Golf offers some light at the end of the tunnel for sports-starved area residents

cart tunnel
One man per cart has become the new norm, at least on the Penderbrook Golf Course in Fairfax, Virginia. (WTOP/J. Brooks)
golf carts
Despite being in separate carts, golfers are still maintaining a safe distance from one another. (WTOP/J. Brooks)
And of course, social distancing comes into play when the golfers are either on the greens or fairways. (WTOP/J. Brooks)
Despite all that, golfers are eager to change up their routine by playing a round. (WTOP/J. Brooks)
cart tunnel
golf carts

There aren’t many ways to play sports nowadays due to the novel coronavirus, but golf remains a limited option throughout the region.

Saturday, I caught up with a friend of mine on the course as he and his playing partner hit the links, albeit with modifications to prevent players from touching common surfaces as well as removing shared equipment like bunker rakes, ball washers and water coolers.

Puts that arrived close enough to the hole, for example, were often counted as “good.” If the ball wound up in the cup, players made sure to touch the ball only, when picking it up.

My friend and his pal chose to remain nameless, so we will refer to them as “Herbie” and “Buddy.”

Buddy said what he finds the most challenging part of all this is “no pins, no distance markers or scorecards” but added that “being out on the course right now provides a level of normalcy for your life that you can’t get.”

I asked Buddy if anyone who’s reading this or who watched him play today would think he’s crazy for doing this right now in this environment, to which he replied, with a laugh, “most likely, but it wouldn’t be the first time.”

At the end of my time with the guys, Buddy said “taking the frustration out on the ball, it’s been wonderful … it’s just fun to hang and spend time with friends — socially distanced apart.”

Herbie, who was wearing a Washington Capitals hat, had some advice for anyone who’s thinking about doing what he and Buddy did Saturday.

“Just be smart, be safe” and “don’t get too close to one another — there is no need for fist bumps or hi-fives at this point, just go out and have a nice round of golf.”

Herbie is also a season-ticket holder for the Caps as well as the Washington Nationals and the Washington Redskins, and is still holding out hope for a return to the other sports he enjoys.

This particular course is Penderbrook in Fairfax, Virginia. Delaware and D.C. are also allowing golf for now, but Maryland is not.

But there are specifics rules, of course, that are needed to allow golfers to continue playing:

For example, there were no pins, ball washers or rakes at Penderbrook since it’s something that everyone would be touching through the day.

Half of the golfers were using carts and the rest were walking, which was the cheaper route, as the course is offering a discount.

Golf course starter Joon Kim said “the walking is great exercise and it doesn’t impact the schedules of the tee times” as the course spaces out the times in the name of social distancing.

As the pandemic has kept the course busy, Kim encourages golfers to call ahead or pay online. And, of course, obey social distancing rules.

With coronavirus on the mind, Kim mentioned that the hand sanitizer parked right outside the clubhouse is the most popular item for those either coming off or going on the course.

Other places around the area to golf include:

DC where you can only play with family members. However public courses are closed, so finding a private course might be your best bet.

Delaware, with its stay-at-home order, has allowed courses allowed to remain open, provided those courses are open. Golfers also must practice social distancing.

Maryland closed their courses on March 23, but limited maintenance is allowed as decline of maintaining courses could lead to vandalism and the course could become compromised, damaged or unsafe. Proper maintenance can reduce disease-carrying insects, which include mosquitoes and ticks.

Other states nearby:

Pennsylvania has closed all courses until further notice, however course owners and associations have petitioned Gov. Wolf for the right to reopen to provide an exercise outlet for Pennsylvanians

West Virginia has open courses as well.

NOTE: The status of each state is fluid and it is recommended to check with your local and state authorities for the most current situation, especially the course you intend to play, as rules for each county or city in each state may supersede any state order.

J. Brooks

J. Brooks is a Sports Anchor and Reporter with years of experience not only in the DMV but nationally through Westwood One, ESPN, CBS and SiriusXM. J., striving to be a cartoon voice, is also an actor appearing in many films and TV shows and who entertains the newsroom with his many impressions.

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