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.