HEISER: Pennsylvania golfers get their wish, now they must obey rules, adapt to new normal

  • Pennsylvania golf courses shut down in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The courses remained shuttered through all of April.
  • Monday, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the state's courses could reopen on Friday, May 1.
  • The newly reopened courses will have to abide by some new restrictions.
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For more than a month, the Pennsylvania golfing community has been on a mission.

It’s goal? Getting the state’s courses open again.

The golfers flooded their state representatives and the governor with desperate messages pleading their case. They started Internet petitions which garnered tens of thousands of online signatures. They even filed unsuccessful lawsuits in the state courts.

Nothing seemed to work. While courses in several bordering states remained open, the Pennsylvania golf facilities were shut down in March and remained shuttered for all of April.

Golfing, some other outdoor activities to be allowed in Pennsylvania starting Friday, May 1

Finally, that all changed on Monday. That’s when Gov. Tom Wolf issued the unexpected decision that the golf courses could reopen, starting Friday.

The state’s golfers can consider it mission accomplished.

New mission: Now, however, the golfers and the course owners have another mission ahead of them. They must willingly live within the restrictions imposed by the state and prove that golf, like hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities, can be conducted safely.

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That shouldn’t be all that difficult. Given the coronavirus pandemic, the new guidelines seem reasonable. Still, obeying the rules will be important. That’s because there will be a segment of the population more than willing to report any golf rule-breakers.

Let’s be honest, there are lots of folks out there who don’t like golf, or golfers. They consider it an elitist, privileged activity. They’d much rather see golf’s open spaces used for public parks or nature preserves. If you want proof of that sentiment, take a quick search through your favorite social-media site. Disdain for the “country-club” set won’t be hard to find.

Those folks probably aren’t happy with Wolf’s decision to reopen the courses as soon as he did, and they’re probably going to be more than happy to report any and all violations they witness.

Must be vigilant: That’s why the golf community must be vigilant, starting Friday, to live within the new restrictions.

The basic rules of operation will be pretty simple. Only one person per cart, with walking encouraged. Stay at least six feet away from fellow golfers. Tee times spread further apart. Wear a mask into the clubhouse or snack bar. Don’t share equipment or touch the equipment of other players. Try to eliminate touching flag sticks, cups or rakes. Don’t congregate in groups. No handshakes and sanitize your hands regularly.

Most of it is simple common sense. By now, we all know the drill of what is considered acceptable behavior during the pandemic.

Adapt to new normal: Eventually, things will hopefully return to normal. For a while, however, it’s imperative that the golf community adapts to the new normal.

If golfers and courses flagrantly disregard the state’s guidelines, there’s a chance that the governor and his health advisers could revisit the decision to reopen the courses, especially if COVID-19 cases spike back up.

So, golfers need to behave themselves and enjoy the opportunity they now have. It shouldn’t be hard to do. After all, it’s certainly better than no golf at all.

Steve Heiser is sports editor of The York Dispatch. He can be reached at sheiser@yorkdispatch.com.