Golf StoriesOfficial Guide to Back2Golf Tournament Protocols

May 29, 2020by Brian Hurlburt0

Golf and tournaments are back, and it’s a great thing for golfers and the golf industry. But we all still have to be mindful of being safe and doing the right things on the course. To that end, the top allied golf associations–the USGA, PGA of America, etc.–have worked together to create an official guide to holding tournaments.

Back2Golf Playbook – Competitions Addendum

This document is a supplement to the Competitions Addendum and provides additional options for running a competition in Phase 2.

Clarification to 50 Player Limitation in Phase 2 Guidelines

It is important to note that the 50 player limitation refers to gatherings (ex. Scoreboard area, Clubhouse, Registration, etc.). As long as an event organizer can have protocols in place to ensure that people do not have gatherings of 50 or more, then these groups can conduct a golf event with a larger field size as long as it is done via tee times.

Risk Assessment

It is recommended that tournament organizers conducting a state, regional or national event utilize the WHO Risk Assessment Tool for Event Organizers 

Additional Risk Assessment Questions:

  • Has the state lifted all shelter-in-place orders and non-essential business closures?
  • Is the tournament being conducted in accordance with federal, state and CDC guidelines regarding mass gatherings?
  • Are players and their families able to travel safely to the event?
  • Are there enough lodging options open and available?
  • Does the host club want to proceed with the event?
  • What are the protocols in place to deal with an infected person on-site?
  • Will players/families/staff be tested for COVID-19 prior to competition? Will the participants/families/staff/volunteers be required to sign a waiver acknowledging the risks associated with COVID-19? What are the potential liabilities?
  • Will players/families/staff/volunteers be able to maintain social distancing recommendations while at the tournament?
  • Will players/families/staff/volunteers be screened via questionnaire for COVID-19 symptoms prior to arrival?
  • Do local health guidelines permit events to be conducted with more than 50 in attendance?
  • Are there specific measures in place to safely accommodate at-risk individuals?
  • Can the competition be conducted safely in accordance with the USGA Rules of Golf?


No additional guidance.

Golf Course Setup and Maintenance

No additional guidance.

Guidelines for Play

No additional guidance

Golf Shop / Retail Operations

No additional guidance

Player Supplies (Scorecards, Tees, Pencils)

Consider providing players an option to view and print a blank scorecard via the tournament website.

Electronic scoring is recommended (see “Scoring”). If necessary to use paper scorecards:

  • Scorecards should be either individually packaged into plastic bags
  • Alternatively, scorecards should be placed on a table where they can be easily picked up by a player without having to touch any other items.
  • See “Scoring” below for recommendations on a modified scoring procedure when paper scorecards are used.

Practice Facility

Consider providing players a starting time for when they may begin using practice facilities (such as one hour before their starting time) to avoid overcrowding.

Consider setting a range schedule based on tee times and size of the driving range (such as one hour before a player’s starting time they are able to use the range for 30 minutes – they will then be able to proceed to the practice putting green or short game area for the remaining time). Recommend players only are allowed on the practice facility (no caddies, coaches or spectators).

Driving Range:

  • Ensure hitting stations are set up at least six feet apart (recommend 12 to 15 feet).
  • All club washers, club racks, ball washers should be removed from the practice facility.
  • Players using the driving range should carry their own clubs to hitting stations and move practice balls with their club head of feet and should minimize touching practice balls by hand.
  • Range Balls provided in individual bags or baskets and provided to players in non-touch manner. Alternatively, a pile of balls could be placed at each station that would allow players to move an individual ball with their club.
  • Any baskets or bags that are used must be properly sanitized before and after use.

Practice Putting Green:

  • Hole liners should either be raised above the level of the ground so that no ball can be holed out or foam rings or plastic tubing placed in the hole or around the flagstick so that balls can be retrieved easily and responsibly. Cup-less flagstick markers are also recommended.
  • The recommendations for starting time intervals (15 minutes for groups of 4 and 12 minutes for groups of 3) as well as the time restrictions related to access to the practice putting green (30 minutes before their starting time) are designed to ensure that no more than two groups of players are able to access the practice putting green at any one time. It is recommended that the practice putting green be set up to accommodate having each player practice to one hole only at any one time (that is, players should not share a hole when using the practice putting green).
  • Players should position their practice putting golf balls with their putter head and not by hand.

Short Game Area:

  • It is recommended that all short game areas (chipping/pitching greens) be closed.
  • Alternatively, these areas could be open provided all flagsticks and bunker rakes are removed, and players use their own golf balls. A firm limit on the number of players accessing the short game area should also be set.

Cart Operations

For walking-only events or junior events, consider allowing spectator carts to help with on-course evacuation (such as a parent or spouse being able to quickly transport their child or partner back to their vehicle).

Golf Carts must be properly cleaned and sanitized before and after each use (see Golf Car Sanitation Protocols).

Golf Carts for Players

  • All carts should be staged at least 6 feet apart (recommend 12 to 15 feet).
  • Cart signs should be placed on each cart to ensure players use the same cart throughout the day. If possible, place the cart sign in a plastic holder to prevent players from touching the sign.
  • Provide clear instructions for cart return to avoid overcrowding.

Golf Carts for Tournament Staff

  • Consider limiting the number of on-course tournament staff
  • Any tournament staff who require a cart should be assigned a specific cart which is labeled appropriately. Only he/she is allowed to drive the cart.
  • For guidance on competition-related shuttles, see “Referees and Volunteers”


No additional guidance

Golf Staffing

No additional guidance


No additional guidance

Clubhouse Food & Beverage Operations

If providing Food & Beverage, pre-packaged options are recommended. Consider obtaining players food preferences prior to competition and labeling bags to avoid unnecessary contact.

Halfway House

No additional guidance

Beverage Carts

No additional guidance

Locker Rooms

No additional guidance


For additional guidance related to Rules (including both Handicapping Rules and Rules of Golf), please click here.


No additional guidance


In the event a sudden evacuation is necessary (e.g. pop-up thunderstorm), evacuation for walking-only events presents a significant challenge because it will be difficult to maintain social distancing during the evacuation. Consider postponing or cancelling the event if there is a high probability of severe weather events occurring during play.

Unless carts are required, consider staging carts at various evacuation points to aid in a course evacuation. Note that only one player is allowed per cart to maintain social distancing, unless a divider or a protective shield has been installed.


If a starter is used, the starter must maintain social distancing with players at all times. Additionally, state, county or local health official guidelines should be consulted to see if the use of a cloth facial covering is required or recommended.

Alternatively, any necessary information could be sent out to all players in advance (review of notice, pace of play, etc.).


No additional guidance.


No additional guidance

Scoreboard/Awards/Prize Ceremony

No additional guidance

Referees and Volunteers

Referees and volunteers are regularly utilized to provide transportation (for example helping transport a player in the event of a lost ball). Because social distancing cannot be maintained in such cases, this practice should be discontinued.


For walking-only events or junior events, consider allowing spectator carts to help with on-course evacuation (such as a parent or spouse being able to quickly transport their child or partner back to their vehicle).

Other Transportation

No additional guidance

Junior Golf Competitions

No additional guidance


Brian Hurlburt

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