Golf Ireland Sets Out Roadmap For Return Of Play
THE Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) has announced how the sport is going to look when it returns on May 18 - and it is rather different from what we expected.
It had been widely rumoured that only two-balls would be allowed but club members will be able to play in three-balls at 14-minute intervals, two-balls over 12-minute intervals or as individual players every 10 minutes.
It is part of a five-phase plan for golf's return in Ireland. The GUI and the Irish Ladies Golf Union have urged golfers to follow the protocols in their five-phase plan, which has been unveiled after consultation between the GUI and the Irish government, which has released its roadmap for reopening society and businesses.
"As one of the first sports to be allowed to resume, there is a major responsibility on golf clubs and golfers to ensure that our sport is conducted in a safe and responsible manner," the Unions said in a statement. "Full adherence to the provisions of this protocol is absolutely essential.
“The Government continues to monitor the situation closely and have not ruled out the reintroduction of restrictions which could see golf clubs closed once again if the protocol is not followed."
Competitive golf is still a long way off, with only "casual golf” being played by groups of no more than three members until phase two begins on June 8, when closed club competitions will return.
During phase one, only golfers who live within five kilometres of a golf club will be permitted to play. This will be extended to 20km on June 8, with courses finally expected to open for visitors on June 29.
The third phase may see open competitions return on June 29 while booking tee times for all five phases must be done in advance online or by telephone.
Clubhouses will remain closed with pro-shops opening for check-ins, while locker rooms will reopen for retrieval of golf equipment. Toilet facilities will also reopen.
The Unions stressed that the onus is on golfers to demonstrate that golf can return in a "safe, socially distant manner" while admitting that the sport is in a "very privileged position to be allowed to return at this stage."
They also urged people who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms to stay away from the golf course and clubhouse. "All clubs, golfers and staff have a shared responsibility to ensure the protocol is adhered to," read the statement.
"We ask that clubs pledge their commitment to implementing the protocol by signing up using the link sent by email to the club. We are aware that there are several other unofficial guidelines in circulation. These documents have not been reviewed by the relevant government departments and state agencies. Therefore, golf clubs and golfers must exclusively adhere to the protocol as published by the GUI and ILGU.
"The ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency remains our primary concern and overriding priority. The Unions acknowledge the tremendous efforts of all frontline workers which has allowed golf and society in general to consider this gradual return to normal life.” Meanwhile, Scottish Golf has urged clubs not to reopen until lockdown restrictions are lifted - this comes after some clubs told members they planned to reopen.
Scottish Golf says such reports are disappointing and reiterates that there has been no agreement about a safe resumption. It has been suggested that golf would be one of the first activities to be permitted when restrictions are eased.
"I appreciate the frustrations but we ask all golfers to show patience," said Scottish Golf's Karin Sharp. "Golf is a sport where integrity and rules sit at the very heart of the game and we ask all golfers to respect the position of Scottish Government."
Scottish Golf says it will remain in talks with ministers about when the sport can return safely.
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