GUI & ILGU not to blame for course closures

John Craven

Rainbows point the way to hole 12 at Waterville. Photo by Kevin Markham

John Craven

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like March again, only instead of warm spring weather and the prospect of long, bright days, we’re now facing into a long, dark winter with no golf on the horizon for at least six weeks.

As many of you would’ve seen, the decision we all feared was made today with golf courses instructed to close around the country in line with Ireland moving to Level 5 in the fight against Covid-19 from midnight, Wednesday.

To put it bluntly, it’s a balls, a call none of us wanted to hear and certainly a decision neither the GUI nor the ILGU wanted to be forced into making.


And make no mistake about it, the game’s governing bodies had their hand forced in this move. A decision was expected to be made on Tuesday but such was the intense negotiation and case made for golf to continue, talks spilled over into Wednesday where ultimately the sport was delivered this hammer blow.

And it is a blow. A massive one. People are angry, not least us here at IGM who earn our crust when golf is thriving in this country. We relished our rounds when golf was given the green light to resume back in May and heralded the safe environment in which we were presented to return. Three balls at 14 minute slots, straight from the car to the course and back again. No rakes, no touching of flag sticks. No risk. Or at least that’s how us golfers view our great game that naturally promotes social distancing and provides a safe haven from screens and social media hysteria rampant amid this pandemic.

However, that being said, anyone blaming the GUI or the ILGU for this news needs to ask themselves a very simple question: why would the game’s governing bodies for golf in Ireland want their courses closed?

The last lockdown was detrimental to many clubs and although a rise in membership numbers helped to negate some of the losses, it couldn’t make up for all of them, not by a long shot … and that was before this latest news plunged the industry into further peril.

It was the GUI and ILGU’s intention to avoid this scenario; it’s understood that they presented a strong case to Sport Ireland who in turn dealt with the Government in the hopes of keeping golf going throughout the six-week lockdown period. Sadly, those efforts failed.

It was during the first lockdown in March and April that we realised just how much the game meant to so many of us, a case of not knowing how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone. Now we face into another lockdown with that perspective already intact, and if anything it makes the prospect of the next six weeks even harder to stomach.

But what did we realistically expect from a Government response so rigid in its movement? Given the 5 kilometre restriction on non-essential journeys, golf always looked second best in this battle to remain open. For many rural courses, only a handful, if any players would qualify to make the journey within the rules and the operating costs of running a club with little footfall would hardly have been worthwhile.

Making an exception for golfers to break the 5-kilometre travel limit is a nice thought but completely bonkers when people are sacrificing family visits because of the same restriction. But that’s not the fault of the GUI or ILGU. Blame lies with the Government directive and if we’re going to be living with Covid for the foreseeable, then blanket 5k restrictions simply won’t do. One rule does not fit all and in many ways golf is an exception here, but that gives rise to those quick to bash our sport as privileged and elitist.

No doubt that as hard and all as the GUI and the ILGU fought to keep golf on the agenda for the next six weeks, they would’ve been all too aware that an us against them mentality between those who golf and those who don’t would’ve looked distasteful, at best.

In truth, the longer term ramifications such a position would have on the game’s reputation could prove to be more irreparable than a six-week closure ever could.

Of course, some will maintain that golf, for them, is essential, and it’s health benefits, both for mind and body are well known. They’ll ask why they’re allowed to walk into their local Lidl or Tesco brushing shoulders with strangers and not play golf in a pod of four with their friends in an open field.

But alas, here we are, whether we like it or not. All in this together. Again. Knee deep in cabbage. Ball buried in dirt.

If there’s one silver lining, at least this time we have golf to watch on TV, though for many, watching a November Masters and being unable to attempt to replicate the shots on show at the local club will be a form of torture in itself.

I’m sorry. I wish I had better news.


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29 responses to “GUI & ILGU not to blame for course closures”

  1. Michael Coyle avatar
    Michael Coyle

    Thanks for the information. In essence ‘the powers that be’ decided that it would be unfair to disadvantage club members living more than 5km distance from their club – so instead if disadvantage a proportion of the members they decided to penalise all members!! The ‘holier than thou’ talk by these heads about the need to guard our mental as well as our physical health rings fairly hollow when it is a fact that (a) for most men and women senior golfers golf is their most common form of exercise and (b) many senior golfers are single as a result of the death of a partner and live alone and golf is their primary source of social contact. I’m sure these points have been made to the decision makers to no avail. The rationale underpinning the decision to deny people the opportunity to participate in physical exercise in the company of a less than 3 other people in a socially distanceable manner is fundamentally flawed as it ignores the positives for those involved.

    1. Larry Creamer avatar
      Larry Creamer

      Very well put and totally correct in every word you have said. I would love to see a written explanation from those that banned it.

  2. Darren Egan avatar
    Darren Egan

    It is an absolute joke to close our courses wer no cases of covid that I no off has been reported, but leave schools, building sites, Gaa pitches and football and rugby wer it has been rife lately open, them gobshites in sport Ireland and government need a good slap..

  3. Susan corcoran avatar
    Susan corcoran

    Omg no matter what ridiculous response ye make ,it not plausible fit gui or government to say golf is more at risk than rugby or gaa .5km my arse is not any excuse money talks an bullshit walks im totally disgusted with this government and the gui

  4. Joe Mahoney avatar
    Joe Mahoney

    GUI is unfit for purpose. Disband it! They are obviously (in my opinion) colluding with the tyrants in charge. Lobby all TDs immediately – get this reversed or don’t come looking for a vote!

  5. Peter Whelan avatar
    Peter Whelan

    The article is well written and factual. That said it does nothing to explain the rationale how a non contact sport can be deemed more dangerous to the spread of Covid 19 than full contact sports. As a member of a golf club that religously obeyed the rules to allow golf be played I find it hard to accept this decision. Perhaps the decision makers should be asked to explain in detail how playing golf has been instrumental in the spread of this horrible virus.

  6. Luke Glynn avatar
    Luke Glynn

    I sincerely hope The Golf Unions refund levies to Golf clubs

  7. Sean McCarthy avatar
    Sean McCarthy

    It should have been as simple as this.
    Stick to your club, home to club, play with your pod, no mixing with others then car to home. Where is the difficulty in that. The mind boggles.

  8. John nolan avatar
    John nolan

    Why can’t We all make a stand on this instead of talking all the time

  9. Aidan powef avatar
    Aidan powef

    There is no logical reason for golf courses to close , I would be asking who made the decision for closure of all courses, was there one individual or a collective body . We are a non contact sport , but in the coming weeks we will be watching, rugby , GAA , full contact . The 400,000 golfers of Ireland want answers , it’s time to find out who’s coming up with these hair brain decisions

    1. Joan Cantillon avatar
      Joan Cantillon

      Sport Ireland, consists of Guys from Rugby, GAA, and Horse racing. That is why we don’t have a say. Probably should try a few BROWN ENVELOPES. Sick to the teeth, certainly was a very safe to be.

  10. George avatar

    Think I will take my trolley and bag for a walk on the main street here. This is so badly thought out by the powers that be.

  11. Hugh avatar

    Come on John, tennis managed to put forward a coherent & plausible argument. Maybe the GUI have had it too good for too long without it having to actually justify it’s existence to the golf club members who pay their salaries.

    1. Joe Mahoney avatar
      Joe Mahoney

      Exactly. I believe the GUI actually volunteered to close the courses last time without even being told to. They are a disgrace. What exactly do they do that’s of any use? Another gravy train if you ask me.

      1. Marie Hogan avatar
        Marie Hogan

        Golfgate “idiots” ruined it for all!

  12. Robert Barry avatar

    It’s OK to have off license open. You can travel the Lenght and Breath of Ireland for work but play golf even on your own is deemed unsafe. Makes you wonder if the virus is more dangerous than we’re told.

  13. Brian Kirwan avatar
    Brian Kirwan

    It is simple politicians make decisions for popular reasons not for the right reasons, sure Sinn Fein would have had a great time slagging if the government for allowing golf.

  14. Seamus Walsh avatar
    Seamus Walsh

    I cannot for the life of me see why this decision has been made.We should be able to golf in our home club.Arrive in own car,play golf,observing social distancing and drive home in our own car.Golf may be only way some our elderly can get exercise and meet people.This decision was not thought out fully.

  15. Con avatar

    I would feel safer on a Golf Course than having to excercise within 5km of my home

  16. Tom Morrissey avatar
    Tom Morrissey

    I’m a golfer who went for a walk today, can anyone tell me why I could not do the same on the golf course, crazy decision by Govt to close courses who are limping from one crisis to another with no apparent reason to explain the decision or worse justify the need for closure

  17. Dominic Smyth avatar
    Dominic Smyth

    The GUI and ilgu are weak. They should have flat refused to tell the golf clubs to close,this would have forced the government and nphet to explain the logic of closing them. Those responsible in the gui for making that call should resign as yous have not acted in the interest of your members and have been an easy pushover for a government on a power trip ??

  18. Fran Cahill avatar
    Fran Cahill

    My argument is as follows – the GAA matches involve 30 players with close contact in an area c.120m X 60m maybe roughly 1 acre – even if 60 players on de course at any one time – each match 15 mins apart in an area of c.120 acres with total social distancing nd possibility of wearing face coverings – I’ve written to Sport Ireland nd Minister for Sport with above points asking for logic and explanation of why course closures –

  19. Peter avatar

    A load of complete nonsense. First time out the GUI did it themselves – to private member clubs who they cannot order to close, but most (not all) clubs complied – why? There was such a stink over this that this time the GUI want to blame someone else and say they are working hard on our behalf (not credible) – Sport Ireland, who hand out grants, what power do they have? So privately owned Irish clubs cave into an entity they pay money to, who are blaming someone else who has no jurisdiction over them closing either. You couldn’t make it up.

  20. Michael O’Neill avatar
    Michael O’Neill

    If you look at the Board of Sports Ireland you would have to wonder who represents the sport of golf. While the Unions are not directly to blame they have very little clout when it comes to the negotiation table. The major sports are well represented and as a result we have GAA, Soccer and Rugby continuing all but in a limited fashion.
    If there was evidence that golfing was a factor in the spread of Covid I could accept the decision, but there’s none.
    This will be remembered by many golfers at next election time and our Green Party leader who appeared to take pleasure in saying golf courses would close will suffer.
    Is there a politician out there who would explain the decision to the thousands of impacted golfers.

  21. Jim avatar

    We know that our senior golf helps the mental side which the gov forgot or just did not care

  22. Pat avatar

    I agree with most of the comments. However let’s be fair to all as well. There were clubs who were not complying totally either. I know of clubs who were serving during without food to members and non members and also some clubs had become very indifferent to social distancing around the clubhouse. So let’s have fair comment and all take responsibility. I love golf and play 2 to 3 times a week but I am conscious of who o will play with and how the rules are obeyed.

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