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Golf leaders set national COVID-19 operational guidelines

To ensure maximum safety, leaders from several national golf associations have collaborated on an outline to responsibly operate courses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Governors from nearly every state have eased the restrictions on golf courses. Players are back teeing it up all over the country.

The Back2Golf plan establishes protocols and best practices for more than 16,000 facilities in the United States. Working together was leadership from PGA of America, USGA, PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Golf Course Superintendents Association of America, National Golf Course Owners Association, Club Management Association of America and WE ARE GOLF, a World Golf Foundation initiative.

The Back2Golf initiative was reviewed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, golf leaders and medical experts, and is a three-phased approach. It integrates measures set by the CDC and the White House’s “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” plan. As with other business and governmental reopening plans, the recommendations will progress at various speeds depending on geographic location.

“The Back2Golf playbook and guidelines that the PGA of America and golf’s allied organizations have put together are both comprehensive in nature and, most importantly, lay out a responsible way to get back on the golf course,” said Dr. Bradley Connor, clinical professor of medicine at the Weill Cornell Medical College and an attending physician at the New York Presbyterian Hospital-Cornell campus. “While we all must remain vigilant and continue to take precautions, this plan allows golf to be played in keeping with social distancing best practices.”

Among the protocols are gatherings of no more than 10 people, strict social distancing, walking the course or single cart riders and restricted golf course setup. In addition, clubhouses and golf shops and other amenities must remain closed.

Locally, the Southern Nevada Golf Association and other related organizations are implementing the measures. Official plans and dates for a return to tournament play are being finalized.

“I thought the Back2Golf plan was extremely well done. We are sending it out to all courses to make sure they implement it,” said Ann Sunstrum, SNGA executive director. “At the SNGA, we are definitely implementing the protocols and even taking some additional preventative steps that will be specific to our tournaments and events.”

Golf’s leaders also agree that the nature of the game has allowed it to be among the first businesses to return to safe operations.

“Golf inherently provides many health and fitness benefits, including the opportunity to spend time outdoors with family and friends, which is needed now more than ever,” said Greg McLaughlin, CEO of World Golf Foundation. “It is also a sport that naturally lends itself to social distancing.”

Freelance writer Brian Hurlburt is a two-time author who has covered golf in Las Vegas for more than two decades. He can be reached at bhurlburt5@gmail.com or @LVGolfInsider.

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