Scottish golfers fearing fines if they cross border to play in England

‘Nightmare’ for one keen player

David Drysdale lives near Cockburnspath in Berwickshire and is a member of Goswick Golf Club in Northumberland. Picture: Warren Little/Getty
David Drysdale lives near Cockburnspath in Berwickshire and is a member of Goswick Golf Club in Northumberland. Picture: Warren Little/Getty

Scottish golfers, including European Tour player David Drysdale, are set to resist the temptation of making a secret trip across the border to be among the first golfers back on UK courses following a seven-week lockdown due to the coronavirus.

With courses set to reopen in England today as Scottish venues remain closed, it had been thought that courses like Goswick and Magdalene Fields, the two Berwick-upon-Tweed courses, could have Scottish golfers joining those eager to get back out for a game following the shutdown.

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However, Goswick members who live in Scotland, including Drysdale, appear to have decided against crossing the border on a leisure trip in fear of being fined, even though some have been making that journey for essential shopping over the past few weeks.

“We have quite a lot of members who live in Scotland,” Paul Terras, the head professional at Goswick, told The Scotsman. “We have members from Chirnside, Duns and we have a lot from the Galashiels area. One or two have contacted me since the reopening of courses was announced on Sunday, but they are quite concerned that if they travelled here they could end up with a hefty fine. I don’t know if they are going to risk or not.”

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Drysdale, for one, won’t be taking that chance, even though he lives near Cockburnspath, around half an hour from the highly-regarded Northumberland course. “I’ve been a member at Goswick for a long, long time and it’s a straight journey for me down the A1, which is pretty cool,” he said. “But I won’t be tempted to go there for a game tomorrow or any day soon. For starters, reading between the lines, I don’t think you would be able to leave Scotland to go and play golf in England.

“I go to Berwick for our shopping because it has got all the main supermarkets and it takes 20 minutes’ maximum. But going into England just for a game of golf is different when getting this crisis sorted out is the most important thing. And, you know what, I can’t see Scotland being too far behind England when it comes to opening the golf courses.”

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That is what both Michael Hackett and Daniel Wood, the pros at Eyemouth and The Hirsel in Coldstream respectively, are hoping to hear soon, admitting they are going to find it strange seeing their courses lie empty as others not far away resume business.

“Like a lot of people, I am utterly confused by the current circumstances with different rules and guidelines for either side of the border,” admitted Hackett. “It is sending out the wrong message as there is nothing stopping someone living on the Scottish side of the border travelling over the border into England to play golf from Wednesday.

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“I don’t have any friends or family that I know of that will be heading south for a game of golf, but I am sure there will be people doing it and it will only be a matter of time before more people follow suit as there will be no checkpoint at the border and the clubs will want the revenue from visitors.”

Wood, who is based at a club that is at the other end of the town from the border, added: “While the club and our members will be disappointed to see golf being permitted only a few miles away, it’s a decision we must respect and ensure the safety of our staff and members, especially when our region saw a rise in confirmed cases on Monday.”

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One of Wood’s members said he is facing a “nightmare” over the different situation on opposite sides of the border. “I work in Scotland so abide by Scottish guidance/governance with regard to my business, but live in England,” said Berwick man Gordon Inglis.

“But I am a member of the Hirsel, so come Wednesday under English guidance I can meet up with my best mate and the pro at Mortonhall in Edinburgh until earlier this week, Malcolm Leighton, who also lives in Berwick but we cant play golf at our club!”

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For Brian Bisset, who lives in Eyemouth but is a member at Magdalene Fields, it’s the other way around. “It is good news that we can get out again,” he said of being about to benefit from being a member of an English club “and social distancing should be no problem on the course.”

Terras, who started his PGA career at Dunbar, said he felt a mix of excitement and trepidation about Goswick reopening. “I am looking forward to seeing the members again,” he said. “But, at the same time, the pro shop side of things is a hurdle we have to get over and the club want me to police things.”

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