Golf is almost within our grasp. It’s so close we can taste it. There are golfers out there who are, quite literally, tingling with excitement. I know because I’m one of them (even though I can’t play until late July) and I am delighted to see that courses will be open for play from next week.
Sadly, not everyone will be able to play in this first phase of re-opening. Or the second, for that matter. I won’t bore you again with the details of the new protocols because they’ve been published elsewhere, numerous times, but I will address the obvious complaints and concerns that are doing the rounds… because they’re important.
Golf is one of the first sports to be allowed to resume in Ireland (ROI). While we all welcome that important step, it does come with responsibilities. Other sports will follow and as a sport where social distancing is a part of the game, we as golfers need to show that it can be done correctly and that golf is conducted in a safe and responsible manner. If we screw it up, then we screw it up for everyone. The government has made that clear.
Golf is already seen as an elitist sport so do we really want to give other sports and the public in general yet another excuse to point fingers at us? The national media will lap it up if someone gets stopped and fined for trying to drive to their course 30km away.
So we have responsibilities to get it right. And I agree with you that standing in supermarket queues is hardly safe compared to the wide open spaces of a golf course where you can combine exercise with mental relaxation, but you are missing the point. Two points, actually.
The first is the matter of ‘essential journeys’. Going to play golf is not an essential journey. Important, yes; essential, no. Buying food is most certainly essential so let’s stop comparing the two and resist from posting photos on social media of empty golf courses alongside mile-long queues of shoppers.
Point two is that we are all in this together. Cliché or not, it is true that we have to do the right thing by and for each other. Yes there are morons out there who feel the rules don’t apply to them but that is not an excuse for you then to break the rules yourself. We have been asked by our government to do certain things in the interests of keeping our nation’s people safe. As difficult and as boring as that might be, we all want to get back to a degree of normality as quickly as possible. Following the rules and obeying the law makes that far more likely.
There are three issues that are causing some degree of uncertainty ahead of next Monday’s return to play.
- The location of my golf course.
You may travel to play at your club if you live within 5km. We all know that if you live 6km or 8km away then you’ll probably still be putting your name on the time sheet, despite what the regulations say. No one is likely to get too tetchy about it and golf clubs aren’t going to police the matter.I ran a poll on Twitter asking if people lived within 5km of their course. 55 per cent replied that they didn’t… and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that golf clubs in the country will have far higher percentage figures than that. If you want to take the risk of travelling 8km then that’s up to you. I urge you not to but no one listens to me.
If you live 20km away then your argument for going to play golf is probably: “what’s the difference between driving 5km or 20km?” I agree with you: the difference is negligible, presuming your car doesn’t break down and you don’t stop along the way. Still, that 5km law is there for a reason so why should the 5km limit apply to everyone but you?
- You drive 20km on an essential journey (to work, to buy groceries…) and your golf club is right next door to where you are going.
Why shouldn’t you pop in for a game while you’re there? You’re within 5km after all. Sadly, that’s not the way it works. Your golf club has to be within 5km of where you live… not where you go to work. And yeah, I know that sucks because I find myself in this particular scenario, too. Again, it comes down to the protocol requirements (and law) and doing the right thing, no matter how desperate you are to play golf and no matter how entitled you feel you are to play golf at your course. I honestly believe that there are some media outlets just begging for a golfer to get caught breaking that 5km rule. Please don’t let it be you.
- Over 70s.
For me, there’s a lack of clarity here. Actually that’s not quite true because after leaving the issue open for debate in their new protocols (Friday 8th), golf’s governing bodies have now clarified whether the over 70s can play golf from May 18th. They did this in a Q&A with Irish Golfer on Wednesday.
So, if you live within 5km of your club:
‘It is up to each individual to decide for themselves, based on their own circumstances, living arrangements and potential for contact with others at certain times, whether playing golf is compatible with the HSE’s advice on cocooning.’
It is no surprise therefore to hear that the over 70s are putting their names on time sheets across the country as I suspect there are few circumstances that can not be improved with a round of golf.
* RESPECT was a 1967 hit for Aretha Franklin.