R&A reveals measures put in place for return of golf

Proposals for safe play submitted to government as UK courses wait for go-ahead to reopen

Golf courses throughout the UK have been closed since 23 March. Picture Michael Gillen.
Golf courses throughout the UK have been closed since 23 March. Picture Michael Gillen.

The R&A has revealed the measures that will be in place when the green light is given for golf courses to reopen, having submitted the proposals to the government.

The plan, which has been drafted along with other golfing bodies, covers five main areas: course set-up, before, during and after the round and Rules of Golf-related matters.

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Referring to the plan, the R&A said: “It is being provided to give transparency and clarity on current thinking about how the sport might resume in the UK in these challenging circumstances.”

Golf courses throughout the UK have been closed since 23 March, when the lockdown guidelines were introduced by the government with a view to containing the spread of Covid-19.

Most clubs have furloughed staff, though some greenkeepers have been kept on to look after essential course maintenance as they lie empty for the first time since the Second World War.

The proposals for “safe golf” include the removal of bunker rakes and ball retrievers, the covering up of drinking fountains and ball washers and the removal or covering up of benches and bins.

Among other proposals are that flagsticks should not be touched and a hole liner should be used to prevent balls from dropping below the surface of greens.

Tee times would be subject to a booking system with a minimum of ten-minute intervals with practice areas remaining closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

The maximum number of golfers in a group per tee time is to be confirmed by the club/facility and must be in accordance with any government requirements.

The plan proposes that clubhouses would remain closed other than to provide essential facilities such as toilets while trolleys and carts would not be available for hire unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

Golfers will be reminded to remain two metres apart at all times and use their feet to smooth over bunkers in the absence of rakes. It is recommended that non-competition play is used during the initial period of golf being played, and that stroke play competitions involving players in different groups are avoided.

If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring will need to be used that does not require any handling or exchanging of scorecards.

“The UK Golf Industry has carefully considered how to ensure the safe management of a golf facility when government Covid-19 restrictions are eased,” said the update on the R&A website.

“Detailed industry guidelines have been issued for the benefit of all staff, including greenkeepers, club professionals and golf facility managers, administrators and, of course, all golfers.

“There are many different types of golf clubs and golf facilities, requiring “safe golf” procedures to be finalised and implemented locally.

“However, the fundamentals are the same throughout the sport, which has a good record of compliance with rules and procedures. These procedures will include all aspects of the golfing experience, from arrival in the car park shortly before the round to departure straight away on completion of the round.

“Golfers will be required to comply with the rules on social distancing throughout. Some temporary provisions in relation to the Rules of Golf will also be necessary to ensure safe play.”

The proposals have industry-wide backing from organisations such as Scotland Golf, England Golf, the PGA and other representative bodies.

“We have had positive discussion in the last few days with government [through key contacts in Active Scotland and sportscotland] and have their support in what is a planning phase,” said Scottish Golf chief operating officer Karin Sharp.

“ We are also collaborating with key industry partners to ensure that across GB&I we are developing a consistent approach that can be adopted when the time is right.

“We are very much in the planning phase to ensure that when the time is right, we are well placed and have the support of key partners to be able to move quickly to update clubs with detailed information as to what a phased return to golf will look like.”

In a message to England Golf’s member clubs, chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said: “Since the 23 March shutdown, the sacrifices we have all made in our daily lives have helped to play a part in a huge national effort to combat Covid-19.

“The way everyone in golf has rallied together in these uncertain times fills me with great optimism for the future. Now is the time for us all to keep the faith and see this through until the end.”

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