The world is seemingly still roped off but golf is back swinging — albeit with social-distancing restrictions in place. All 50 states have given the go-ahead to open golf courses, including New York, which closed them earlier in the quarantine. Although the city courses still remain closed with no opening date in sight, facilities just on the outskirts are open for business.
“You look around New York and rims have been removed from backboards and no one is rushing to sit in a dugout together,” Tim Reilly, the head of social media for Golf.com, tells The Post. “Golf is the only sport you can play and abide by social-distancing regulations.”
Now is certainly the ideal time to take up the game. And here’s how to get up to speed with online teachers and household objects.
How to get started
The internet has exploded with golf influencers offering everything from fun trick shots to drills and full e-learning lessons. “It’s really hard to sort through the appropriate content online,” says Virginia-based coach Erika Larkin. She suggests picking one whose teaching style and personality is a match.
Perhaps one of the most popular online coaches is Texas-based Aussie Mike Bury, who boasts more than 100,000 followers on Instagram. In many of his drills, he uses basic items like the light switch and a wooden spoon.
To learn the fundamentals, Tampa, Fla.-based teacher Nathalie Filler, 26, who played golf at the University of Delaware, offers a cheap and thorough tutorial. Her $10 introductory course, called “Back to Basics,” has 17 short videos and covers every aspect of the game from grip to the swing and the functions of each club. She also has a similar, more abridged series, available for free, at golf.com.
No clubs? Filler, who has more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, says, “You could even hold a broom to learn how to hold a golf club and become familiar with the motions.”
If you’ve mastered the fundamentals, Filler offers a $150-a-month subscription where users can send her videos of their swings for her to analyze in two half-hour sessions. “I’ve done this with people who have backyards and people who do practice swings inside,” she says.
Need help perfecting your swing? Larkin’s 2017 book, “A True Swing,” combines old-school methods and cutting-edge science for a step-by-step approach to a natural swing — as does her series of YouTube videos by the same name. On Instagram, Larkin, who has an entertaining teaching style, offers workout tips and uses household items like a swivel chair or a desk to hone proper technique. “I think you can learn basic motions without even hitting a golf ball,” she says.
Away from the ball, Larkin also suggests watching old golf tournaments on YouTube to familiarize yourself with the game and practice visualization. “If you can sit and visualize the movement, the neurons are still firing, so theoretically, you can practice mentally without moving your body.”
Golf equipment on a budget
Normally, golfers can rent a set of clubs at a pro shop, but many courses, in accordance with social-distancing guidelines, have stopped rentals. But it’s still feasible to get a bargain on a set of clubs.
“Don’t let expensive price tags scare you away. I’ve been playing golf for 20 years, and I still buy used clubs on occasion,” says Reilly, who prefers to visit Unique Golf — in Babylon Village, Long Island (105 West Main St.; 631-422-6431) — which has affordable gear and personalized service for any level. It’s now open for curbside pickup and drop-off.
Reilly and Filler both suggest CallawayPreowned.com for gently used equipment at affordable prices. “They are also under warranty. They’re perfect clubs to learn with and play for years,” says Reilly.
And if you’re just starting out, there’s no need to buy a full set with every imaginable club. “You really only need four or five clubs to start out,” says Filler, adding that if you have to choose only one club on which to learn, make it a 7 or 8-iron.
Playing at home
At the start of the lockdown, Golf.com launched an online movement called #PlayingThrough, which showcased novel ways of playing — even, sometimes, indoors. “Thousands of golfers — including Steph Curry, tennis player Mardy Fish and retired Red Sox [first baseman] Kevin Millar began sharing trick shots, backyard setups, homemade minigolf course. It encouraged golfers to get creative at home,” says Reilly.
If you’re going to play at home, experts suggest buying a hitting net. They can be tough to find, but a larger outdoor net like this one from Callaway is currently available. If you can’t find one — or fit one in your home — Filler has an alternative. “You can hang a sheet between two objects, and hit Wiffle or foam balls into that,” says Filler. Hit the balls off a small turf surface or a yoga mat.
Chippo is game that’s a cross between golf and the tailgate favorite cornhole and can be played in your backyard, driveway or a park. “It’s great because it’s hitting practice. And it sharpens your skills on the short game,” says Reilly of putting and chipping.
Reilly’s colleague, writer Dylan Dethier, made a hole in his backyard by using household objects. Start by putting a large yogurt container face down, and use a butter knife to cut around it. Use a gardening shovel to dig the hole, drop the container face up into the ground and top off with a more shallow, round 16-ounce container, like the ones that bodegas use to sell nuts, so you don’t have to stick your hand too far into the hole. Drive a broomstick into the containers for a flagstick, and voila, a homemade hole.
Golf courses open around NYC
Congrats, you have mastered the basics and are ready to play a round. The city has a lot of wonderful one-hole courses including Dyker Beach Golf Course in Brooklyn and Van Cortlandt Park Golf Course in the Bronx, but they are currently closed. Hopefully that changes soon.
A nearby option is Skyway Golf Course in Jersey City (515 Duncan Ave.; 201-763-7520), which offers a 55-acre, 9-hole course with beautiful views of Manhattan. “It’s an urban oasis,” Hudson County Improvement Authority CEO Norman Guerra tells The Post. The municipal course has made changes in keeping with current guidelines, including ditching golf carts and encouraging masks. The pro shop is closed, so golfers can pay for rounds online or with a card at the course. An employee will be manning a table outside of the pro shop.
“We have seen, on average, 80 to 86 rounds of golf per day. Tee times are 15 minutes apart, so there is no gathering,” Guerra says. Rates differ for non-Hudson County residents and start at $29 for a round of 9 holes on a weekend.