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Difficult Times

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Are you as conflicted as I am?

When the Government first started issuing protocols on how to deal with Covid-19, golf courses found smart ways to make the sport accessible. Flags left in, benches and bins and rakes removed, clubhouses closed. All was well if you still chose to go out and play, change shoes in the car park and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

I was happy with that. It worked and if there is any sport where social distancing is easy to maintain, it’s golf.

Then things got worse and those Covid-19 protocols tightened up some more. Still, the government was keen to emphasise the importance of outdoor exercise – both for the body and mind. Again, golf fulfilled that requirement and, I thought, this sport we love would continue to give pleasure to hundreds if not thousands of people in a safe setting.

But then the GUI/ILGU threw a duck hook into the mix. They issued a missive to golf clubs and the media, a paragraph of which read as follows:

“Following the recent announcements by the UK and Irish Governments in relation to the coronavirus pandemic, the GUI and ILGU recommend that all golf clubs, practice facilities and courses across the island close with immediate effect until April 19th 2020.”

There is little doubt it was the responsible thing to do and it demonstrated solidarity with an Irish nation struggling to handle a growing global crisis.

The word ‘recommend’ meant it was not a direct order. Not surprisingly, given the enormous pressures on the HSE and the emergency services, golf clubs around the country immediately closed their doors.

It was tough to take for a lot of golfers. Here were perfect open spaces where we could do everything that was being asked of us but now they were closed to us.

Not everyone heeded the recommendation. Roganstown and Swords remained open for play, which presented another conflict. Is it right for them to do so? After all, it was and remains a ‘recommendation’ that courses close and not a government directive.

If you quickly jumped on the bandwagon of hellfire and damnation, calling it a disgrace that the courses were open for play let me stop you there. Reel it in a little because that bandwagon might be charging into a cul de sac of hypocrisy.

Our Government’s recommendations are that we stay indoors as much as possible and that any outdoor trips should only be to:

  • go to work
  • go to the shops for essential supplies
  • care for others
  • exercise

Those bullets are lifted directed from the gov.ie website. Outdoor exercise is actively encouraged so why is golf not allowed when it presents one of the best opportunities for social distancing?

Let me be clear: I would prefer that these two clubs close (to show solidarity, to support the GUI/ILGU and to avoid the inevitable accusations that golf is elitist) but I am not about to inflame the vitriol that is being displayed online and in the media. And the reason is simple: I don’t want to be a hypocrite.

If you step outside your door to go and collect a takeaway or you go to the park to get some exercise, you are no different to golfers heading for Roganstown or Swords. I’d go so far as arguing that a walk in the park or a jog down the road is worse. Why? Because there are no limits to how many people you might encounter, or what direction they are heading, or how they go about social distancing when dogs and children and numerous others are involved.

There is no limit to the number of people who can enter a park (unless monitored by the Gardai); on a golf course you are limited to four people in a group (but two is recommended) and you are sent out at generous intervals to avoid any chance of contact. What’s more, golf flows in one direction (tee to green etc.) and you know where you are going (after your ball).

Please don’t think I am advocating for courses to re-open. I’m not. The situation we find ourselves in is far too serious for that and we should take every precaution possible to protect the people around us. I would just prefer if people first took the plank out of their own eye before falling headfirst into the dung heap of hypocrisy.

We are all in this together. Stay safe. Stay calm.



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  1. Well said, Kevin Markham! I’m as mad as hell the golf courses are closed but I’m putting up with it even though I am not accepting this change in my lifestyle without complaining about it. Cocooning IS a big sacrifice (for me) The only reason I am doing it is to help others. It is doing nothing for me apart from making me a nearly impossible target for the virus.


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The hazard of playing under coronavirus rules

Golf under coronavirus restrictions is a welcomed change of pace from lockdown cabin fever but it's also raising interesting questions that could change the game over time