“Dark” since March 23, golf in England is on its way back. At least in four-part section bits. While courses in Northern Ireland and Scotland will remain closed, courses in England will reopen on Wednesday, with Wales expected to follow on May 18. That will no doubt be a relief at the Llanmynech Golf Club. The course in which former Masters champion Ian Woosnam spent his formation years had 15 holes in Wales and three in England.
As is the case in the United States as a condition for reopening, social distance and other restrictions will be imposed – not touching the flagpole, smoothing sand in the bunker with legs, clubhouses and professional shops closed. While initial reports say that golfers in England can only play alone or with members of the same household (those who have been quarantined), according to England Golf, one person from a different household will be allowed in the group. But most places will insist on pre-ordering tee time, with players encouraged to arrive shortly before they start, then leave immediately after the round is over.
All of that sounds fair enough, especially for those who lack golf for almost two months. But others have shown that such plans have little or no resolution to the problems being faced by many golf clubs in the UK, Solo golfers or those who play with family members will not make money for the club, which may have to maintain their program to a level that has not been long needed. Inevitably, it will involve additional costs.
All of the above happened at the behest of the British government led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. But north of the border, Scottish Golf followed instructions from local authorities, especially Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, who preached a more cautious approach. (The health and sports administration was delegated from the UK government based in London to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh).
“Removing the ‘stay at home’ message can confuse people,” Sturgeon said, explaining the government’s position. “Extreme caution is needed at this critical time to avoid the rapid awakening of the virus. It’s no exaggeration to say that the present decision is a matter of life and death. That is why they weigh very, very hard and why they must be taken very carefully, and that is why when I drink it, I will continue to err on the side of caution. “
So, when Scotland enters its eighth week of “lockdown,” all programs will remain closed, at least in the short term.
“We continue to have direct and regular contact with the Scottish government and remain in the planning stages to return to golf,” said a Scottish Golf spokesman. “We will be guided by the Scottish government when golf returns, while also keeping in close contact with all our partners from the entire golf industry in the UK and Ireland.”
As in the United States, different rules for different parts of the UK have led to endless debate. And, as in the U.S., almost every option from anger to complete acceptance is represented. Some even see both sides of the argument.
“At this time, we are told that playing golf is not safe,” said a golf club owner in Scotland, who asked not to be named. “I feel frustrated when I feel that. Why can you take a walk on the field with your dog, but you can’t play golf? That makes no sense to me.
“Then again, from a business perspective, I do not want our facilities to be open if they are not completely safe for staff,” he continued. “I’m not sure I would love to go back to working in my current course. It costs us money, but let it be. It’s better to be a little too careful than to return too early. So I’m in both camps. I love going out to play with friends me today. But I understand why we don’t do it. If it’s not safe, I don’t want to do it. “
However, there may be no implication from this contrasting situation that is more acute than in the Border region in southern Scotland. Take the Eyemouth Golf Club in Berwickshire. Only nine miles separate the (closed) field from the Magdalene Fields Golf Club (open), which is located just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed and, more importantly, right inside England. Such a situation clearly has dire financial implications for the affected club.
“Many clubs at Borders are struggling,” said Ian Ford, the 1977 British Boys champion and former captain of the Kelso Golf Club, which is only ten miles from the British border. “I know many people who have not paid their annual subscriptions. More than 50 in Kelso are in that position. I understand where they come from. They are waiting to see what will happen. And they wonder if they will have work at the end of all this. But that is around £ 20,000 the club has lost, at a time when we have no income at all. “
The amount becomes much greater when considering the economic impact on the course where visitors provide a large portion of annual income. For example, those who make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews generates 90 percent of the traffic on the lane and usually carries around £ 10 million a year. Most occur in the high season between April and October. So with little prospect of international visitors this year, it’s a big financial hole to fill the Home of Golf.
There is also concern, that, while most players will adhere to the new guidelines, some will show off rather than follow. That is why, in Germany, strict guidelines and penalties are imposed.
Players are asked to record time – for two couples playing nine holes – the day before they want to tee up, at a minimum. Each caller must speak with a club representative, where the rules and penalties are set out. Both must arrive 10 minutes before their time, then leave 10 minutes after they finish playing. If they do not appear, they will be barred from ordering for a period of one week. And if they fail to appear a second time, they will be suspended from the club for a month. The third violation means they will not play again until 2021.
There is more. If anyone breaks a social rule, the club will be fined € 400 for the first offense. The second offense is accompanied by a € 5,000 fine. And if it happens for the third time, the course is closed for the rest of the year.
However, across the Irish Sea from Great Britain, there is happier news. Courses in the Republic of Ireland are scheduled to open on a limited basis on May 18. In the first phase of the five-point plan, members who live within five kilometers of their club will be able to play in three balls at 14-minute intervals, two balls during 12-minute intervals, or as individual players every 10 minutes. If that goes well, the club’s competition will return June 8, with the “inclusion zone” extended to 20 kilometers. Visitors will be allowed to play starting June 29. Restrictions will continue to relax until – if all goes well – something similar to “normal” life with all open facilities will resume on 10 August.
That all sounds straightforward, but the complicated problem – at least in the short term – is that many clubs in northern Ireland have members living in Northern Ireland. So, while those who live in the Republic more than 5 kilometers from their home club will lose the opportunity to play, members who live in the British-run part of Emerald Isle will be free to drive from further distances and tee-up. .
Hey, nobody says all this will be easy or direct, no matter where you live.