Advisory note regarding planning for the reopening of golf courses

Guidance produced by the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA)...

Advisory note regarding planning for the reopening of golf courses
Advisory note regarding planning for the reopening of golf courses

Golf courses in the mainland United Kingdom have remained closed ever since the Government announced lockdown restrictions on 23 March, writes BIGGA. With a falling infection rate and an increasing desire to enable access to forms of exercise outside, it is anticipated that authorisation could be given for golf clubs to reopen in the near future.

Recently, BIGGA has been contacted by many members and golf club professionals who are eager for answers to the following questions: When will golf courses in the UK be allowed to open, and when will facilities get much notice to enable them to plan for opening?

Advisory note regarding planning for the reopening of golf courses

As of 4 May, BIGGA has had no official guidance from government about either topic. However, golfers are eager to get back out on the course and golf facilities will reopen to the public eventually.

Therefore, the association is advising golf clubs and course managers to plan for two potential scenarios:

1) Golf courses may receive permission to open at very short notice, perhaps even overnight
2) Golf facilities may be given 1-2 weeks’ notice to prepare for opening

Given both these potential situations, course managers are advised to put plans in place that would enable the facility to resume business in a timely fashion. These should be circulated to line managers/employers.

The plans should include the following considerations:

Course preparation

In light of there having only been limited ‘essential maintenance’ conducted since the measures were introduced it is likely that additional activity will need to effected quickly to render the course ready for play. 

Questions you should consider:

1) What tasks will need to be carried out to get the course ready for play?
2) How long will this take with the resources currently available?

The answers to these questions should include:

> A ‘worst case’ scenario, such as the course being opened for play the following day
> A ‘best case’ scenario detailing how long it will take with current resources to get the course to something like a ‘normal’ condition
> An explanation of what golfers can expect to encounter around the course, such as different conditions and local rules

This information will give general managers/owners an understanding of when it is possible to open the course in the event of a sudden announcement or how much preparation time is needed if more notice is given. With this information to hand, some facilities may choose to delay opening, in order to get the course and necessary management systems in order.

Plans for the team

If you have furloughed staff, put together a plan that will show if and when you need them to return. Even though courses are reopening, it may not be appropriate or practicable to bring the entire team back to work at once. 

Consider how many staff you will need to maintain course condition. It is unclear how long the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furloughing) will continue, but reduced income may require golf facilities to utilise this scheme indefinitely, with some staff remaining at home. This will have an impact on productivity and detail should be provided to line managers/owners about what that means.

Advisory note regarding planning for the reopening of golf courses

Necessary access to the course

Evidence from other countries and UK dependencies, where courses have reopened, suggests that demand for golf will be very high. 

For matters of safety and to ensure essential maintenance continues, it is important that agreed times are set aside when greenkeepers have priority. It is essential that golfers strictly adhere to this.

Factors to consider:

> Golf to be prohibited before a given time each day
> Strictly limit the number of starting points for golf
> Scheduled course closures
> Agree a pace of play schedule, especially for early in the day, so golfers don’t catch up with greenkeepers
> Split greenkeeping shifts to maximise the time available for course maintenance during the day

This guidance is not intended to be exhaustive and is provided solely to provide a basis for thought and discussion to ensure a safe and timely return to playing conditions on the course.

For more information please visit the BIGGA website

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