Scotland set to be odd one out as Wales joins England in reopening golf courses

Golf courses in Scotland will soon be the odd ones out in Great Britain after Welsh venues were given the green light to reopen hot on the heels of their English neighbours.

Golf courses in Scotland will remain closed as venues in England and Wales start reopening after a seven-week shutdown due to the coronavirus crisis. Picture: JPI Media

After getting the thumbs up from the Welsh Government, Wales Golf is advising member clubs to reopen on Monday, 18 May. That means courses in the Principality can come out of a seven-week shutdown five days after English courses, which reopen today.

It will leave Scottish courses as the only ones staying closed in Britain for the time being on the advice of the Scottish Government, with no imminent plans for that situation to change.

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"No further update will be issued from us as our stance remains unchanged in Scotland," said Scottish Golf in reply to the development in Wales, where the green light was announced by Jason Thomas, the director of the Welsh Government’s culture, sport and tourism department.

Speaking to a Senedd committee in Cardiff, he said: “Legal clarification is that golf courses are not included on the list of businesses or establishments that must remain closed - they have never been on that list.

“It's been other measures in force that has restricted the ability of the clubs to open - travel measures etc, so we have clarified this. Legally they don’t have to be closed.

"We have clarified that we do want to encourage people to exercise but exercise locally, so we are expecting a statement from Wales Golf imminently on the back of our clarification, because they may be minded to suggest to clubs that they can open so they can ensure that local members can play.”

A subsequent statement from Wales Golf read: "Following recent Welsh Government announcements and the revision of certain Covid-19 related restrictions, golf clubs are permitted to open if they so wish.

"It is entirely at each golf club’s discretion as to whether they choose to open and if so when they choose to do so.

"We would advise that clubs that do wish to re-open do not do so immediately so as to ensure they have sufficient protocols in place to adhere to these guidelines, which we will be on hand to assist with.

"This would allow for a managed and co-ordinated reintroduction of golf across Wales from next Monday 18 May at the earliest."

Referring to information on the Welsh Government's website, the statement adds:

"Under our guidelines, golf courses are not listed as a premise or business that must remain closed."

No distance restrictions have been put in place due to the country's geographical spread, though golfers are being urged to stay "local".

"People should not travel a significant distance from their home to exercise," continues the statement.

"We have deliberately not defined this more precisely as it could be seen to be arbitrary and it will also depend on the circumstances – what people perceive to be “local” in Cardiff on the one hand, and in Mid Wales on the other, could be quite different.

“People are asked to exercise good judgement and common sense. If you live in Cardiff and have driven to Porthcawl to exercise on the beach, you haven’t stayed local.”

A statement from Celtic Manor, host venue for the 2010 Ryder Cup, has cast doubt about courses in the Principality being able to open for play on Monday.

It read: "We are hoping to reopen our golf courses as soon as is practically possible and have been preparing changes to our playing procedures to ensure the safety of golfers when they are allowed to return.

"Welsh Government has today indicated that golf courses can be open as part of permitted exercise, but we have not been advised of any change in its policy preventing people from travelling by vehicle before exercising.

"We are seeking clarification on the Welsh Government’s advice because, under the present travel restrictions, only a handful of members would be able to walk to the golf courses to play."

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