Golf courses to remain open in England but must close in Wales and Northern Ireland

By Alistair December 20, 2020 08:32

Golf courses in Tier 4 in England can remain open but venues in Wales and Northern Ireland must close, according to new coronavirus restrictions.

In Tier 4 areas in England pro shops must close, but some coaching is allowed and, crucially, golf can be played either by people on their own or in two-balls, even with a person from a different household.

The UK government website states that golf courses in London and the south east are allowed to remain open as that area enters Tier 4. 

A spokesman for The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf said: “In Tier 4 areas, golf courses can remain open for individuals playing with members of their own household or support bubble, or with one person from another household.

“As usual, social distancing is to be observed and all necessary steps are to be taken to ensure a COVID-19 secure environment.

“Under Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential retail – including pro shops and golf retailers – must close. ‘Click and Collect’ will, however, be permitted.

“Outdoor coaching will be allowed on an individual basis or for multiple members of the same household or support bubble. Indoor coaching will be not be permitted.

“There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.

“Custom fitting can take place outside on a one-to-one basis but is not permitted indoors.

“Some golf ranges can be classified as indoor settings, but it would be for each facility to read and interpret the guidelines against their own venue – it is suggested that if confirmation is required they contact their local authority who will be best placed to advise.”

The government states for people in Tier 4 that: ‘People can exercise outdoors or visit some public outdoor places, such as parks, the countryside, public gardens or outdoor sports facilities. You can continue to do unlimited exercise alone, or in a public outdoor place with your household, support bubble or one other person.’

ln Wales, a lockdown that was scheduled to begin on December 28 has been brought forward by nine days and all golf courses have been forced to close – for at least three weeks.

Government documents state that leisure and fitness facilities (gyms, swimming pools, fitness studios), sports courts, enclosed pitches and golf courses will all be closed under the new restrictions.

Organised indoor activities will be limited for public and voluntary services, while organised outdoor activities will not be possible.

Professional, elite and designated sports and training will be permitted, however.

“We realise this will be difficult for those sectors that have been severely constrained, closed for long periods, or who have not been able to restart at all since the lockdown in March. We will work with those sectors to put in place plans for gradually restarting activity in the spring and summer of next year, should conditions permit it,” said a Welsh government spokesman.

Meanwhile, the Golfing Union of Ireland has confirmed that clubs in Northern Ireland must close for six weeks. ‘It is with regret that we must advise that golf clubs must close with effect from 00.01 on Saturday 26 December 2020. This closure is scheduled to last for six weeks but is subject to a formal review after four weeks,’ it says in a statement.

‘From 00:01 26 December to 1 January inclusive (ends at 00:01 on 2 Jan), no sporting events permitted at all, even at elite level. Elite athletes permitted to train between 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Outdoor sports and exercise facilities including activity centres, equestrian centres, golf courses, marinas and venues relating to motor sport and water sport must close. Indoor sports and exercise facilities, including soft play areas, leisure centres, climbing facilities, rinks, gyms, swimming pools, equestrian centres and venues relating to sports activity must close.

‘Outdoor exercise permitted only as an individual or with members of your own household.

‘From 00:01 2 January 2021, outdoor gatherings for the purposes of exercise or sport are only permitted for elite athletes, for the purposes of PE in or for schools, or if participants are members of the same household.

‘Outdoor sports and exercise facilities including activity centres, equestrian centres, golf courses, marinas and venues relating to motor sport and water sport must close.

‘Indoor sport is only permitted for elite athletes or for PE in, or for, schools. Indoor sports and exercise facilities, including soft play areas, leisure centres, climbing facilities, rinks, gyms, swimming pools, equestrian centres and venues relating to sports activity must close. Elite training and competition can continue, both indoors and outdoors.’

Meanwhile, the UK’s culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, has been presented with a paper that states that golf can be played safely in line with Covid-restrictions.

It is now hoped that golf courses will not have to close due to coronavirus restrictions in future, as a result of the evidence in the report.

The paper, delivered to him by the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey, has also been sent direct to the secretary of state for health, the chancellor of the exchequer, the sports minister and the chairman of the digital, media and sport select committee.

Members of parliament in the group representing Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh constituencies will present the paper to ministers in national governments.

Compiled from the work of industry bodies and building on the operational experience established by clubs and facilities throughout the UK, the paper demonstrates that golf has established Covid secure practices including rule changes and other mitigation measures that meet the ‘Hands, Face, Space’ directive. It also highlights that the sport functions in total compliance with these tiered alert levels, and it delivers physical activity and mental wellbeing within the ‘Rule of Six’.

Oliver Dowden MP and Craig Tracey MP

After the meeting, Tracey said: “I am grateful to the secretary of state for taking the time to meet with me today and hear the evidence that golf is a sport that can be played safely during Covid. He recognises the incredibly hard work of golf bodies throughout the UK to ensure this is the case, as well as the outstanding conduct of staff and players involved in the sport in their compliance with government guidance.

“As the paper makes clear, an estimated 20 million full-length rounds of golf took place between June and September 2020 and academic opinion from advisors to the UK government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) indicate that any level of community transmission attributed to playing golf is likely to be extremely low. This is to be expected; not only does golf provide greater social distancing than the likes of walking, running, or cycling in urban settings, those who play do so with enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures implemented and monitored by golf clubs and facilities.

“Armed with the paper, I was able to make clear that in lockdown conditions and at lower Covid-19 alert levels, golf can be played safely within the Rule of Six and without restriction on the number of households.

“I was very pleased to be able to present this, and additionally make the case that that with the well-documented health benefits of playing golf, not only should it be allowed to continue during any future restrictions, the UK and other governments should recognise its importance in supporting people’s physical and mental wellbeing and that ministers and officials should speak to industry bodies about how the sport can be made more accessible to people now, when they need it most.”

Oliver Dowden said: “Due to the head room we got from the difficult national restrictions in November, we can now ensure grassroots sport can reopen across all three tiers. I know the great benefits playing golf and being part of a community club brings, which is why, working with the APPG for Golf, we ensured they would be front of the queue to be reopened. Golf is a fantastic sport with millions playing and watching every week, myself included.”


By Alistair December 20, 2020 08:32

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