In his column with Sky Sports, former Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley has outlined a long and difficult road back for golf after this coronavirus pandemic is all said and done.
The Dubliner, who was a key part of the Players Championship coverage on Sky, a tournament abandoned after the opening day’s play, has since seen the global golf calendar decimated by the impact of COVID-19.
Indeed, golf at every level has suffered greatly at the hands of this pandemic and although the green light to play again will be greatly welcomed when this is all over, that will only be the beginning for this sport with McGinley predicting that a massive recovery effort will be required to return the game to its standing.
“When we come through this lockdown stage, the economic ramifications are likely to bring hardship and suffering for years to come,” he said. “According to the experts, we need to be ready for this as it’s coming our way fast. The post-corona fallout will have consequences to all our daily lives and businesses as well as to all sports.
“As we face this long and uncertain road ahead, many will look forward to the return of sport. For golf to return, it will, first and foremost, require assurances from various governments and the international community that it is safe and right to do so.
“Realistically, we will now need to get our heads around the idea that, as we try to go back to what we used to call normality, a first port of call will more than likely, and certainly initially, be that professional sport is played behind closed doors.
“There are so many questions to which we, as yet, have no answers. When we begin to return to the streets, what socially-acceptable behaviours will people follow? As we have become accustomed to social distancing and avoidance of crowds, how will we adjust to shoulder-to-shoulder contact with strangers?
“How soon before international travel restrictions are lifted to certain countries? Will some countries insist on a period of quarantine initially before returning to an open-border policy? What ramifications to these social changes will there be for sport with closely packed crowds and, in particular, our game of golf?
“The professional golf landscape will surely be a different place. It is commonly agreed that the economic fallout will be colossal and there is no doubt that sport will have suffered as a consequence. This in itself will filter right down the golf food chain to local courses and driving ranges.
“As the world gets back on its feet again, I foresee economic and social corrections as we adapt to different living standards. All professional sport will adjust on so many levels as sport recalculates to a different value system.”
Exactly when that return will be remains completely up in the air with predictions premature at this stage as pent-up people self-isolating continue to speculate a bumper few weeks for the sport.
“From my new position of being now more involved at board level on the European Tour and Ryder Cup, I have access to many of these high-level conversations,” said McGinley.
“I can assure you that, in order to get some kind of clarity and joined-up thinking on resumption, all the main major bodies in men’s and ladies’ world golf are communicating.”
Sadly, talks is all they remain for now as the world continues to get to grips with this pandemic. In the meantime, McGinley has backed decisions to step away from our fairways to provide healthcare workers with the best chance to gain control of this situation, promising the heart will grow fonder with each day spent away from the course.
“The more we refrain from playing, the more we will come to miss it, while appreciating it even more when we do get to return.”