When can golf resume across the UK?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 12, 2021 16:05

We now know when four-ball golf can resume across almost all of the UK.

In England it can resume on March 29.

In Scotland, two-ball golf has been allowed throughout January and February, while four-ball golf has been allowed from today (March 12).

In Wales, where clubs have been closed since December, golf can begin again from Saturday, March 13.

Wales Golf has welcomed the re-opening of clubs for play from this weekend – and thanked those who told their mental health stories to assist the #ShareYourStory campaign for golf to return.

The personal stories relating the mental health benefits of golf, published through social media have shown how the sport is not only safe but also has a positive impact on health and well-being.

As a result of the latest Welsh government easing of restrictions, golfers in Wales will be allowed to return to play at their clubs in groups of up to four players, from a maximum of two households, from Saturday, March 13. Rules around local travel will still apply.

Wales Golf is encouraging clubs to restart reciprocal arrangements where appropriate, with members being able to play at other clubs close to their homes while the stay local rule is in place.

“We are delighted to see golf returning in Wales and look forward to seeing our members back on their local courses, of course sticking within the new Welsh government regulations,” said Wales Golf chief executive Richard Dixon.

“We have been talking to the Welsh government about this over the last few weeks, emphasising the safe nature of golf as an outdoor sport which now has adapted rules to make it even safer during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have also seen many members of clubs telling their own stories through social media, emphasising the positive impacts of golf on their health and well-being and making the point about how much they have missed the benefits of being able to play.

Richard Dixon

“We would like to thank all those people and we have been able to make sure their messages were heard by their Welsh government representatives.

“We feel those messages have played a part in Wales, along with Scotland, being the first parts of the UK to allow a return to playing golf.”

If the infection rates continue to decrease, the stay local rule may be lifted on March 27.

Currently, clubhouse facilities, locker rooms and professional shops in Wales must remain closed. However, toilets and washrooms are permitted. Therefore, controlled access to toilets will be required. Clubs must ensure toilets are regularly cleaned and well managed to minimise the risk of the transmission of the virus.

All pro shops in Wales, including close contact services, will be able to reopen on April 12. Click and collect services can still operate but collections must take place from a shop entrance or side entrance and not from inside a shop.

Outdoor coaching can resume with up to four people from two households, inclusive of the coach (children under 11 and carers do not count towards this limit). Organised children’s activities outdoors will be able to restart from March 27.

Outdoor driving ranges in Wales may be able to reopen. However, facilities must check with their local authority prior to opening.

A spokesman for The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) and the Golf Club Managers Association (GCMA) said: “As welcoming as the relaxing of restrictions are, the incredibly short notice of just one day presents a significant challenge for the golf facilities of Wales to achieve readiness. There are many logistical challenges to opening a facility at short notice and a number of facilities will be part-way through significant on or off course projects that may take time to complete.

“Golfers will no doubt be eager to head back out on the course as soon as they can get an available tee time and we look forward to golf clubs becoming thriving hubs of activity once again as people enjoy the many benefits that golf can bring.

“However, we ask for consideration from golfers and an understanding that courses may not be able to open immediately and, when they do, they may not be prepared to the usual standards golfers have come to expect. It can be reasonably anticipated that limitations on winter maintenance and renovations caused by an exceedingly wet winter, restrictions on activities due to Covid safety measures and the potential placing of staff on furlough to protect the golf club business will have restricted what the team have been able to achieve. Additionally 2020 saw participation at unprecedented levels, which reduced maintenance opportunities and created more wear and tear on turf and other areas than usual.

“The preparation and maintenance of a golf course is a year-round process; as life returns to the golf club following the reopening, so too will life return to the course itself. Spring will hopefully bring drier and warmer weather aiding turfgrass plants to come out of dormancy, meaning they recover from damage quicker. While drier conditions will mean less damage from divots or compaction of the turf. As golfers return to the fairways, we ask for patience and consideration of the activities of the entire golf club team, from managers through front-of-house staff and the greenkeepers who have, like each of us at some time in the past year, worried about their livelihoods, their personal health and wellbeing, and who take great pride in their work but due to circumstances beyond their control have perhaps been unable to achieve the high standards they set for themselves.”

Craig Tracey MP added: “When lockdowns were first mooted, we worked quickly to ensure greenkeepers were able to complete essential maintenance on their courses. That was a critical decision for the sport as it ensured courses were playable immediately or very soon after restrictions were eased. Not only that, but courses saw significant increase in rounds played so they had to be in the best possible condition to stand up to much higher wear and tear. On average courses in the UK experienced an additional 1,000 rounds per month for the six months after they first re-opened.

“The current lockdown has coincided with the period when greenkeepers would normally protect and prepare greens ready for the coming year. It is clear they all are continually working as hard as possible to maintain courses, clubs and other facilities as we all wait for normality to return.

“We need to be mindful though that no two clubs are alike and for a wide variety of reasons, some have been able to retain more staff than others. They have also had to contend with the bad weather that winter brings against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has drastically cut revenue and often led to members of the team being placed on furlough, so unable to help prepare the course.

“I have no doubt that all golf club teams will be working flat out to present a welcoming, enjoyable playing experience and I’m sure golfers will appreciate the extraordinarily hard work that has taken place to enable them to get back out on the fairways this spring. However, it is important ahead of the return that every club manages its own members’ expectations when it comes to the pressure on things like tee time availability and that many courses will likely need a bit of breathing space to allow them to return to their peak condition.

Craig Tracey MP

“When stepping out on to that first tee again, it would be great if we all took the time to remember the key role greenkeepers have played throughout the pandemic and thank them, club managers and all staff for their dedication to their jobs which will allow players back again in what I’m sure will be record numbers.”

UPDATE (16/03/21): Golf courses across Northern Ireland are set to reopen on April 1.

‘The loosening of restrictions will allow up to 10 people from two households to meet for certain outdoor activities such as golf. Clubhouses and other such indoor facilities must remain closed,’ reports The Belfast Telegraph.

‘It is now expected that Golf Ireland, the sport’s amateur governing body across the island, will announce its own protocols. For instance, after the first lockdown last year, tee times had to be spaced out depending on the number of golfers permitted to play together by each individual club. Last year, four-balls were not initially allowed with three-ball tee-times required to be 14 minutes apart.’

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 12, 2021 16:05
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