Golf can lead the way so other sports can follow

John Craven

Naas Golf Club

The golf industry has been handed a major boost as courses reopened across the country on Monday after an extended winter at the hands of Covid-19.

Fairways awaited members only and just those living within 5 kilometres of their clubs but even such restrictions couldn’t stop a wave of optimism as the sport resumed ahead of what we all hope is a prosperous summer.

It’s been a stressful time for clubs around Ireland with so much uncertainty in the air. Courses have taken an untold financial hit since the end of last season, threatening not only the livelihoods of industry workers but also many established institutions that golfers have long called home.


The limitations placed on golf by Government restrictions coupled with the GUI and ILGU protocols came in for heavy criticism from playing circles in recent days and weeks. However, discontent in the playing ranks has been in stark contrast to the unity experienced by those depending on the sport’s restart for much more important reasons than a simple hit.

“Overall, it’s been very positive,” says John McCormack, President of the Irish Golf & Club Managers Association and General Manager of Castle Golf Club in Dublin.

“We’ve been holding weekly Zoom calls with Golf Club Managers from all over the country and generally they’ve reacted very positively. The fact that golf is one of a few sports to come back is a huge positive.

“We’re very conscience that we’re the guinea pigs to prove to Government that things can happen safely. I’ve no doubt that golf clubs will comply with the regulations as they’re being asked to do and hopefully on the back of golf proving that we can keep people safe on golf courses, other sports can follow suit and give Government the confidence to allow other sports come in off the back of it.”

The phased lifting of restrictions by the game’s governing bodies coincides with the Government’s five-point plan and it significantly boosts the sport’s chances of a safe return. Clubs need this time to implement return to play strategies and new innovations ensuring course set-ups promote social distancing and pro shops are ready for the initial surge.

Through their global network, McCormack explains how the IGCMA has been able to learn from other nations who have managed to successfully reopen golf after a long absence and ultimately deal with the rush.

“We brought in managers from Sweden and Denmark into the Zoom calls,” says McCormack.

“Denmark in particular are three weeks ahead of Ireland in terms of reopening and we brought him into the call to share Denmark’s experience of reopening and that was really useful. They spoke about the demand of members, how timesheets filled quickly in some instances and we shared a lot of that information with the golf unions who utilised that information in drafting their protocols.”

Since restrictions began in March, McCormack has chaired Zoom meetings with his fellow club managers boasting an average attendance of 50 people on a call as clubs band together to educate and move forward through Covid-19.

“The fact we have a large group of professional managers in our association on a path of learning, constantly communicating and sharing ideas is reassuring,” said McCormack.

“Golfers should know that these meetings are happening in the background for their benefit. Over the past few weeks topics have changed – we’ve had those club managers from Scandinavia sharing their experience of golf reopening. We’ve had insurance experts advising clubs of what they can do during the current climate and we have a very good relationship with the golfing unions.

“GUI CEO Pat Finn was on the call in advance to tell us what to expect from the protocols issue on May 8th so communication has been good. We’re all learning from each other and ultimately it raises standards throughout the country and supports club members, and arguably these sessions have never been more important.”

How golf responds in the next couple of weeks to the privileged position it finds itself in could well be the difference between the survival, or not, of some of Ireland’s golf courses already well-behind the eight ball because of this unprecedented pandemic.

“I think financially for a lot of clubs – every club is down in income – even the clubs with pretty full memberships are going to suffer. They have no competition income, no bar income, no food income, no green fee income and that’s a big hit for any club, so it’s great to have the chance to go again,” McCormack added.

“Everybody has weighed in behind the protocols, they do see a sense of responsibility for the entire industry to behave responsibly and hopefully we can move through the phases then to the benefit of everybody.

“It will be up to the individual to follow the protocols, as it has been for many weeks now but people have behaved sensibly to this point. Not just in golf, but in life in the new normal.”

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10 responses to “Golf can lead the way so other sports can follow”

  1. Chris avatar

    Why won’t those who those who run golf both the GUI and golf clubs face the elephant in the room.
    They say they are the guinea pigs on how start ups can work but say that neither have to police the protocols agree to to allow golf restart.
    Everyone knows that at least 95% of those playing golf live further than 5km from the club but their attitude is to turn blind eye to wants going on.
    The game of golf has always claimed rightly that it was the most honorable and honest game in the world they cannot make this claim any longer.
    The 5km restriction is ridiculous but they were the terms the GUI agreed to so they should step to the mark and admit that they cannot operate as agreed with the HSE.


    1. Rory Gould avatar
      Rory Gould

      In 100% agreement. It’s embarrassing to listen to some golf course managers stressing that it’s not the job of the club to police the travel restrictions. True but they have a responsibility, In the interests of public health, to be more pro active by unequivocally telling members, who are outside 5km limits, not to put there names on time sheets.

  2. Danny avatar

    Well said Chris. However, I would suggest that it is a minority of players, across all golf clubs, who are knowingly infringing on the 5km restriction. The vast majority of players of the game of golf are, I would suggest, honourable and honest. I would totally agree that most of the membership of golf clubs reside beyond a 5km radius of their clubs that most golf club times sheets over this coming week are populated with members who believe that they reside, rightly or wrongly, within the 5km travel restriction between their home and their golf club. The lack of straight forward and unambiguous talking by GUI and by some clubs on the travel restriction element of the Phase 1 government position is disappointing.

  3. Chris avatar

    All members pay the same fee if golf clubs were fair to all members but especially to those who do not want to break the law they should close and wait until the 20km distance is introduced which would cover probably 98 % of their members its only another 3 weeks. I have heard of at least 1 club who are taking the names of members on the sheet off the sheet if they live outside the 5km
    that’s what is needed it’s all wrong clubs and GUI are burying their heads in the sand hoping they get away with it.


  4. Frank avatar

    I find it hard to think that the time sheets need to be kept for contact tracing if the need arises.
    yet when a golfer checks in to the club which they do, why are they not asked if they live in the 5Km radius. its not rocket science. Most people in the Clubs know these guys live outside the distance.
    Golf Ireland expect the golf clubs and Members to be honest and follow guidelines.
    seems not too many are.
    as they say the eye is on Golf to see how the sport is reacting to the Covid crisis and reintroduction of the sport under the protocols.
    Its not looking good for the “Honest Golfers” of Ireland.
    If they close courses again because the protocols are not been followed it’ll be easy to see who to blame because it will be black and white on the time sheets for the next 3 weeks.

    1. Danny avatar

      Yes Frank, the eye is on the golfing world, among others, for the next three weeks and how the various club and GUI protocols were viewed and actioned by players. I certainly hope that the ‘R’ figure does not rise too sharply. If we were to go backwards in the eyes of the medical experts, players who have not adhered to the various protocols on their return to golf would be partly to blame. Those individuals will be easily identified from the various timesheets that must be retained for inspection purposes if the worst occurs and we return to Phase Zero. Let’s hope that this scenario does not arise.

  5. Tim avatar

    The problem here is the lousy deal the Gui ‘achieved’ for phase 1 reopening of golf. It has caused a load of dissatisfaction and disagreement among golf club members. The Gui should have admitted the deal was a bad one and consequently they should have instructed all Golf clubs to defer reopening until June 8th when the 20k limit comes into force,

  6. Tim avatar

    I posted two comments on this blog this Monday evening. neither of which was been included with all the other comments received from other readers. Would the editor or owner please explain why my comments have not been published?

  7. amvpprcail avatar


  8. krwibgezhb avatar


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