Golf and COVID-19: A Remarkable Tale of Government Stupidity

I play golf. I play a lot of golf. I was tempted to say: “I am a golfer” but that connotes a level of consistent skill that I find lacking in my game. So, let’s just leave it at “I play golf.”

Over time you learn that golf is allegory for life itself. One of its biggest lessons is that it quickly separates fact from fiction (truth from sandbagging). It also separates skill from bragging (science from propaganda). And most importantly it separates self-reliance from popular wisdom (shot selection from “swing for the fences”). And lately golf has become an allegory for the stupidity of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Remember COVID-19 did not shut down anything – government did. The only thing that COVID-19 and government share in common is that they are both organisms that neither think or reason and are incapable of doing anything other than follow their genetic code.

In the beginning we knew nothing about the COVID-19 infection other than it came from a Chinese lab in Wuhan (site of most of China’s chemical/biological weapons research) and that it was spreading at an alarming rate throughout the world. It was perceived to be deadly mostly on the basis of a morbidity rate that compared the number of deaths to the then diagnosed cases. Later research would determine that the “experts” grossly overstated that morbidity rate. From the beginning New York City became the epicenter of the pandemic in America and we projected the developments in New York as being universal to the whole of the country. We had no data, no experience, and no reasonable basis upon which decisions could be made. So, in response, we did four things:

 In quick succession we banned most travel from foreign countries beginning with China. That was quickly branded as xenophobic by liberal politicians including President-elect Joe Biden.
 We urged people to engage in social distancing (a six foot perimeter), constantly wash hands, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth – the later being an acknowledgement that the COVID virus entered through those orifices. The members of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) rejected the use of masks as ineffective and potentially instilling false confidence in regard to attention to the other guidelines.
 We ramped up identification, collection and manufacture of particular medical devices and supplies thought to be essential
 We emptied out hospitals and other health care facilities in anticipation of a flood of critical care needs from expected patients.

So let’s start this discussion by acknowledging some parameters regarding these restrictions and laying waste to the idea that any of them were driven by science – and by that I mean real science using the disciplines of science including testing, analyzing and adjusting not just a guy in a lab coat exercising his personal views. And let’s start this discussion by acknowledging that while these decisions may have been understandable in the beginning, they are certainly no longer reasonable given the amount of data and experience that we now have.

Various states reacted differently to the pandemic from closing the golf courses (California, New York, etc.) to imposing restrictions on play. Following are most of the common restrictions imposed on those courses allowed to remain open by the government:

 No shotgun starts.
 Only one person per golf cart unless a member of the same household.
 Do not touch the pins on the greens.
 Do not reach in the cup to retrieve balls.
 Mandatory masks in the pro shop.
 All drinking facilities and ballwashers removed from the course.
 Rakes removed from sandtraps.

There are probably others but these are the ones that we have observed as common during our travels through Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Arizona and Colorado.

While most of the decisions regarding golf may have been understandable in the beginning, they are no longer reasonable given the amount of data and experience that we now have. Golf is played in the glorious outdoors where the sun shines and the wind and the rains regularly wash the environment. The average golf course encompasses about 75 acres, which means that at any given time no more than two foursomes occupy the same four acres. So let’s take if from the beginning:

 Shotgun starts. Shotgun starts are the most efficient use of a golf course. Everybody starts at the same time, progresses through the eighteen holes at about the same pace and finishes at about the same time – time, in fact, which permits a second round of shotgun starts to begin immediately afterward. Shot gun starts were banned because of the tendency of golfers to bunch together to hear the final instructions before heading out to the course – thus no social distancing. However, both clubs that I belong to utilize the internet for making reservations and getting tee time and course selections. Prior to COVID, on shotgun start days, that also included your starting hole. The only reason that golfers gather was to socialize and get instructions as to the type of matches to be played. Intelligent people understand the need for social distancing and without a need to hear instructions (rather than read them online) there is no reason to believe that the golfers will engage in “’bunching together.” The reason for the rule having disappeared, so should the rule. Golf invented social distancing.
 Only one person per golf cart unless a member of the same household. This is all about social distancing and is prudent. In fact, it is so prudent that almost all of the golfers I play with abandoned “two to a cart” shortly after the pandemic began and way before it was made a mandate. Intelligent people do not need the government to exercise prudent behavior. The reason for the rule having disappeared, so should the rule.
 Do not touch the pins on the greens. This rule was implemented in this mistaken belief that the virus could be easily transmitted by hands touching flat surfaces. The pins are generally made of non-porous aluminum or fiberglass. The CDC has now acknowledged that while it is possible, it is highly improbable, that the virus can be transmitted by touching flat surfaces. And golfers wear a glove on at least one hand. The reason for the rule having disappeared, so should the rule.
 Do not reach in the cup to retrieve balls. This restriction was set forth primarily because whichever bureaucrat was in charge of the restrictions for golf ran out of intelligent ideas before he reached his quota of rules. Either that or he believes that the virus lives in the dark of the hole in which the cup is placed. And like the prohibition on touching the pin the rule is without any scientific data to justify it. The reason for the rule having disappeared, so should the rule.
 Mandatory masks in the pro shop. This is the same rule as applied to any other retail establishment. I continue to be a skeptic about the efficacy of masks since despite almost universal acceptance by the public, the virus continues to spread at increasingly faster rates. That alone suggests that the CDC was right in it first assessment that the wearing of masks was largely ineffective and gave the wearer a false sense of imperviousness.
 All drinking facilities and ballwashers removed from the course. I understand the drinking facilities restrictions although I think it is being overly cautious amongst a group of relatively intelligent adults who if they are concerned about contagion from a drinking source will simply bring their own water with them – that’s what most of my golf friends do anyway. The ballwashers are a different matter. Golf balls, while dimpled are made of a hard flat surface. Water in the ballwashers can and should have in it anti-bacterial agents to aid in the cleaning of the balls, The water should be changed daily to prevent fouling. Utilizing those two elements would make the likelihood of transmitting the virus by washing the balls highly unlikely.
 Rakes removed from sandtraps. Here again the concern of transmitting by touching hard surfaces led to the decision. There never was any scientific evidence that this could happen and no subsequent studies to verify the legitimacy of the concern. Fiberglass rake handles are hard surfaces and the likelihood of transmission is extremely low. The reason for the rule having disappeared, so should the rule.

So, in the beginning excessive restrictions were understandable but never reasonable. And now with tons of data at our disposal, the decisions made in February and March by governments should be changed to free those least likely to suffer serious consequences from being exposed to the virus and to focus protection on those most vulnerable – those over seventy with specific conditions that have adversely impacted their immune systems. And yet, government, like the virus, remains unthinking, unable to nuance, and incapable of diverse response. The burdens of February and March remain; in many instances they are imposed more harshly. They still are not reasonable and they are far from understandable.

But in a larger sense, you have to start wondering if the population will meekly accept these type of arbitrary restrictions from a governor – or for that matter any centralized government figure – what does that mean for our personal freedoms, for the rule of law, and for the concept of separation of power in the future. You had better wake up before all of it is gone under the false premise of public health or national security.