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Golf’s playgrounds are closed. What do we do now?

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Well, it was fun while it lasted at least.

On Tuesday, following announcements from the UK and Irish Governments in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, the GUI and ILGU recommended that all golf clubs, practice facilities and courses across the island closed with immediate effect until April 19th.

“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,” read the joint-statement.

“We know that 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 respective Government guidelines. In doing so, this will ensure that we get the opportunity to play the game that we all love as soon as it is safe to do so.”

Understandably, the decision immediately divided opinion. It left some enraged that the sanctuary of the golf course was no longer deemed a safe space after all.

Some backed the decision, believing that now is not the time to chance small victories in the bigger picture of the potential impact that this pandemic could still have, while others, focussed solely on the word “recommend”, decided to hold fire, waiting further clarification from the Government on golf’s fate in all this.

“Courses will remain open tomorrow for members pending clarification from Government and HSE on whether golf courses should close,” read a post on Ballyliffin Golf Club’s Facebook page.

It didn’t take long for said clarification to find its way to Donegal:

“We have just received clarification that golf courses should close in line with the recommendation from the GUI and ILGU. On the basis of that clarification, Ballyliffin Golf courses will be closed tomorrow morning until further notice.”

Since COVID-19 made its way to Irish shores, we’ve been big believers that golf as a pursuit was one that naturally promoted both headspace and social distancing and longed for it to continue, but sadly our race is run and the governing bodies have ultimately come to the correct decision.

We’ll be the first to admit that when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar mentioned ‘groups of no more than four people could congregate at one time’ during his latest address, we were sure he had a fourball booked for Portmarnock on Sunday morning. Unfortunately, we were dreaming.

Indeed, it’s all felt like one big dream – or nightmare – of late waking up each morning thinking you’d just returned from a warped parallel universe but this is our reality, for now. As a golf community, we have to play our part for the wider community to prosper.

Don’t worry, we feel your pain. It was bad enough that all competitive play was cancelled. Now this virus has taken our casual play too. We already went through the shanks, hooks, duffs and slices trying to dust the cobwebs off after a long winter’s hibernation but it’s time to settle down into another offseason before 2020 enters full swing.

That said, we’d urge you to follow Government guidelines and the wishes of the GUI and the ILGU at this time. There’s plenty of scope to improve your golf game, whether you’re boasting a palatial backyard like Padraig Harrington or a box bedroom in a Dublin city flat.

Three-time Major winner Harrington has been busy building a catalogue of instructional videos on Twitter aimed at the average golfer and he’s offered up plenty of drills that work as well from your home as they would on the golf course. Turns out all you need is a tennis ball to perfect the golf swing – who knew?

Meanwhile, here at Irish Golfer Magazine, we’ll keep plucking content from the clear blues skies that have largely accompanied COVID-19. Don’t fret, the golfing gods will shine on us again, and when they do, you won’t be worried about those shanks, hooks, duffs and slices, you’ll just be grateful you’re hitting them.


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