Golf should be given the green light to reopen by Government

John Shortt

Naas Golf Club

If we believe everything we hear about Government announcements on restrictions – and I’m not for one minute saying that we do – then we are due to get the next thrilling instalment of what lies ahead for Ireland over the coming weeks and months shortly.

For us golfers, like everyone else, it’s been a pretty terrible time thus far and I for one have found this latest lockdown particularly tough. Maybe it’s the weather, maybe it’s the mixed messaging from Government or maybe it’s the overall lack of confidence that what we’re being asked to do isn’t exactly working. Perhaps it’s all of the above?

But what do I mean by tough? Well, it’s been tough on mental health for sure. The lack of contact with golf friends upon which many of us rely has left us feeling lonely, vulnerable and exacerbates what is already a difficult time. Golf for many is the only outlet we have and it is by far the safest one available to us.  You only have to go for a walk inside your 5k limits any time of any day to see what I mean. You’ll end up walking on the road to avoid bumping into people, and God forbid you try and walk in a park! Golf by comparison has up to four people in a 400m space with pre-booked tee times all of which is lying unused as things stand.


It’s also been tough to take that Scotland, with a greater population than Ireland, has left golf open. Maybe there’s something we can learn from them in this regard?

But moreover, what’s been tough is the apparent lack of common sense in regards to restrictions. Whoever thought that telling an entire population to stay within 5km of home and in the same breath get exercise everyday didn’t comprehend that in urban areas we don’t have enough green spaces, walkways and other amenities to allow this to be done safely? The answer in recent weeks has been to encourage mask wearing in outdoor settings and in recent days there have been rumblings of double-masking… seriously? One isn’t enough anymore apparently. We clearly need a different solution.

The communications from Government haven’t been fantastic either but the one-up-man-ship that appears to be undermining the whole thing is particularly disappointing. In one day last week we had the Tánaiste saying some things (like golf) should be opening on March 5th and at the same time the Taoiseach saying we should be expecting the current restriction levels to remain until Easter. How can they expect people to be anything but confused, upset and downright p****d off by the lack of clarity?

Golf Ireland have been quiet too, which for many golfers is a serious bone of contention. In the UK, the PGA and the Governing bodies of golf have been very vocal in calling out and questioning decisions, albeit largely unsuccessfully. Maybe it’s happening here too but if it is, then it’s behind the scenes and we’ve not seen it in the public domain. Maybe that needs to happen for us, not only so we feel like our voice is being heard, but also so we know our game’s leaders are putting a strong case forward to reopen.

For clarity, I understand why golf was closed in January and February, we all have to do our part, but putting another month or more on top of this should not be on the agenda. For the good of golfers all over Ireland, the game, along with other sports like tennis etc. should be allowed to reopen in the same safe way they were opened in June and July last year.

Let’s get things moving, take some of the people away from the packed local amenities and put them into places where they get more exercise, in a safer environment. Let’s make the most of the longer days that are coming and see some revenues generated for our beleaguered economy.

Make it members only for a while if you must but let us prove once again that we can do this safely and we’ll forget everything that went before.

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42 responses to “Golf should be given the green light to reopen by Government”

  1. Richie avatar

    If golf is allowed to return on 5th March. We must make sure that what happened last year does not happen again ie only golfers living within 5km radius of the course can play. Last year it was estimated that this was only 5% of golfers. Golf Ireland need fight our corner on this issue.

  2. Michael Corrigan avatar
    Michael Corrigan

    The 5 K limit imposed during last year’s lockdown was indeed farcical.
    When courses re-opened on May 18th (for those residing within 5K) I decided to do “the right thing” by not returning, as I reside 14 K from my course.
    More fool me, as it turned out.
    All my friends, bar one, who live further away than I do, returned on May 18th, as I, self appointed “decent citizen” waited until June 8th to return, after the 5 K limit was removed.
    I think it would be fairly accurate to say, that a large majority of golfers, travel to and from their clubs alone, leading to almost zero per cent chance of spreading the Corona Virus.
    On returning to golf, I witnessed exemplary behavior regarding social distancing, with members very aware of keeping their distance, both on the course, and in the pro shop.
    I feel that I am not alone in my frustration, as I watch sixteen players lock heads in a rugby scrum, or soccer players spitting and hugging during matches.
    These actions are apparently, safe, as they are deemed to be ” elite”
    Figure that one out !
    There are of course, much more important things in this life than a round of golf,people’s health being paramount, but in weighing up the dangers to society during this pandemic, I think that our government and their advisers have made many poor decisions.
    I am certain that ” Golfgate” starring “Big Phil” and his cohorts in Clifden, did not help the golfers of this island, when it came to deciding what sporting activities could continue during lockdown.
    Of course “Big Phil” became infamous when, during the water charges farce, when he threatened the country’s citizens by stating that he would “reduce water supplies to a trickle” if people refused to pay.
    Rather ironically, by his Clifden shenanigans, he has reduced our golf to a trickle instead !
    And finally.
    How is Europe treating you these days Big Phil….oops…sorry I forgot ! !

    1. Christy+mcg avatar

      Yes couldn’t agree more, but Phil and his gang caused the lockout not lockdown of golfers,and he certainly got his come upence when you see the delighted reaction of voters to his dimise as a politician, good riddence to him,,yes to see a scrum with players sweating and bleeding and somehow say this is safer then golf and to use the excuse these are elite sportsmen is beyond ridiculous,,explain that to me in a manner that makes sense and I’ll agree to stay at home forever,,yes we did break the travel restrictions but that was because it made perfect sense to travel on your own and play with excellent protocols in place which were proven to work,go shopping in any dunnes stores and see the close mixing then tell me it wasn’t safe to travel to golf,,,not a chance,,,as for the vaccines why are we starting with only the elderly surely it makes sense to start at both ends of the age spectrum and get younger people back to work,,AstraZeneca for the younger and pzifer for the elderly,,of which I am one,,if you need 2doses of the pzifer then its going to take twice as long to get younger people back to work whereas the elderly are not in a rush to work and the pzifer is as proven the best for the elderly with its first dose more effective then AstraZeneca, I will stand corrected on that statement,,so come on Irish golfers get texting and put pressure on whoever you think can get us back golfing in march and stop the mental torture that has befallen almost every golfer,,

  3. Richie avatar

    Well put Michael. A lot of good points. What difference if someone travels 20km or 5km to play golf or tennis ect. However the government does not have a good record of using common sense for these things. They have no problem letting large groups of people travel all over the country horse racing. The racing lobby are obviously much better at putting their case than Golf Ireland.

  4. Marie Farrell avatar

    as i live alone i am suffering mentally as we have no golf no contact with my golf buddies walking alone most days looking out the window the rest…Leo seems to have some compassion but Michael don’t trust him humming and hawing as usual i wait with abated breath the decision of this government is nonsense a lot of the time…putting the cart before the horse (again) not just in golf

  5. Jk avatar

    Jimmy fingers and toes crossed for March 5

  6. SMcL avatar

    The type of thinking that put us in the position that we experienced in the new year – establishing exceptions is a house of cards. Bravo to Golf Ireland and other representative bodies across sport and industry who have learned that noisy case making simply breeds dispute with ‘if them, why not us’. Of course we should encourage innovative thinking – urban spaces are busy and, as such, green spaces like golf courses should long ago have been opened as public amenities for walking and exercise within 5km limits. Hold your nerve folks – observe the rules, stay safe, be less worried about others and focus on personal responsibilities – and then we can all golf to our hearts content later this year.

  7. Michael Griffin avatar

    John shortt could not have put it better. I think all golf clubs need to reduce there membership fees for 2021 on account of not being able to play for so many months its not fair charging the same fee

    1. Joe Hanley avatar
      Joe Hanley

      Sorry Michael I don’t agree even though we have not been able to get out and play the maintenance of the course has to continue this is where our membership is going and remember with no green fees the club revenue is taking a big hit.
      If your a real Club Man you will be more than willing to pay your full membership.
      Or maybe your a golfer who moves from club to club when there’s an offer for new members.
      If this is not your position I apologies but you will see what I’m talking about.

  8. Jarlath donnellan avatar
    Jarlath donnellan

    Golf courses should open for members only and no competitions allowed. Also clubhouse/bar/restsurant should not be open. Guideline were not followed when clubhouse bars opened last time?

    1. Torlogh byrnes avatar
      Torlogh byrnes

      Why no competitions allowed?

  9. Daniel Tighe avatar
    Daniel Tighe

    Well said John, the mixed messaging and setting us up for disappointment is incredibly condescending. It’s time for some common sense and to allow safe outdoor pursuits to reconvene. It’s essential for the physical and mental well-being of many. I wish there was more sensible measured pushback against condescending government rhetoric. Happy to read this today 🙂

  10. Avril Mangan avatar
    Avril Mangan

    Golf should definitely resume. Safest sport out there. Also regarding the distance one travels,if you are a member you should be able to play. Maybe to ensure this happens, a petition to open should be organised. We are one of very countries that shut golf. Ludicrous. 3 stooges in government doesn’t help.

  11. Damien Mahony avatar
    Damien Mahony

    Open for members only,ooh the elitists are back yawwwwn

  12. Thomas J Kinane avatar
    Thomas J Kinane

    Agree with all,golf in it’s essence is a socially distant sport that proved to be easily controlled. With the extra time between tee times it proved even better round times and you were near nobody else other than your golf partners. Surely it’s better and easier than dodging all the walkers on the so called 5k limits and you almost always travel alone to and from the golf course. Need some common sense in the government but there’s very little there.

  13. Tom Halpin avatar

    I’m really disappointed with the response from Golf Ireland….nothing on their website to say what they are doing for the members or indeed if they have even engaged with the powers that be to push for the reopening of courses.

  14. Bernard Gibbons avatar
    Bernard Gibbons

    Well written John Short, and all of the content so true, will anyone listen? Will anyone do anything ?

  15. Denis avatar

    I think the GUI should make a very strong case to the Govt. to open up golf courses ASAP. Social distance, pre-booked times, members only, restaurants and bars only when all open and on on same basis. Wear a mask if the medical people say so. Just a long walk in the park chasing a small ball – what harm is that.

  16. Gerard Byrne avatar
    Gerard Byrne

    Round a round we go with this Conversation with no new results . Everyone is asking for common sense to be applied. But the one thing I learnt true my life is common sense is not very common in the Dial.
    Politicians only care how there perceived ie votes for or against and if we step back for a minute and take a wider look at what the politicians see . How many golfers are in Ireland and how many none golfers are there . From the politicians point of view if golf is allow then you could perceive that the none golfer would not be very happy watching there Neighbours going off care free playing endless rounds of golf and having a perceived great time . The politician sees more sad faces than happy what dose this mean to him VOTS . If everything was equal then Tony Houlahan should be demanding that golfers tennis players and any other sport that can be conducted safely in a controlled manner should go a head on health and safety grounds so as to alleviate pressure on our over crowded parks and walkways . This Explained and Implemented right would benefit the hole Community and help to drive down the extremely high numbers of civil 19 with a view to eradicating it all together .

  17. Bob avatar

    Excellent summary John Shortt along with very sensible comments from fellow golfers.
    Probably the most disappointing thing is the apparent lack of activity from golf Ireland. Apparent, because we have heard nothing from our so called leaders, the people who are supposed to represent the golfers throughout Ireland & are paid via our compulsory levy.
    Don’t be shy golf Ireland, tell us what you have been doing. Also tell us why we should continue to invest in what appears to be nothing more than a useless & toothless bureaucracy. Suggest you should refund our levies to reflect your dismal efforts. Also going forward perhaps we should redirect the golf Ireland levy equivalent instead, to our respective golf clubs. Im sure they would welcome the additional revenue & make good use of it as opposed to throwing it into the dark hole of Golf Ireland…..

  18. mick geary avatar
    mick geary

    when courses opened last time. it was a nightmare trying to get on timesheet..paying 1300eurs and cant get a game at the weekend. somebody mentioned about opening courses for the public to exercise. well i walked my course the other morning and i walked on dog shite. is this what we want to see on our course when we get back playing

  19. Hazel avatar

    Why is it called Golfgate? Playing golf was ok on that day…it was the meal after in the hotel with too many politicians eating in one room. If those guys had gone home after their round of golf this scenario wouldn’t have closed our golf clubs.
    Also why are we allowed to walk on our courses but not swing a club? I’m baffled!

  20. Barry Daly avatar
    Barry Daly

    For golf and tennis to return the Government have to lift the daft restriction that we are currently only permitted to ‘ exercise with one other person only outdoors and within 5k ‘ …..l am not sure they are going to do this as they are completely focused on the schools and builders returning first …… GUI / Golf Ireland really need to get on the case for us so that we dont conveniently get forgotten about ..

  21. Marie avatar

    Everyone should be allowed back 2 golf @same time – not just members living in.coumty of their club. Also levy should be abolished this year & sub reduced.
    Golfgate is the real problem.!
    What about people who do not play golf – doesn’t matter about them?

  22. GARY+STEWART avatar

    Well said , John Shortt. What does Mr. Mahony mean when he yawns that clubs should be open for members only? That’s why we pay our annual subs. I dont know what club Mr. Donnellan belongs to, but if he let’s us know, we can apply to have that club suspended for breaching the rules. Golf Ireland have a lot to answer for and I for one would gladly contribute their fees to my club. Maybe it’s something all club golfers should think about.

  23. Casey avatar

    A good article, John Shortt. But you failed to mention that in Scotland golf is allowed to be played in two balls only at ten minute intervals. And also mostly only for members of the club.
    I couldn’t see the members here in Ireland being compliant with that ruling!

  24. Thomas McGrath avatar
    Thomas McGrath

    I’m hoping really that courses are reopened on or before April 5th. It is a great past time for people of all abilities and ages. A great way to pass several hours, get some exercise and take in some nice scenery depending on where you are. I would love to play another competition even if I lose my balls and patience haha. Get in the hole!

  25. Graham avatar

    Hi fellow golfers, this pandemic has certainly opened our eyes to a lot of flaws in our organisation.
    1) Golf Ireland levy, needs to be looked at by all golf clubs. Change is needed
    2) I see some comments about people looking for refunds on green fees! Like most golf clubs we have captains and committee. Most of these people are working tirelessly in the background to make sure our Golf clubs are organized in professional and safe manner. They do this for free for the love of our beautiful game, to allow us just to book a tee time and play golf. Fair play to them all. Like you folks I hope we are back on the fairways soon eagles, birdies, pars boogies, double boogies and the rest.

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