GOLF clubs across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland have been forced to close after Boris Johnson announced a lockdown across the UK to combat the coronavirus outbreak, on Monday night.
England Golf responded on Tuesday morning with the advice to all clubs and golf centres, including driving ranges and studios, in the country.
It came after the Prime Minister’s statement 12 hours earlier, which resulted in the closure of thousands of “non-essential shops” across the UK, following the closure of bars, theatres, cinemas and restaurants last week – and with the public ordered to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.
In its online statement, chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “It is England Golf’s position that this deeply regrettable, but highly necessary and responsible course of action must be implemented with immediate effect and be maintained until further notice.
“The government has identified an urgent need to introduce new restrictions on public life and on non-essential businesses opening their doors.
“This has been done to limit the spread of the coronavirus and relieve the growing pressure on our National Health Service.
“Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated policy of government, which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency.
“The health and wellbeing of the nation is the only consideration that matters at this moment in our history.
“These are incredibly testing times for the country. The golf industry cannot be shielded from the economic and social ramifications caused by this temporary shutdown of normal life.
“We would like to assure the golfing community that England Golf staff will continue to work remotely with all affiliated golfers, clubs and counties to try and minimise the damage caused by this suspension of regular golf club life.
“We will continue to signpost clubs and counties to the latest government advice and schemes designed to help the economy cope with the disruption caused by coronavirus.”
Scottish and Welsh Golf back advice
SCOTTISH Golf appealed to all golfers to respect the Government’s ban on leaving home to play the sport announced by Boris Johnson on Monday.
A statement issued late on Monday night said: “While golf is an outdoor sport that allows players to exercise in the fresh air, the message to all of us is clear, we must stay home and play our part in containing the spread of COVID-19.
“With this in mind, Scottish Golf asks that all golfers in Scotland refrain from golfing until further notice.
“We understand this advice will have a significant impact on golf clubs across the country and we will continue to consult with industry partners to provide clubs with all information and support possible during this time of deep uncertainty.
“We know these decisions are difficult ones to make, but right now, it is our shared responsibility to prioritise the health of our local communities by working together to follow the Government guidelines.
“In doing so, this will ensure we get the opportunity to play the game that we all love as soon as it is safe to do so.
A statement on the Welsh Golf Union website said: “While golf is a sport with many health benefits, keeping golf courses open is no longer compatible with Government policy, which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency.
“This action is vital and we must stay home in order to contain the spread of COVID-19 and relieve pressure on the National Health Service.
“These are incredibly testing times for the country and the golf industry but, during this unprecedented period, we will be working very closely with all affiliated clubs.
“Wales Golf staff will be working remotely to support and advise clubs as much as possible.”
It added that COVID-19 updates, industry guidelines and Government advice can be found at Wales Golf’s website.
Anyone with any questions for Wales Golf can email firstname.lastname@example.org
Golf can still be played in Eire – for now
THE situation is more complicated in Ireland – the Golfing Union or Ireland has two governments to deal with – the UK covering Northern Ireland and the Irish Government covering the Republic of Ireland.
A statement on the GUI website said: “It is the view of the GUI and Irish Ladies Golf Union that all golf clubs in Northern Ireland must close their facilities with immediate effect.
“Such closures will have a significant impact on golf clubs, and we continue to consult with industry partners to provide clubs with all information and support possible during this time of deep uncertainty.”
In the Republic, the guidelines issued last week on playing golf in Ireland have yet to be changed, following the move by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
A spokesman said: “The GUI and ILGU have consistently reflected the advice of expert medical professionals in advising our member clubs.
It is anticipated that an update on the period of restriction will be made soon by the Irish Government, after which we will issue an updated statement in relation to golf in the Republic of Ireland.
“You will appreciate that this is a very fluid situation with new developments almost daily.
“We will continue to liaise with the appropriate authorities, and will ensure that our clubs are kept informed as to recommended best practice at all times.”
All four golf Home Unions have already cancelled their national championships in the first two months of the season, plus national squad coaching sessions.
A number of meetings – connected with the introduction of the World Handicapping System – have also been called off in England, Scotland, Wales and on both sides of the Irish border.
Greenkeepers get greenlight to carry on working
BOTH the Scottish and Irish golf bodies confirmed that greenkeeping staff could still attend work under the Government’s list of essential workers following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s lockdown.
The GUI added: “For security and essential maintenance purposes, greenkeeping staff can still attend work.
“All work must be carried out in strict accordance with government guidelines on social (physical) distancing.
“Clubs should divide course staff into two teams where possible and if one becomes unavailable, the other team will still be okay to work.
How advice on playing golf changed in a week
LAST week, the UK Golf Federation – representing some 600 proprietary clubs across the UK – had called on the Government to allow golf to continue across the country as a “safe sport” during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The UKGF seized on Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance’s comments that playing golf was a good way for the public to exercise, providing social distancing and simple guidelines on preventing coronavirus transmission were followed.
Sir Patrick had answered an MP’s question while giving evidence at the House of Commons Health Select Committee, on March 24.
MP Dean Russell asked Sir Patrick who has been advising Boris Johnson and his Cabinet: “If someone wants to play golf, can they still do that if they are not close together?”
The science expert, who has been one of a team advising Government ministers and the Prime Minister on how to contain the COVID-19 virus, said: “It is OK – if you keep a distance.
“We’re not asking everyone to be completely isolated. The specific advice is to avoid close contact.
“A walk is OK if you keep a distance.”
Golf UK Federation chief executive Doug Poole called on golfers to carry on playing – while taking care to reduce risks of being exposed to the coronavirus – launching an online petition to “Keep Golf Open.”
With many clubhouses closing bar and catering services, many golf clubs were keen to remain open to help their businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, which has spread around the world in the last three months.
But now golf club owners, managers and secretaries are clamouring to obtain government financial aid packages announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequor Rishi Sunak, last week.