Guidance Revealed For When Golf Does Resume
In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, golfers and venues in the UK have been searching for answers on how the game could return safely in the present climate, but forever being carefully mindful of social distancing measures implemented by the government.
Now, led by The R&A, governing bodies across the industry have revealed essential guidance on how golf should be played once current restrictions begin to be lifted.
Determining the best method of delivering 'safe golf' in the face of COVID-19 will require local factors to be considered and the setup of a particular club, but leading figures in the sport have identified five key areas that need uniformly addressed.
However, it should be noted that this information does not suggest that a decision is imminent, but rather that when that call is made, everyone will be ready for the moment when golf resumes across the country.
You can see the full document from The R&A here, but below are the key recommendations that are to be followed.
Course Set Up
- All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed.
- Ball washers and drinking fountains to be covered up.
- Benches and bins to be removed, covered or sign-posted in such a way that players don’t touch them.
- All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions.
- Flagsticks can be retained but it is strongly recommended that a sign is put on the flagstick stating that it is not to be touched.
- A method of inserting the hole liner to be used that means that all of the ball does not fall below the surface of the putting green and can be easily retrieved by handling the ball only.
- Practice areas, including practice nets, to be closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.
Before the Round
- Clubs/facilities to organise a system of booking and allocation of tee times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers.
- The maximum number of golfers in a group per tee time to be confirmed by the club/facility and must be in accordance with any government requirements.
- There is to be a minimum of 10 minute intervals between tee times, but longer intervals may be more appropriate depending on the club/facility.
- The clubhouse and locker room facilities will be closed. Limited essential access (for example to use the toilets) may be allowed by the club/facility.
- Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the club/facility, for example not leaving cars until a certain time before their tee time.
- Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place to ensure social distancing requirements in the area of the professional’s shop or starter’s building in advance of golfers teeing off.
- No trolleys, carts or other items to be available for hire unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.
- Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green, for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to tee off.
During the Round
- Remind golfers to keep 2 metres apart at teeing areas due the normal close proximity of golfers to one another when tee shots are being played.
- Remind golfers to stay more than 2 metres apart when walking to the ball, searching for a ball and playing shots.
- Remind golfers not to touch stray balls.
- With no rakes allowed on the course, remind golfers to make their very best efforts to smooth the sand using their club and/or their feet.
- Remind golfers to keep 2 metres apart on the putting greens and not to touch the flagstick.
After the Round
- Remind golfers that social distancing is as important after a round as it is during the round, so when the round is over they must leave the course and the club/facility immediately so that there are no gatherings around the clubhouse area.
Rules of Golf Related Matters
- It is recommended that non-competition play is used during the initial period of golf being played, and that stroke play competitions involving players in different groups are avoided.
- If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be used that does not require any handling or exchanging of scorecards.
- Committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in stroke play that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b. For example:
- Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is not necessary for a marker to do it).
- It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place.
- It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.
- As provided in the Rules of Golf, scorecards can be electronic, which could include emailing or texting scores to the Committee.
- If golfers take due care when smoothing bunkers, there should be no need to provide a Local Rule for bunkers. But if the Committee feels that the enjoyment of the game is being significantly affected by there being no rakes, it may introduce preferred lies in bunkers and provide that a player may place a ball in the bunker within one club-length of the original spot and not nearer to the hole than that spot.
- Golfers are required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times and not to touch it. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule.
- As a temporary provision, flagsticks can be used for the purpose of player safety which do not meet the specifications in Part 8 of the Equipment Rules.
- The hole liner (sometimes referred to as the hole ‘cup’) is to be set in a way that means that all of the ball cannot be below the surface of the putting green, so the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the surface of the putting green.
- To minimise the need to lift the ball from the hole, it is recommended that the Committee provides that a ball is holed with the next stroke if it is within 12 inches of the hole (which is just over the length of a standard putter grip). This does not prevent a player in match play conceding a stroke that is outside this length.
- The Committee may decide to have the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treat a ball as holed if it strikes the liner.
BGIA, Foremost, GCMA, The PGA, TGI Golf Partnership and the UK Golf Federation have all contributed to the guidelines, while BIGGA has outlined the recommendations for greenkeepers and the maintenance of golf courses, something that will prove to be a challenge before their eventual reopening.
While there is yet no official sign as to when golf may resume in the UK, these plans will help to ensure that the industry is ready, that golfers and staff can be involved safely, and it's a positive move that will certainly be welcomed by the millions who play the game in the British Isles.
Now we have a definitive idea for what golf will look like when lockdown procedures are lessened. What do you think?
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