Roganstown and Swords Golf Courses will remain open despite clear directives from the GUI and ILGU that golf facilities on the island should close amid the COVID-19 crisis.
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.
However, as predicted, some people read that statement and focussed on one word – ‘recommend’.
In an interview with the Irish Times, the managing director at Roganstown, Ian McGuinness explained their stance:
“He [Leo Varadkar] specifically said things like ‘groups of four’, ‘outside exercise’, ‘[can] leave the house if you are going out for physical exercise’, ‘we have to preserve our humanity’, which means taking exercise and looking after your physical and mental wellbeing; that as long as you keep the groups to four [or less] and keep safe distances.
“He left the parks open and, to be honest, there will be less people on the golf course than there will be in the park.”
But to be honest, that’s not the point. Tuesday’s Government announcement was a clear effort to galvanise the Irish people against a common enemy – coronavirus. This pandemic is much bigger than golf and far more important than a casual hit will ever prove.
“If people are being responsible, it is the place to be, as far as I’m concerned,” said McGuinness, but therein lies the problem.
Regardless of the measures taken by individual clubs to promote social distancing and negate the potential spread of the pandemic, people defy rules by nature and there’ll be nobody present to ensure golfers maintain the appropriate distance at all times.
The decision to close golf courses across the country has been a difficult one for many to accept, us included, but it’s ultimately the correct course of action. We said it earlier but to repeat, as a golf community, we have to play our part for the wider community to prosper.
We saw how the four-day Cheltenham racing festival portrayed the sport of horse racing to the world a couple of weeks ago – out of touch, short-sighted and selfish. Since then, many of those racegoers have tested positive for the virus. Do we want golfers to add themselves to the list of contracted cases unnecessarily?
This is golf’s chance to prove itself the opposite. We should all be united in this. That was the message from the Government on Tuesday. They likened this pandemic to the call to arms of 1916 and yet in 2020, when all that’s being asked of us is that we stay home and only leave when necessary, there’s those refusing to accept the directives.
We try to be a good news website at Irish Golfer Magazine but there’s no sugar-coating the damage that this virus is having around the world. In Ireland, we’re only at the beginning of this journey. By all accounts, we haven’t even left the runway. So, if after seeing the work of our healthcare workers and listening to the impassioned pleas of patients and politicians alike, you believe that golf is a necessity in all this, then perhaps we’re in bigger trouble than we thought.
The full Statement from Roganstown and Swords is below:
Golf is a great sport for people generally to get out and about, exercise and enjoy fresh air. It is played in an outdoor setting where the risk of contracting COVID-19 is low.
At Roganstown and Swords we have taken every effort to ensure that any risks are minimised.
There is no need to touch anything on the course.
• All bunker rakes have been removed
• Flag sticks are at the side of the green and do not need to be touched
• Ball washers have been removed from the course
• Air guns for cleaning shoes are disconnected, so not in use.
• All golfers must book on line or by telephone and only 1 person is to enter the golf shop at any one time.
• Any payments should if possible be by telephone or on-line.
• There is hand sanitizer at the entrance to the golf shop and all guests should use this before entering the shop.
Practice area and putting greens
• There is hand sanitizer at the range and all guests are required to use it before and after using the keypad.
• Only 4 people should be on the putting green at any 1 time to ensure physical distancing requirements are upheld.
The GUI statement on 24th March was ONLY A RECOMMENDATION. However, the Taoiseach’s speech was very clear – the relevant points are shown below;
The Taoiseach provided a specific list of all areas to be closed and Golf courses were NOT included.
He said You should only go to the shops for essential supplies, out for medical or dental appointments, to care for others or to take “physical exercise”.
He also said that we are in this for long haul. This could go on for weeks or months and we need to maintain our humanity, we need to see our families and loved ones and look after our mental and physical health. And we can do it if we maintain a physical distance of 2 metres or more.
Golf courses are NOT crowded and no more than 4 people play in a group together and the Taoiseach said
• Social gatherings of individuals outdoors should be no more than four persons, unless all are from the same household.
• All crowded places, including public amenities, should be avoided.
• Any setting that should close has been specifically identified.
Parks are being left open and people need to practice physical distancing.
We are following rigidly the guidelines laid out by the Taoiseach in terms of physical distancing in line with the advice he has been receiving from the healthcare professionals.
Under the current advice there is NO NEED for golf courses to close. In fact, golf courses allow for a safe place for people to get outdoor exercise which is vital for their physical and mental well-being.
If the government, under advice from the healthcare professionals, decide to take more stringent action and move to an all out lock-down where golf is also included, then we will abide by their decision and close immediately.
With all of the actions we have taken we believe that Roganstown and Swords golf courses are safe for staff and guests alike, and for the moment we will be staying open.