Anger and disbelief mounts as golf clubs in Ireland and Wales close

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 23, 2020 10:01

Several figures in the golfing industry have said they are furious that golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland and Wales are having to close due to new coronavirus restrictions.

Golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland have been ordered to close from October 21 to December 1, while golf clubs in Wales must shut from October 23 to November 9.

One of the reasons for the membership and participation boom in golf this summer has been because the game is seen to be an acceptable activity to do while adhering to social distancing guidelines. This is probably partly why golf clubs in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland so far do not have to close, although in many cases there are restrictions on their clubhouses.

In Ireland there is anger, not just about the enforced closures, but also the notice period given and a ruling that contact sports are permitted to continue.

The captain of North West Golf Club in Ireland, Paul O’Hea, has expressed his dismay and frustration over the news.

“It came out of the blue,” he said. “I can’t believe it and I can’t see the justification for it either – that’s the hardest part.

“We’ve been sticking religiously to all the guidelines from the first lockdown in the middle of March until the middle of June. And yet it’s getting harder and harder to find a justification for it.

“We have all our risk assessments done for inside and outside. The clubhouse has been closed with the exception of the toilets and the pro shop for registration and track and trace.

“We have all the signage up, we’ve installed new hand sanitisers all around the course and clubhouse. The tee-times have all been spaced out so people aren’t arriving at the one time and they change in their cars. We’ve invested so they don’t have to touch the flags at all.

“All the rakes are out of the bunkers and we have signage up around the course, so I don’t know what else we can do.

“We took the decision to stop visitors coming because we thought it was the right thing to do.

“We stopped taking bookings for societies and casual visitors. That wasn’t part of the restrictions but we decided we would take that action.

“And now with the club closing it will have big financial implications for the club. Our financial year ends at the end of this month and we will have no revenue outside of competition revenue which is minimal because we don’t have visitors.

“That’s what we have until we start getting our fees in again in February. Our sponsorship is down because obviously there’s nothing to sponsor. We would normally have a fundraising draw at Christmas but that’s all fallen by the wayside too.

“It’s so frustrating. We have everything in place and I don’t know what else we can do.

“It’s the frustration of putting everything in place, getting the course ready and then at the last minute they shut it down.

“It’s hard to get your head around this one. We know golf is not the most important thing in the world but there’s absolutely no reason for stopping it.”

Meanwhile, Catherine McGrath, owner of Cregmore Park Golf Club in Ireland, has said she thought about defying the ban as it makes so little sense.

Cregmore Park Golf Club. Image from Facebook

“I don’t get it, I don’t think it makes any sense,” she said.

“So yes, we are thinking of opening for our members who live within 5km.”

Irish sports commentator Philip Reid said it is “hard to find the sense in closing golf clubs”.

“Clubs had demonstrated in recent months that golf could be played with stringent measures in place: flagsticks left in the hole; players arriving in cars and going straight to the first tee and then back to the cars on completion of their rounds, with scores entered on digital scorecards; no handshakes, no fist-bumps, nothing,” he said.

“Indeed, the frustration bordering on anger at the decision to close all courses in the Republic was evident on the various social media platforms.

“Clubs in the Republic were again obliged to update their membership that golf was off the agenda for at least six weeks. There remains a belief that it could at least have been handled in a better way, that clubs could have been updated along the way rather than wait for the guillotine final act.

“I was in contact with a large number of club officials and employees after this latest close-down order came about. To a man and woman, most were caught off-guard by the full, knockout blow delivered. All felt it was an unjustified move.

Llanymynech Golf Club

“The situation where contact sports and schools remain open heightens people’s disgust with the regulators who have sanctioned this closure.”

A Texas Medical Association chart rated golf as the same risk as going for a walk, run or bike ride with others. Only tennis ranked safer among sports. While figures for Ireland up to October 17 show there have been just nine Covid-19 cases under the banner of ‘sporting activity / fitness’, which relates to all sports, including golf.

A statement from the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) reads: ‘We have consistently highlighted the health and mental health benefits of golf and the strong compliance with the safety protocols which has ensured that our sport has been a safe outlet for people of all ages over the past five months. We have also highlighted the substantial employment in the sector and the benefits of golf to the Irish economy

‘The government has decided however, that level 5 restrictions mean that all sports facilities, golf included must close. The decision is one that we regret, but also accept.’

There have been similar comments in Wales, where Llanymynech Golf Club has found itself in the news again.

The club, which lies on the border between England and Wales, is a member of England Golf but its clubhouse is licensed by Welsh authority Powys County Council. Some of its holes are in England and some in Wales.

“It may be that we shall have to close the clubhouse but keep the course open,” said Sandy Johnstone, who sits on the club’s committee.

“That is what we did when it was decided that golf courses could reopen. We are holding meetings this week to talk through the situation and the best way to deal with it.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 23, 2020 10:01
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1 Comment

  1. ErnieLong October 23, 21:22

    I am under the guidelines unable to play at my golf club which is in tier 2 because I live in a tier 3 area, thats Greater Manchester and Cheshire. 28 day review from today. Highly frustrating, I have asked my club to negotiate some access at another club in my tier 3 area. This all sounds like first world issues but golf to many is part of their routine and valuable to mental health and physical exercise.

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