Over the past couple of weeks I have been seeing a movement on social media campaigning for UK golf courses to be opened for play, but there is still far too much risk involved by doing that, writes PGA Fellow Professional Ash Weller.
It seems to be driven in the main by folk now resident in the United States asking us to ‘do what we are doing’ and one sage even urging us to lobby our MP to allow us to start playing golf again.
The main arguments seem to be:
> According to the Government it is safe to shop, it is safe to walk in the park but it is not safe to play golf, and that is wrong.
> If the clubhouse remains shut golfers drive to the course, play golf and drive straight home.
> Play in 1 or 2 balls at 10-20 minute intervals, social distancing to be maintained at all times.
> Private courses only so no money needs to change hands.
> As opposed to a walk in the park a walk round a golf course is a structured route therefore ensuring less chance of encounters with other golfers.
> It is ‘essential’ because many people rely on golf for their mental health.
> Hole cups can be raised and flagsticks must be left in to avoid cross-contamination.
According to this, us poor deprived golfers are having our rights to exercise whilst knocking a ball round the course taken away from us and we should be allowed to return to our courses immediately.
Now, I fully appreciate that we have just come through the most horrendously wet winter for years and a large number of courses had been closed for weeks, and now COVID-19 has wreaked its own brand of havoc and we are once again being denied the right to golf.
However, I rely on golf for my income and I have watched my entire year’s work be cancelled as both Tours I work for have suspended all their tournaments. Therefore, the sooner we get golfing again the sooner I can start to recover financially.
But please bear with me on this one...
It is not deemed ‘safe’ to shop, it is deemed essential, and if people obey the social distancing guidelines and the instructions of the staff then it will be as safe as possible.
Walking in the park is safe as long as the guidelines are again followed, it is part of the allowed exercise and we should avoid driving to the point of exercise if at all possible.
Apart from journeys to work (if necessary), we should all be staying at home and helping to minimise the spread of the virus.
Now I am going to use my local course as an example.
Currently, there are three members of staff only who attend site, namely the GM, the maintenance man and the Head Greenkeeper.
The first two attend only when necessary for security checks and essential maintenance.
The Head Greenkeeper is there doing basic mowing, keeping the greens long to protect them and doing vital spraying and repair work following all the wet weather.
The course is in ‘hibernation’, nowhere near where it needs to be for regular play but being kept ready for when that time is announced.
If play resumes the full greenkeeping team will be mobilised and will have to drive to work, increasing risk. The course will have to be marshalled to ensure golfers are abiding by the rules, entailing more travel and more risk.
Then the golfers will travel to the golf club, again more travel and more risk. Let’s not underestimate this risk – any unnecessary increase in road traffic is just what the emergency services don’t need when they and the wonderful NHS staff need to be fully focussed on fighting the virus.
Finally, and importantly, we are fighting to rid golf of its stuffy, middle-class and elitist image, yet there are calls for us poor golfers to be allowed back to play on our courses whilst most other sports are in full lockdown. Damaging at best.
We are perfectly capable of walking for exercise as per the current guidelines so let’s sit tight and soon enough we will be allowed to return to the sport we all love. Support the NHS, stay at home and protect lives.