Golf courses in England must close due to new Covid rules

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 31, 2020 21:57

The new month-long coronavirus restrictions in England starting from November 5 specifically state that golf courses and driving ranges must close, immediately leading to widespread anger and disbelief.

According to ‘To reduce social contact, the government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close. These include: indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks.’

Earlier, both Sky News and the Daily Mail reported that golf had been singled out, with the measures lasting until December 2. Sky reported that ‘outdoor exercise and recreation is encouraged and unlimited – only with your household / bubble, on your own or with one other person from a different household (golf is not allowed)’.

The reaction on social media to the announcement was largely one of anger, as golf has been seen as a safe sport to play during the pandemic.

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.

Richard Peabody, managing director of Club Systems International, wrote: ‘I feel an immediate campaign might be required. Will my golfing friends support one? This is illogical, unnecessary and counterproductive! Golf is #covidsafe and hugely essential for so many people’s mental wellbeing. Retweet and please let me know if you can help!’

Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have their own restrictions – Wales had announced that clubs must close for two weeks, but this was due to end shortly after November 5.

Golf clubs in the Republic of Ireland will be closing for a similar period as in Englanda decision which also led to anger and dismay.

The captain of North West Golf Club in Ireland, Paul O’Hea, 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.

In dappled light on a sunny day, a paper sign in plastic is attached to the locked gates at a suburban golf course in Merseyside in the UK. The sign warns that the course is closed due to the UK Government lockdown to control the global coronavirus pandemic.

“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.”

England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson said: “England Golf is working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf to study the detail, and to establish the exact restrictions on golf clubs and their facilities as the information becomes available.

“We will communicate definitive guidance once received from government.”

Greenkeeping association BIGGA has issued an almost identical statement to Tomlinson’s – in the full lockdown during March, April and May ‘essential maintenance’ was allowed to be carried out on English golf courses by greenkeepers provided they followed hygiene protocols.

A petition for golf courses to remain open during November secured more than 100,000 signatures within just a few hours of being launched.


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir October 31, 2020 21:57
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  1. TYee November 13, 12:28

    So, perhaps it isn’t unreasonable to have a governor ‘require’ face covering in all public spaces, even if social distancing can be maintained? I do know that the golfers I see have become complacent about keeping 6′ or more away from each other, unfortunately.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Hitchygolf November 2, 19:22

    So I can meet a friend and walk around the course but unable to take my clubs and hit a ball.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Febonio November 2, 12:49

    Golf is one of the safest sports because of the size of the playing space, and the number of people playing the sport in that space.
    A normal course is around 200 Acres.
    With courses running 10 minute tee time intervals they will put no more than 24 golfers on the course in an hour. With a pace of play of 4 hours, that’s 96 golfers on the 200 acre course at any given time.
    As long as the foursomes are careful, you can’t get any more socially distant than that.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Martin Rogers November 1, 23:29

    Almost certainly political reasons, i.e. “we’re all in this together” message. Logically, this makes no more sense than “you can’t have a cake because I’m on a diet”

    Reply to this comment
  5. Pat November 1, 20:45

    As before close the Clubhouse/Changing rooms but not their vital facilities and certainly not the course itself !!
    Not logical , if I can walk my dogs with a friend.

    Reply to this comment
  6. Squire Western November 1, 15:25

    Golf courses cannot avoid the law without being fined. What they could do, however, is to make it plain to their members that should those members choose to ignore the restrictions and play, the club regards that as their own business and not a matter for the club.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Bill November 1, 13:30

    Agree with all comments..any covid escalation hasnt come from the golfing fraternity where clubs and their members have taken and abided by all necessary restrictions ..rather it has come from a significant proportion of the community who havnt followed guidelines , seeing them as something which doesnt apply to them or even that the disease doesnt actually exist !!!. No , i sincerely hope that Golf England can get the Government to see some sense here and allow us to continue to play and exercise in the safe manner we do.

    Reply to this comment
  8. KP November 1, 10:21

    2 ball golf is as safe as any exercise. However, cast your minds back a minute. Your normal Saturday Swindle of 16 turn up in the car park, was there really social distancing? 8 x 2 balls went out > They all waited for the last pair to see who won the money, which every player had put in a virus free envelope? What can a golf club do to stop these fee paying members? I repeat GOLF IS A SAFE SPORT some of the people who play it are not.

    Reply to this comment
  9. Jonny November 1, 09:48

    Golf is viewed by many, who have no idea, as an elitist sport, which those that play it know that it is not. Therefore the uneducated think that if their sport of darts or whatever in the pub is stopped, why should the toffs be allowed to still play sport. It is all a matter of perspective, again we are all dragged down to the lowest common denominator. We all have to be equal, but why ?

    Reply to this comment
    • John November 1, 15:02

      Disappointed that golf courses have to close but Covid is threatening to overwhelm the nhs and now is the time to make the most of it until this wave of infection settles down.

      Reply to this comment
  10. JulieB November 1, 08:13

    Really??!! For goodness sake!! Surely one of the most socially distanced ways to exercise

    Reply to this comment
  11. Vincent November 1, 05:44

    A seemingly abstract and disappointing decision to close courses, clubs and ranges. I wonder how many golf clubs have reported infections, I will wager very few.

    Reply to this comment
  12. KYoung November 1, 05:11

    Another in a long list of senseless decisions made by this clueless government. There is little wonder that so many people are ignoring the guidelines, confusion abounds!

    Reply to this comment
  13. Terry G November 1, 05:02

    This is one of the only sports you can get exercise, fresh air, SOCIALLY DISTANCED, pathetic choice that is

    Reply to this comment
  14. StuJ November 1, 04:52

    We have measures in place to keep building sites open but golf is not allowed ‍♂️

    Reply to this comment
  15. Fardell November 1, 04:19

    Seems a very confusing stance from government. Golf is outside in fresh air which significantly reduces chances of transmission and being in an enclosed environment I.e indoors increases transmission hopefully dialogue can occur and get 2 balls at least

    Reply to this comment
  16. Golf Club Solutions November 1, 04:13

    Disappointing news for the Golf industry following a successful easing of restrictions only a few months ago which was responsible for the greatest increase in participation the sport has seen for years.

    Golf Clubs, your Membership has grown and rounds are up on last year. I wonder how many invest some of this additional revenue in securing a bright future and how many become complacent and continue to struggle.

    If you are ready to secure a bright future for your Golf Club, please get in touch.

    For those who feel the additional 100 members they have gained this year is enough, Good Luck.

    Reply to this comment
  17. Bartley November 1, 03:10

    The Open was the only PGA Tour Major cancelled this year.

    Reply to this comment
  18. Phil November 1, 02:33

    Can’t believe it. Once again this government seems hell bent on ruining businesses, peoples mental health. Ridiculous

    Reply to this comment
  19. irena clarke November 1, 01:55

    The government make things up as they go along and do not have any reason for most of it. Closing a sport that is outisde in fresh air with hundreds of yards between the golfers does not make sense in anyones book…other than the governments. They are a joke.

    Reply to this comment
    • Mad November 1, 08:50

      The government is allowing you to exercise with 1 other person outside your house, why can’t we play golf as 2 balls? We use our own clubs, no rakes, and flags are not allowed to be removed, I am at a loss to this insane rule.

      Reply to this comment
  20. Humpston November 1, 01:09

    Stay at home unless exercising (and work/other reasons), individuals can meet outside with one other person not in their family/bubble and golf is about the easiest sport possible to socially distance… frustrating, 2balls should in theory be fine, let’s hope further discussions see an about turn, fingers crossed

    Reply to this comment
  21. Extractor1 November 1, 00:57

    There is absolutely no reason to close golf courses. They could remain open for play by single players and family bubbles, with absolutely zero risk. If meeting one other person for exercise is permitted in other settings, then refusing to allow that for golf is sheer stupidity.

    Reply to this comment
    • Bunkum November 1, 10:00

      I can walk all day with one person outside my household. But I can’t play a golf with them? Ridiculous.

      Reply to this comment
    • Anton November 1, 10:33

      Surely the lockdown is to stop groups of people from meeting in close proximity. Golf clubs have put in measures to ensure that all players can social distance from each other and enable members to play independently or with one other. It is irrational to stop this recreational sport that keeps most of its members mentality stable, during these difficult times.

      Reply to this comment
  22. brownie November 1, 00:35

    It’s about restricting fun in my opinion. Golfers being allowed to play golf is deemed to be unfair on those who don’t play it.

    Reply to this comment
  23. JT November 1, 00:08

    It’s well documented golf activity has seen a recent massive rise
    Golf singled out as the govt don’t want to be paying Furlow for the younger generation golfer “ working at home”
    No other rhyme or reason for it

    Reply to this comment
  24. Peter October 31, 23:45

    Playing golf in the open air, only handling you own clubs cannot be a risk. Even if allowing for the need for us to wear a mask on the tee and the green. The only area which may cause an issue. Ridiculous !

    Reply to this comment
    • Jono November 1, 11:24

      There seems to be no justification to close golf courses either for social or medical reasons.Evidence has shown how safe golf courses have been.It appears to be a purely political decision.

      Reply to this comment
  25. Mr angry October 31, 23:32

    Doesn’t make sense. 22 footballers can play together in close contact yet 4 golfers can’t play together being socially distanced.
    Someone needs to have a word with themselves.

    Reply to this comment
  26. Stang October 31, 22:14

    In my opinion …proper protocol in place would eliminate the risk, installing the fear factor is not the answer.

    Reply to this comment
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