Golfers in England React to First Rounds Back
READY! STEADY! GO! And off we went. Not exactly golf as we know it, but golf nevertheless. The game we all love reopened in England, with Wales following next week.
Not every course in the country chose to open their doors but as the days pass, increasing numbers will do so.
It is a very different game to the one we left on March 23. Those of you who were actually able to book a tee time - and many couldn’t - were only able to play with members of your own household or with one other person. So, the good news is that friendships were renewed, but from a distance of two metres.
You all had to turn up in the car park ready to go, changing into your golf shoes, reporting to the club pro and then heading to the first tee. You played 18 holes on courses without bunkers rakes and without proper holes - they were either filled in or upturned. And sme chose to remove all flags. And when you finished, you were able only to visit the toilet - where you should have found plenty of hand sanitiser and disposable hand towels - before climbing into your car and heading home.
And many thousands of you did precisely that - such was the demand for online tee times that the system collapsed. Salad days indeed. And long may that continue. England Golf also reported a record amount of traffic on its website, where help and guidance is available.
So, did you enjoy the experience?
We asked some of our ambassadors a series of questions. Here are their responses:
Who did you play with? Was it everything you hoped it might be? How did you play? Do you care how you played?
Matt Holbrook: "I played with my pal and professional Sam Forgan, and the course was superb (a lot better than I had expected!). My game was rusty, even though I have been able to hit irons during my time away. My woods were rusty, just as I expected. I only managed to find three fairways - not that I was really too bothered with how I played - it just felt amazing to be back out."
Kevin Paver: "Wednesday morning. First round back, and how good it felt! As I was at work, I had to play at 7am. I was actually awake at 5am in anticipation! The good thing about playing at 7am, meant that I was first out and as I was also playing on my own, so it would mean a fairly quick round of golf. Before playing, I wasn't really too fussed about my score. I've done some practice during lockdown, but not a lot. I've worked on my swing speed with the SwingSpeedGolf trainer, but other than that I have mostly spent my time chipping in the garden or putting on my mat. So, expectations were low!"
Robert Cross: "I played with a really good friend Iain McMillan (IMac). We are both part of a 20 strong group at The Millbrook (The Rollers) and today we had 12 or so members out on the course at some point."
How busy was your course? Did everybody follow the rules regarding social distancing? Did you follow the rules regarding social distancing? Was hand sanitiser widely available?
MH: "The course was busy in the sense that there was a steady flow of golfers playing. All tee times from 5am were taken but there were no golfers congregating in the car park or practice facilities. We stayed two metres apart from each other and touched nothing apart from our own clubs and balls, it also seemed that others were sticking to social distancing. That being said, because of the 10-minute tee intervals, everyone was evenly spread out and we didn't really see the two-ball in front or behind.
"I believe there was some hand sanitiser in the main entrance of the club that is only open for access to the disabled toilet, but I didn't check. We were also met on the first tee by a ‘starter' (something which we don't usually have) who talked us through some of the changes on the course and welcomed us back to the club and also thanked us for our support."
KP: "As I arrived at the course, it was very quiet... but I was there early. Some club staff were there just to make sure everyone was adhering to the new rules, and everywhere was well signed around the clubhouse. The clubhouse and toilets remained closed, as was the pro shop. The people I did see, seemed to be following the rules, although I still saw a few people definitely getting closer than 2m!"
RC: "The course was busy, almost at full capacity, with two-balls spread at 10-minute intervals off the 1st and 10th tees, between 7am and 6pm. But it didn't "feel" busy, we teed off late and managed to get a few extra holes in. EVERYBODY followed the rules. I get the feeling that as golfers we've missed the opportunity to play and don't want to "mess this up". I didn't see any hand sanitiser but took my own."
There have been reports of online booking systems crashing. How difficult or easy was it for you to book a tee-time? How many tee-times did you book?
MH: "It was fairly easy due to the fact I stayed up until the tee times were available to be booked at midnight. They do go pretty quick and the app was fairly slow but is to be expected. We have been limited to one round every 72 hours for the time being."
KP: "At my club Howley Hall, they are allowing you to book 48 hours in advance and releasing tee times at 6pm daily. They are also asking those who can play during the week to do so and leave the weekend times for those that are working... sensible strategy by the club. When I booked, I had my suspicions that the online booking system wouldn't cope. But actually, it wasn't too bad at all. It was slightly slow at the point of booking, but that was it."
RC: "Our club use BRS either directly, or through the HowDidIDo Club V1 app. We had been told not to book on consecutive days (this would be managed day to day), and that bookings would be allowed 48 hrs before the day. However, being opportunistic we actually managed to book Wed, Friday, and Sunday, which confused us, later to find out the BRS has crashed and allowed everyone to book ahead. Luckily, no visitors booked, and all was OK."
Have all bunker rakes been removed, and were all holes filled in? Were you allowed to play all 18 holes, or were you restricted to nine holes?
MH: "We were allowed to play all 18 holes. No course furniture at all, rakes, benches, bins, ball washers etc. We have a lifting mechanism on the flag sticks which allow us to retrieve the ball using our putters. The white tees had been removed so only yellow and red tees available."
KP: "All in all, it was so good to be back on the course and it was certainly helped by the fact that my game was actually in good shape too! Yes, play is slightly different (no rakes in bunkers, foam washers around the flags, staying distanced from others etc etc), but for 18 holes, it was pure joy!"
RC: "Our bunkers were GUR, as with GUR you can choose to play if you wish. All rakes removed. Bookings restricted to nine holes, opportunities to continue depending on traffic."
Bearing in mind that your course will have been closed since March 23, what sort of condition is it in? Were the greens as you remember them? Were you able to access the toilets? How have they changed since you last used them?
MH: "The course was in superb condition. A credit to the greenkeepers. It is worth remembering that the last time I played golf (on March 19, we were still pick-and-placing balls and playing off mats on the par 3s). The course had just started to turn good from what was a really wet winter so to come back to the course as good as it was felt amazing and a real treat."
KP: "Our club had furloughed some green staff and, as with many other courses, were focusing on general maintenance. We also had a new head greenkeeper start the week before lockdown... so far from ideal for him and his team. But huge credit to them. I know they have been flat out for the past two days preparing the course for play, and it was superb. Maybe it felt better as the last time we played it was still pretty wet and very wintery!"
RC: "Course was pretty wet during Jan and Feb after record rainfall. So, the break had given it chance to dry up. In general, it was in good condition. The greens were seeding and very slow, but we spoke to our GM in passing and he said they were very long until a few days ago, so they need to be brought down in stages. (I putted terribly!) Didn't use any facilities, but I believe the toilets are open. I have to say that I feel my club have handled this return really well, allowing everyone the opportunity to play initially, getting things up and running but being flexible as well. We hope to be back playing 18 holes at the weekend, but worst case is next week."
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