It’s OK to play golf as long as you follow healthy guidelines

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Birdwood Golf Course in Charlottesville (Photo: Golf Advisor)

Do you have a case of cabin fever? Gyms closed and need some exercise?

Play golf.

According to some doctors, getting outside and playing golf — as long as you follow guidelines — is fairly safe.

Dr. Catherine Troisi, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Texas Health Science Center, and Dr. Kelly Cawcutt, associate director of infection control and hospital epidemiology in Omaha, Neb., both say go ahead and swing away.

“Being in a wide-open, outdoor space is the least at-risk scenario,” Cawcutt told  “Precaution is the name of the game. It’s very reasonable to play if you are smart about it and follow the proper guidance.

“You’ll have to follow precautions that you normally wouldn’t have to, but I would play under that guidance.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Troisi told Golf Digest that “with the caveat that there’s a lot about this virus we still don’t know, it is a kind of virus that has an envelope, which means that it’s more easily killed than some other viruses. Sunlight and other environmental conditions can kill viruses like this, so it is probable that is true for this novel coronavirus, as well.

“So I would say in the actual playing of golf, you’re not at much risk.”

Golfers must take extra precautions and do things they normally wouldn’t do to reduce risk.

Make sure beforehand that none of your playing partners are sick or feeling ill. If they are, you might want to reconsider.

Social distancing is recommended. Six feet is the permittable distance to stay away from partners, or even farther if possible.

Because it may be impossible to wash your hands several times during a round, keep some hand sanitizer — if you can find any — with you and use it often throughout your game.

According to science, the virus can linger on material objects, so forget pulling the flag stick. Leave it in, even though it may reduce your percentages of making the putt.

Wipe down your club handles and golf balls.

Wipe down the steering wheel of your cart or other parts of the cart that you expect to come in contact with. Reconsider storing your phone or other items in the dashboard of your cart. Also wipe down any parts of your golf bag that will come into contact with the cart.

When you pull your golf ball out of the cup, you might want to wipe it down. If you spot a ball lying in the woods, you might want to leave it. You don’t know where it has been.

If you do pick up random golf balls, don’t touch your mouth.

If your partner makes a great shot or sinks a putt, resist a congratulatory high five, handshake or fist bump. Maybe an elbow-tap (the low-bow), or tapping golf clubs is good enough.

Don’t hang out in the clubhouses. Get in and out and don’t linger.

For most of us, golf relieves stress and that’s a good thing during a stressful time.

“Relieving stress helps our immune system and we know that physical activity boosts your immune system, so for both mental and physical health, it’s good to get activity however you can get it without putting yourself at risk,” Troisi said. “So anything outside where you’re not putting yourself in close proximity to a lot of people can be good for you. Being in nature helps your mental health as well.”

Dr. Cawcutt said that hand sanitizer for your glove is good, though not an ideal situation because it can create slickness.

“If you’re willing to put it on your glove, use it,” Cawcutt said. “It’s the safest avenue. Something to keep your glove clean is ideal.”


  1. We have a state lock down in California, do you still advise that all workers show up so all the retired people the most at risk, can go play golf and pay with contaminated money or credit cards. What happens when they break down on the road. I understand your a DR.Try common sense.

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