It’s time an exception was made for golf

John Craven

Tumbleweed rolls across a fairway. By Getty Images

John Craven

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I’d be lying if I said there were many days I looked out at the weather lately and said, ‘I’d love a game of golf’. That’s not to say I wouldn’t like the option.

I write this as rumours abound of a six-week extension to this current six-week lockdown, straining my eyes out my window to distant clouds without silver linings. I’d consider myself an optimist, still dreaming of becoming a professional footballer at thirty, but even the eternal optimists would struggle to see light through the dark clouds of Ireland these days.

Yeah, it’s getting to me, this whole lockdown craic. A living with covid plan where we hide in the wardrobe and hope it goes away. I wasn’t like this almost a year ago when the surge was coming. Golf was the last thing on my mind. We could do without it for the sake of others. We were all united against a common enemy. Clapping on the side of the street, waving at neighbours you’d – almost – have in for tea if only the Government would let you.

A year is not an insignificant amount of time in anyone’s life and given how the people have largely responded to all that’s been asked of them, you would’ve hoped for more in return. If anything, twelve months later and we’re worse off. Before we know it we’ll be out the other side of summer and staring into flu season. Again. That’s the grim reality, but even small exceptions to this covid plan could make a huge difference to people’s mental outlook.

When lockdowns first hit, I found the cry of the golf community unsavoury on the ear. It smacked of entitlement; enraged golfers swinging their nine irons as front-line workers in hazmat suits battled the unknown.

In May, that all changed for me. When golf got the green light to resume, our three-ball may as well have had the whole course to ourselves such was the serenity. There wasn’t a patch of land in the country so sparsely populated. We booked online, tee-times well-spaced, straight from our car to the first tee, clubhouses closed, no rakes in the bunkers, no touching of flags, water hazards filled with hand sanitiser. And not only was it safe but for a large chunk of the Irish population, it was necessary. That was evident, to borrow a word from Leo’s first speech, in the surge of fresh faces to the game. People needed an outlet more than ever and golf was one of the few they could turn to.

At the time it was seen as a privilege to be invited back to play while so many other sports waited in the wings but if we’re to be living with this virus for a number of years, then exceptions have to be made. A one rule fits all mentality is narrow minded, unimaginative, and unfair. Certain sports lend themselves to social distancing. Fortunately, golf is one of them.

Eleven months on and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask why golf courses remain closed having repeatedly proven themselves safe amid this pandemic? Eleven months on and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to question why the Government would lump the sport in with so many others without explanation? Eleven months on and I start wondering what all the sacrifice was for? So many false peaks on this climb out of covid. So much life lost in our efforts to preserve it.


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38 responses to “It’s time an exception was made for golf”

  1. Jimmy+Hegarty avatar

    I agree 100% with John’s comments. It’s all about learning to live with this disease. The golf course is a much safer place to be than on one of our public greenways where people are going to in their thousands making it impossible not to stop and have little chats.

  2. Brendan King avatar
    Brendan King

    I have been on irishgolfer and Facebook. Saying the same things as this post I am retired and have only a game of golf but at this stage I am beginning to lose the plot golf courses are the safest place to be . So open them for people within their own County . If you travel to your golf course and play your game ( exercise) and go straight home , where is the Danger . So Government do the right thing for our mental health and well-being.

    1. rory Fitzgerald avatar
      rory Fitzgerald

      strongly agree

  3. Stephen Mangan avatar
    Stephen Mangan

    Many of us, especially in Dublin, don’t have the option of joining a Dublin club as they are pretty exclusive and over subscribed so we had to join clubs in adjacent counties. The last time lockdown was lifted they extended the rule to include travel and play on your own course in an adjacent county. This worked very well and should be looked at again. It’s up to Golf Ireland to make the case for us

  4. Jim avatar

    I agree with all the comments mentioned earlier. Being on a golf course in extremely safe. So safe that quite often you would not talk (or see sometimes) your fellow golfers for a while while playing from hole to hole. Politically the present government are handing the next elections to the opposition in their lack of forthright decision making. Too many have to agree, although they got it totally wrong before Christmas (I have no political affiliations).
    Please open the golf courses and allow play in 4 balls. Liked an earlier commenter I am retired and the days of playing golf are getting limited. I need the exercise.

  5. Brian avatar

    Lads with the greatest of respect, you’re wasting your breath as individuals. Our so called leaders in golf Ireland are supposedly there to forcibly put forward our views as golf club members ,& don’t forget by the way, we pay their salaries via our COMPULSORY levy. As the line goes when the going gets tough the tough get going. What do you say golf Ireland?

    1. Tom Halpin avatar

      Brian, if you’re waiting for a response from Golf Ireland I think you may be disappointed.
      They have done nothing to date to support their members.

  6. Niall avatar

    Golf IS getting exceptional treatment!!
    GOLF & tennis are the only outdoor sports that are BANNED.

  7. John dwyer avatar
    John dwyer

    Hi guys,
    Golf and tennis are very safe sports..please once and for all would Mr Tanaiste stop saying playing politics once and for all..he said Tuesday golf may be back March he is saying April..for god’s sake guys give Golf Clubs a timeframe if possible..Only my opinion.some may disagree others may agree.thank you very much

  8. Robert avatar

    I don’t think it’s so much the act of playing golf it’s the travelling too and from the course. I would love nothing more than a few holes but I am afraid it will be the end of march at the earliest. GUI will have no say because sport Ireland will agree with the political and medical advice.

    1. Mike 72 avatar
      Mike 72

      People travelling to golf courses do so in a sanitised bubble, aka, a car. It’s safe. End of story. If golf is not opened, in line with the science that says its safer than a walk in the park among hundreds, then we need to raise finance for a judicial review.

  9. Declan Power avatar

    Although we are smaller entity when it comes to outdoor activities, our pitch and Putt clubs have suffered immensely from the start of the pandemic. Yes, we experienced a surge in membership middle of 2020 but what good is it to all of our new members and regulars for that matter . The lack of play time has taken its toll on us all. Pitch and Putt clubs rely on volunteers to maintain our courses and many of us are struggling. Lack of green fees being a major factor in some cases. We have complied with all course closures and safety regulations from the beginning. The government does not seem to understand what they are doing to people’s mental well being. Many of our Members are distraught that they cannot hit a few holes. Especially our more mature members and our valued juveniles alike. Sport ireland needs to consider the natural safety of our sport/courses. Like golf clubs, our sport also has an uncertain future. Our course as well as many others offers a safe environment to the local community and a place of serenity where one can lose themselves in the challenge to put a ball in the cup in the least amount of shots as possible. Can anyone tell me how that activity lends any contribution to spreading the virus.? I think not. A United approach to defying the restrictions could work but I don’t think that would come to fruition. We would be branded as negatively rebellious by some and perhaps face prosecution or permanent course closure but it’s a fight I would personally be up for. With prospects of reducing membership rates and taking severe hits with an income, the future of our clubs is uncertain. We have become puppets dancing to the tunes of the uncomprehending pied pipers in the government and NYPHET. Sheep being led into our pens, to stay there until the government farmer allows us out for a moment to smell the grass, then hunts us back inside again. This CANNOT be our future.

    1. Chris foley avatar
      Chris foley

      Well said Declan. It’s time for people to be given back the opportunity to save their mental health. I for one played as much as I could in was in a safe environment well protected and monitored. We respected the boundaries of the virus and looked out for one another. This is a game like no other and has proved how safe it can be and how safe it was when the opportunity was there we took it give us back this opportunity again.

  10. Christy+mcg avatar

    We need to bombard Leo’s online accounts, whatever they are,,and put pressure on him to get golf back, there are physical and mental issues at play here and anyone with any sense can see golf is the best and safest way to help, its ridiculous in the extreme to say rugby is safer to play then golf,with blood n sweat flying all over the place,its a complete waste of time to ask golfireland to help they are absolutely usless and should be disbanded, so come on golfers let’s get ready to rumble a couple of hundred thousand votes can put Leo in or OUT of government very quickly,,

  11. Matthew Farrell avatar
    Matthew Farrell

    Golfers stand up to Golf Ireland, tell your club you will pay your subscription but you won’t pay the golf Ireland levy,if every club golfer does this the fat cats in golf Ireland will get off their arses and represent us.

    1. Terry Brady. avatar

      One thing I cannot understand Matt is why(even though I love the game) Rugby such a huge contact sport carries on regardless.Throw in football,soccer and there you have the biggest irony of all.
      Social distancing impossible in those sports. Golf ,social distancing a nessecity to actually play the game banned? Why does nobody ever bring up the irony of sports as mentioned above being allowed to continue unabated..
      We certainly live in strange times these days.!!!

  12. John avatar

    At the last lockdown I emailed this statement to roughly 30-40 TDS in Ireland. I got about 5 responses. Every response I got said that this was not there department but they would forward it on to the relevant department. My whole point was that hopefully somebody would take up this cause with some common sense but this didn’t happen. This is the email that I wrote,
    Hi I’m am writing this letter in the HOPE that you will publish it or circulate it to somebody who has some common sense. I am a 46 year person who is in the high risk category for Covid. I am also a keen golfer. Since the lockdown and closure of golf courses, I have to go for walks most days as an outlet. When I am walking I walk for 45-50 minutes around swords. During this walk I have taken to counting the people I pass by most times side by side. The average people I pass by is 80-100 people most days. I have had to stop walking in parks as there are too many people walking in the parks. When golfers are golfing the only people you meet are the people you may be golfing with and even then your playing partners will stay at least 2 meters away from you because if they didn’t they could get hit by a golf club or ball. My clubhouse has been closed for the past 4 weeks so there has not been anybody going in to it. Has golf been banned because of the golf gate scandal where ministers did not adhere to Covid guidelines. well let me assure you that I and the majority of golfers go to the course to play golf and relax and take in the peace and tranquillity of the course. Golf courses are like a big park that has rules for behaviour to make it safe for golfers to play in a safety controlled environment where golfers walk in the one direction and when they are finished there round return to there car and leave. So I only ask that you present to letter to the powers that be so that they might understand how safe and healthy mentally and physically playing a game of golf is.
    Thank you for your time

  13. Joe avatar

    Very much missing golf myself I think it’s a joke that people cant go out into the fresh air and play its safer than most places to be.For starters you all giving out but it simple everyone refuse to pay the levy been forced on you by clubs my club wants €170 of me for what also a bat of €70 and bar closed.If everyone refuses to pay it will hit golf Ireland were it hurts and the will see people arent willing to put up with no golf anymore,if the had any balls the would speak up and open golf courses.

  14. McMackin, Anthony avatar
    McMackin, Anthony

    I am a golfer but the reality of this situation is that people are dying and people are out of work and that travel and movement needs to be curtailed to stop the spread of this disease. There is no point in trying to dress up the fact you want to play golf as ‘caring for other people’s mental health’. Lets get real and stick to the plan and get rid of the virus and then hopefully we’ll be back to golf in April.

    1. Mike 72 avatar
      Mike 72

      Travelling in a car is safe. Being in a 120 acre open space with 3 is safer than being in a park with hundreds. Less people will get covid if golf is played because there will be less people getting covid in public parks.

  15. John mccarthy avatar
    John mccarthy

    Surely golf is no different than going for a walk. Entirely safe. There is no evidence of any spread playing golf as long as protocols are observed. Unfortunately its the optics that are involved here. We were doing fine in level 3 until restrictions were totally lifted for Christmas. No reason we can’t be back by 5 th of March

  16. Tom Blake avatar
    Tom Blake

    Totally agree with the comments in this section. The decision to ban golf despite the obvious health benefits to golfers in terms of exercise and mental health makes no sense. I too am quite prepared to believe that complaint club golfers are being punished for breaches of covid regulations at a dinner nothing got to do with golf. Maybe Mr Mackin can explain to me how I am potentially spreading the virus by travelling alone to my club, wearing masks in the car park and outside the pro shop, Then playing a socially distanced game of golf, returning to my car and home. The Govt, NPHET and the useless Golf Ireland should be encouraging activities that are safe and benifit people’s general health. There is a tsunmani of serious othet health issues coming down the tracks for our Health service. I have written to a Govt Minister and Golf Ireland. No response from the Minister. Even non golfers I know think its a ridiculous decision to ban golf.

  17. John avatar

    You are aiming at the wrong target. The level of non compliance is evident to anyone with eyes. This is what is causing the spread of Covid and 50 odd people dying every day. Tell the selfish asses to tow the line, stick to the rules and then we can get back to golf, work and everything else.

  18. Bill lawlor avatar
    Bill lawlor

    Hey John Craven,
    I am always delighted with Irish Golfer’s knowledgable and insightful takes on what is going on in golf, disability golf, Olympics, LPGA, etc, and post-pandemic steps for Leo to open golf courses in Ireland, is part of that. I think, John, that the damage done to the Dail itself by Golfgate??, must have something to do with their reluctance to reopen courses! Pray to God for Deliverance, but always lock up your camel, old Arab proverb!

    1. John avatar

      Agreed Bill. Golf got a bad name so we now have to live with it.

  19. John avatar

    Some of the comments here are blaming the Irish government, TDs, the ‘Golf-gate scandal’ etc., but please do remember that it’s the same for golfers here in Northern Ireland and for golfers across the Irish Sea – we simply aren’t allowed to play and, yes, it is so frustrating!

    I love sport in general, but I am so disillusioned when I see footballers embracing after their team scores a goal or rugby players in a scrum and a ruck during the Six Nations, while we, the general public, aren’t allowed to safely socially distance on a golf course – it’s just downright ludicrous and dare I use the word, unfair!

    I’m not sure whingeing multimillionaire, working safely from home or on furlough for the past year – I’m a frontline worker on just above the minimum wage – a postman who has worked throughout the pandemic delivering people’s online shopping, their hospital appointments, their covid test kits, their sympathy cards; I’d absolutely love a break from the busyness and stress of it all, with four hours of golf each week, but the powers that be in Ireland and outside Ireland decree from their ivory towers that ‘it’s not safe’.

    In my opinion, we have forgotten how much power we, as the general public, the electorate, actually have. I agree with the comments about refusing to pay golfing levies (the GUI has been as effective as a chocolate teapot); if you’re frustrated with how your TD has behaved during the pandemic, vote for another candidate next time. Let’s not just rant and rave in forums but also take action fellow golfers.

  20. Ben McGarry avatar
    Ben McGarry

    I understand the logic of ‘we are ll in this together’ however when I look to contact sports such as hurling, fooball, soccer and rugby and ask myself what is the rational, it does not take long to say ‘sponsorship contracts’.
    The Government is allowing those sports for fear of litigation by TV and other sponors who would hold the Government to account for their losses.
    Real leadership is about doing what is right not doing what is popular like what they did pre Christmas when they relaxed restriction for all the wrong reasons.
    Airport and Ports still remain open with thousends of people entering Ireland from countries that we would not be allow to travel to – 12 months on and there is still no autonmatic quarantine for incoming persons. How does the Government think the UK and SA COVID strains entered Ireland – it was not becasue of golf it was because they did not have the ‘PROV’s’ to take tht tough decision, like Australia and New Zealand, to automatically quarantee when and where necesaary.
    Don’t hold you breath, John, for this administration to make the rational calls. If waffel was the answer we would be free of COVID long ago.

  21. Joan Cantillon avatar
    Joan Cantillon

    Hi all, some great reviews, what a bunch of gob shots, we are playing with, no doubt, Golf is definitely the safest game we could have, I suppose we are not giving enough brown envelopes, to the powers that be. We did everything that was asked of us . Just hoping by the 5th March. We will have a bit of good News.

  22. Marguerite avatar

    I agree with the majority of comments. I think golf needs to be open to all club members not just within their county as many members could live 5 miles from their club but outside the county. I have written to golf Ireland but guess what no reply.

  23. Marguerite avatar

    I agree with the majority of comments. I think golf needs to be open to all club members not just within their county . I have written to golf Ireland but guess what no reply.

  24. Gerard Byrne avatar
    Gerard Byrne

    I agree and empathise with all the above . But what I really want to know is what are our officials in the GUI doing for us . With everything that’s going on with COVID-19 and all the hardship people are going true both physically, mentally,and financially . Are our GUI officials doing any to help us true this difficult time . Are they going to reduce there levy and help us negotiate a reduced payment with our annual fees ?

  25. JOSEPH avatar

    GolfIreland will do what it’s told to do. What I would like to know is….”Who is the civil/public servant who has made the decision to close down golf” and “Why is that person anti golf”
    This is the same idiot who thinks it’s OK to let thirty people with a stick on a small field with one ball, fighting for possession of that one ball with full contact engagement, but won’t allow four people to hit their own ball around a huge massive area called a golf course with no contact,as it’s against the rules of golf to tackle another player. This is the sort of decision-making that is in one word ‘wrong’.
    Just remember, whoever made this decision is a public/civil servant and they don’t do wrong. Never have, never will. At least they will never admit to it, as in be accountable for their decisions.

  26. Marie avatar

    If golf comes back in March -it should be for all members & not just members living in the county where THEIR golf club is situated. TD ‘a have been notified of this last time to no avail -also Golf Ireland. I don’t see why I am not allowed play just because I live a few Kms outside the county.
    Golf gate is the real reason we have no golf.
    Also people need to keep their distance on the golf course.

  27. Gerry avatar

    i agree with all the comments on how safe golf is, i am in my fifties and having recovered from 2 very serious health issues in the last ten yrs i was so grateful to be able to play 9 holes 2 or 3 times a week, i was even happy to play on my own for the sake of being safe, golf was really all i looked forward to, i have now put my clubs in the spare room covered with a blanket so i wont be constantly reminded of what i am missing. i cant see golf being allowed anytime before GAA. On a slightly different note has anyone else had a sub increase for this year, my sub has gone up by 25% and we haven’t swung a club yet

  28. SMcL avatar

    The comments, and entitlement, here are (with a couple of exceptions) shocking. Compliance with the regulations by a vast majority is what is required to achieve this and, as we saw last year, one exception just leads to another – it’s impossible to ring-fence individual sports (and the professional sports examples are irrelevant as they operate under extreme protocols) . I miss playing golf, and I know that doing so has a positive impact on my mental health but, like everyone else, I’ve had to seek alternatives over the last year. The one change I would suggest is the opening of clubs in urban centres as green amenities for citizens. Withing 5km of some of the most densely packed parts of Dublin are Elm Park, Clontarf, Royal Dublin for e.g. let’s open these up as managed spaces for healthy, and safe, exercise for those crammed into unacceptable accommodation.

    1. Terry Brady. avatar
      Terry Brady.

      Dublin? Sort of a silly statement isolating one area because it’s urban.So does that mean every city in Ireland should be allowed to open it’s courses for the benefit of its overcrammed citizens??
      Completely illogical statement..One for all and all for One..

      1. SMcL avatar

        A couple of thoughts in response. To clarify – I sugegsted that these spaces should be available as a public green space amenity – not for golf, but for walking and exercising by the wider population. In that context I used the Dublin locations as an example “Withing (sic) 5km of some of the most densely packed parts of Dublin are Elm Park, Clontarf, Royal Dublin for e.g.”. Nationally I would suggest that this could have been applied to all areas where green space is at a premium, and the health of individuals might benefit from the availability of open spaces to walk and exercise within the restrictions.

  29. Breda Ryan avatar
    Breda Ryan

    When you watch a rugby match in play it makes you wonder how golf could as dangerous as rugby . Why is rugby an elite sport can’t golf be elite as well and less dangerous.

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