PGA Tour to utilize chartered planes and host hotels to help create ‘bubble’

PGA Tour to utilize chartered planes and host hotels to help create ‘bubble’
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The PGA Tour will rely on transportation and lodging options like chartered flights and predetermined host hotels as it looks to limit the “bubble” for players and essential personnel during its planned return to competition next month.

Tour officials have circulated a 37-page Health and Safety Plan to players, one that was shared with media during a Wednesday conference call. One of the key components will be safely transporting players from one event to the next, with both the PGA Tour and Korn Ferry Tour still on track to resume with June 11-14 tournaments. Players and caddies will be “strongly encouraged” to board a Tour-chartered flight that will likely leave the Monday after each event and head directly to the next tournament on the schedule.

The Tour will charter one weekly flight for the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour and PGA Tour Champions (which is not expected to resume before July 31). Because of health and safety measures, each flight will be limited to 170 passengers.

What will it be like for PGA Tour players competing in the age of the coronavirus? Here’s a look, based on the Tour’s safety guidelines.

The flights will be open only to players and caddies and booked on a “first-come, first-served” basis, with player reservations given priority. Cost for seats will be $600 per person for PGA Tour and PGA Tour Champions players, and $300 for Korn Ferry players and caddies from all tours. Reservations will be required at least one week prior, and all passengers will be subject to COVID-19 viral testing no more than 24 hours prior to departure.

“Only passengers who test negative for the coronavirus will be allowed to board the flight,” the document read. “No exceptions.”

With expanded 144-player fields expected at the first few Tour events, there won’t be enough room for every player and caddie to utilize the charter option. Players will still be allowed to travel on their own, potentially driving between events, or utilizing other flight options with testing measures in place once they arrive at a tournament site.

Here’s a look at how the PGA Tour has laid out its events, with the 2019-20 season concluding at the Tour Championship.

“Players are also free to utilize their NetJet hours to travel privately,” said Andy Pazder, the Tour’s chief tournaments and competitions officer. “Of course, commercial air travel in the United States is up and running, and we’re confident that that industry will have very, very stringent health and safety protocols themselves, from capacity limitations, disinfecting aircrafts between flights and so forth. So that would be an option.”

Once in place for an event, players and caddies will again be encouraged to stay at a designated “host hotel” to be determined by the tournament. The Tour will make an effort to “create a controlled environment,” including sanitization practices and an aim to utilize full-service hotels that will limit the need for players to leave the property.

“We believe that the best solution for lodging is to work with a select number of hotels in the market and focus on their enhanced safety protocols,” said Andy Levinson, the Tour’s senior vice president of tournament administration. “We’re going to ask that players and caddies and other select personnel stay in one of the designated hotels, because again, it gives us better control on moving that bubble from the golf course into those communities in which we’re staying.”

While host hotels will be “strongly recommended,” other lodging options will still be available to players. RVs will be allowed, as will rental homes “with proper sanitization practices approved by the Tour.” Local players will also be allowed to stay in their own homes.

In terms of ground transportation, players and caddies will be allowed to use vehicles from commercial rental car companies. Tournaments will also still have the option to supply courtesy vehicles “if feasible,” while players and caddies will not be allowed to use taxi or ride-share services.

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