What the New COVID-19 Rules Mean for Golfers
HERE we go again. As Covid-19 continues to run rampant in the UK, new Government restrictions have been imposed - and the rules are changing on an almost daily basis. We now have three areas of risk - medium, high and very high. And they are going to impact on our lives once again, and on the way we play golf.
Confusingly, the rules vary between England, Wales and Scotland. We are going to try to explain what it all means for you, but please bear in mind that this is a fluid situation and things can change quickly.
In England the new Covid alert levels will determine what happens at your club, and how it will impact upon you.
In areas categorised as being medium risk you will now be unable to mix in groups larger than six either in your clubhouse or outdoors.
Golfers and visitors will only be able eat food and have a drink while seated and a 10pm curfew applies to clubhouses. You must wear a face covering in the clubhouse, except while eating and drinking, and should, of course, continue to follow social distancing rules.
Locker rooms should be closed except for allowing use of toilets, hand-wash basins and the retrieval of stored items.
For areas where there is a higher level of infections, additional restrictions are now in operation. High-risk level areas include the North East of England, much of the North West and parts of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, West and South Yorkshire. Golfers living in these areas will no longer be allowed to socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.
(It's an Evolving Picture for Golfers)
For now at least, golf is still allowed to take place outdoors. People can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but are advised to reduce the number of journeys where possible.
For areas that have a Very High level of coronavirus infections - and that means Liverpool - golf is still allowed. The Government says that restrictions in place in areas with a very high level of infections can vary, and are based on discussions between central and local government, so keep an eye on your local news.
It means you cannot socialise with anybody you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden, or at most outdoor hospitality venues and ticketed events. People also can’t meet in a group of more than six in an outdoor public space. If somebody is not in your bubble, you will not be able to play golf with them.
Clubhouses will only be able to remain open if they serve food and will only be allowed to serve alcohol with a meal, so that means you will not be able to pop in for a pint after you have played.
Clearly, golfers should avoid travelling outside the Very High alert level area they are in or entering a Very High alert area, and are being told to avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK.
And the advice is for people from other areas not to stay overnight in a Very High alert level area, which will almost certainly impact upon those of you who might be considering golf breaks in such areas.
Pro shops can remain open, with mandatory wearing of face coverings, and clubs have a legal obligation to collect track and trace information on all visitors to the clubhouse.
(Different Rules Exist Across the UK)
In Scotland, golf continues, with up to four players from four different households allowed to play together. There are no changes to access to toilet facilities, locker rooms or professional shops.
Pubs and restaurants in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire, Lothian and Forth Valley have now all been ordered to close for all but takeaway customers. In other parts of Scotland, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes can operate from 6am to 6pm but cannot serve alcohol indoors during that time. These premises can sell alcohol outdoors until 10pm.
Rules on gatherings remain the same with a maximum of six people from two households permitted.
A statement from Scottish Golf said: “Scottish Golf has been in ongoing dialogue with our partners at Sport Scotland and the Scottish Government to seek further clarity on the licensing of premises and how this might impact our affiliated clubs.
“Individual premises will need to act in accordance with the current guidance in place based on their existing license. As the type of license can vary from club to club, we would encourage all clubs to make contact with their local authority and environmental health team who will be able to further advise on the type of license your clubhouse has.”
In Wales, tighter restrictions were introduced in September that meant a maximum of six people from the extended household bubble were allowed to meet indoors at any one time.
That rule applied in clubhouses, including restaurant and bar facilities, but children under 11 were not counted as one of the six people.
It became compulsory for those over 11 to wear a face covering in public indoor spaces such as pro shops and clubhouses but were not required for customers in clubhouse bar or restaurant areas.
However, further restrictions have now been brought into force across much of the country, including Wrexham, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil, Bridgend, Newport, Llanelli, Cardiff and Swansea.
People are now not allowed to enter or leave those areas without good reason and can only meet with people they don’t live with outdoors.
Licensed premises, including pubs and clubhouses, must stop serving alcohol at 10pm.
A Wales Golf statement said: “Wales Golf would like to remind clubs and golfers that people cannot travel into or out of a restricted area for sport, as this is not a ‘reasonable excuse’ to enter or leave the area. Travel within a local lockdown area to a golf club is permissible providing you are a resident of that area.”
It is a complicated picture and a reminder to us all that Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon.
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