This has been a topic of conversation since the beginning of the Pandemic. This conversation, however, mostly pertains to the legitimacy of scores and does a hole-in-one still count as such if a course has special conditions in place due to Covid. As good as a topic this has been, the conversation seems one-sided and only about posting handicaps. It is so much more than that.
Here in the New Orleans area, we have been fortunate that the majority of our golf courses never closed and were always acceptable. Many courses did have special conditions in place such as noodles in the cup and no rakes, and some still do, but many are back to "normal." However, that just complicates the question even further for us when there are no clear conditional rules set forth from the golf course.
Should We Still Play By the Rules of Golf is no longer a clear yes or no answer. That question is now left to the individual golfer and if they themselves still play under special Covid conditions. For example, just because rakes have been put back out on the golf course that does not mean everyone feels safe touching them. That is perfectly fine for those individuals and should be respected. Pre pandemic there were many people who either didn't care to or were too lazy to rake a bunker so should now be any different?
I personally still play by all the rules, however, I was privileged to play professionally for a few years and have always played by the rules my whole life so this is out of habit. I am a firm believer of the less you touch your golf ball the harder it is to break a rule. When I am out on the golf course I fill all divots with sand, play from unfilled divots, will play my ball in a bunker as it lies, even if it is in a footprint, and rake the bunker afterward. That is how I have always played, and as I stated just a bit ago, many times through all my years of playing every golf does not fill divots and rake bunkers.
With that said, I do not feel everyone should play the way I do. Golf should be enjoyed and even I sometimes do not enjoy those situations I've mentioned. The difference prior to the pandemic is golfers did not have a legitimate excuse to not fill a divot or rake a bunker. Kind of like golfers never have an excuse to not repair a ball mark on the green. This time is different. A golf course may not provide sand on a cart or may limit rakes out on the golf course where not every bunker has one. Whether it is a golfer's personal preference or something the golf course has done we are going to come across these situations for some time.
This is my recommendation to everyone. Play by any means you want as long as you enjoy the game. I do however suggest you do play by as many rules as possible and do not cheat or take too many advantages. The key is to go out and enjoy the game. If you end up in a divot in the fairway then by all means move the ball out of it. Plus unless you are a good golfer you could hurt your wrist by hitting out of a divot. If you end up in a footprint in the bunker move it a better lie but stay in the bunker. When you are done hitting be generous in caring for the course and rake as much in the area as you can. If you do not feel safe touching a rake do as best as you can with your foot and golf club.
We can all enjoy the game more and care for the course if we respect others' decisions to not touch specific items and for those that are ok, we can fill in an extra divot or two and rake a bit of extra in the bunkers.