Back when the pandemic first started, as almost every aspect of American life stopped, thousands of golf superintendents parked their golf carts, pulled out their flagsticks, and closed down their pro shops. At most, golf falls into the category of a discretionary expense. So, as the pandemic started to threaten livelihoods and lives, no one in the golf industry could have predicted when it would be safe for golfers to return to the courses or who would come back once it was safe.
Working together, the golf industry started lobbying lawmakers and working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create revised guidelines and rules to help bring over 14,500 golf courses across the nation back into play. Now, after surviving so far, the golf industry is thriving, including the PGA Tour.
It is true that no one is throwing a party or popping campaign since it wouldn’t be appropriate for the current climate. However, if the PGA Tour wants to crack a small smile while celebrating a job well done for surviving the pandemic thus far, it would be more than okay.
How the PGA Tour Survived and is Recovering from the Pandemic
The PGA Tour finished the 2019 to 2020 season at the Tour Championship. It didn’t have a problem with the pandemic during all three months of tournaments following the shutdown due to the pandemic. However, there were a few rough patches.
Some other sports outside of the pandemic bubble had several notable challenges; the PGA Tour and golf as a whole managed to go through the regular schedule without any interruptions while pushing for a new season. The PGA Tour played a total of 14 tournaments over 13 weeks, and they started in mid-June.
On-site, the tour performed 3,652 tests for both caddies and players over the tour’s playing period, and they only had four caddies and seven players that tested positive. The PGA Tour made it the last five weeks of the tournament without having a positive test last year.
This is an impressive achievement given the number of people involved and the amount of travel required. Even though there were players who contracted the virus at home and avoided tour testing, they weren’t announced. This helped contain any large outbreaks.
They played in 12 different states with varying rules, and there were charter flights between events. Each tournament had specific hotels assigned, but players could also travel on their own and choose their own accommodations. They had weekly testing due to a contract with Sanford Health, and they adjusted as needed along the way.
Nick Watney was the first player to test positive in June at the RBC Heritage. He quarantined for 10 days before he was allowed to travel home, and the PGA Tour paid him a $100,000 stipend. The tour had stipend rules that they adjusted to say that any player who did not take a test at home before traveling to the playing site and did not follow the protocols would not get a stipend if they tested positive. Those players who took the charter also had to test negative before boarding and again when they touched down.
On the week of the Travelers Championship, two caddies and one player tested positive. Three other players also withdrew due to fear of having been in contact. The tour then held a press conference where they stressed that everyone involved in the tour had to take personal responsibility for their actions so the PGA Tour could keep on going.
There were no postponements in the PGA Tour. The John Deere Classic did cancel. Also Workday, stepped up to play an event a week before the Tour Championship at Muirfield Village. Those were the only changes.
Today’s Approach to the PGA Tour
The tour continues to keep up a cautious approach, but it did ease up a little on some restrictions. Players can invite one family member to the tournament. Some of the corporate sponsors and title sponsors can bring a small number of guests to hospitality venues on tour, as long as they practice social distancing.
They are also now allowing spectators, but they cap at 10,000 people per day. This attitude is likely to continue in the early future. The top priority is to get golf back and playable safely. This can be financially draining for the tour, but it can continue to play with fewer spectators because of the decent amount of money it gets from television rights and title sponsors. Testing is continuing into this year’s tour, and they’re still limiting how many people can come onto the site. They’ll eventually open up for more spectators and fans to come watch.
Get Your Golf Degree and Practice Safe Play
Golf is continuing to thrive, especially with restrictions loosening at golf courses around the nation. You can get your golf degree at a top-quality golf college, refine your skills, and get out and play the game all year-round. Some colleges even offer programs online to offer more flexibility.