In a boost to golfers across the country, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar believes golf could be one of a number of outdoor pursuits permitted to reopen as the Government takes a “cautious and conservative” approach to the easing of its current Level 5 restrictions.
Although case numbers remain high and the likelihood is that indoor retail will remain closed well beyond the current March 5th date, pursuits like golf should benefit given the sport naturally lends itself to social distancing and has already proved it can reopen successfully under Covid safety guidelines.
“If you remember the way we reopened after the first wave, which was a pretty successful reopening, the kind of things that were done initially were outdoor,” Varadkar told The Hard Shoulder.
“Outdoors is much safer so allowing people maybe to meet other people outdoors – the golf, outdoor retail that type of thing. I think you are much more likely to see that being allowed than personal services which is up close and personal and tends to be indoors and therefore a slightly higher risk, notwithstanding all the amazing work people that run those businesses did to make their businesses safe.”
“Potentially there will be elements of outdoor exercise that are not allowed at the moment. Like for example, golf. Like for example underage teams doing some form of training. The kind of things you would see in Level Four of the existing plan.”
It would be a massive boost to the industry if golf was again given the green light to reopen. Many still believe it should never have been closed in the first place. They felt much safer on a golf course playing in groups of four with friends they trusted in a sparsely populated field than going down to the local supermarket amongst strangers in chaos where distancing was seldom observed.
In truth, given the weather of late, golf has been the last thing on many people’s minds. Frozen courses haven’t exactly been conducive to a winter hit but March is party-time for golfers. Signs of spring mean Captain’s drive-ins and the call of the new season. The industry can survive another winter’s hibernation but golf clubs need to make the most of peak playing time, beginning in March.
An insatiable appetite still rumbles for golf. The rush to the tee-sheet will be a frenzy once the light shifts from red to green but golf has proven itself capable of reopening responsibly already. The game will rise to such a challenge again if it means play resumes from March 5th. That said, the Government are understandably eager to avoid a quick reopening and whether golfers like it or not, we are lumped in with everything else when it comes to a countrywide approach to stopping this disease.
“I don’t think anybody in the country wants to see us open up as quickly as we did back in early December because, particularly with the B117 variant, there is a risk that cases could take off very quickly again,” Varadkar added.
“So, the kind of reopening you might see is something more like what you might have seen last May or June after the first wave. A bit more cautious so that if it goes wrong, we can act quickly. We don’t want a situation whereby the horse has bolted before people hear the door slam.”