Golf To Resume In England - But What Does That Mean?

By: Golfshake Editor | Mon 11 May 2020 | Comments

Following Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Sunday announcement of changes to lockdown measures in England, the golf industry sought further clarification from government as to how these alterations would impact them, with courses permitted to reopen from Wednesday, 13 May.

There had been initial confusion, but now more detail has been revealed jointly by the governing bodies, including The R&A and England Golf.

Included within the statement, it says:

"Under new government rules released today (11 May), the following groupings will be permitted upon resumption of play:

  • Individuals playing golf on their own.
  • Two-balls comprising of individuals from different households
  • At the discretion of the golf club, members of the same household playing in two, three or four-balls.

"Social distancing rules must be strictly adhered to at all times."

Previously, the relevant bodies had unveiled detailed guidance on the form that golf should take when permitted to resume, which detail social distancing and reduction of contact measures for the setup of courses, for golfers before and during playing their round, and for the management of tee times and rules. Common sense is the key point.

Specifically, most relevant to golfers, these included:

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.

This has been a challenging period for the industry, with little notice about the imminent reopening on Wednesday, and further clarity is still required on professional shops, driving ranges and the delivery of club fitting and coaching sessions, in addition to further advice on visitor, pay and play golf, something that won't initially return in Ireland, which has outlined detail for its planned return on May 18.

It's likely that not every club will be ready to open on Wednesday, and many venues will have to consider the financial impact of opening without visitor revenue, but the vast majority will seek to implement the guidance outlined. However, golfers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will have to wait a little longer, with devolved governments yet to change their lockdown measures, but the golf bodies in each nation will closely watch the events in England this week and beyond, analysing how successful the reopening is.

If you do manage to secure a tee time this week, stay alert, play well, and enjoy your round. Don't forget to submit your first score back in the Golfshake Score Tracker!

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