As Philippines readies to open golf courses in new normal, caddies’ role significantly reduced

Dominic Menor, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2020 06:54 PM | Updated as of May 15 2020 07:05 PM

Golfers going back to the course when golf clubs open will have to handle their bags around more now, pull their own clubs out themselves all the time, and clean their own gear.

What used to be a chill leisure game will turn into a slightly more laborious exercise in golf, as players accustomed to being fully assisted by caddies face a new reality and a new set of guidelines to keep them safe in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several golf courses and country clubs have issued separate regulations, but all based on recommendations by the National Golf Association of the Philippines, the sport’s national governing body.

The most distinctive change players should expect has to do with the reduced role of caddies.

According to safety protocols sent out by some country clubs to their members, caddies will be limited to what are classified as “course-related maintenance” work, which includes fixing divot marks and pitch marks on the greens.

They are barred from interacting with players and won’t be allowed to clean their golf clubs and golf balls, a task that will be left to the players.

Caddies are not allowed, too, to pull out the clubs from a player’s bag.

The regulations released the past few days are in preparation for the opening of golf courses in general quarantine areas. 

The government this week announced that golf, tennis and sports that feature little to no human physical contact can resume play.

Mount Malarayat in Lipa City and Pueblo de Oro in Cagayan de Oro are expected to reopen on Saturday, May 16. 

Other guidelines include:

  • The need for everyone to wear a face mask and undergo temperature check.
  • In most cases, only members of their respective clubs are allowed to play; senior citizens, meanwhile, aren’t.
  •  Tee time reservations must be made days in advance.
  •  Locker rooms and showers will temporarily be closed.
  • A strict one player, one golf cart policy will be in place; caddies will need to walk.
  • Players and caddies are not allowed to touch the flagstick; a mechanism will be installed so the golf ball can be retrieved.
  • At one golf course, players are specifically urged to smoothen a bunker with their club and feet, because rakes are prohibited.
  • In one case, players are instructed to submit their scorecards via SMS or email to the golf office for encoding.
  • Food and beverage services are limited and in some cases closed.
  • Once they are finished playing, golfers are required to leave the premises as soon as possible to prevent crowding.

Golf restarts in South Korea; US next

Golf is one sport that has received an early resumption in South Korea, and is expected to be one of the first restart in the US.

In Korea, players at the KLPGA Championship were ordered to keep two meters apart and there was no touching the flagsticks without gloves as women's professional golf returned post-coronavirus on Thursday.

The tournament, normally overlooked outside South Korea, is the first high-level women's golf to be played since the US-based LPGA suspended its season in February.

With sports fans around the world long deprived of live action, rights have been sold to broadcasters in countries including the US, Canada and Australia.

To avoid any coronavirus infection, players were advised to keep two meters apart on the course and minimize physical contact, while touching the pin without gloves was prohibited. 

Players also had to wear masks before and after their rounds, but could choose whether or not to do so during play -- with most deciding against.

Apart from the host broadcaster, media were restricted to the first and 10th tees, with personnel required to wear face masks at all times. 

In the US, the PGA Tour is preparing for a June 11 relaunch at Colonial after stopping in March.

The PGA Tour's event plan includes temperature monitoring, virus tests for those above 38 C and quarantines for those testing positive to keep events in a secure bubble, much the same strategy the NBA, MLB, MLS and NHL are studying.

Small-scale events are easier, such as the Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson skins game May 24 with NFL stars Tom Brady and Peyton Manning or McIlroy's Sunday event at Seminole Golf Club in South Florida.

"It has been difficult to witness what so many are enduring over the last several weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic," Rory McIlroy said.

"I'm pretty excited to do a small part to raise some money and some awareness in these challenging times." — With a report from Agence France-Presse

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