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Farewell Old Friend, Hope to See You Again Soon

By: | Wed 04 Nov 2020 | Comments

I said au revoir to an old friend today.

I awoke to a glorious, crisp autumn morning. There was frost on my car but not a cloud in the sky. I hadn’t planned to play golf but then I remembered that if I didn’t go out and hit a few golf balls today then I wouldn’t have the opportunity to do so again until the beginning of December at the earliest. And when the weather is the way it was today this is my favourite time to play golf.

I still can’t quite get my head around the logic of being allowed to mix with someone I don’t live with for a walk but not for 18 holes of golf. Consider the vast open expanses that golf courses occupy - there is no environment in which it is easier to apply proper social distancing. Every course in the land has put measures in place to ensure things are as safe as they can possibly be. And yet the Prime Minister has told us that, from November 5, all courses in England will have to shut. If you live in Scotland, where there is a five-tier system in place, you can still go out and play.

My work pattern means that I don’t normally start until 4pm so I decided to put my clubs in the car and head off for a quick nine holes. Surprisingly, I had no trouble booking a tee time. Even more surprisingly, the course and car park were near-deserted. There were a few people out there but nobody seemed to have much enthusiasm for what they were doing.

I play at a tree-lined course and although many leaves have now fallen, the colours are still magnificent. There wasn’t a breath of wind. The sky was blue and the sun was shining. I should have had a spring in my step, but I just couldn’t work up any enthusiasm and, quite frankly, I didn’t enjoy my experience very much. Perhaps because my mind was elsewhere I actually played pretty well, but I derived little pleasure from it.

(Golf Courses Will Close in England)

Like so many of you, I play golf first and foremost for the social interaction it provides, and for the positive feelings of mental wellbeing it gives me.

For me, there is nothing to beat the feeling of being out in the fresh air in the company of like-minded people. I love sitting in the clubhouse after a round and enjoying the banter. Back in the day, the discussions in my circle revolved around fast cars and work. Now, we seem to do little else but compare notes regarding various health ailments - knee and hip replacements, aching backs. But there is always an element of mickey-taking and an ability to laugh at ourselves.

Today the atmosphere in the clubhouse was funereal. Laughter? Mickey-taking? Not a chance. I can’t help but feel sorry for all the staff - at every golf club they have all worked so hard to get courses ready for play, to make clubhouses safe and to welcome back golfers. And now they will pull down the shutters and wonder when they will be back in work again.

I only stayed for a pint and wished those who were there all the best, told them to stay safe and headed back to my car feeling as flat as a pancake. Who knows when I will have the chance to get back out there again, to enjoy my old friend?

This is the second time this year that our golf courses have had to put up the ‘Closed’ signs and it is desperately depressing. We have seen a boom in playing numbers but you have to ask just how many courses are going to be able to survive the pandemic? Yes, there is financial help available but how many body blows can our sport sustain?

The worst thing of all is that I cannot help but feel that this lockdown will be extended. Nobody really knows at this point what impact this has had on the mental health of the millions of people who are now working from home, as well as those who have lost their jobs. 

We are social animals. We are not designed to live in isolation. Don’t get me wrong. I fully understand that we are in the middle of a killer pandemic the likes of which none of us has ever lived through. We were warned that if there was a second wave it was likely to be more deadly than the first, and all the evidence suggests that is precisely what is happening.

And yet still there are people who refuse to wear face masks, who refuse to obey the rules of social distancing. When all is said and done, the closure of golf courses matters little in the grand scheme of things but that doesn’t stop me feeling desperately sad that it has come to this once again.

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