Having a social life six and a half months into a pandemic is fairly difficult as indoor gathering places are largely closed. However, golf courses have always served as a social gathering hub that conveniently encompasses a large swath of land. This led me to wonder if, at all, the pandemic had affected the behaviors of golfers at a local golf course, Knight’s Play Golf Center. As I observed the golfers, I aimed to answer this question: to what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the social dynamic of golfing at Knight’s Play?
The demographics of a golf course usually consist of older, white males of middle to upper socioeconomic status. Judging from this demographic, I assume that the golfers at Knight’s Play Golf Center are not going to care much about protecting themselves or others by wearing a mask and properly socially distancing. Despite this, it is likely that precautionary measures are not even necessary as the Professional Golfing Association of America states, “The essence of the game inherently allows its participants to practice proper social distancing” (PGA, p. 3). Given that the pandemic has forced many Americans to stay home, it looks as though golfing popularity has increased as the National Golf Foundation states, “It almost seems inconceivable given the loss of 20 million spring rounds due coronavirus-related course shutdowns, but rounds were up 13.9% nationwide in June and 19.7% in July” (NGF, 2020).
September 30, 2020. 6:40pm – 7:15pm.
As I drive into Knight’s Play Golf Center, I see that the parking lot is packed. I navigate the rows of cars and luckily find a spot that has not been taken. I am surprised by the number of people here on a Wednesday evening. The driving range is located right next to a clubhouse where I will be observing from. Surrounding the clubhouse are benches attached to four tables and individual rocking chairs. The tables are clustered together and the rocking chairs are a couple of feet apart from one another. The tables are all occupied by guests chatting and eating food, so I settle for a rocking chair to take my notes. The fact that people are sitting at tables and chatting instead of golfing is indicative of how this space is used for social interaction.
I look around at the packed driving range and see that nobody has a mask on. Each spot on the driving range is occupied and there are people waiting either directly behind the golfers or in chairs near the clubhouse. I am shocked that nobody is wearing a mask. This is the first place I have been since the pandemic started where these many people are gathered while not wearing masks. Most golfers are in small groups of two to three people. While some of these groups look to be related, there are many groups of friends that are putting their families and roommates at risk by coming here without a mask. This disregard for safety is possibly linked to their high socioeconomic status as they believe they will not be affected by COVID-19. I then peek my head into the clubhouse and see that the workers are not wearing masks, which is evidence that there are no mask guidelines being enforced.
October 3, 2020 6:50pm – 7:25pm
Before I left to observe for the second time, I grumbled to my mom, “I’m probably going to have to park in the overflow parking.” I had expected that on a Saturday night, Knight’s Play Golf Center would be even more populated than it was on Wednesday. As I arrived, I was taken aback by the parking lot because only half of the spaces were filled. I was confused as to what reason would be behind the dramatic drop in the population of golfers. The opposite of what I had expected had occurred.
I am surprised to see that despite there being fewer people, I can spot more individuals wearing masks. Nonetheless, the majority of golfers are still maskless. I pay close attention to a group of four high schoolers composed of three guys and a girl. Two of them have masks on and just one of them is wearing it properly while the other has it under his chin. They reach the driving range and the one who was properly wearing his mask takes it off while the other keeps his on. They are not taking golfing too seriously and they are goofing around. This is evidence that these golfers care much more about the social interaction that this space can provide them rather than using this space for its intended purpose.
The people here seem to be much younger than those from my first observation as the demographic comprised predominantly of high school to college-aged golfers. Since I am about the same age as the groups that are present here, I am acutely aware of how the pandemic has affected our social life. Perhaps since these golfers are younger, they are much more empathetic towards one another and choose to wear masks. They are likely not of a high socioeconomic status in which they can ignore a pandemic that disproportionately affects low-income people.
My observations at Knight’s Play Golf Center assert that the COVID-19 pandemic has had little effect on the behaviors of golfers. Judging from my first observation alone, one would not even be able to tell that there was an ongoing pandemic. Although it is outside, I expected golfers to still take precautions. Because the majority of golfers are not wearing masks, it is evident that they do not have much concern for their own safety or the safety of those around them. Knight’s Play extends this issue by not enforcing any guidelines to ensure the safety of their guests. Since most of the golfers are of high socioeconomic standing, the world is resuming as normal for them. If individuals like these took the pandemic more seriously, perhaps we would not have over 235 thousand Americans dead right now.
PGA. (2020, May 15). Back2Golf three-phased approach. https://www.pga.org/Document-Library/Back2Golf_AlliedPresentation_Final%205.15-%20PGA%20of%20America%20(1).pdf
National Golf Foundation. (2020, September). Despite spring shutdowns, 2020 rounds outpacing 2019. https://www.thengfq.com/2020/09/despite-spring-shutdowns-2020-rounds-outpacing-2019/
Featured Image Source:
Knight’s Play Golf Center. (n.d.). Knight’s Play Course Details. Retrieved October 14, 2020, from http://www.knightsplay.com/course/