PAUL KIDDIE braves the golf course in search of some social distancing exercise
The world as we know it is changing in front of our very eyes. With every day that goes by, another layer of normality is seemingly stripped from our lives amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Pubs, restaurants and theatres are now off limits, the hospitality sector joining the sporting sphere as another one for the public to avoid.
Completely understandable given the nightmare scenario we find ourselves in.
Playing golf, though, remains a viable option.
Clubhouses may be closing but the courses themselves are open and offer the ideal opportunity for some much-needed exercise, both physical and mental.
With the weather set fair, I headed out for a game at my local, Murrayfield GC. It really wasn’t that difficult to adapt to the modifications, albeit the club, like many of us, is learning as it goes along.
Access to the gents’ locker room was by membership card, so no need to touch the handle to push the door open. To exit, though, the door had to be pulled open.
Meeting my pal on the first tee, there wasn’t the usual handshake, just a friendly greeting from a safe distance.
The on-course banter is where the big difference came, though. Gone was the chat about the weekend football, the city centre pub crawl or new restaurant experience.
Instead it centred around virus data analysis, plunging pensions and exam cancellations. Social distancing and self-isolating, phrases alien to me until a couple of weeks ago, were rolling off our tongues.
Out on the course and cutting down the potential of transmitting the virus from surfaces has seen clubs sensibly remove rakes from the bunkers, with players expected to smooth over their tracks with a club or shoe.
Despite the recent rule change, I’ve never been one to leave the pin in when putting, but doing so was an easy option. Admittedly, we did employ some generous ‘gimmes’, while ensuring we removed the ball from the hole with our gloved hand when any putts did drop.
One obvious change was the bell on the side of the 11th fairway which is normally rung by golfers indicating to those coming behind that it is safe to play. It had been covered by a black bin liner to remove another potential surface contact. A rap with a club, though, had the same effect.
The golf ball washers dotted around the course were also covered up, while the air pressure shoe cleaners at the back of the 18th had been removed.
We adjourned to the clubhouse afterwards for a swift refreshment and it was here that changes were most noticeable.
Reassuringly, hand sanitisers were everywhere, from the locker room to the staircase and lounge area, although I would have preferred the pump-action bottles to the ones you had to pick up.
All drinks, hot and cold, were served in plastic containers, while the freshly-filled rolls were eaten off napkins rather than plates.
It transpired we were among the last to enjoy the 19th hole. Just a few hours later, the clubhouse closed until further notice.
That won’t stop me heading back to tee it up again.
Players often laugh that golf spoils a good walk but right now a walk is more important than ever as we adjust to our new routines.
Edinburgh Council closed its gyms and golf courses towards the end of last week but for me there is no safer way to enjoy some healthy exercise than striding along the lush fairways our clubs will hopefully continue to offer.