Time to Put away the Tennis Racket, but Golfers can Still Play Through

Tennis enthusiast Beth Hyland (left) made masks (with filters) for several tennis friends. Hyland, who played a pick-up game of doubles today, came up with clever ways to minimize the chance of contamination.

Delawareans looking for healthy outdoor diversions on beautiful days like today are being asked to take a pause from the tennis courts until the COVID-19 pandemic health crisis passes.
Shortly after the United States Tennis Association, issued guidance advising people not to play, New Castle County issued its own announcement that public courts will soon temporarily close.
In a statement to members across the country, the USTA said, “It is in the best interest of society to take a collective pause from playing the sport we love.”  The organization came to that conclusion based on recommendations from the USTA’s COVID-19 Advisory Group while acknowledging there are no specific studies on tennis and COVID-19.
However, the USTA says that “medical advisors believe there is the possibility that the virus responsible for COVID-19 could be transmitted through common sharing and handling of tennis balls, gate handles, benches, net posts and even court surfaces.”

A beautiful day for tennis today at Paper Mill Park in New Castle County. NCC Executive Matt Meyer plans to close county tennis courts this week.

New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer said today that the county will be closing all tennis courts in county parks based on the USTA guidance.  The county is also closing lock fenced-in dog parks and skate parks, attributing the decision to “lack of social distancing in New Castle County parks.”

Private tennis clubs across the region have suspended tennis playing, while players were seen on public and local school courts over the weekend and today. Presumably, if a family sheltering in place under one roof were to hit the courts together, this would not represent an elevated risk to them or others.

And those who don’t live under the same roof have found their own ways to play safely.

Beth Hyland and three others played a pickup game at the Paper Mill Park today, and she made sure each player kept their tennis bags several feet apart and each player brought their own can of balls. “Each ball has a marking on it. Could be initials, mine have a heart. And when  I serve I use my own balls. Then I put them away,” she said.



Hyland’s friends showed us how they can pick a ball up off the court using one foot and their racket. Once the ball is in the air, either of the two opponents hits it back to the server, never coming into direct contact with the ball.

Hyland and her friends understand the USTA’s decision but regret they won’t be able to play on public courts until the pandemic is over. “Look at those two people over there,” said Hyland pointing to a mother and her daughter playing three courts away. “There’s no harm there across the net, and they’re getting some mental exercise and all that. It’s all good,” she said.

The county is encouraging residents to use parks for biking, jogging and walking; restrooms and port-o-johns will be unavailable in parks for the duration of the health crisis.

Allison Tigani Hanson (at net) and her mom Mary Anne Tigani enjoyed a game of singles today

Mary Anne Tigani and her daughter Allison Tigani Hanson were enjoying the 65-degree weather today at Paper Mill Park in a friendly game of singles. “It’s a shame because a few people have abused it. Now they’re having to push harder and harder restrictions on everybody else,” said Hanson.

The pair admired the steps Hyland and her foursome took on the other court. “What they’re doing is very intelligent, very smart of them to bring their own balls and mark them,” said Tigani.

“Yes, we could walk — we could do other sports, but we really like tennis. And it brings a different exercise into your day because you don’t want to do the same thing over and over again,” said Hanson.

Allison Tigani Hanson and her mom Mary Anne Tigani at Paper Mill Park

Tigani added that she has refrained from doubles as an extra precaution. “We’re not going into doubles because of the distance. You can’t help it if you’re going after a ball and they move with you. You might break the six feet rule,” she said.

Allison, who plays on the same USTA 3.0 team as mom Mary Ann, says they are disappointed they won’t be able to enjoy play on public courts while the season is delayed. “If you play smart, then I think that it’s very, very low risk,” she said.


Locally, USTA and inter-club league play and tournaments for the spring season had already been canceled, and high school competition is on hold.
The USTA urged patience to players itching to get out on the courts while encouraging athletes to get creative with active “tennis-at-home” variations (a possible example, world #1 Novak Djokovic playing in-home mini-tennis with a frying pan).

See: Essential Businesses Want Customers to Know they are Open


Public Golf Courses are Open

The US Golf Association (USGA) has deferred to public health officials on the play of golf, which would not pose many of the risks USTA officials cited in their recommendation. 

Delaware public golf courses remain open, with stepped-up safety restrictions – for example, sand trap rakes and ball washers have been removed, pins are to remain in place. Golf courses open to the public include White Clay Creek Country Club at Delaware Park, Rock ManorEd “Porky” Oliver and Delcastle.

Beautiful White Clay Creek Country Club is open, while carefully enforcing health safety precautions

White Clay Creek is mandating that all golfers tee off in 20-minute intervals and maintain six to eight feet of distance between each other, which is very easily accomplished on a golf course.  Flag sticks are to be left in the cups and restrooms on the course are not in operation.  

Non-Delaware residents are not allowed to play golf on Delaware courses however, following Governor Carney’s directive that anyone entering the state must self-quarantine for 14 days.  We can attest to that following a lovely and safe outing yesterday where our Delaware ID’s were requested.


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About the Contributor

Christy Fleming

Christy Fleming

The managing editor of TownSquareDelaware.com, Christy Fleming also supports a variety of non-profit initiatives in Delaware. Her background includes positions in public relations, advertising and journalism.