‘I am gathering evidence on whether golf courses can reopen first’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2020 16:57

The UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has responded to a question specifically about golf and said he is looking at data on whether golf courses can reopen in the first wave of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

He suggested that he was also compiling evidence on fishing and bowls.

Less than a week before the full lockdown was implemented, the government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance, said golf was an allowable activity provided golfers socially distance. Since then, a world expert on viral diseases has singled out golf as a game that can be played in the current environment, and golf courses around the world, including even in New York, have reopened. Ireland’s chief medical officer has also said that the ‘resumption of certain sporting activities is among the broad range of measures being considered in the medium-term, provided social distancing measures can still be adhered to,’ giving hope that golf in that country can resume in early May.

Various products have also been launched in the UK in April to ensure the game can be played with golfers sticking to social distancing rules, such as flags that do not need to be touched by hands and rakes that can be used to sweep bunkers without different people touching them.

Oliver Dowden

Dowden said his department was “gathering evidence” on which sports can socially distance most effectively, and golf would be one of them.

Dowden said at a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee that if there was evidence that the three sports could re-open safely then he would press the case to the prime minister and the COBRA emergency response committee.

Conservative MP, Giles Watling, asked during the select committee meeting if considerations could be made for non-contact sports such as “golf, bowls and fishing”.

“We are gathering that information,” Dowden replied.

“In respect of all sports I want us to ease restrictions as quickly as we are able to, but that has to be consistent with the public evidence and guidance.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 25, 2020 16:57
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79 Comments

  1. Gary May 1, 13:02

    All obvious but imperative for clubs and the wider golf industry to survive, limit all tee times to 2 balls, all times minimum of 20-30mins apart, mark own cards with consulting playing partner for accurate scores, flags left in, no bunker play, no rakes to tempt. All online tee bookings or GM out of furlough to manage bookings and course, allow contact from wider golf community, manufacturing staff, golf tech staff etc. This way we way get our excercise, clubs get much needed finance, f&b from clubhouse or local shops start to pick up, economy grows etc. We should be really concerned about our beloved sport and clubs and should be doing all we can to get us back, I see so many flouting the rules but we can be an example of how it should be done and can be done

    Reply to this comment
  2. Elaine April 30, 10:41

    Unfortunately I have to disagree with the majority of comments on this post. It is disappointing to note so few comments acknowledging those most likely to benefit are male (recent surveys suggest an 85%/15% gender split for those playing a full course), with above average earnings, many of whom will already have access to a garden at home. I know we are all aching to get back to some kind of normality, but would it really be in the best interests of the nation to open up golf courses for only a small proportion to benefit? Of course, it would no doubt provide a welcome escape from home working, home schooling and domestic chores. Some solidarity with the rest of the population would be a more appropriate response, in my view. For the avoidance of doubt, I am not “having a go” at golfers, but felt it important to present the opposing view, so if you choose to comment, please #bekind

    Reply to this comment
    • Bryan April 30, 11:33

      Hi Elaine,
      It is a fair argument and one that will get raised. If we were looking at solidarity we wouldn’t enjoy our gardens as not everyone has one. We wouldn’t permit jogging/cycling. At a time when mental wellbeing is at it’s most vulnerable, allowing those wishing to pursue a pastime whilst observing social distances, etc should be encouraged.

      Reply to this comment
    • Andrew May 1, 16:00

      Hi Elaine,
      I do appreciate your thoughts on this. However, we do have to start coming out of lockdown gradually and non contact outdoor sports would seem to me to be an obvious starting point.

      Reply to this comment
    • Bryan May 2, 15:33

      Surely any sport that provides fresh air and exercise has to be good for those that play it with regards to their physical and mental well-being at present! Far easier to socially distance on a golf course than people jogging I. The street and how can it be that professional football is being talked about making comeback which is a contact sport in confined area when wide expansive open golf courses can’t be used. This whole argument about if it’s not for the masses is ridiculous argument not to TW-open them. Tennnis courts should also be opened up with same controls re social distancing. PS I play neither regularly so have no self interest here!

      Reply to this comment
      • the roooster May 3, 11:29

        this comment has no meaning people who play golf 1 obviuosly love the game those who dont will alwys comment its no diffrence to going to super market even 4 balls could play the course are big enough to distance yourself from others lets get this started

        Reply to this comment
  3. Aliseeps April 29, 18:14

    If you are going to catch this virus, where are you more likely to do so ? Tesco, Asda, Aldi, Sainsbury or out in the open air on a golf course ? Ridiculous, they should never have been shut in the first place.

    Reply to this comment
  4. The Goose April 27, 13:53

    I cannot believe this, a lot of people can’t even be bothered repairing pitchmarks or raking bunkers in normal times and people think that they will keep 2 metres apart, and how do the get to their golf course, I can walk to mine, folks stay safe stay at home.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Sansan April 27, 12:41

    Please, please re-open them as soon as possible.. there really is absolutely no justifiable reason for them to stay closed. Social distancing would definitely not be a problem!!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Chalky April 27, 11:02

    One size does not fit all. I’m over 70. I take no form of medication. In the last 55years I have increase my weight by 3 lbs. Blood pressure 120 over 80. Don’t patronise me by assuming I’m incapable of making decisions for my own wellbeing.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Ian April 27, 09:13

    It seemed strange to me that my local club is closed to those who wish to play golf but open to groups of dog walkers and joggers.
    I just cant figure it out.

    Reply to this comment
    • Rossie Raspberry May 11, 09:37

      I agree, our private members golf club closed to members WHY when l see dog walkers joggers families walking all over the course that l and other members have paid to play on, But can’t ??

      Reply to this comment
  8. Sturdy boy April 27, 08:48

    I can’t believe that management are letting dogs out on golf courses are they for real try and guess what dogs do when they see grass etc most owners will just leave it on the floor so gentleman when we get back playing keep your ball arrow straight otherwise there could be another sort of pandemic

    Reply to this comment
  9. Andrew B April 27, 06:41

    If the clubhouses are closed, pro-shop 1 at a time and then no contact with pins, then it is one of the safest, most beneficial forms of exercise that someone could do! Especially for the older demographic who depend on it for exercise.

    Reply to this comment
  10. Rob M April 27, 05:40

    Not sure how the clubs could possibly ensure social distancing, Marshall on every hole?

    Reply to this comment
    • David AK April 27, 10:43

      If you have ever played golf you would understand how easy social distancing would be acheived. Golfers would follow clear guidelines as they pay a lot for golf membership, whick would be taken away if they broke the guidelines. IMO its that simple

      Reply to this comment
    • Harry April 27, 13:29

      You do it urself nobody wants to catch it so only idiots wouldn’t distance themselves

      Reply to this comment
    • Tyrer April 27, 14:19

      How does anyone ensure social distancing everywhere? There aren’t police etc on every street corner, every inch of every park where people exercise etc. So why would this be any different? My course is 6 miles to walk all the way round (including crossing roads and paths between holes). Far longer than the 1 mile park where hundreds of people are exercising next to my estate.

      Reply to this comment
      • Rossie Raspberry May 11, 09:38

        I agree, our private members golf club closed to members WHY when l see dog walkers joggers families walking all over the course that l and other members have paid to play on, But can’t ??

        Reply to this comment
  11. Callum April 27, 04:39

    Without question a golf course is a more disciplined, socially distanced environment than Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, B&M’s and Co-op, all of which I have visited in recent weeks, shopping for “the street”.
    Don’t even think games need to be restricted to 2 players as golfers spend most of their time more than 2m apart.

    Reply to this comment
  12. theagent57 April 27, 01:43

    I am all for golf courses opening as soon as possible,,,,I have been unable to work for 8 weeks seems like such a waste of this glorious weather,,,before lock-down ground staff were explaining that even though everybody could be separated and be aware of other guidelines,golf clubs still have a duty of care,if someone was injured or became ill they would have to be looked after ,causing all sorts of problems,,,it maybe the reason they don’t open as soon as we would all like,

    Reply to this comment
  13. Ricky April 26, 22:37

    all my jobs around the house are up to date, I am ready
    now to resume the game of golf that at 70, keeps me fit
    and healthy.

    Reply to this comment
  14. Grant April 26, 20:34

    I agree with the courses being open to all golfers not just members
    I am not a member of any course.. been there done that… but use Tee off times/golf now and my money goes towards the club similar to being a member I also stop off for a meal and drinks before I leave to go home, again more of my money going to the club..so why has it just to be open to members only…
    Explain away..

    Reply to this comment
    • Dazzle April 26, 22:47

      Because members pay there subs for this to play whenever !! Non members would abuse the social distancing the course then gets closed !

      Reply to this comment
    • Ian April 27, 09:06

      Well I really think that the clubs will be open for visitors and not just members.
      Clubs will.need the income.

      Reply to this comment
  15. Grant April 26, 20:33

    I agree with the courses being open to all golfers not just members
    I am not a member of any course.. been there done that… but use Tee off times/golf now and my money goes towards the club similar to being a member I also stop off for a meal and drinks before I leave to go home, again more of my money going to the club..so why has it just to be open to members only…
    Explain away..

    Reply to this comment
  16. Stuart B April 26, 18:15

    I was reading that this week’s cobra meeting is going to look into allowing golf, angling and bowls to resume but some in power are opposed to it because the say it conflicts with the “only essential journey ” guidelines. Let’s hope it gets through so we can get back out on the course again and enjoy this amazing weather after a winter on wet sodden ground.

    Reply to this comment
    • Josie April 26, 20:57

      Social distancing is pointless if you have contact with flags, rakes, ball washers etc. No over 70s should play as they are all at risk, many have underlying issues due to treatment they had in previous years.
      4 out of every 5 golf clubs in my local area were all in their overdrafts before the lockdown and losing money year on year. These clubs should of had their doors shut a long time ago, they all happen to be run by committee. Open financially viable clubs to members on a lotto basis to allow a controlled amount of members to play each week.

      Reply to this comment
      • Iino April 27, 09:05

        If you had checked your facts before commenting, you would find the guidelines laid down, like not touching flag sticks and not racking bunkers etc. are already in place. Also, why should over 70’s be barred playing? They would observe the social distancing far more seriously than younger people. If you observe the distancing rule how is it any different if you are 17 or 70? This is good, gentle exercise for older people. There are vast numbers of retired people who’s only form of exercise is a round of golf, or two. It is illogical and devisive to restrict them.

        Reply to this comment
      • Chalky April 27, 11:00

        One size does not fit all. I’m over 70. I take no form of medication. In the last 55years I have increase my weight by 3 lbs. Blood pressure 120 over 80. Don’t patronise me by assuming I’m incapable of making decisions for my own wellbeing.

        Reply to this comment
  17. Andybean April 26, 18:02

    I am concerned about the suggestion that only 2 balls will be allowed, teeing off at 15 minute intervals. This means that there will be at least one hole between each group, which is more than enough social distancing. I hope they enforce the same social distancing in supermarkets etc. There is nothing wrong with 4 balls every 7/8 minutes. Golfers are sensible enough to respect the requirements!

    Reply to this comment
    • Albion09 April 27, 10:30

      Of course golf clubs should be open for play.If anyone actually does their own research then its clear this lockdown has not saved a single life.However it will cause untold havoc in the near future.Evidence is now mounting that the covid death figures are highly misleading.That the peak of the crisis was in early April,and that this also severly restricted our personal liberties to the point where they may nevet be the same again.My golf club now has to sold as a consequence.I e-mailed Golf England .I told them they were incompetent and not bothering to actually think for themselves.ABC Accept nothing Believe No one and Check everything.Independent thought is linked to liberty.We have just lost something of both of these.End th Lockdown
      .Open the golf courses Now

      Reply to this comment
  18. The bunk April 26, 17:49

    Mark youtube Crossfield and his followers were telling everyone to forget golf and lock themselves up. He’s either petrified Covid 19 or he’s trying to look like some kind of YouTube god.

    Reply to this comment
    • Albion09 April 27, 10:45

      I cannot imagine anyone listening to what Crossfield or his minions have to say.

      Reply to this comment
    • Andy H April 27, 12:51

      It’s not your well-being I’m bothered about.?you could easily be a carrier and be passing it on to somebody else without knowing ,

      However I agree that courses should be allowed to open maybe just for single players to start with

      Reply to this comment
  19. Roger April 26, 17:46

    As long as players and clubs enforce the social distancing then this should absolutely happen. Golf clubs around the country will have added financial issues this year with loss of incline from green fees, societies and clubhouse takings. Getting players out enables them to keep people motivated to support the clubs in the future. It’s already been mentioned that the physical and mental benefits are huge too…

    Reply to this comment
  20. John E April 26, 17:44

    Of course, golf is such an inclusive past time! That’ll have the masses getting out and about! Can’t wait to let all the families that we provide meals for via The Citadel know that they’re free to knock a ball around Muirfield, Royal Burgess, St Andrews, Lytham, Wentworth etc. Turn the golf courses into public walks for the rest of the year.

    Reply to this comment
    • Roger April 26, 18:03

      There are a few wealthy clubs in this country but the vast majority rely on day to day business/footfall. Opening courses to players (following strict guidelines) has numerous benefits. With regards to opening them to the public for the rest of the year, sadly some courses did that during the first few weeks of lockdown and the public let kids play in the sand, picnic on the course and play football on the greens! It takes years of care to get courses in a condition to play and in turn that’s thousands of pounds. Allowing people to use them for recreation is a bad idea…

      Reply to this comment
      • No April 26, 18:33

        Somebody with sense. Didn’t need to be mentioned but I guess some people have no clue. Why are you even here posting….

        Reply to this comment
    • Steve G April 26, 18:44

      Great idea! Then when a large percentage of UK golf courses close due to lack of funds. Will you be able to supply all the families that lose their income too? There are over 2000 courses in the UK, not all are financially viable in the current situation.. I wonder how many people they employ. Hopefully, you know??

      Reply to this comment
    • Blue eyes April 26, 21:12

      John E
      Your an absolute idiot

      Reply to this comment
  21. IC April 26, 15:31

    I would have thought that Golf was a simple game to keep social distancing.
    No need to get in each others way.

    Reply to this comment
  22. LawnRanger April 26, 15:29

    The heavy handed adherence by England golf to Covid restrictions have been so so wrong.
    The courses were geared up for social distancing prior to total shutdown.
    Minor tweaking , staggered tee times , would have been more than sufficient .
    It’s not a Rich mans playground , I fell in love again with the game last October following a 20 year absence ( chipitis I thought it was but now I know it was the yips lol ! )
    I cannot afford the annual membership renewal due to a drop in customers in these difficult times yet I know that I must support the club I am a member of in order that it can survive .
    Loss of green fees , bar takings , revenue from social functions has caused an enormous strain on clubs finances and that is without taking into account members who won’t or cannot renew due to financial or mobility concerns.
    Mental well-being , exercise , is the stimulus that older golfers require and I play week in and out with 70 plus years old golfers who walk 4 or 5 miles a day , and incredibly without a trolley in latter months ! , due to the wettest period in a decade.
    To deprive these members of exercise is disgraceful .
    The English golf union is sleep walking into a disaster if they think clubs will be able to carry on as usual if/when these restrictions are lifted .
    You’re more likely to get Covid from some individual ignoring social distancing in a park,supermarket , b &q , or another store deemed essential than a person playing golf .
    And that’s without damage being caused to courses by idiots wandering about having a few holes .
    Absolute joke .

    Reply to this comment
    • Josh April 27, 03:00

      You my friend, are a legend. Why can’t we get you sorting this out.

      Reply to this comment
      • Bluecharm April 27, 12:54

        Hi to All I am a golf fanatic (who is not) in short complete “bunkum” perfectly safe if advice is adhered to but the main problem seems to be travel “unnecessary journeys” is stopping courses opening back up so it appears that has to be “relaxed first”.!!

        Reply to this comment
        • Mick B April 27, 17:07

          The rule on using your vehicle for exercise is simple, your journey has to be shorter than the amount of time that you spend exercising. Unless you live about 3 hours from your golf club then it falls within the guidelines.

          Here is a clipping from the BBC website:

          However, National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) guidelines for England say driving to the countryside to walk is likely to be a reasonable excuse if far more time is spent walking than driving. In Northern Ireland you can drive to a safe space for exercise.

          So I take that has driving to a golf course as within the government guidelines.

          Reply to this comment
  23. Martin H April 26, 15:15

    Germany have already opened up some courses for members only, 2 ball only. No need to touch the flag stick as as circle can be drawn around the hole. Chip or put within the circle and it’s a give me.

    Reply to this comment
    • Jimbo April 27, 22:12

      Before lock down our Green keeper put a piece of tubing about 2 inches in diameter in each hole which allowed you to putt into the hole without the ball touching the bottom of the cup and retrieving it easily without touching the flagstick.

      Reply to this comment
  24. Brent April 26, 14:47

    Open them tomorrow! and tennis clubs and Cricket clubs too!

    Reply to this comment
  25. Mick. April 26, 14:39

    Chris, yes golf should be open for members, I’m quite sure the the members are capable of keeping the required distance apart regardless if not all are mot from the same family.

    I am a member of a golf club in Wales, and tiered of seeing the public on the course and dog walkers playing with their dogs on the greens, if we were allowed to play this wouldn’t happen.

    As for your comment regarding the 70s and over sticking to the restrictions, that I disagree with you. I am 71 and was playing 3-4 times a week along with quite a few others also over 70 and maintaining a good handicap.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Mick. April 26, 14:38

    Chris, yes golf should be open for members, I’m quite sure the the members are capable of keeping the required distance apart regardless if not all are mot from the same family.

    I am a member of a golf club in Wales, and tiered of seeing the public on the course and dog walkers playing with their dogs on the greens, if we were allowed to play this wouldn’t happen.

    As for your comment regarding the 70s and over sticking to the restrictions, that I disagree with you. I am 71 and was playing 3-4 times a week along with quite a few others also over 70 and maintaining a good handicap.

    Reply to this comment
  27. Micky bou April 26, 14:26

    the dog wont lose his ball.

    Reply to this comment
  28. Ront April 26, 13:49

    I am in compete agreement with all the comments regarding the reopening of golf courses. They are in keeping with the same arguments I would make on this subject.
    However, I resent the comments made by your contributor “It is the older golfers who keep a lot of golf clubs going. Not all over seventies are on zimmer frames, wear fluffy slippers, and are in poor health. Actually, the golf clubs where I have played, have many over 70s playing of single figures, and some playing with handicaps below 6.
    So please, don’t discriminate, we pay the same annual subscription as every other adult members.

    Reply to this comment
  29. Jamesy April 26, 13:42

    As long as people stick to the separation distance, I see no reason, why we can’t play Let’s face most of the time a four ball only see each other on the tee and green so what’s the problem .
    Golf Courses are probably the easiest place to keep the 6ft distance

    Reply to this comment
  30. Khalid April 26, 13:13

    Agreed, keep the clubhouse closed and allow 2 balls while practicing social distancing.

    Reply to this comment
  31. Alan J April 26, 12:57

    Obviously keep the clubhouse closed until restrictions are lifted in pubs, They are considering allowing football to recommence, I cannot think of a more contact sport. As long a social distancing is properly controlled golf restrictions should be lifted

    Reply to this comment
  32. Russell April 26, 12:43

    What evidence do you need social distancing yes, good mental health yes, happy people yes. Get it done dont procrastinate.

    Reply to this comment
  33. Mark April 26, 11:44

    Govt will be afraid of being seen to allow ‘the rich’ to indulge themselves by allowing private clubs to open for members only.
    All common sense says golf is perfect for social distancing.
    it is a political decision.

    Reply to this comment
    • Andybean April 26, 18:01

      I am concerned about the suggestion that only 2 balls will be allowed, teeing off at 15 minute intervals. This means that there will be at least one hole between each group, which is more than enough social distancing. I hope they enforce the same social distancing in supermarkets etc. There is nothing wrong with 4 balls every 7/8 minutes. Golfers are sensible enough to respect the requirements!

      Reply to this comment
  34. John M April 26, 11:42

    Please let it happen. It will certainly improve my mental health.

    Reply to this comment
  35. Chris April 26, 11:23

    How about allowing Golf Club members only, with family unit of 4 balls or Couples (if over 70 age restrictions still applies)

    Reply to this comment
  36. Peter April 26, 10:45

    More achievable than most sports within guidelines.

    Reply to this comment
  37. David AK April 26, 10:43

    No brainer, should never have been shut ( ex clubhouses) better social distancing than the non family groups of cyclists going from region to region untouched

    Reply to this comment
  38. Annoyed golfer April 26, 08:52

    Is this guy for real. There are massive gatherings at B&Q and shops that in a million years I would and have NEVER seen on a golf course in my life. Golf is in essence a totally none contact sport and it’s ridiculous that parks are open and courses are not!!!!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Gazt April 26, 09:42

      Two people can walk down a course with a dog but two people can’t walk down a course playing golf tell me what is the difference

      Reply to this comment
    • Red golfer April 26, 09:50

      Totally agree and as all golfers don’t hit the ball in the same place on every hole it’s easier to maintain social distancing , on the tee it’s one person at a time and it’s one person on the green at a time , tee off times can be spaced out at say every 15 minutes that way reducing congestion on the tee , pro shops are relatively small and if you allowed two people at a time only in the pro shop that would reduce customer congestion , bunkers can be raked with a club or shoes and properly raked at the end of the day or first thing in the morning by ground staff , there could be morning and even afternoon tee off times again reducing congestion times , courses could open for play from say 6.30 , 11 and 3.30 now that the mornings are getting lighter and the evenings lighter again reducing congestion , it could be initially trialed for the first month to see how we golfers adapt ,
      I’m sure more informed people than me will make the correct descion’s but with over 50 years in golf I do have a good idea how things can be adapted to make this work ,
      Hopefully we will get back very shortly playing this magnificent game again .

      Reply to this comment
    • Alan April 26, 09:58

      Agreed mate miss playing so much just limit it to members only

      Reply to this comment
      • Grant April 26, 20:39

        I agree with the courses being open to all golfers not just members
        I am not a member of any course.. been there done that… but use Tee off times/golf now and my money goes towards the club similar to being a member I also stop off for a meal and drinks before I leave to go home, again more of my money going to the club..so why has it just to be open to members only…
        Explain away..

        Reply to this comment
        • Bristo April 26, 23:19

          Agree golf should be available to everyone not just members, pre-lockdown I would try to get a round in whenever, my work schedule kids etc would allow. Not everyone has the luxury of being a member, I would love to be but mine and thousands of others lives won’t allow it.

          Reply to this comment
    • Brian April 26, 11:49

      Absolutely right! ‘Gathering evidence’? Just open the courses with the guidelines that we had before they were closed, regarding not touching flagsticks, rakes, shaking hands etc. It’s not difficult. They should never have been closed in the first place. Just get on and do it!

      Reply to this comment
      • Kevj April 26, 14:18

        golf is probably one of the only sports that can be played complying with ALL social guidelines and is a definite advantage of mental/physical health.by closing courses that has been shown what damage can be caused to these courses by individuals out on there bikes and walking there dogs, OPEN them up

        Reply to this comment
    • Pete C April 26, 15:42

      Totally agree
      UK Should look at the model adopted in Queensland Australia, only sport not in lock down – yes golf
      The courses are open but with restrictions:
      Closed are Club house / shop, bars , restaurants
      T times extended from every 9 minutes to 30 minutes ( I believe 25 would be more appropriate ) , doubles going out replacing foursomes, flag sticks not to be removed , bunkers free drop
      The point is the game can continue with restrictions
      B&Q social distancing a joke

      Reply to this comment
  39. Brian April 26, 08:42

    Certainly safer than shopping at Tesco!

    Reply to this comment
  40. Bob O April 26, 06:41

    That’s easy yes and can abide with all social distance rules. It will provide great physical and mental exercise

    Reply to this comment
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