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Covid-19 changing global golf scenario

Golf bag i
Golf bag in the United States during the first round of The players Championship on The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass on March 12, 2020 in Ponte Vedra Beach. PHOTO | AFP 

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, we are in unchartered waters! The Coronavirus pandemic is hitting sport and changing our lives in ways we never imagined. Many, if not all, organised sports events around the world have been cancelled or postponed as a result of this virus. While golf is seen as a fairly ‘safe’ sport to play during this trying time, golfers are being advised not to shake hands, to keep their distance from their playing partners and even caddies and minimise handling of pin flags and score cards.

In compliance with the guidelines issued by Kenya and to safe guard the interest of their members and staff, private clubs have issued guidelines to cut the risk of coronavirus. At the VetLab Sports Club, the board of directors has suspended use of biometric scanners and made available hand sanitisers across the facility. Interestingly, VetLab is discouraging use of the clubhouse restrooms and has withdrawn towels and toiletries normally provided by the club. Thankfully, the restrooms remain open! Members have also been encouraged to sit in groups of less than five and to maintain a safe distance.

At the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, the Tannahill Shield has been postponed! Played over the Easter holiday, this inter-club competition is one of Africa’s most prestigious amateur-team event. Played since 1924, the Tannahill Shield has only ever been stopped by war and now by this virus. To further mitigate against the coronavirus, the Royal board has also shut down the gym, sauna, spa, steam and swimming pool and also suspended all club activities. Caddies at Royal and many other clubs have been provided with running water, soap and hand sanitisers, one would hope that availability of water at the caddy shed/area is not a new thing. Royal has also suspended access to the club by reciprocating members and guests. Various golf and country clubs have set up temperature checking stations at their receptions, reduced sitting capacity of their various spaces and discouraged the use of caddies in a bid to enhance ‘social distancing’. Prize giving ceremonies have also not been spared by coronavirus; results will be posted online and winners speeches can now only be given via skype!

Away from Kenya and the measures that golf clubs are taking; the main golf tours continue to cancel and/or postpone more and more events. This week, the PGA Championship, a major golf tournament has been postponed. This follows the cancellation/postponement of the Players Championship, Valspar Championship, the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, Valero Texas Open, the Masters in Augusta, RBC Heritage, Zurich Classic, Wells Fargo Championship, AT&T Byron Nelson and the now the PGA Championship. On the European Tour, the Magical Kenya Open, the Hero Indian Open, Maybank Championship, Volvo China Open, Andalucia Masters and the Czech Masters have all been canceled or postponed. On the LPGA, the following events have been affected - Honda LPGA Thailand, HSBC Women’s World Championship, Blue Bay LPGA, Founders Cup, Kia Classic and the ANA Inspiration a major tournament.

On the European Challenge Tour, the Prague Golf Challenge, the D+D Real Slovakia Challenge and the D+D Real Czech Challenge have all been canceled.

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Communicating on the pandemic for the first time, Tiger Woods tweeted: "There are a lot more important things in life than a golf tournament right now," Woods said. "We need to be safe, smart and do what is best for ourselves, our loved ones and our community."

Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, practice social distancing and call Kenya’s Covid-19 toll free number, 719 if in doubt.

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