Is golf in the Republic next to fall in the COVID-19 battle?

John Craven

(Photo by Greg White/Fairfax Media via Getty Images).

John Craven

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As the weary Scottish soldiers swayed towards retreat at The Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297, an impassioned William Wallace inspired his troops to an unlikely victory with the famous rallying cry of, “they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom.”

As we wade further into the battle against COVID-19, for those of us who like to play golf in the Republic of Ireland, that freedom might be the next thing to go.

A delayed UK response to coronavirus has forced Boris Johnson’s hand with new lockdown measures in the UK overnight permitting just one exercise activity per day.

On Twitter, Lee Westwood asked the question on all our lips:

“Am I allowed to go and play 9 holes with my son who’s in the same household as my form of exercise?”

Fair question, right? WRONG! Twitter didn’t like that.

‘Ridiculous comment to make.’ ‘Stay at home Lee, it’s no joke.’ ‘People’s lives are upside down and Lee wants to know if he can play golf with his son? You are a real tool, take it down.’

It was a rookie move by Westwood, asking a legitimate question to a platform that has been tripping over itself to see who can gain the most likes in the empathy stakes of late.

Sadly, what proved worse than a chorus of celebrities singing a line each from John Lennon’s Imagine in arguably the most cringe inducing video of all time, was that Westwood soon got his answer from golf’s governing bodies.

First, England Golf released a statement calling on the guts of 1,900 courses in the country to shut temporarily:

“Following on from the Prime Minister’s statement tonight golf clubs, courses and facilities in England must now close.

“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.”

Then the dominos started to tumble and Wallace’s Scotland was next to fall:

“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 that 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.”

Not wanting to feel left out, Wales Golf tweeted:

“Following the P.M.’s statement it is clear that golf clubs, courses & facilities must close with immediate effect. Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with gov policy which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency.”

And then there was us. With golf in Ireland being an All-Ireland sport, landing on the correct course of action was a little more complicated.

This morning at 11am on Tuesday March 24, the ILGU and GUI released a joint statement detailing their response to the UK clampdowns:

“While golf is an outdoor sport that allows players to exercise in the fresh air, the message is clear. People must stay at home to help to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“With this in mind, it is the view of the GUI and ILGU that all golf clubs in Northern Ireland must close their facilities with immediate effect.”

Balls… but that’s just Northern Ireland, right? What about the Republic?

“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.”

… So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

We haven’t been immune to abuse here at Irish Golfer Magazine for encouraging a hit of the ancient club and ball game during this pandemic and we stand by it. We’ve all been out for a few holes since the outbreak, using digital scorecards, leaving the pins in, literally touching nothing but ourselves… that read better in my head… but the practice of social distancing that we’ve witnessed first-hand on the golf course has surpassed anything we’ve come into contact with in local parks, supermarkets etc.

There have been lots of examples of social distancing malpractice doing the rounds on Twitter, whether it be people storming the monastery at Glendalough like crazed Vikings of yesteryear or endless lines at McDonald’s drive-thrus as if the toy in the Happy Meal holds the cure, but golf courses have been conspicuous by their absence.

That was until Boris picked up the mic – now we’ve been lumped in with the rest of them.

Perhaps those calling for golf courses to close are non-golfers, frustrated that our pursuit of choice offers its players a patch of serenity amid all the madness that they’re suffering daily?

Well, until told otherwise by the government in the Republic, golf clubs have taken the necessary precautions to ensure the fairways remain open and if players continue to abide by the social distancing guidelines, then long may the game continue.

GUI & ILGU joint statement following UK Government announcement HERE

GUI & ILGU guidelines on COVID-19 HERE

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