Why close the door on golf when people need it most?

John Craven

The par 3, 16th hole at Tralee Golf Club on August 18, 2010 in West Barrow, Ardfert, Co Kerry, Republic of Ireland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

John Craven

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Golfers around the country are seeking clarity after the GUI confirmed that courses around the country must close in line with the Government moving to level 5 restrictions in the fight against Covid-19.

The GUI and ILGU had presented a case to Sport Ireland who in turn spoke to Government officials regarding golf’s hopeful continuation throughout lockdown but a statement published on Golfnet.ie on Wednesday read: ‘Following intensive engagement over the past 48 hours, we have been informed this afternoon by Sport Ireland that, very regrettably golf clubs must close under the new level 5 restrictions.’

The simple question golfers now want answered is, why?

Like golf, tennis was another sport also on the table for discussion, however, in a statement released late on Wednesday, Tennis Ireland confirmed, as per Government guidelines, that its clubs would remain open and could do so safely:

“The Board of Tennis Ireland met this evening to consider, among other items, the implications of Level 5 of the Government’s Framework for Living with COVID-19.

“As the country moves to Level 5 from midnight, there is an impending need to communicate our interpretations of the Government Protocols to our clubs.

“Having considered very carefully the Government’s Framework for Living with Covid-19 and the protocols within it, and in the absence of more specific guidance from Government, the Board of Tennis Ireland’s interpretation is as follows and will be in place until further clarification is forthcoming.

“The Board of Tennis Ireland have always put the health and safety of its members and the wider community as its top priority during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We will continue to do so and ask that all those involved in tennis do so also by following the protocols provided by Tennis Ireland and Government.”

The response of Tennis Ireland to remain open asks a number of important questions pertaining to golf. For starters, what makes tennis any safer? A smaller, much more confined space where balls are shared between players who sweat profusely, compared to the socially distant fairways of golf’s vast, wide open courses, where players use their own equipment, avoid touching flags, and are spaced out in intervals. Was the same advice given to both golf’s governing bodies and the tennis authorities?

It’s this lack of clarity that has seen golf trending across social media over the past couple of days. People are angry. Golfers are fuming. They want to know where the evidence is to suggest that golf is in any way a contributing factor to Covid cases in this country?

It’s not just golfers who are confused, politicians are too. Just this week, all Fianna Fail TDs were sent a comprehensive list of things that would and would not be permitted under Level 5 restrictions. Under golf, it read: “Golf can remain open. Golfers, however, must live within 5 kilometres of the golf course.”

The 5 kilometre limit would’ve tested the commercial viability of many clubs reopening but surely it should be left to those clubs to decide whether the juice is worth the squeeze? Members of the Golfing Union of Ireland could “trade” memberships based on geographical location if necessary. With visitors permitted, there’d be enough players wanting to use golf as an escape from the hysteria surrounding this virus to warrant reopening most courses. And with maintenance set to continue for the next six weeks, what better place to wait out a lockdown than a 200-acre field alone with your own thoughts when we arguably need it most>

So, what was the advice that was issued? What is the argument against golf opening under Level 5 restrictions? Given the premium golfers pay each year for the privilege of being members of the GUI and ILGU, they deserve more than a two paragraph “statement” of rejection. Where is the voice of the game’s governing bodies, the evidence from Sport Ireland that golf is a danger to society, or the Minister for Sport explaining why a game of golf in an enormous field is a risk to public health?

And while they’re at it, can somebody please explain why driving ranges are being asked to close? If people are permitted to train alone, then why are socially distant driving range bays that allow golfers to train without risk being targeted under this mindless operation? Because golf is being targeted here, and without explanation.

Clarity won’t stop the pain. It won’t convince people that what the Government is doing is right. But it will help, even just a little.

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69 responses to “Why close the door on golf when people need it most?”

  1. william B avatar
    william B

    Pity …. the return of third level students to colleges and Sporting occasions give the Covid a huge boost from mid sept/October

  2. william B avatar
    william B

    Pity we cannot play GOLF …. the return of third level students to colleges and Sporting occasions give the Covid a huge boost from mid sept/October

  3. Dave Rooney avatar
    Dave Rooney

    You forgot to mention GOLFGATE…..that’s the reason we, the honest and ordinary people, are being punished…..the pals of the Government were caught and now we are being punished.

    1. Pete avatar

      There’s definitely something in that alright. I guess they are trying to avoid being accused of favoring their own interests.

    2. Joseph Mulligan avatar

      So as usual this is politics not health. This is a sloppy badly thought out decision. Can’t do gardening..garden centres closed.. can’t have visit from family..over 5 k. . can’t golf… If I wasn’t 69 I could play GAA or go to college and get married !!

    3. Marie O Sullivan avatar
      Marie O Sullivan

      Exactly, Dave. Sheer begrudgery! What is the level of intelligence of an electorate that puts such ignoramuses at the helm? They’re hell-bent on making us pay for Phil Hogan et al.
      I’m ashamed to be Irish., now. – gobshites!

    4. Liz O'Donovan avatar
      Liz O'Donovan

      My thoughts exactly

  4. Tony Judge avatar

    On average 300,000 golfers play each week in Ireland. That is a lot of votes minister.
    Make the right decision and change your ludicrous decision. You can not have one set of rules for tennis and other sports and shut down a perfectly safe social sport.

    1. Pete avatar

      Agreed on that too. And possibly a cohort with a high voter turnout

    2. Joy Keppel avatar
      Joy Keppel

      I could understand golf and tennis being shut down IF rugby, soccer and the GAA were suspended too.. It makes no sense all to disallow golf, especially when social distancing could be so easily achieved..

  5. JOSEPH POWER avatar

    Fully agree with the letter above, the decision taken makes no sense.
    As a man said to me yesterday, the GUI are weak!

    1. Michael Dunne avatar
      Michael Dunne

      How many clubs are within 5 kilometres of your house?
      How close are you to your golf club?

      1. Bren avatar

        4x clubs inside 5k of my house.

        1. Ted avatar

          None within 15km.

      2. Deirdre Harbison avatar
        Deirdre Harbison

        3 within 5kms of my house. My club just 1km from my house.

    2. Eamonn Mc Kiernan avatar
      Eamonn Mc Kiernan

      Just show us how golf spreads Covid where are the statistics that prove it spreads on the golf course

  6. John Nolan avatar
    John Nolan

    Even review the decision and shorten the closure period .

  7. Sean Byrne avatar
    Sean Byrne

    How can we get our message across to these ….. that have no idea what they are doing? Yes we should be demanding, immediately, a “logical” explanation for their decision to close golf courses over other sports, particularly tennis!

  8. Ray O'Kelly avatar
    Ray O'Kelly

    Silliest decision made by this government so far. Golf clubs have shown that they can be trusted to adhere to the guidelines and the lack of empirical evidence or justification for this is annoying. Golf is one of the safest recreations in these times. Zero evidence linking covid to golf. Why is golf any more dangerous than it was during the last lockdown? The only difference I can see is the golf gate episode. Shame on all concerned.

  9. Paul avatar

    They ‘say’ it’s a health issue and that preventing people travelling over the 5km is the issue.
    This issue during the previous lockdown and travel restrictions made it very difficult for golf club managers and committees to ‘police’ the distance travelled by members or guests. As a committee member at a club with over 1000 members, our primary aim in May was to avoid any fractures amongst our membership that would create ill will in the future, caddymasters or starters could not be asked to police where a member had travelled from, many of these club employees have built up years of good relationships with members that they would not want to jeopardise, no one was asked at their local supermarket or pharmacy ”how far have you travelled”.
    All golf clubs have electronic booking systems and a simple exercise of identifying members who resided outside of the 5km limit could have been carried out, with members outside the limit (temporarily) restricted from booking on-line, this would solve the issue as to whom was eligible (under the restrictions) to access their club.
    However this would have had to, and could have been a direct instruction from the golfing unions and or the HSE / Government, no ineligible members could then have taken issue with their home club or management for this action. After nearly 9 months of this pandemic the ‘powers that be’ must have a fairly accurate picture of where the virus is been primarily transmitted, I would suggest that the number of cases emanating from actual golfing activities is negligible.
    There have been indications that ALL level 5 restrictions will be reviewed after 4 weeks, hopefully, a different view on golf and the benefits it gives to 1000’s of people, many retired, will be taken.

    1. Margaret Buckley avatar
      Margaret Buckley

      Well said Paul. There are ways and means.

  10. John Flanagan avatar
    John Flanagan

    This outcome for golf strongly suggests that having volunteer representative without strong negotiation and communication skills means they are unable to strongly present the case as to why golf should remain open. I have today written to my local TD urging that this stupid decision be reversed.

    1. Ian Mooney avatar
      Ian Mooney

      This is the answer. We need as many golfers as possible to contact there Local TD’s and the Minister Sport seeking at a minimum an explanation of the rationale behind the decision and preferably its reversal.

    2. Pete avatar

      Agreed. It sounds like the GUI / ILGU were weak or at best, lacking in street smarts

  11. Tom Bealin avatar
    Tom Bealin

    Totally agree with above posts GUI shown to be weak when they had an opportunity to make a stance for their members at a time when we need golf more than ever
    Absolutely no logic in letting Tennis continue and not golf
    I suppose the fact that the GUI get their fees regardless of whether we play or not meant they weren’t really pushed either way

  12. Gerard Barry avatar
    Gerard Barry

    Our golf course has a right of way through it but this will not be closed..so the public can traverse the course in unrestricted numbers but members cannot use the course…of course it’s nonsense.

  13. Jim+Duggan avatar

    This is the most ludicrous decision yet made by this incompetent Minister for Health. He’s just been on the Pat Kenny radio show and was shown up for the bluffer that he is – completely unable to give one logical reason why it is felt necessary to shut down golf. God help us if this is the best the government can come up with. How incompetent are they in other decisions that we don’t know about? The advantages of keeping golf open have been well debated previously. Tennis can remain open – a sport where the players all touch the same ball, yet golf cannot, a sport where were not allowed to touch anything except our own equipment. This is not to wish that tennis should be closed. It is just to point out the inconsistency. Back in March as a nation we could be excused for knee-jerk reactions but surely there’s someone in NPHET, the Government and the civil service who has had the time and the gumption to figure these things out by now. Bombard your local TDS about this ridiculous decision – and don’t forget the useless GUI when it comes to paying our levies next year. Absolutely disgusted!

    1. Maureen McCartan avatar
      Maureen McCartan

      Well said. Totally disgusted with this unfathomable decision.

  14. Matthew Farrell avatar
    Matthew Farrell

    I think every golfer in the country should refuse to pay the GUI levy,and if clubs wanted to survive they would have to withdraw their affiliation from the GUI, clubs don’t have to be affiliated to opperate.

  15. Joe avatar

    I just cant understand it me personally I’ve paid two fees this year one from my home club and one for where I live now,both were paid in full and I already lost few months back at start of last lockdown now this is the GUI going to give me back the money I paid considering I haven’t got what I paid for this year lost about 3 4 months of golf.Also there is less chance of me getting covid on a golf course than the 30 men on a field playing gaa,who are fighting for a ball bloody stupid.Mental health will be a massive issue by time this all over

  16. Bobby Bell avatar
    Bobby Bell

    Is there a petition set up for this yet? 300,000 golfers a week in Ireland.

  17. Disgruntled avatar

    Same variables evident as before, yet the GUI have apparently learnt very little in presenting a compelling argument to allow clubs to open. As I mentioned at the time, we as golf club members have no option in paying a compulsory levy to the GUI. The current situation highlights the obvious high level of incompetence of the people we are paying to manage our game. Time to get rid & refocus on the grassroots ie the clubs & their members.

    1. Matthew Farrell avatar
      Matthew Farrell

      Clubs don’t have to be affiliated to the GUI and if they withdraw we golfers won’t have to pay a GUI levy

  18. Jimmy+Hegarty avatar

    Politicians spend a lot of money paying advisers, if this is the best advice that can be given i.e. to close golf clubs and leave tennis clubs open, I shudder to think what the calibre of advice is behind all government decisions. Where is the evidence that travelling alone to a golf club, playing socially distant golf outdoors and sitting back into your car to drive home alone has contributed to the no. of positive covid cases.

  19. Pete avatar

    This is a remarkable change of heart by the author considering only yesterday, he wrote an article called “GUI & ILGU not to blame for course closures” in the same publication. I’ve included a link below in the event he has forgotton


  20. Anthony avatar

    I am a golfer but I totally agree with govt decision. The reason is to stop people travelling and stop the virus spreading. The last time the 5k restriction was almost totally ignored by golfers who took it on themselves to decide golf is safe. Let’s be fair and look at much bigger hardships others are suffering and just obey the rules for 6 weeks.

    1. Paul avatar

      I agree the govt must act to stop this pandemic ASAP, but the golfing decision makes no sense, the average age of members at our club is 67, they need something for the next 6 weeks having already suffered more than most and I also agree that in May many ignored the 5km restrictions as clubs wouldn’t or weren’t enforced to police it – simple solution:

      All golf clubs have electronic booking systems and a simple exercise of identifying members who resided outside of the 5km limit could have been carried out, with members outside the limit (temporarily) restricted from booking on-line, this would solve the issue as to whom was eligible (under the restrictions) to access their club.

      The vast majority agree with the moves taken to halt/stop this pandemic overrunning our HSE and endangering lives – but common sense needs to be employed to encourage an overall buy in.

      1. Ted avatar

        Ok. But as an 80 yr old and golf my only escape, and living 15km from my club how would that help me?

        1. Paul avatar

          Understood and can’t give you an explanation on the logic of 5km, but for the 100’s in a similar age bracket it lucky enough to live within 5km it would help them….it shouldn’t be a case if I can’t have it no one else can….

    2. Danny avatar

      Agree Anthony. It was abused. Also not much social distancing at my own club through nieveity and also arrogance.

  21. MICHAEL COFFEY avatar

    Tennis in and golf out .This is beyond crazy .I agree with the comment that golfers should remember this at the next election Michael

  22. Seamus avatar

    This is the correct way to go about bringing change instead of giving out about the governing bodies. When writing please point out that golf is as safe as tennis and safer than contact sports.

  23. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    I have written a letter of protest to the Ministers of Health and Sport as well as my local TD. Have you? If not, do it now!

  24. Ivan Morris avatar
    Ivan Morris

    I also wrote to John Treacy, the CEO of Sport Ireland. Bombard him too. I do not blame Golf Ireland. There are none so deaf as those who do not want to hear. Make them listen.

  25. Dominic Brennan avatar
    Dominic Brennan

    This is a ridiculous decision and cannot be evidence based. One wonders if golf is suffering because of the infamous Golfgate saga. Rather than debating it among the golfing population please get an email off to your local TD’s asking them to explain the rationale. Not some people, everybody. It is the most effective way of getting the decision reversed.

  26. Gerard+Mary+Maher avatar

    The GUI/ILGU are not looking after our interests.

    No risk for golfers in an open field.
    GUI could have offered the cancelation of all competitions and the larger gaps on the time sheet and limiting it to 2 or 3 balls as was done before.

    We are badly served by our administrators if Tennis is allowed open and golf remains closed.

    It is a shame and will make the 6 weeks much longer than they need to be for the bulk of golfers who are in their late sixties/seventies and need the social contact.

    Medics running the country again rather than government.

    Gerard Maher

  27. Michael Knightly avatar
    Michael Knightly

    Announced today that all Tennis has also been suspended for the 6 weeks

  28. Gerry avatar

    Last lockdown in a 5km limit, golf club memberships were seen as an exemption and were abused. It’s as simple as that.

  29. Murt avatar

    Tennis Ireland have this morning been forced into a climbdown on the instructions of Sport Ireland. The statement last night by TI was a solo run, a declaration of their interpretation of the general level 5 guidelines. This morning they were made to toe the line!
    I play both sports, so am doubly annoyed!

  30. Noel avatar

    I’m afraid I’m one of those guys who wouldn’t benefit if golf clubs were allowed to open with the 5K restriction in place. Even if they make it so you can travel within your own county, I’d still be stuck. My club is in Wicklow and I live in Dublin, so I haven’t been able to play for the last few weeks already. I think most of the key arguments have already been pointed out, such as a 3 or 4 ball spread out over a large tract of land, not sharing equipment, not touching flags and rakes etc. – Getting into your car at your own house, driving (solo) directly to the course (even to another county), getting out of the car and stepping onto the first tee and so on…
    Instead, I’ll have to stick to my daily walk within a 5k radius. I enjoy my walks… I’m lucky that there are one or two very scenic routes nearby. But as it happens these scenic routes are also the routes walked by countless others. During one of these walks, I couldn’t even count the number of times I come in close contact with other people. I have to constantly step out of the way (sometimes pretty sharpish) of other walkers, runners and cyclists. So, the way I see it, there’s far more chance of me (and the other walkers) catching the virus while on one of these 5k (radius from home) walks than playing a round of golf in the wide open spaces of a golf course!

    Maybe there is a bit of truth in the theory that ‘Golfgate’ was the reason for shutting down golf courses. If so, I think they’re forgetting that any risk of spreading the virus was in the packed hotel restaurant and not on the links!

  31. Danny avatar

    Agree Anthony. It was abused. Also not much social distancing at my own club through nieveity and also arrogance.

  32. Declan M avatar
    Declan M

    This government have lost all credibility and they expect people to buy into this bullshit over and over when there shouldnt have been a lockdown level 5 in the first place time to vote them out at the earliest opportunity for incompetence.

  33. Declan Mor avatar
    Declan Mor

    This government have lost all credibility and they expect people to buy into this bullshit over and over when there shouldnt have been a lockdown level 5 in the first place time to vote them out at the earliest opportunity for incompetence.

  34. Brendan Harmon avatar
    Brendan Harmon

    Ok 16 rugby players in a scrum or lineout allowed and you can’t play a 3 ball in golf brain dead decision

  35. marie daly avatar

    Politics is behind all of this “golfgate” GUI/ILGU too weak to negotiate..how about getting up a petition for everyone to sign or a march to protest give the powers that be something to think about the old age pensioners did it before and we have a lot of senior golfers who live alone and this is their only outlet, and all this talk on media about out mental health contradictions is all i can see with this government ..the more you comply with regulations the worst you are treated..rebel as trump says (lets take back our GOLF

  36. Joe Mahoney avatar
    Joe Mahoney

    I’d wager a large sum that Micky Mouse Martin, the Veruka and the doughnut Ryan have never played a round of golf – probably never even been on a golf course.

  37. Joe Mahoney avatar
    Joe Mahoney

    And this all begs the question: when subs become due in January, are golfers going to pay with the prospect of the course being closed at the drop of a hat whenever some muppet decides to do so?

  38. Noel avatar

    The lockdown has brought .out the best and the worst in our Country our priority now should be to get a cure for this killer virus.

    1. Joe Mahoney avatar
      Joe Mahoney

      Unfortunately, there is no cure. All this postulating about “vaccines” is just lip service to keep the masses quiet.

  39. JT avatar

    My golf club enforced the 5km rule and social distancing. Our Captain wrote to the members and told them not to travel if you lived over 5km away and the time sheet was being monitored and your name deleted if you didn’t conform. I wouldn’t blame the GUI, I think the Gov took the easy option of closing everything, easier to police that way. The Gov took the decision and should be made explain why and held accountable.

  40. Brian Burke avatar
    Brian Burke

    It seems in this Country of ours the more you pay these people the less logical they become no common sense , the hard working people of Ireland deserve better .

  41. Laurence Bacon avatar
    Laurence Bacon

    Let’s be very clear about this. Golfgate had absolutely nothing to do with any golf club, and everything to do with politicians. The breach of the rules was at a hotel, not at a golf club, and that breach was organised by politicians. Nevertheless, it is golf clubs which are being punished for the irresponsible actions of politicians.
    We have evidence gathered over 7 months and using that evidence, we know that GAA sports are directly responsible for spreading the virus, but golf clubs are responsible for zero.
    How on earth can any politician attempt to justify permitting GAA, but not golf ?

    1. Tim c avatar
      Tim c

      100% correct

  42. Joe Mahoney avatar
    Joe Mahoney

    No golfer should vote for any politician who refuses to speak out loudly against this outrage. And make that plain to them. And no shilly-shallying – they must speak out NOW!

  43. Jimmy 1 avatar
    Jimmy 1

    Stupid politicians making stupid rules. Personally I live more than 5k from my club but I travel alone, wear my mask till I’m on the first tee and am conscious of staying apart from my playing partners. I don’t want to get Covid-19 !!!!! And thankfully ? haven’t. So no golf ??? Can’t drive more than 5 k ???

  44. Marie Hogan avatar
    Marie Hogan

    Golfgate is the reason!
    Also fair is fair _ members living in a different county to their club had no golf for last 2 weeks!

  45. Thomas Kirwan avatar

    The decision to close golf courses is despicable and the most stupid decision ever made. We have heard politicians and health experts tall about the effect Covid is having on people’s health and still they ban one of the safest games people can play. The GAA and Rugby are continuing, think about the physical contact in those sports while in golf there is no need for any contact.
    I am not here to promote golf but i will make make points.
    1 The Governing bodies have no respect for the golfers needs and their love of the game.
    2 I am sure they will take our money when our fees are due again.
    3 I think no fees should be paid to the Governing bodies by either clubs or members as they have done nothing to support either.
    4 Finally I will make the point about the health issues involved here. Up to 200,000 people play golf weekly many of whom are retired so think of the health issues both mentally and physically that those people face now.
    So i appeal to both politicians and Sports Ireland to reverse this decision and leave the the running of golf clubs to the people that know best the members and the people who they have elected to represent them.

    1. Joe Mahoney avatar
      Joe Mahoney

      Spot on! All clubs and members should refuse to pay the GUI levies. It has proved itself to be, like the polticians, a complete waste of space.

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