In 1979 Gary Adams took out a second mortgage to invest in his concept of a metal headed driver. He began producing TaylorMade “Original One” drivers with 12 degrees of loft in McHenry, Illinois. His idea changed the game. Oh my, how it changed the game.
Through its long and storied history golf has seen its share of drastic changes. Equipment developments, rules changes, course design, agronomy practices and facility management all have put their stamp on the game. Recently the USGA and R&A introduced a revised edition of the Rules of Golf in order to make it simpler and perhaps more friendly to play. Equipment continues to evolve, stealing the headlines from most golf publications. Instruction has latched onto the latest technology in order to educate players and instill improvement.
Now a new, yet much different change has come to the fairways in the guise of COVID-19, a respiratory flu-like ailment that is highly contagious and more importantly, life threatening.
All of us have followed the progress of this virus throughout the world. It has come on quickly, resulting in countries adopting practices that may slow the spread. Elderly, at-risk individuals appear to be the hardest hit segments of the population. Media reports sprinkle stories of the tragic loss of life related to C-19. Numbers and statistics barrage us every day. It’s difficult to decipher their intent. The attempts to flatten the curve of infection may be slowing it some but it comes at a cost. People are self quarantined in their homes and most employers have taken measures to lay off workers. Gatherings are not allowed. The virus has shut down every extra-curricular activity known to us. Sports at every level have been suspended.
This virus has and will continue to impact our lives. Many don’t venture out unless it’s for groceries or medication. Stores are closed. Streets are eerily quiet, much like the environment after 9-11. To call this a change seems to be an understatement. Change doesn’t seem to be a strong enough descriptive.
While I realize there are several other issues that come to the forefront of this virus, this is a golf column. Life has changed and so to, once again golf has changed perhaps in a way we never thought possible. In all likelihood it may never be the game we knew in years past.
Currently most courses in the US have been closed. Those that are open operate under limited provisions encouraging social distancing and limited contact with common items such as flagsticks and putting cups. Carts are designated as “one player only” modes of transportation. Some are still able to play but it’s not the way it used to be.
With every sport shelved for the present time it’s hard to imagine a MLB game being played in a fan filled stadium anytime soon. Can you see the NFL playing their exhibition games in front of packed stands in August? The US Open in August, especially in New York, seems a bit of a stretch. All of these possibilities are contingent on the safety of all involved. The virus could die out. However, It could also come back stronger than before.
Regardless of what side of the fence you’re peeking over, there is no predicable end to this environment. Obviously I’d like this thing to go away so we could get back to the things we used to do, off and on the golf course. Yet this challenge is likely to define a new normal, one that limits interaction among people and ultimately changes the world socially, economically and medically. We have to be able to face up to these coming changes. Should it not happen I guess you can say at least we were prepared.
The near term looks restrictive. Much like the best advice for golfers, play one shot at a time, we need to take this pandemic one day at a time. The natural reaction is to have this virus 100% under control before resuming normal activities. Silly statement really. What aspect of our lives is 100% under control?
I feel bad for many of the senior players I’ve met and played with over the years. Some have other medical conditions that would be exposed if they were to contract COVID-19. These guys are the salt-of-the-earth players you often find on the fairways. My life has been enriched by engaging with them in dollar Nassaus or fifty cent point games. Their backgrounds and anecdotes are priceless, especially surrounded by a few beers. Good people and good times I hope I’ll be able to enjoy again.
As we look for certainty, there is only one. Our world and golf has changed 180 degrees. What will it look like in 6 months or a year is anyone’s guess.
In order to play and love this game one needs to experience golf’s undeniable attraction. It is demanding, it challenges, instills patience, defines character, teaches perseverance, and in so many other ways it is beyond what words can describe. Only those who have cradled a club in their hands, walked across dew-swept fairways at dawn, interacted with others needling and laughing their way around 18 holes, or felt the magical contact flow up the shaft into the arms and into one’s mind can appreciate golf’s allure. It is up to those of us who have done so to continue to further this game as we walk into the future.
There will be better days ahead and rounds to be played.
Stay safe and healthy everyone.