GOLF bodies in England have welcomed further changes to COVID-19 lockdown rules and restrictions.
But they have made it clear they remain vigilant as golfers and staff return to play and work.
Following the changes announced yesterday by Boris Johnson – which come into effect on July 4 – golf clubs should be able to reopen their clubhouses and resume catering and bar services.
And those courses which have onsite holiday apartments, flats and chalets in particular, can look forward to increasing revenues after a barren three-month spell during lockdown.
With holiday bookings recommencing in England – allowing overnight stays for the first time since March 23 – golf clubs can look forward to allowing more visitors out on the fairways.
Clubs will have to work out the maximum number of customers they can safely accommodate, taking into account the new social distancing guidelines (see below).
A statement on behalf of the PGA, the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) and BIGGA – representing greenkeepers across the UK – said: “In the first instance, a risk assessment should be carried out, the details of which should be shared with your workforce.
“For organisations of over 50 employees, this should be published on your website.
“In order to make it more viable for the hospitality industry to open, the government has given scope to relax the current two metres social distancing rules in certain instances in favour of ‘one metre-plus’, which means remaining one-metre apart – while taking other mitigation to reduce the risk of transmission.”
Clubs must keep records for 21 days
EVERY club that serves food and drink must keep a record of customers for 21 days to assist with NHS ‘Track and Trace’ requests.
They must provide clear guidance on arrival at the venue regarding social distancing and hygiene measures in place.
Table service will be preferred using mobile phone apps to place orders. And contactless payment should be used wherever possible.
In instances where bar or counter service is unavoidable, customers will not be allowed to remain at the bar after ordering.
The statement added: “All involved in golf in England should review the full guidance as soon as possible so they can begin putting in place the necessary steps to ensure your business can continue to open-up safely.”
England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “The work done by those involved in golf during lockdown has been tremendous.
“And that has enabled us to respond quickly and decisively. Like all, we welcome the safe easing of restrictions and look forward to welcoming back even more people – players and staff – to golf.
PGA chief executive Rob Maxfield said “Golf professionals have been working incredibly hard in recent weeks since golf returned.
“And with restrictions easing, we hope to see more people getting to clubs throughout England and the UK.
“We will encourage our members to review the updated guidance and put in place the steps they need to ensure people can get back onto courses as soon as possible.”
“That we have been given time to prepare the changes and the way in which the guidance has been presented is very helpful to clubs, shops and the wider industry.”
New COVID-19 lockdown rules
HOUSESHOLDS face less restrictions on gatherings indoors and outdoors in England following the Prime Minister’s announcement.
The biggest change sees the minimum social distancing rule of two metres being relaxed to one – although health advisers want the public to wear masks wherever it is difficult to maintain the two-metre gap.
Scotland, Ireland and Wales continue to introduce their changes on a different timetable to Westminster.
As part of its regular series of meetings with golf bodies, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf met immediately after the Prime Minister’s Statement on Tuesday afternoon.
They discussed the upcoming changes and their implementation, as well as how the industry is responding to current Government regulation.
Speaking on behalf of the group, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey – its chairman – said: “Golf as an industry worked hard to be one of the first sports to resume as restrictions were lifted.
“All industry bodies involved in the group have worked closely together to ensure adherence to lockdown rules have been implemented, sharing their experience to ensure golfers, club staff, and the wider industry, have returned securely.
“The feedback we have received is that golfers have returned to the sport with enthusiasm, and did so complying to social distancing rules.
“Those who have been working should be praised for their part in ensuring that smooth transition and are confident the easing of restrictions will be no different.”
On the timing of the relaxed lockdown rules, Tracey added: “For those of us in England, we have been given time to consider the new rules.”
He added they should be used to, “consider the implications fully and put in place the necessary steps the sport needs to continue to rebound quickly and – above all – safely.”
Scotland expects to reopen pubs from July 15
In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said the five-mile restriction on travel for recreation and leisure should be lifted from July 3.
Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen north of the border from July 15.
In Northern Ireland, holiday accommodation will be allowed to open from Friday, June 26, while pubs and restaurants will be allowed to open from July 3 – giving golf clubs the same freedoms.
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford has said decisions on lifting restrictions on hospitality and the holiday sector will be taken in early July.