Opinion is split among PGA professionals, the people set to be at the sharp end as the first point of contact at clubs, about golf courses in Scotland continuing to lie closed due to the coronavirus as venues elsewhere in the UK and Ireland have all now reopened.
Responding to the Scottish Government indicating that the 550-odd courses in Scotland will not open before 28 May, one pro in Scotland claimed people were “being denied the chance to act like adults”.
However, others backed First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s “cautious” approach to entering a lockdown exit, with one insisting: “Nobody wants to jump the gun and put the members and staff at a club at risk”.
Courses in England reopened last Wednesday, Wales and the Republic of Ireland followed suit and venues in Northern Ireland are back open today, all with social distancing measures in place.
Hopes had been raised about the green light being given in Scotland this week, with some clubs hastily drawing up reopening plans in the event of a possible fast turnaround.
However, they were binned when it emerged that no firm decision will be made before the next official review of lockdown guidelines next Thursday, with 1 June the likely date for courses being given the thumbs-up to reopen.
“As a golfer and golf industry worker, of course we want to get back to golf, but nobody wants to jump the gun and put the members and staff at a club at risk,” said Murrayfield pro Jonnie Cliff. “If another week or two is going to save lives, not just in golf but across all industries, then no one can argue with that.”
Richard Brian, the pro at nearby Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, is “champing at the bit” to get back to work, but he is also in favour of that caution being implemented by the First Minister.
“There are two things about this,” he said. “Firstly, people need to realise that golf isn’t being specifically targeted in some way! Golf is part of the whole sporting and social decision to remain restricted. Secondly, this is still a serious virus with mortal implications.”
Gullane is normally one of the busiest courses in the country as members and visitors enjoy playing three top courses. “I was delighted to hear that golf was highlighted by the Scottish Government as one of the activities to be included in the first phase of reopening,” said Alasdair Good, pro at the East Lothian club. “There has been understandable frustration that courses in other parts of the UK are already open and busy whilst courses in Scotland remain closed. But it is hugely important that we can reopen in a way that is safe for our members and staff.”
According to Campbell Elliott, the long-serving pro at Haggs Castle in Glasgow, the thumbs-up should already have been given for golf to resume in Scotland. “If Ireland, Wales and England are open, then golfers in Scotland will be extremely disappointed at not being able to be given the chance to act like adults!” he said.
“I hear from fellow pros that they have on a daily basis around 100 people on the course walking dogs, kids etc but no golf allowed seems bizarre when we are told that exercise is very important for our wellbeing and social distancing on a golf course looks to me to be far safer than queuing and shopping at a supermarket!”
That view was echoed by Allan Knox, who is missing his picturesque view from the shop window at Aberdour on the Fife coast. “It is a very frustrating time for Scottish golf clubs at the moment,” he said. “With the rest of the UK courses now open, I feel it’s time for Scotland to follow suit.
“Golf with the correct restrictions can be a safe place to get your daily exercise. Golf is an institution in Scotland and plays a huge part in people’s daily lives. The worry is the longer this goes on more clubs are going to be in a detrimental financial position.”
Cliffe Jones, who is in with the bricks at Glencorse on the outskirts of Edinburgh, said he believes the First Minister is being “very wary” as Scottish golf “crawls” towards reopening. One of the longest-serving pros in the country, he added: “Glencorse is in a good solid place thanks to the members’ loyalty and being well run these last six years.
“It will be interesting to see the damage this situation will cause other clubs which were struggling along previously. With football going nowhere fast at the moment (it is also still in lockdown in Scotland), golf can hopefully make a speedy recovery and start to head in a good direction this summer.”
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