Bengaluru golfers take Covid-19 rules in their stride; begin search for birdies

Vedam Jaishankar

Bengaluru: Bengaluru is one of the Indian cities where golfing activity has come roaring back to life after a Covid-19 induced 2-month lockdown. The die-hard golfers are ready to put up with a stringent set of “Do’s and Don’ts” as laid down by clubs managements.

Sure, most golfers realise and appreciate that the new golfing protocol is keeping their and the community’s best interests in mind. The alternative is to continue staying ‘out of bounds’ of the golf course for some more time.

Golf in Bengaluru is a year-round activity, thanks to excellent weather conditions even in summer when rest of India would be wilting under a blazing sun or during monsoon, where the city being in a rain- shadow region allows golfers to enjoy a peaceful round.

Even otherwise Bengaluru’s golf courses owe their brilliant upkeep to the copious amount of water gushing from sewage treatment plants (STP). Even some of the courses on the outskirts, notably Prestige Golfshire, are in pristine condition owing to the same reason.

Still the two-month break from playing golf came as a godsend for golf course maintenance staff. The traditional April-showers came earlier than usual and with no golfers around professional green keepers revelled in keeping the courses in a superb condition.

The three armed forces golf courses (ASC, MEG, Air Force Training Command courses  – -Environment parks as they are referred these days) were off limits for civilians but the other better known courses, Karnataka Golf Association (KGA), Bangalore Golf Club (BGC), Prestige Golfshire, Eagleton, Prestige Augusta, Clover Green, Zion Hills which are in and around the city were soon humming with action.

The protocols that each of these golf course management teams strictly followed were slightly different.

“We had to walk though a disinfection tunnel,” said Dr Pradeep Rao, a regular golfer at BGC. “Not just the golfers, even the golf kits were sanitised.”

“All golfers have to have the Aarogya Sethu App loaded on to their mobile phones and only those with a green signal will be allowed to get past the main gate,” said Noorulla Patel of the Prestige Golfshire.

KGA set the pace for all the golf clubs with a stringent set of rules that banned walk-ins, did away with caddies but instead used them as fore-caddies to spot the ball (a few caddies are now permitted, though most of them have gone back to their home towns or taken up alternate jobs). KGA mandated golfers to play with a mask and enforced strict social distancing on the tee box and greens.

“We’ve taken away rakes from sand bunkers. The fore caddy will rake the bunkers, if needed,” said Prithvi Raj Urs, Hon. secretary of KGA. KGA has also reversed the cup on the greens and banned touching of the flag. A 12- inch diametre circle is drawn on the green with the flag at its centre. Any putt into that area is taken as a given putt. KGA has also mandated that golfers are eligible to play only twice a week. Those flouting the rule are threatened with a one-month ban!

Clover Green in the outskirts initially allowed only two and three-ball flights. Even the three-ball flight was permitted only from Thursday.

Eagleton has made the hiring of a buggy almost mandatory. Walking is allowed only during highly restricted and inconvenient timings. “But the rest of the protocol is very smooth,” said Aneikar Manjunath an avid golfer.

KGA has a marshal at the main gate to ensure entry of on-line booked golfers only. Even then golfers are allowed inside only 30 minutes before Tee-time. They have to remain in their cars in the car park and exit the vehicle only when their names are called 15 minutes prior to Tee-time.

The change room, showers, bar and restaurant are closed and only some limited packed food is made available.

Golfers are encouraged to bring their own beverages and water, though water stations are available for refills. Besides, scorecards are not provided and scores could be entered online, if desired.

Almost all clubs have a surcharge for caddy welfare or additional payment for buggy hire or Covid fee. These vary from golf course to golf course. Common rules include not allowing golfers below 10 years of age or above 65 into the club; mandatory temperature check; barring of car drivers; prohibiting lingering in the club after a round of golf to chat or whatever reason; stopping play at 6p.m. when a siren would go off; limiting one golfer per buggy wherever buggies are permitted; all buggies being sanitized after every round.

These apart all clubs allow only golfers with valid handicap to play. They need to fill a self-declaration form prior to playing. The clubs have additionally barred member elects, student members, guests, reciprocal arrangement golfers from entry.

Golfers have found many of the restrictions tough. But in these challenging times most believe that golf in any manner is better than no golf at all!

Finally, to ensure that the restrictions message is driven home forcefully the government’s penal provision is also highlighted:

“Any person violating these lockdown measures and the National Directives for COVID-19 Management will be liable to be proceeded against as per the provisions of section 51 to 60 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, besides legal action under Sec.188 of the IPC, and other legal provisions as applicable”.

Vedam Jaishankar, an eminent Bengaluru-based journalist,  writes on cricket for a living, but plays golf for pleasure and maintaining sanity.


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