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A Publication of the National Golf Foundation

Questions, Answers and Insights for Everyone Interested in the Business of Golf

Protecting Golfers and Course Staff Amid Coronavirus Outbreak

by National Golf Foundation

May 2020

As part of the National Golf Foundation’s ongoing efforts to provide the most relevant and up to date information on the Coronavirus Impact on the golf industry, we have assembled a list of common best practices intended to keep golfers and employees safe at facilities permitted to continue golf operations.

As the public seeks safe outdoor recreation opportunities amid the coronavirus outbreak, golf has shown that — in areas removed from the virus hot spots — it can meet these criteria, albeit with operational adjustments. Golf is inherently consistent with the concept of “social distancing,” as the activity can be enjoyed, even in groups, without any close physical interaction among players, or among golf facility staff.

This is not an “official” list and operators should check with their local, county and state government for specific guidelines and regulations, as protocols often vary significantly based on geography and corresponding population density.


  • Take extensive precautionary measures to protect your staff. Distribute masks and gloves. Make sanitizers and tissues available and placed in convenient locations. Staff with flu-like symptoms must be asked to go home.
  • Conduct frequent golf course staff meetings to keep everyone up to date with latest information, best practices and facility operations protocol.
  • Staff and customers must practice 6-foot physical distancing at all times. Use colored tape on the ground, cones, or other visuals for easy reference.
  • Have all staff frequently wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dry hands thoroughly, preferably using a disposable paper towel.
  • Prohibit any group gatherings before or after rounds.
  • Require credit card and mobile payments only (no cash).
  • Reduce check-in interaction as much as possible– use some form of remote check-in process (iPad) or makeshift check-in window to avoid having golfers in the pro shop.
  • Consider closing the pro shop and moving check-in to the starter booth (often with starter behind glass or protective barrier).
  • If pro shop is open, keep smaller merchandise items typically on counters out of reach of customers.
  • Limit the number of customers permitted inside clubhouse or pro shop, if open.
  • Have staff frequently sanitize and keep work areas and customer interaction areas and touchpoints clean.
  • Increase number of available hand sanitizer stations.
  • Create highly-visible signage to inform customers of golf course protocol. Display signage in high-traffic areas throughout facility.
  • Provide and encourage online tee time scheduling and pre-payment if available.
  • Spread tee times to wider intervals: 12 to 20 minutes apart.
  • No more than four people per group and only one group at a time on any tee box.
  • Enforce a “One Golfer Per Cart” policy (exception may be for immediate family members).
  • Encourage golfers to walk rather than ride.
  • If carts are permitted, perform extra cleaning and sanitization before and after each use.
  • No club rentals
  • Prohibit any outside staff from handling customer golf bags or other belongings.
  • Remove pins from practice greens.
  • No shotgun starts, no group classes and no golf academy events.
  • Consider temporarily suspending caddie operations at facilities with programs or use fore-caddies only.
  • If re-opening caddie programs, require specific best practices. (Example from CaddieNow)


  • Golf cups: cut and insert pool noodles or PVC pipe into cups, incorporate a “lift device” in the cup, raise golf cups two to three inches above the ground, or insert cups upside down to eliminate the need for golfers to retrieve their golf balls.
  • Eliminate flagsticks and provide hole location sheets to golfers. If using flagsticks, clearly inform golfers on the “no touch” protocol, including signs on the sticks themselves.
  • Eliminate ball-washers and bunker rakes. Encourage “foot raking” of bunkers and introduce a “preferred lie” local bunker rule.
  • Remove on-course scorecards, pencils, golf tees, ball markers, and divot tool dispensers.
  • Remove water coolers and trash receptacles. Inform golfers prior to their round of golf.
  • If in use, set up practice facility with minimum physical distancing requirements.
  • Sanitize all range balls between uses.
  • Space golf cars in staging area to accommodate physical distancing requirements.
  • Have staff frequently sanitize touchable surfaces, golf cars, pull/push carts, bathrooms, etc.

The vast majority of golf facilities with functional golf operations have shut down their clubhouses entirely.


  • Reserve tee time and pay for round online or by phone.
  • Do not drive to golf course with golfers beyond those you live with.
  • Adhere to safe social distancing guidelines before, during and after play.
  • Check course’s website for operating and safety protocols before play and respect facility’s rules.
  • Bring antibacterial wipes or hand sanitizer for frequent use before, during and after play.
  • Handle your own golf bag at all times.
  • Walking is recommended; single-rider cart usage only if riding.
  • Do not touch flagstick or cup.
  • Avoid high-touch items beyond flagstick such as bunker rakes, ball-washers and water coolers.
  • Do not share clubs with other players.
  • Do not congregate on greens, tee boxes or other locations.
  • Do not shake hands with playing partners after round.
  • Do not linger at the facility after your round is finished. Go home.
  • Be cognizant of behavior as being able to play golf during this crisis is both an opportunity and responsibility.


  • Consider closing all F&B operations entirely.
  • If F&B operations are permitted to continue, allow take-out or delivery options only.
  • Except for take-out orders, restaurant dining areas must be closed to consumers.
  • Lock access doors and/or remove tables and chairs.
  • Food and beverage staff must wear gloves and refrain from touching their face.
  • Eliminate the beverage cart operation.
  • If beverage cart is in use, operator should accommodate only one golfer at a time and use hand sanitizer or change gloves between each transaction.
  • Beverage cart operator must frequently clean and sanitize all customer touchpoints.
  • Allow customers to bring their own refreshments and waive all “outside food and beverage” restrictions.


Golf course maintenance is required to continue, whether or not a course is currently open to play.


  • Communicate with students what the golf facility and lesson protocols are prior to their lesson time.
  • Maintain 6 – 10 feet of physical distancing practices.
  • Don’t touch student’s golf clubs, equipment or training aids.
  • If the student needs to borrow clubs, wipe down the grips and club components prior to and after use.



The National Golf Foundation




For PGA Members and Associates



Golf Course Superintendents Association of America (GCSAA)



National Restaurant Association: Resources & Information by State



World Health Organization (WHO)



Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)



Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)



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National Golf Foundation

The National Golf Foundation is a community of individuals and golf businesses committed to being the most well-informed advocates for the growth of the industry. With the world’s largest research team dedicated to golf, NGF provides members with the most accurate and objective insights on the game. We help golf businesses better understand their market and grow their businesses. The NGF is the only association for everyone in golf, and we advocate for growth by educating and connecting our members.

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For the NGF’s latest research and information about how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting the golf industry, please click here.