As we have all tried navigating this strange new world we live in, I’ve had plenty of time inside to contemplate the effects this global pandemic might have on golf. Some will be bad, but I’ve always considered myself to be a positive person, and I try to find the good in even the worst situations. Here are a few ways I think the COVID-19 pandemic might have a positive impact on the game of golf.

Pace-of-play side effects of COVID-19 that have nothing to do with lung capacity 

The pace of play is a consistent topic of discussion in the golf world, almost universally centered around the game being played too slowly. But a few side effects of the current pandemic could impact the pace of play in a positive way.

First, most golf courses have been forced to spread out their tee times. Granted, I don’t think they will be able to sustain this long term, as it lowers the bottom line in terms of the number of players you’re able to push through the course on a given day. But in the short term, it has allowed groups to spread out and, as a result, improved pace of play.

Second, courses allow only one player per cart. Each player can now go to their ball independently, which is much more conducive to playing ready golf. It makes me wonder if the market for single-rider style vehicles — like surfboards and motorized bikes — will gain popularity. I’ve always thought those innovations would catch on at some point. And this “new normal” could be the catalyst.

Last but not least is leaving the pin in at all times. Not even having to have a discussion within your group about taking the pin out has definitively sped up pace of play. I think this will spur the majority of players to leave the pin in at all times, which in my mind is a good thing, and the stats say so as well. Statistically speaking, you are more likely to make a putt with the pin in than taking it out.

More freedom to work from home, and around your tee time

I know what you’re thinking: What the hell does working from home more have to do with golf? Hear me out. I truly believe that this pandemic is going to spurn many companies to realize that productivity and worker satisfaction go up when their workforce is allowed to work remotely. It may also give companies reasons to rethink costly overhead, like tricked-out office buildings on prime real estate. 

Increased freedom gives workers time to manage their workload and day as they see fit, presenting more time to explore hobbies, including golf. And the reasons to make golf more of a habit — or hobby — have grown in 2020. It has emerged as one of the few sports that is still a feasible option in a tough time that requires social distancing and encourages people to spend time outside. This can only be a positive for golf, the question is will businesses be able to take advantage and adapt, or slink back to its old, on-site ways.

Long-term innovation still being dreamed up

The old saying goes “Necessity is the mother of invention,” and golf could be the benefactor. I have no doubt there are concepts and ideas within golf, and life in general, that this great societal challenge will spark. Ideas that haven’t even been thought of yet could have huge impacts on how we consume and enjoy golf moving forward. 

In fact, we talked about this very topic in our latest episode of the Stick and Hack Show. I have no doubt that in the coming years we will see innovation in golf and sports in general that have been inspired by this trying time.

So in closing, as much as being quarantined has sucked, I think we can look on the bright side. There are many positives that can and will come from this pandemic. We just have to be open to embracing them. I hope everyone out there stays safe and healthy.

Here’s to good golf and a good life. Cheers.

Mike Ryan

Stick is a premier golfer with a 1.2 index and multiple victories of local tournaments that nobody cares about. He is the better half of the Stick/Hack duo but only on the course.