Minister apologises for confusion and confirms English golf clubs will close

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 3, 2020 12:37

Michael Gove has apologised for the confusion surrounding golf clubs in England and confirmed that they will have to close for 28 days.

On Saturday the government website gov.uk stated that golf courses in England would have to close from November 5 to December 2 under new coronavirus restrictions.

A petition to keep them open secured 100,000 signatures within a few hours of launching, and, backed by support from at least one Conservative MP, England Golf said it would challenge the decision, which led to reports that golf might be exempt after all.

At least three Conservative MPs then specifically asked the prime minister to award a reprieve in golf in parliament on Monday, but these were seemingly rejected each time.

However, later on Monday cabinet minister Michael Gove told one of his constituents in a live Q&A that the government was “looking to allow” two-ball golf.

A few hours later, Mr Gove said: “I got this wrong. Golf courses will be closed from Thursday.”

The confirmation will come as a blow to the industry.

“With the nights drawing in and the weather worsening, November is not the most disastrous month for our courses to close, but it was all going so well and this will present us with some difficulties,” said Tim Barnes, who, together with his brother, Richard, owns and operates Hartford Golf Club in Northwich and Pryors Hayes in Chester.

He told The Telegraph: “Since we reopened in May it has been a great time for us and, seemingly, golf across the board in the UK. We had 350 members before the lockdown and now have over 400 and have picked up more than 100 at the other course.

“Of these, the overwhelming majority are in the all-important 20 to 35 age bracket and that bodes so well for the future. They weren’t allowed to play football so they came and tried golf instead and now they have the bug. And unlike certain age groups, they will put money across the bar in the clubhouse and buy equipment.

“Where before that age group would account for about five percent of our rounds, that is up to a third of our rounds and I’d say and they are a big reason why we are ahead in golf takings where we were this time last year. However, the fear is that this game is such a habit-forming that once you are away from it, you might find something else to do on your weekend.

“So we wouldn’t want this to go on too long. It’s the Masters next week and we were hoping for an uptick because of that especially with all the big equipment companies bringing out new drivers in the next few weeks for the Christmas trade. We will lose a lot of this to the internet now and that is a blow and will be an even bigger one if the lockdown stretches past the first week of December.”

Barnes is grateful for the furlough scheme and will use it. The staff on site will probably consist of just himself and the head greenkeeper. “We’ll keep the course in shape,” he said. “And pray that we get the green light to open again soon.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir November 3, 2020 12:37
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1 Comment

  1. None November 4, 11:13

    Does this also mean they are closed for general used by the public double standards if not

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