English golf courses to close from November 5 to December 2

By Alistair November 1, 2020 19:15

English golf courses to close from November 5 to December 2

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 gov.uk: ‘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.


By Alistair November 1, 2020 19:15

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