Golf to resume in England on Wednesday; no such luck elsewhere

Bernie McGuire

Boris Johnson (Photo: Getty Images)

Bernie McGuire

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Good news for England’s golfers after confirmation that play will resume on Wednesday, May 13th, however for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, clubs will continue to remain in lockdown mode for the foreseeable future.

That’s the message from the St.Andrews-based R&A soon following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s speech to the British nation on Sunday night (UK time).

In his speech, Johnson spoke of changing a seven-week long #staysafe message to one of #stayalert but no sooner had the PM delivered his speech that the new message was being slammed by science experts as being ambiguous and lacking clarity.

Johnson did advise from today (Monday), those who cannot work from home will be actively encouraged to go to work, and from Wednesday people will be allowed to take unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise as long as they adhere to social distancing guidelines.

“You can sit in the sun in your local park, you can drive to other destinations, you can even play sports but only with members of your own household,” he said.

However, Johnson’s speech ended with no specific mention of allowing a return to golf in any of the four UK nations.

It took the R&A to announce via Twitter later on Sunday night that golf would be allowed to resume on Wednesday but only in England.

The decision though comes with strict rules and tougher than those enacted recently by the Irish Government who have chosen the 18th of May as a restarting date but with a 5km radius residence ruling.

In contrast, all outdoor sports in England must be done alone or within a household group.

The R&A statement indicated the importance that the decision comes at still an extremely difficult situation throughout the UK and they are acutely aware that many lives have been lost to the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects of the virus will continue to be felt for a long time to come.

The statement continued:-

“As a sport we must work together to resume play responsibly as and when the relevant Government determines it is safe to do so. We must ensure that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved from golfers, to club staff and greenkeepers is maintained at all times. Golf clubs and golfers have observed the lockdown very well and must keep it up and act responsibly as play resumes.

“We recently provided documents giving guidance on operations and resuming play and golf clubs should consider this carefully as they restart their businesses. We also provided Essential Maintenance Guidelines to help greenkeepers to prepare their courses for play. We fully appreciate the huge amount of expertise that exists within golf clubs throughout the country and this best practice guidance simply aims to achieve as consistent an approach as possible to protecting everyone. We are seeking further clarification from the Government regarding other golf-related facilities.

“The pandemic has already had a substantial impact on golf clubs and venues and the focus will soon turn to trying to recover from the crisis. As a group we will continue to do all we can to provide support and guidance in that effort.

“These organisations have come together to help golf in the UK during the COVID-19 crisis and, through the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, to work with Government to promote safe golf:  The Belfry; the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association; the British Golf Industry Association; England Golf; the Golf Club Managers’ Association; Golf Ireland; the Golfing Union of Ireland; the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union; IMG; The Professional Golfers’ Association; PING; The R&A; Scottish Golf; Syngenta; the UK Golf Federation; Wales Golf.”

Of course, news England will be allowed to return to golf, albeit with strong restrictions, will come with strong disappointment for Scottish golfers.

And Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is not about to allow clubs to reopen with her only lockdown modification to be in allowing people to exercise more than once a day.

“That is the only change that the Scottish government judges that it is safe to make right now without risking a rapid resurgence of the virus,” she told a news conference.

Sturgeon also said she had asked the UK government not to use its “stay alert” advertising campaign in Scotland.


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