Ireland issues five-phase plan for the reopening of golf clubs

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The governing golfing unions of Ireland have issued a five-phase plan for the resumption of golf which could see clubhouse restaurants and changing rooms reopening next month.

However, the restrictions in the first few weeks are stronger than had previously been suggested, as, for example, golf courses will only be allowed to have 60 players at one time with guidance that there should be limits on the number of rounds and even holes golfers can play per week.

In Ireland, golf courses will reopen on May 18, with restrictions for golfers and golf clubs that have been outlined in recent R&A guidance, such as gaps between tee times and advice on not touching flags

It’s not known yet when golf will return in the UK but a recent report in The Times suggested it will be the ‘end of May’ in a second phase of the easing of the lockdown restrictions, which should be detailed by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday, May 10.

The first phase of the plan from Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union kicks in on May 18, and the restrictions are quite stringent.

Golfers will have to be members of a club, they can only play at the club they are a member of, they will have to live within a 5km radius of their club and they can only play in a maximum of threeballs.

Golf courses will be limited to a maximum capacity of 55 per cent at any one time, which equates to a maximum of 60 players on the course. Golf clubs will be required to provide ‘on-course presence’ or ‘social distancing wardens’ to help with the enforcement of Covid-19 / coronavirus prevention measures.

All golf must be social as a return to competition golf will not be allowed until June 8, at which stage the travel limit is extended to 20km, while members will also be allowed to bring guests at that time and pro shops will be allowed to open for more than just check-ins.

By June 29, clubs will be permitted to hold open competitions. At this point, fourballs will also be allowed.

The five-phase plan from the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies’ Golf Union

Club facilities, including restaurants and locker rooms (for more than just the retrieval of equipment), may also reopen on June 29 while bars will be allowed to reopen in phase five on August 10.

This only applies to the Republic of Ireland.

The two unions have stated that “demand for golf may be high”. Therefore, they advise that clubs should consider the possibility of limiting play to nine holes or limiting golf to three times per week for members.

They warn that a reintroduction of lockdown measures could apply if golfers fail to adhere to the protocols.

“Members should be aware that these restrictions are not going to last forever, but must live within them and be patient while they are in place. This will be a gradual process and will be reliant to golf clubs and golfers observing this protocol,” they state.

All tee-times must be booked through online reservation and in addition clubs are asked to ensure on-course presence so that physical distancing measures are observed.

Meanwhile, The Scotsman has reported that when golf does return in Scotland, some clubs may restrict golfers to playing a maximum of once per week.

This is also due to expected high demand.

Some clubs are also ‘likely to limit play initially to single players and twoballs from the same household’.

“I think it is safe to say there will be an excess of demand over supply when the courses reopen,” said David Roy, manager of Crail Golfing Society. “Therefore, do we say to the members: ‘you are only going to get one single game in the week?’

“Every single club will have a bundle of members who want to play every single day in the year. We can’t have a situation where the place is being hogged by a handful of members. So, do we say in the first week, ‘you are only getting one game’ and just be prepared for the flak from that?

“Our feeling, and this comes from talking to as many people as possible at other local clubs, is that, regardless of what government restrictions come out, in the early phase we might insist on single players and twoballs from the same household.

“You wouldn’t want to have a situation where two players find themselves in the same group due to that being the only available time and a potential argument ensues because one of the players isn’t comfortable. It might be simpler in the first couple of weeks to say it’s single players only or two players from the same household.”

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