Who’s playing golf on May 18th?

John Craven

Rainbows point the way to hole 12 at Waterville. Photo by Kevin Markham

It was the green light we’d all been waiting for – the golf courses are back. After months of weeping into our morning meals and motioning to swing an imaginary club, we were finally given a date to put all Padraig Harrington’s Twitter tips to use – May 18th.

I’ve been picturing golf’s return daily since COVID-19 robbed me of it; waving to the galleries on my 2km walks during the day and beating Tiger Woods in epic battles down the stretch at night. I’ve imagined golfers waddling to the first tee like penguins marching towards their partners with a bellyful of food, ready to regurgitate their love for the game all over the freshly cut grass that’s sat untouched for too long; Frank or Jane or Eileen taking the tentative steps to the tee-box, pegging up between the markers before declaring, “Titleist 1, at least for the first one,” to howls of laughter like it was the first time we heard it.

After thinking that day would never come, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dispelled my worry, our worry, last Friday that the sport could return come May 18th

… And then you read the fine print. On May 18th, golf returns for members only and is restricted to those living within 5 kilometres of their club. After crunching the numbers with our research team in preparation for this article, taking into account a database of players with subscriptions paid through 2020 and cross-referencing their home address with that of their respective club via satellite, we’ve discovered that feck all people will be playing golf come May 18th – legally at least!

The current 2 kilometre travel restriction extends to 5 kilometres from Tuesday and is set to remain in place until extended to 20 kilometres come June 8th. That means between May 18 and June 8, only essential journeys are permitted beyond the 5 kilometre zone and flashing your GUI card at the Gardai won’t cut it.

Which makes us wonder, and sit down for this if you’re not doing so already, but is there any point opening the golf clubs come May 18th at all? With no green fees coming in, limited members and little income, the cost of running the clubs during this period may prove far more hassle than it’s worth. The reality of the situation is that there will be a whole host of clubs remaining closed from May 18th unless the 5 kilometre travel restriction is lifted to allow us golfers join the frontline of this pandemic, and what’s the chance of that?

The GUI and ILGU will release return to play protocols for clubs next week on how to promote social distancing and safe play. As long as the 5 kilometre rule remains, neither should be a problem.

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31 responses to “Who’s playing golf on May 18th?”

  1. Michael Allen avatar
    Michael Allen

    Very well explained.There will be about 20 people able to use each golf course.Why no comment from the GUI.Silent as usual.

  2. Jim Redmond avatar
    Jim Redmond

    This has obviously been a case of “everyone is going to love this news” without any thought given to whether it is workable within the current distancing restrictions. A simple case of ignorance of the membership of golf clubs or just don’t give a damn!!

    The Golfing Unions should be wading in on this matter and actually earning their annual fee from all the club golfers in the country!!

    1. Marie Tooher avatar
      Marie Tooher

      Very few golfers live within 5 km of their club It makes no sense opening the courses until the 5k restriction is lifted

  3. FERGUS O'Donovan avatar
    FERGUS O'Donovan

    Agree with what both Michael and Jim said. Re distance,I checked out the 5km circle distance app and my club is within the circle,BUT if you ask Mr Google am told it is over 7km.Will the guards accept the App???

  4. kevin maguire avatar
    kevin maguire

    If the 5k stays as it sounds like it could then it,s just a joke. Golf courses in rural areas don,t have all that many members living in close proximity. I think it should be open to all members on the 18th or else just leave courses closed until the 8th June.

  5. Brenda McKeon avatar
    Brenda McKeon

    Perhaps the ideal solution is for members to play in the respective home clubs and carry their membership card with them. Accepting that most clubs are outside the 5K zone.

    1. P.J.Byrne avatar

      I totally agree,the GAU,should be approaching the government with a view to giving clearance for members to play and showing their membership cards to the Garda,but they will have to act swiftly or all will be lost ,my club Killeen g.c. in Kildare are already working out how to work the time sheet with 8 mins between players and only a 2 ball,,some has already booked but we’re told this would be rejected until the club worked it out and got back to us,

  6. Peter Whelan Member of Knightsbrook avatar
    Peter Whelan Member of Knightsbrook

    Opening golf courses to a small portion of the membership will only cause friction within clubs as all members contribute equally within their membership class. If people are allowed to travel more than 5kms in their private car to go to work, surely there is no logical reason why we should not be allowed the same facility to travel to our own golf club. One hopes that our representative bodies can intervene and have logic prevail.

    1. Johnny avatar

      Agree with ,,, I can drive from Belfast to Kerry in my English reg car to my summer house and play in the local club which I am a member of but my pal living 6miles away cannot play because of the 5km restriction What a stupid rule???

    2. Bill Frazer avatar
      Bill Frazer

      This is the most sensible comment I’ve seen on the subject .

  7. J ken avatar
    J ken

    If you’re unfortunate enough to be outside the 5km don’t try and ruin it for everyone !!

    1. JE avatar

      Have to agree its two week from May 18th to June 8th this will give golf clubs a chance to fine tune the back to golf protocols with the small numbers that live within the 5km limits when it is extended to the 20km it will be safer for all involved. It will only take an outbreak of the virus that is traced back to a golf course to close the whole thing down again then we all lose out.

      1. Frank Mullen avatar
        Frank Mullen

        Check your calendar ! Its 3 weeks!

  8. Cathy avatar

    It’s a farce and had been proven that very few members live that close to their golf course.

  9. Bill S avatar
    Bill S

    An excellent piece and the author is correct to point out that the vast majority of club members live outside the 5k area. If this policy is adhered to then it can only lead to friction in clubs as has already been pointed out. The GUI need to take the lead and sort this out.

  10. Frank O'Neill avatar
    Frank O'Neill

    From comments attributed to the CEO, it seems to me that Golf Ireland has accepted and agreed this discriminatory course of action. Do we not all pay not inconsiderable amounts in subscriptions to our clubs and membership to the GUI?

    The GUI should be lobbying like hell at the moment to overturn this nonsense but is it? I have my doubts!


    1. Frank Mullen avatar
      Frank Mullen


  11. Mike avatar

    Once again the GUI have proven how toothless an organisation they are. What a complete waste of money it is,to be funding such an inept organisation,with our annual subscription. One comment on the distance protocol,how is one deemed to be more infectious by travelling a greater distance.

  12. Dan O'Sullivan avatar
    Dan O'Sullivan

    Agree with sentiments expressed above. Current rules for 18th display an ignorance of club membership and don’t stand up to scrutiny. How can a person travelling alone in a car contribute to the spread of this virus. ( No difference for a person travelling 5km person as opposed to 20km person.). GUI don’t appear to represent their members.

  13. Dave avatar

    It can’t be one rule for golf and one rule for the rest of the population. If the govt have decided to restrict all movement to 5km, then that has to apply to the full population. The GUI has no say over that. With that being the case, is everyone saying that those living within 5km should not be allowed to play, because those outside 5km are not allowed to play. That just seems childish and jealous? Its only for 3 weeks. I’m also a big supporter of the idea of local clubs inviting anyone living within 5km to play, maybe with a nominal green fee.

  14. John Curtin avatar
    John Curtin

    5k rule totally ridiculous and unnecessary,come on gui take a lead from VFI and do your stuff

  15. Kate avatar

    Alot of clubs are outside a town in general so it is always further than 5km for most. When we get out of our car to play golf we are going to be walking another 5 km to play so what difference does it make when sitting in your own car by yourself driving 10km to play.

  16. Paul avatar

    Can those in favour of keeping the 5k limit in place articulate a good reason as to why someone who lives 6, 8, or even 10k from their local golf course not be allowed to play on the 18th of May, other than this is government policy?

    These rules and policies are supposed to make sense. Otherwise, they are a complete sham, and do more harm than good, leading to people being upset, and potentially flouting laws.

  17. David avatar

    So my club door to door is 4.85km as the crow flies, 4 holes are out of the 5km range, does that mean I cant play those ones?

    1. Motipp avatar

      David I have exactly the same question and I don’t see an answer coming from anybody? I’m operating on the basis that it’s ‘as the crow flies’ which in my case is across water, but my actual drive is more like 10k! Am I ok??

  18. Dermot Brady avatar
    Dermot Brady

    Absolute bullshit from Govt as usual with their totally arbitrary rules. Driving 500 km i your car wont increase any risk
    Mo reason why we shouldn’t have been playing all along

  19. Daragh avatar

    I hope that the GUI are working on this behind the scenes.what If I live 8 k away and work 2 ka away will that be allowed who is going to police it .? also are any of the MAMIL’s excercing within 5 k from their home.. eh No

    MAMIL – Middle Age Men In Lycra

  20. Richie avatar

    Agree with almost everyone above. GUI not batting for their members at all. On the radio agreeing with the 5km rule. Unbelievable. People have accepted many weeks of lockdown and would accept more if they could see sense in it. However a person sitting into a car and being allowed to drive 5km while a person who wants to drive 10km to play sport is not allowed makes no sense at all. Stand up GUI.

  21. evelyn hanlon avatar
    evelyn hanlon

    maybe they are looking at 5km rule from viewpoint of contact tracing and community infection rates. if people stay within 5km the infections are confined and tracing does not have to be extended over the 5km distance all around each golf course. i live 12km away in one direction there would be people equally far and further away in every direction. that would make contract tracing very much more extensive than if everyone obeyed the 5km rule unless they are essential which unfortunately golf really isn’t! good luck to those members within 5km distance. i wonder if clubs should consider allowing members of other clubs to play their course if it is within 5km on reciprocal basis or whatever.

  22. John Mac avatar
    John Mac

    Johnny from Belfast………..You definitely cannot drive from Belfast to Kerry to your holiday home …….Nobody in Kerry wants you. Stay at home.

  23. Liam O Reilly avatar
    Liam O Reilly

    GUI have no balls. .members mean nothing to them,just money in there eyes. Perhaps now the GUI should announce that all golf courses with GUI membership should be refined from the time the lockdown was introduced.

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