My Golf, my Golf, why have you forsaken me?

John Craven

The par 3, 16th hole at Tralee Golf Club in West Barrow, Ardfert, Co Kerry, Republic of Ireland.

My favourite scene from Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam War depiction, Apocalypse Now is when Robert Duvall utters those famous words, ‘I love the smell of napalm in the morning’.

Stripped to his bare chest and crouched down on his hunkers, Duvall rallies his troops with a rousing speech of hope, oblivious to the trail of carnage being caused in his wake – the lethal blasts and flying debris, the strewn bodies being recovered on stretchers and the devastation of war staining the sand.

I feel the scene captures the attitude of a lot of golfers during this pandemic. From the day our sport was lumped in with the rest of them by Government restrictions, there’s been an air of entitlement wafting in golf circles at least. As the death toll mounted and cases multiplied and intensive care units were overrun, golfers expressed their outrage that for a few weeks in the grand scheme of life, they wouldn’t be able to count their score against par.


It was on Tuesday, March 24th that the fairways were recommended to close by the GUI and ILGU. That’s 42 days ago now. A little over a month of no golf. Is that significant? It certainly is for the clubs themselves who’d only arisen from a winter’s hibernation before being told that their slumber would be extended through what should be their busiest period of the season.

How we support local businesses – our golf clubs included – when things get back to “normal” will be the making and breaking of many of them here in Ireland. Which is why comments like ‘if my club doesn’t lift the 5-kilometre restriction for me to play golf on May 18th, I’ll cease my membership’ is so disappointing to read.

Personally, I can’t see the benefit for an already struggling golf club to increase its running costs to accommodate what is surely a minute percentage of its membership living within the 5-kilometre radius of the course. And that’s coming from someone fortunate enough to live within said parameters. For me, it would’ve made much more sense to wait until June 8th when the Government extends the travel limit to 20km before giving golf the green light, thus granting clubs a much greater scope to increase vital revenue.

The game’s governing bodies in Ireland have confirmed that they will be releasing safe return to play protocols this week and no doubt golf clubs will be protected by whatever guidelines are published. One thing we shouldn’t expect, however, is for the GUI and ILGU to lobby to Government to allow special dispensation for golfers living more than 5 kilometres from their home club.

“I don’t think anybody could say that playing a round of golf is critical in terms of overall public health. We would be advocating the 5km limit for golf is maintained and that’s what Government guidelines are saying,” ILGU CEO Sinead Heraty told RTE Radio News at One on Monday.

“I think it is critically important that all players who have the opportunity to play within the regulations issued by the Government adhere to those regulations; and, particularly in golf, we are very fortunate it is a sport where people are very used to following the rules.”

During that Duvall speech in Apocalypse Now, as a bomb went off seemingly unnoticed just over his right shoulder and prisoners of war were marched mercifully along the beach, he said that to him, napalm “smells like victory. Some day this war’s gonna end,” before getting to his feet and casually walking out of shot.

OK, so the Vietnam War didn’t exactly go to plan but for golfers, that end day is fast approaching and how we respond to Government directives and those soon to be published by the GUI and ILGU might be the difference between normal service resuming this summer on the fairways and not.

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12 responses to “My Golf, my Golf, why have you forsaken me?”

  1. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    The Golf Clubs cannot expand the 5-km limit. It’s not their call. Government made the decision and that is that! It’s a decision I do not like or agree with but that won’t do me any good if I am met by a Garda at the gate. A Golf Club would be very foolish to attempt to make up its own rules.

  2. Sean McCarthy avatar
    Sean McCarthy

    I don’t see one iota of difference between a member getting into his car at home and going straight to his club, be he 5/10/15/20 Km from the club. The safety protocols will be in place at the club for all to follow. His GUI identity card should be enough if stopped by Garda and possibly a tee time slot as well.
    Obviously this is only an opinion. I guess over 70’s are totally bunched also.???‍♂️

    1. gerry carter avatar
      gerry carter

      I 100% agree.

  3. Norma malone avatar
    Norma malone

    Good piece, well thought out and written

  4. N J Horgan avatar
    N J Horgan

    5 km , 10km or 20km is irrelevant, when members traveling to and from courses in their own transport pose no risk whatsoever to the health of the general public
    The GUI/ILGU are supposed to represent the views of ALL of their members and lobby the relevant authorities accordingly , and not accept , but enthusiastically accept , a not very well thought out modification to the easing of the lockdown

  5. Peter Whelan avatar
    Peter Whelan

    I agree with previous comments in relation to distance from the golf course. Travelling alone or with a household member does not propose any more significant health risk than going shopping or cycling. My only concern would be for over 70’s but this should be their decision. There should be no preferential treatment for people residing inside a very arbitrary limit. Open for all on May 18 or remain closed until June 8.

  6. dave avatar

    5kms does seem a totally arbitrary restriction. Who chose that distance and why? As others have noted, driving on one’s own in the car to a golf course doesn’t imperil anyone, regardless of the distance. Agree it should be, courses open to all from 18 may or stay closed ’til June 8.

  7. Gerry avatar

    A minute percentage of members living within 5km should have the opportunity if afforded by the club. However the club would need people present to supervise the activities every day. The balance needs to be found and each club will know whether the number of members living within 5km warrants the reopening.
    A club should not be afraid to act in the best interests of all and that includes its own viability in the long run.

  8. Tim avatar

    Did the GUI request from clubs the key statistic of the percentage of members living within 5k or 10k or 20k from the club itself before making representations to the Government?.
    In the absence of such information, how could the GUI expect any reasonable outcome from such representations.
    Did the GUI actually make any representation to the Government?. Would they be prepared to disclose its content to us members or to our clubs?.

  9. Gerard Mary Maher avatar
    Gerard Mary Maher

    Gerard Maher

    The 5 Km limit I presume is based on medical advice to prevent the spread of the virus to 3rd parties outside my living area. However if golf clubs stipulate that only family members can play together or time sheet is confined to individuals. The limit should be extended to a minimum of 20Km with the condition that no stops can be made to or from the golf course.
    This should protect third parties from any golfer or family who are carrying the virus.

  10. Tony Mitchel avatar
    Tony Mitchel

    As a greenkeeper at a kildare golf course . I hope that members will abide by the 5km cuttoff limit. I dont feel particularly happy having to return to work and have upto 120 members from all over dublin where 90% of covid cases are driving to the club putting my health at risk. If it seems that it is the case i will be contacting gui/gardai to inform them that the rules are not being followed

  11. Maurice Fitzgerald avatar

    Would you be insured if you come from outside the 5 k zone on the golf course.

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