With golf courses reopening in England two weeks from today, now is the time to start preparing yourself for a long-awaited return to the fairways.
Many people wonder why this most naturally of socially-distanced sports was ever closed in the first place, however, at long last, thousands of golf-starved players will be heading back to the fairways on March 29.
If you’re lucky, your golf club has kept its greenkeeping team fully employed and the course will be in great shape. Despite a cold and wet January and February, the weather has been relatively kind of late, and with no winter golfers making divots and pitch marks, playing conditions should be excellent, especially now that temperatures are rising and spring is in the air. But please bear in mind that some courses have had to furlough the bulk of their staff, and many vital course works may have been delayed, so be patient and allow time for the course to get back into tip top condition.
Here’s a quick guide on how best to prepare for golf’s return….
- BE REALISTIC ABOUT YOUR FITNESS
The various lockdowns have seen most of us eat and drink more and exercise less, so don’t be surprised if walking for 3½-4 hours with your clubs in tow will prove a little harder than it was before. So unless you’ve been pounding your Peleton over the last three months, you might want to ease back into things gently, rather than playing five times a week – although most clubs will be restricting the number of rounds you can play in a given period anyway.
- STRETCH YOUR GOLFING MUSCLES
Don’t wait until you step onto the first tee on March 29, or shortly after, before you stretch your golfing muscles. Take a club into the back garden or an open space and take some repeated practice swings, and also take time to stretch the key golfing muscles. Take a look at former European Tour player Andrew Murray’s excellent getbacktogolf videos on his Twitter page for some great stretching and warm-up exercises, so that you don’t pull a muscle on your first outing in months.
- EQUIPMENT MOT
If you haven’t seen your golf bag since 2020, now’s the time to see if your equipment needs some attention. Here’s a quick checklist of things to look out for:
– If your grips are slippery, brush them with a light sandpaper and then wash them with a warm, soapy water. Let the grips dry naturally. If they are beyond repair, get your pro to fit new ones. For irons, make sure to replace all of them at the same time to ensure consistency of feel.
– Clean the grooves of your irons and wedges. Warm water, a gently abrasive sponge, and a reasonably sharp-edged tool – not a wooden golf tee – should get those grooves free of mud and dirt and gripping the ball for extra spin
– Check your golf shoes have the full complement of cleats and, if you wear spikeless shoes, that the treads aren’t overly worn. Give the uppers a clean with a damp cloth and apply a waterproofing wax polish.
– Check what’s in your golf bag. Get rid of all those empty sweet wrappers, half-drunk bottles of water, rotten fruit, broken tees and scuffed golf balls. Re-stock with new balls – preferably the same model for consistency – a fresh glove, and some healthy snacks, and a clean hand towel to dry any wet grips.
– Wash your waterproofs and check your umbrella. The weather is always changeable at this time of year, so make sure you have the necessary kit to keep you warm and dry should conditions change mid-round.
– Give your trolley an MOT. Clean the wheels and frame, check the straps are in good working order, and, if you have a power trolley, make sure the battery is fully charged to avoid having to drag it round the last seven holes on your first round back.
GOLF UNDER COVID RESTRICTIONS
– Pro shops, clubhouses and changing rooms don’t properly open until April 12, so make sure you’ve got everything you need before you arrive at the club.
– Check if your club will be organising takeaway drinks and foods, as not all of them will be. – Golf courses are only open for pre-booked tee times, so make sure you book ahead to avoid twiddling your thumbs until May. Some private clubs will be members-only in the short-term, while others will allow a limited number of visitors at restricted times.
– Don’t touch the flag; remember to remove the ball from the hole with your putter, or without touching the edges; use elbows to greet players rather than handshakes and maintain social distancing at all times when playing with golfers outside of your bubble.