Absolutely heavenly return to golf … new norms and all!

West Course, TPC Kuala Lumpur

May 4th marked the day that every golfer in Malaysia was anxiously waiting for … the day that golf courses in parts of Malaysia reopened in conjunction with the new Conditional Movement Control Order.

As it was announced on Labour Day and all offices were closed, I immediately set an alarm for the next morning on my phone, reminding myself to call the golf club to (hopefully) get a tee time for the following Monday. Not surprisingly, tee times were filling up quickly all over the Klang Valley but luckily, I was able to get a 9am start at my home club, TPC Kuala Lumpur (TPCKL).

So what was golf like after 47 days of living in isolation without leaving my condominium? In one word, heavenly!

Of course, with golf courses reopening and Covid-19 still very much present, there were some new rules that had to be implemented … our ‘new normal’ for golf. Examples of a few at TPCKL included a mandatory online health declaration and temperature screening before entering the premises of the club, pre-registration for play and thus heading directly to the teebox without having to register at the club, optional use of caddies, one player per buggy, leaving of flagsticks in, as well as bunker rakes being provided in each buggy. Of course, there were also the additional self-hygiene and social distancing measures that we should have been practicing ever since this pandemic began.

After filling my mandatory online health declaration form and having my temperature checked at the guard house, I successfully made it back to my second home, TPCKL. With my mask on, I grabbed my golf bag and headed to the driving range for my first swing in what has felt like an eternity. After a few practice swings and a few thin chips, I started making solid contact with the ball again … and there isn’t a greater feeling!

What are some observations I made at the driving range? Firstly, everybody made the conscious effort to not choose bays that were close to others, if possible. Secondly, it was rather quiet. I think that as golfers, when we enter a golf club, it is very normal for us to chat with strangers. We golfers bond over the thing that we love – golf! After a while, as the bays started filling up, the quiet atmosphere began to slowly disappear as friends reunited and started chatting with one another (while maintaining social distancing). It felt much friendlier again.

After warming up at the range, I still had some time, so I headed to the putting green. There was only one other person on the green at that time, so it was easy for us to have our own holes and putt freely without having to worry about keeping our distance.

As more people started approaching the green, I think the same thing happened again … people tried to keep their distance and only those who were already playing in the same flight were sharing a hole and putting together, while others kept to their own ‘territory’. The atmosphere was light-hearted as people were heard sharing their experiences from the last 47 days at home, and how much they missed golf!

On the practice green at TPCKL

Ten minutes before my tee time, I grabbed a buggy and headed to the teebox with my playing partners. To be honest, the round in itself wasn’t very different from any other regular golfing round before! Of course, the first few holes felt a little bit awkward and we had to start adjusting to the things that normally came so naturally to us; club distances, hitting off slopes, reading greens, putting speed, etc. However, as the round progressed and we started getting the hang of it again, we started to get back into the ‘groove of things’. We easily readjusted to our routines and started gauging distances, speed and line again. In other words, we started playing golf again!

In my opinion, I think the biggest difference in this ‘new normal’ is that, as golfers, we simply cannot be as friendly or as much of a good sport as we might have been before. As we are not encouraged to touch our playing partners’ clubs or golf balls, we are unable to hand it to them when they have a ‘gimmie’, or when their clubs are out of the way or closer to us than it is to them. We are also unable to give those high-fives when someone makes their first birdie in 47 days! And no friendly handshakes or hugs post-round.

However, we are still able to express our congratulations and our “high-fives” through words! And most importantly, we are able to spend valuable time doing what we all love doing, together! Although we may be keeping our social distance for the time being, on the golf course we are given a little breather from self-isolation.

At my childhood home club, Kelab Rekreasi Tentera Udara

I most definitely agree with others when they say that golf is the perfect game to practice social distancing. It is miles and miles of greenery and the chances of two people hitting in the exact same spot are very slim. I think that we are super lucky to be given the leeway to get back out there to do what we all love doing and definitely missed dearly!

In the time away from the game, I think we have all gained a deeper love and appreciation for golf! Golf is our little escape from the harsh realities that we are facing in our society today, and I hope that golfers treasure and protect our little gathering place so that it does not get taken away from us again.

To more happy golfing days!

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