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My first round of post lockdown golf was scheduled for 7:00am on Tuesday, April 28, 2020.  In the Mitten we are currently limited to walking only.  I was planning on going solo since my two regular golf buddies had bailed.  One friend has a bad back and can’t walk a course.  The other has decided to skip golf until the “virus thing” has worked itself out.

As instructed, I used the online system to book my solo round.  I was lucky and got the first scheduled tee time of the day.  The course was limiting groups to three or less and tee times had 12-minute splits.  When I scheduled my time, the next group was 7:24am.  Unless someone signed up with me, it looked like there would be decent spacing of the groups.

As I drove to the course on Tuesday morning, I was excited and a bit nervous.  Would there be a crowd of golfers milling around the parking lot and first tee?  Did someone sign up with my tee time to make it a threesome?  Having not touched a club since March 20, would I be able to hit the ball?

I rolled into the completely empty parking lot at 6:45am.  So far so good … until I walked over to the fence surrounding the course and discovered the entry gate was locked.  Okay, I was a little early so I was prepared to wait a bit.  Then another car rolled into the parking lot and it was the course manager.

We greeted each other from 30 feet and he said once he got the computer up and running, I could show my receipt to him through a clubhouse window.  No one was allowed to enter the clubhouse.  10 minutes later I was standing on the first tee.  No one had taken the other two slots at 7:00am so I was solo.  While I enjoy having company on the course, for my maiden COVID round I was happy to not need to social distance.

A small miracle occurred on the first hole.  I striped a drive down the middle and then put my approach on the green, pin high.  At that point, I became acquainted with the first of several COVID adaptations: the upside down cup.

This course flipped the hole liner/flagstick holder upside down.  The result was an extremely shallow “hole”.  A putt with any speed often would roll over the inverted cup liner or bounce off the flagstick.  Maybe 50% of my putts managed to stay in the “hole”.  I decided if I hit the flagstick, I would consider the putt holed unless I really rammed it.

Another issue was the bunkers.  Naturally, there were no rakes to prevent multiple people handling the same rake.  The course had only been open to the public since Monday but there had been no attempt to rake out the bunkers before the morning’s play.  Fortunately, on this day, I did not end up in any bunker.  If I had, I was prepared to play it as it lay or take relief from severe “damage”, depending on the situation.

As a solo golfer with no one in front of me, I finished the 18 fairly quickly.  I was generally happy with my ball striking, short game and putting.  The course was in decent shape with freshly cut and smooth greens.  Their speed was a bit less than mid-season but a few times I was happy about that.  The fairways were cut and allowed some bounce/roll and they had also cut the rough to playable height.

The course appeared to be mostly open as I toured the 18.  After making the turn, I had the entire back nine to myself.  I had read some posts that a few local courses were packed and that very slow play was the rule.  That was not my experience this day.  Social distancing was easy and as the first one out of the gate, pace was never an issue.

On my way to the parking lot the manager, superintendent and a worker were chatting together (6 feet apart!).  I thanked them for keeping the course in good condition and for making it possible for golfers like me to play.

I am scheduled to play another course in a couple days with a foursome of acquaintances.  I hope things go as smoothly as my first time playing COVID golf.

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Round 2 was equally as problem free as the first as far as social distancing.  My golf game did not cooperate as much but our foursome toured the 18 holes in 4 hours on the dot (pace rated as 4:15).  There were primarily twosomes so we never waited and the trailing group never pushed us.  One player on the course must have had a certified physical disability as he had a cart.

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The course I've been playing this year was in pretty good shape. It's been really full though. I've joined up with some other players the last few times I've gone out. We've kept our distance which is good. If we came within 10' of one another, that was the closest we were. I am somewhat comforted by them saying that sunlight kills this, but I'm still not taking chances like most people even though I am quite certain I had this in January. This course is using the pool noodle method of keeping the balls out of the hole. It works really well. I can only think of 1 putt that one of my playing partners had that was questionable as to whether it would have gone in the hole. The flag stick was leaning towards him from the breeze, and I'm quite sure it would have gone in without the flag in. He wasn't going to count it holed, but his friend and I both insisted that it was. The only downside is that the bunkers have been awful until yesterday. They finally did some maintenance to them. People are smoothing them the best they can with their feet.

So far, golf is the closest thing to normal that I can do these days even with the changes they've made.

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