Golf is a sport that promotes social distancing naturally, yet they are still affected by the pandemic.
Despite being able to play the sport socially distanced, COVID-19 presents other issues — Oakland University golfers are focused on the other aspects of golf.
Typically, the men’s golf team rarely competes in tournaments near OU. They are almost always traveling hundreds of miles to locations like South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida.
So, while COVID-19 restrictions might not directly affect golfers on the course, like they do with more contact sports, they still are affecting the OU golf squads.
“Guys were really hoping that because golf is a relatively safe sports that we would have a fall season,” Men’s Head Coach Nick Pumford said. “We still have to travel together as a team, stay in a hotel and go out to dinner — that sort of thing. So, there’s a lot of external factors that a lot of people don’t realize need to be factored in.”
The golf teams take the fall, which is now postponed, and compete in non-championship tournaments. These tournaments help the coaching staffs figure out which players to send on the travel squads for the championship season.
“When it comes to the development standard, while we can practice, it is going to be difficult to not be in that team environment at tournaments,” Pumford said.
During the summer, golfers were still able to compete in their summer schedule once the lockdown restrictions were lifted by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Instead of judging the fall season, Pumford will judge on a more limited sample size.
“The travel squad is dictated on how guys play in the fall,” Pumford said. “We’re not going to have that. So, a lot of it’s going to be based off my gut feeling about what the guys did in the summer.”
Even though the men’s golf team will lose their entire fall season, Pumford is taking a positive look at the forced break they must take.
In a standard season, golfers have little to no time to adjust their swing, due to consistent competition. Now, they have time to make major adjustments to their game.
“What I’ve told the guys is ‘listen, if there’s any big changes that we need to make with your golf swing and golf game, now is the time to do it right,’” Pumford said.
Tournaments usually pair golfers with similarly ranked golfers from other schools for each round. However, with social distancing enforced, golf tournaments might look different during the 2021 spring season.
“I think what will happen is all the teams are going to play with each other,” Pumford said. “We’re just going to be in our own little bubble. I think that’ll be unique and challenging getting used to that, but I think that’s what it’s going to look like.”
Another challenge the golf team will face is the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) rules on minimum events. Each season, the team must play at least eight different events.
“Usually four of our events are in the fall and then five events in the spring,” Pumford said. “Right now, they haven’t changed the minimum number of events, so that could get a bit tricky.”
To fulfill that requirement if it is not changed, the Golden Grizzlies might have to get creative with scheduling. Pumford suggested the possibility of adding multiple one-day events over the course of a weekend.
Despite the uncertainties of the 2020-2021 season, Pumford is keeping a positive mindset.
“At the end of the day, golf is golf,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing with or where you’re playing at. The objective is to get the ball in the hole as quick as possible.”