May 29 set as target date for Scottish golf courses to reopen

Final decision will be subject to First Minister's confirmation

A greenkeeper getting Carrick Knowe, one of Edinburgh Leisure's venues, ready for the reopening of golf courses, which will be part of phase one of the Scottish Government's lockdown exit route map. Picture: SNS

Scottish golf courses will be given the green light reopen a week on Friday, subject to final confirmation by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon next Thursday.

Confirmation about a planned reopening date for the 550-odd courses in the home of golf following an eight-week shut down due to the coronavirus was delivered by Scottish Golf.

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It came a few hours after the First Minister had announced that golf, tennis bowls and angling had been included among the outdoor sports activities being allowed in phase one of the Scottish Government's lockdown route map.

Play will be allowed in two balls, which may consist of people from different households, and also in groups of up to four but from only two households at the discretion of individual clubs.

Tee time intervals will also be at the discretion of the club while travel to the course should be within the local vicinity, noted as broadly around five miles in the Scottish Government's four-phase route map.

Casual play only is recommended in the first instance to allow all membership categories the opportunity for play while clubhouse facilities must remain closed for the time being.

The date has been set to allow clubs to prepare to welcome back members, but it needs to be rubber-stamped by Sturgeon when she delivers the next official review of the lockdown restrictions next Thursday.

In a letter to clubs, Scottish Golf's chief operating officer Karin Sharp said: "We have been working with sportscotland and the government to ensure that golf aligns with the guidelines laid out for phase one easing of the current lockdown restrictions.

"Whilst I know that in many people’s eyes this should have been a straightforward process, it certainly has not been the case, but I am delighted that we now have the opportunity to share with you the guidelines for the safe return of golf across Scotland.

"There are aspects of the document that refer to direct government advice e.g travel restrictions, physical distancing, risk groups and any changes to those policies will be for clubs and individual golfers to ensure they are adhering to.

"I must stress that these guidelines are shared with the assumption that there is no change made in the government’s stated position on easing of restrictions.

"It should be noted that a final decision will be made by the First Minister on 28 May and if any changes to the current procedures are required to align with updates provided by Scottish Government then these will be shared with you as soon as they are known to ensure re-opening plans can be updated or adjusted accordingly."

Courses in Scotland have been closed since the lockdown restrictions were introduced on 23 March. But they have now been given the green light to fall in line with venues elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.

"Based on the above, if they choose to do so, clubs may now prepare their course and their membership for play to commence on 29 May," added Sharp, who took over the reins of the governing body last month following chief executive Andrew McKinlay's sudden departure.

"I hope that in giving a week’s notice, this will give clubs time to finalise any local rules and activate their tee sheets. I have looked to give direction but not prescription, as I know that all clubs will want to do what is best for their members within the framework of the facilities or operational capacity that each club will have.

"The Scottish Golf guidance has been prepared through our collaboration with the wider golf industry but has been reviewed by appropriate Scottish Government channels to give you a flexible but consistent framework with which to prepare your own club protocols."

Courses in England reopened last Wednesday while venues in Wales and on both sides of the border in Ireland resumed business this week.

"We have heard very encouraging stories from south of the border where some clubs have seen an immediate uplift in membership, as many courses have not been open to visitors given ongoing travel restrictions applying to exercise," said Sharp.

"Clubs have a great opportunity to show value in being a member of a club, and all the preferential benefits this can bring. I am sure that the demand for tee-times will be high and I look forward to seeing and hearing of golf courses all over Scotland full of people enjoying the sport once again.

"I would like to thank all golfers who have shown great restrain over the last eight or nine weeks in conforming with the requests of the Scottish Government.

"The team here at Scottish Golf are firm in our belief that golf is a healthy sport that can be played giving due consideration to social distancing, whilst contributing to the improved health and mental wellbeing of many people across the country and we will continue to prioritise supporting clubs and the development of the game in Scotland."

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