MIAMI • Golf industry leaders in the United States unveiled a three-stage plan on Tuesday to reopen courses with safety protocols in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost all states permit or are set to allow golf courses to reopen with social distancing and other measures aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19 in place. The disease has infected more than 1.2 million Americans and claimed over 72,000 lives as of yesterday.
The "Back2Golf" programme, supported by the PGA and LPGA Tours plus the US Golf Association and the PGA of America, also has the backing of US course owners, superintendents and club managers.
There are some 16,000 golf courses in America.
"While we recognise there's no perfect solution and various areas of the country will progress in these phases at a different pace, it's imperative we reopen golf in a way that prioritises the health and well-being of the entire golf community," PGA of America chief executive Seth Waugh said.
The stages follow guidelines for the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including social distancing and greater sanitisation protocols, and to allow for differing stages in different areas as city and state regulations slowly open up.
Stage one allows for no more than 10 people in a single area, with players practising safe distancing from each other while walking or by going solo in golf carts. Those in vulnerable groups will not participate.
Stage two allows for up to 50 people in an area, but players are still distancing from one another and still no golfing for those in vulnerable groups such as those over 60 or with existing health conditions.
A restricted course set-up will remain in place, going without rakes or the removal of flagsticks. There will also be limited clubhouse activities, and restrictions on leagues and events.
Stage three would allow golf for vulnerable people provided they use social distancing guidelines and other precautionary measures. Others should minimise time in crowded situations, but all golfing operations can resume with unrestricted staffing.
Comprehensive sanitary procedures remain with normal course maintenance and operations.
"Operation playbook" guidelines will be updated as CDC guidelines change.
While we recognise there's no perfect solution... it's imperative we reopen golf in a way that prioritises the health... of the entire golf community.
SETH WAUGH, PGA of America chief executive, on the three-stage plan.
Urging everyone to adapt, Waugh added: "The importance of social distancing and responsible behaviour during this pandemic has become a part of everyone's daily life.
"Reopening golf responsibly under strict social distancing practices is something we can all unify behind."
The PGA Tour will restart its season at the June 11-14 Charles Schwab Challenge in Fort Worth, Texas, some three months after the calendar was halted following the opening round of the Players Championship in March. While the first four events on the Tour's revised schedule will be behind closed doors, those in the playing field must adhere to the new guidelines.