Golf may be back in Southern California, but for those of us that enjoy that enjoying playing competitively, it isn’t quite the same game we left before the shutdown. Between unclear governmental policies, cautious course operators, and new temporary conditions on the course, there’s a lot of factors in play before we return to “normal”. While you may not be able to participate in a full-fledged tournament like you’re used to, we’ve put together some pointers on how you can scratch that competitive itch and even find groups hosting alternative tournament formats that meet the current standards.
Finding a game to join
If your usual game has been put on hold during these crazy times, or if you’re just looking to add something new to your golf game, there are hundreds of groups across Southern California hosting a variety of formats designed specifically for these times. To find one in your area, check out the SCGA Club Finder tool.
One of the more innovative groups you’ll find that is particularly suited for current climate is the Flex Golf Tour. Each “tour” consists of 4 one-month long tournaments, where players can compete at the specified course for the month at any time that fits their schedule. All you need to do is book your tee time, play with at least one other golfer, and submit your score through the Flex Golf Tour app (available in the App Store and Google Play). Currently, there are tours in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, and the Inland Empire.
Playing the round
Make sure you’re away of all the guidelines outlined by the course to players, both for your own safety and to reinforce the idea that tournament play is safe during these times. In addition to rules out on the course, you should know how soon you can arrive before your tee time and which practice facilities and amenities will be available. We suggest bringing your own tees, pencils, ball-marking pens, hand sanitizer, mask, drinking water, and any other items they may need out on the course.
As you’re likely aware, some of the changes out on the course (altered cups, no bunker rakes, etc.) have affected the way the game is played. Thankfully, the USGA has provided guidance on how to administer competitions under the Rules of Golf with these alterations.
Side note: unless you’re ok giving up strokes to players better than you, consider net competitions using a GHIN Handicap Index. For those without an Index, you can get one free for 60 days here.
Running your own game
If you normally just compete within a foursome, not much has changed in terms of how you set up your game and play. But for those of you hosting competitions over multiple groups, you made need to make some alterations to the usual preparation and operations:
Booking a course
Due to different counties having different restrictions on group play, you may have trouble finding a course that will allow you to book a block of tee times. If you still want everyone to play on the same day, the best option have everyone book their own tee times and send in their scorecard at the end of the round. Just make sure you plan the event early enough to give everyone a chance to book their time before they fill up.
One silver lining to all of this is that we’re living in 2020 and technology offers solutions to many common practices that have become unsafe. For those of you that were stuck in the stone age, now is the time to start booking and paying for tee times online, collecting any payments from players through Venmo, Zelle, Paypal, etc., and using electronic scorecards.
Make sure you communicate all the guidelines outlined in the “Playing the round” section to your players. You should also consider eliminating any games that don’t allow for social distancing or avoiding common touchpoints, such as closest to the pin and long drive contests.
The final hurdle is figuring out how to keep and collect scores. One great option is the USGA Tournament Management software (free version available for SCGA clubs). With TM, you have access to an entire library of tournament formats, integration with GHIN to seamlessly factor in handicaps to net events, and an event website where players can find tee sheets and leaderboards.
For those without access to scorekeeping/tournament management apps, there are still easy options for players to send in their score electronically. For example, players keep score through their own app or paper scorecard and simply email the scores to the tournament manager.
Bottom line: just make sure your events abide by course/county guidelines so we can get back to “real” tournaments sooner.
While we may not be back to the times of large tournaments and gatherings at the 19th hole yet, you can still find ways to keep your competitive spirit alive. As long as we all continue to abide by the rules in place for playing safely, we’ll eventually be able to return to our favorite events.
Kevin is a born and raised Southern California golfer. His golf highlights include occasionally breaking 90, losing an entire dozen balls in one round, and sinking a 20 foot putt on camera on the first take. Kevin is a member of Tiny Putters Golf and his current Handicap Index is none of your business.