Although locals have been advised to remain in their homes and in limited contact with one another during the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is still one safe option for recreation: golf.
Most Rhode Island club houses have been shut down, and many courses have had to flat out cancel upcoming commitments such as weddings and charitable events.
However, most greens remain open, and clubs such as the Warwick Country Club and Cranston Country Club are still encouraging golfers to hit the links and stay safe.
“People are still playing. I guess golf is a safe alternative during these times,” said Warwick CC Club Pro Matt Walsh, who has emphasized safe play to the members who have been showing up. “We are communicating almost daily with our membership regarding social distancing … also things like not touching the flagsticks, we’ve raised the cups an inch, we’ve asked people not to share scorecards, pencils, tees. The clubhouse is closed and is on total lockdown.”
It is still a bit early in the golf season, according to Walsh, however, a mild winter has allowed golfers to get a few rounds in earlier than usual and the numbers have remained consistent despite the coronavirus.
“People are still playing, we had over 60 people play (last Friday), we’ll probably have about 30, 40 (on Saturday). People are still getting out there. It’s still a little early in the season, things start picking up in mid-April, but comparatively speaking, this has been a pretty busy March,” said Walsh.
Not only will the continuation of business help people get out and break up their now-normal routines, Walsh also believes that playing the game will help with mental health as well.
“It seems like even more people are trying to get out there and get some exercise. The sense of community that we have here as a club, I think Warwick Country Club is playing an important role because a lot of times, people don’t see others for days at a time now. For them to be able to come out here and see their friends and play a round of golf, it helps them keep their sanity a bit,” said Walsh.
Warwick CC President Mike Harrington expects the overall business of the club to be impacted, but is committed to serving the community and keeping the golf operation running until told otherwise.
“We’re going to keep going until we can’t. We have effectively shut down business, we had to, but we have kept the greens open and have been protecting the asset,” said Harrington. “Until somebody tells us to stay in our homes, we’re still going to play. We have the interest, and everybody is going to have to get some fresh air at some point, right?”
Harrington and company are taking it day by day and look forward to hopefully returning to a level of normalcy in the coming months.
“There’s never a good time, but right now, we’re just beginning to ramp up for the season. Many of our members are still in Florida, it’s been a little quiet, but we just need to get through it like everyone else,” said Harrington.
Walsh encourages locals to continue to enjoy the game, but more than anything, be safe while doing so.
“The enthusiastic fist bump after a birdie may now have to be an elbow touch,” Walsh joked. “We have been repeating the same message over and over again, though. Try to keep your distance and be as safe as you can.”