soon!
Graeme Nicholls: We were on the death 💀 ship 🚢 Julie tested negative I tested positive sent two in hospital good health now should be allowed out tomorrow Julie has another week to go
Glad to hear you’re all clear and in good health, Graeme. You of all people know how serious and easily contracted this thing can be.
Mike Waldie: I thought GA’s role was to advocate for the sport and for the clubs. Why are they taking a political position contrary to the relevant health directions. Absurd.
Not even sure this IS a political issue, such is its seriousness. But couldn’t you argue they’ve put your health and safety above all else, internal politics between them and the state bodies included?
Ben Quist: Our mental health needs protecting as well as physical health – safely played golf provides this
Safely-played golf provides this, yes. But it can no longer guarantee this. That’s the problem and the risk we now run, Ben. The mental health argument, while valid, actually opens up a Pandora’s box and reeks of a little bit of arrogance. We’re fielding a lot of questions this week on why is golf a more important avenue to cater for mental health than any other recreational outlet that’s been shelved? Some people used the gym to help them through, now they can’t. Some people used weekly team sports, now they can’t. Some people used beers with their mates down at the local pub. Now they can’t. They’re all having to find alternative coping mechanisms with the understanding that we can’t sacrifice the health of the greater population. It’s a tricky and most sensitive issue. Until such time that golf is off limits legally, enjoy the escape golf gives but please take all the proper precautions. Stay safe.