Shaking hands with your playing partners is a common courtesy in golf. But should we stop doing it to combat the coronavirus outbreak?
As the coronavirus spreads throughout Europe and the situation worsens in the UK, it’s impossible to go anywhere without a constant reminder that not only should we be washing our hands on a regular basis, but advice on how to wash them too. So what does this mean in terms of shaking hands – a common courtesy at the end of every round of golf and often the start as well?
As it stands, the Government wants people to start “social distancing”, which means spending less time in public places.
But while the Football Association has ordered the postponement of all games at the grassroots level, golf’s governing bodies have not followed suit.
So what can we, as golfers, do to help?
There is yet to be any official advice on people shaking hands before or after a round, though many health professionals have suggested it is a good idea to avoid where possible.
Residents of France and Germany, among others, have already been told to stop shaking hands, and Professor Paul Cosford, the medical director for Public Health England, says that we are not far behind.
“We do need to get to a point where we reduce social contact if we see more widespread infection,” he said in an interview on BBC Radio 4. “At the moment, we’re in the position we need to continue life as normal, but we need to be prepared for the actions we may need to take.”
GP Dr Rosemary Leonard, meanwhile, said on BBC Breakfast: “I know it’s very British and very polite [but] we probably ought to stop shaking hands.”
And virologist Professor John Oxford, of Queen Mary University, also speaking on Radio 4, added: “What we need to do is less of the hand shaking, hugging, and kissing, because this virus looks like it’s spread by ordinary tidal breathing, not necessarily colds and coughing.”
So is it safe to be shaking hands on the golf course?
While the government may not be saying anything on an official basis, there is enough from people with far more medical expertise than us saying we should avoid shaking hands where possible.
We’re being told to avoid touching our faces even with clean hands so why on earth would you want to touch someone else?
We can joke about fist bumping or touching elbows or ankles all we want but why take the risk? A simple “thank you” should suffice.
While you’re at it, leave flagsticks in the hole when putting, only handle your own balls (behave), and try and remain at least two metres apart at all times.
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And just for good measure, here is the WHO guide to washing your hands…