news 6 days ago

Jubilant golfers shed their sweatpants, promising to keep their distance, avoid touching the flagstick and pay off bets by Venmo

Chicago Tribune — By Teddy Greenstein Chicago Tribune

March 25-- CHICAGO-The headline on the Chicago Tribune's weather page Wednesday sounded more like a commandment than a prediction: "Enjoy today before a wet end to the week."

For many Chicagoans, that meant retrieving golf clubs from the garage and ignoring the "stay at home" requests from elected officials.

For Jeff Carrier, it meant playing nine holes under a sunny sky at the Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

"This is the happiest I've been in 10 days," he said. "I hate being cooped up indoors. I'm getting exercise and interacting with human beings."

Added playing partner Kian Dowlatshahi: "This is the first time I've been out of sweatpants in 10 days."

Officials at area golf courses learned Tuesday afternoon that lobbying efforts by groups including the Chicago District Golf Association had resulted in a revision by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Courses could remain open provided golfers and staff maintain social distancing. Among the new rules: Golfers had to walk (no cart), pay by credit card and were instructed not to touch the flagstick.

"We'll play by the rules-the new rules," said Reggie Devers, a Wheaton resident who played on the Village Links' nine-hole course with her husband, Jim. "This feels fairly safe ... ish."

Safe-ish might not be a term Dr. Benjamin Singer of Northwestern Medicine would use. But it does seem to apply.

"The best advice is to avoid going anywhere where you have to interact with people," Singer said. "Golf might be attractive with a few caveats-if you can do it by yourself or with someone in-house you're exposed to anyway. Obviously don't share a cart and stay six feet away from people. That's easier to do in golf than basketball."

Singer, an assistant professor of medicine (pulmonary and critical care), said running is the safest activity. As for golf ...

"It's tough because everybody needs to get outside; it is amazing what exercise, particularly exercise outside, can do for you," he said. "And there's nothing like a day on the links."

Many feel that way.

The Village Links' Wednesday tee sheet was stuffed, with play starting at 10 a.m. following a frost delay. General manager Jeff Vesevick said he expected 300 players: "It tells you that people are dying to get out of the house and do something fun."

Golf seems to be the ideal pandemic sport. Or, more accurately, the least reckless one.

It's outdoors. No one sweats much. Unlike tennis, players do not share a ball. And they wear a glove on at least one hand.

There's minimal touching of surfaces or objects. On Wednesday, the Village Links had no ball washers or rakes for the bunkers.

And there really was no need to touch any part of the flagstick because of an ingenious addition: Vesevick cut up noodles that beginning swimmers use and had staff members place the pink, donut-shaped foam pieces in the cups.

"Very sophisticated," Vesevick joked.

Sink a putt and your ball drops less than 2 inches.

The New York Times found at least one course at which officials raised the liner cups above ground, changing the definition of a made putt.

Some tips for playing golf during the COVID-19 crisis: If you see a stray ball, resist the urge to add it to your shag bag. If a friend asks you to toss him or her a tee, just say no. Go ahead and putt out that 4-footer. No need to mark it and risk encroaching in another player's 6-foot zone. Pay off bets by Venmo or PayPal.

And as for drinks (and food), golf is now BYO.

Professionals such as Luke Donald are offering extensive tips on Twitter and Instagram, even for those who can't get outside.

The First Tee of Greater Chicago asked families to submit videos of how they're keeping busy indoors-using laundry baskets for chipping and yoga mats for putting.

Of course, nothing compares with the real thing.

"It's wonderful the opportunity that the Illinois government gave us-play with social distance," Sherwood Kraemer said between holes at the Village Links. "When there are only three in your group and you're hitting it all over the place, it's not a problem."

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