Scottish golfers urged to play part in ‘safe return’

Huge relief as First Minister gives the green light for golf to resume

Head greenkeeper Stewart Duff puts the finishing touches to preparations for golf’s eagerly-awaited return at Gullane.
Head greenkeeper Stewart Duff puts the finishing touches to preparations for golf’s eagerly-awaited return at Gullane.

Scottish golfers have been urged to play their part in 
delivering a “safe” return for the sport when courses around the country reopen today after being closed for more than two months due to the coronavirus.

The call was made by Scottish Golf after the green light was given by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, inset, for courses in the home of golf to fall into line with venues elsewhere in the UK and Ireland by welcoming back members.

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“Scottish Golf welcomes the news that our golfing community will benefit from the Scottish Government’s revised guidance for exercise as we enter phase one in the easing of lockdown restrictions,” said the governing body in a statement.

“Ahead of golf’s return, we have issued guidance developed in partnership with the Scottish Government, Active Scotland, sportscotland, Health Protection Scotland and key industry partners to support our clubs in preparing their facilities and we are pleased to confirm that the return of golf can now take place from Friday 29 May.

“We know that this confirmation will be well received by all of our members and will have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of golfers across Scotland in the days and weeks ahead. We hope everyone enjoys returning to the fairways and would encourage all golfers to familiarise themselves with the current guidance to ensure we can all return to playing the game safely.”

Clubs around the country have been preparing to reopen for the last week after today was set as a target date by Scottish Golf. But it only became “all systems go” when the First Minister confirmed that golf is among some non-contact outdoor activities being allowed as part of phase one of lockdown restrictions being lifted.

Tee times at the majority of the 550-odd courses in Scotland were quickly snapped up by members when booking systems went live over the past few days and golfers will now make an eagerly-awaited return to the fairways and greens at clubs the length and breadth of the country from early morning to late evening today.

“There’s definitely a buzz around the club in anticipation of Friday’s golf,” said Uphall treasurer Bill Mackintosh of final confirmation having been delivered by the First Minister in her latest official review of the lockdown restrictions.

Gullane secretary Gordon Simpson added: “There will be many problems to overcome before we have the facility back to full operation. But at least we are on the road to that now and I can’t wait to watch the first person tee off on Friday morning.”

He was bitterly disappointed to hear that two people had apparently jumped the gun by practising out on one of the courses at the East Lothian venue on Wednesday night. “It has been brought to my attention that two of our members had to be asked to stop practising on the 6th green/7th tee area,” said Simpson in an email to members. “The member (a past captain) who questioned them was met with comments such as “the courses are opening soon anyway” and “we are not getting in anyone’s way”.

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“This behaviour is not acceptable on many levels but most of all the sheer lack of respect for the skeleton green staff who have been working tirelessly to get the course fit and ready for play when we reopen.”

Golf looks to have been handed an unexpected opportunity due to other sports such as football and rugby still being in lockdown. Lots of clubs have been receiving enquiries about membership over the past week and look set to benefit in the same way English clubs have experienced since reopening just over a 
fortnight ago.

“It’s been wonderful to hear news of lapsed members returning to the game or newcomers embracing the fact that golf is one of the healthiest and safest sports around,” said England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson. “On 
average, each club we have spoken to has recruited a minimum of 15 new members over the first two weeks of golf’s return.

“It’s great news that many core values of golf club membership – camaraderie, freedom to play and a sense of belonging – once again have new meaning!”

l Edinburgh Leisure has announced plans to reopen the Braids, Carrick Knowe, Craigentinny and Silverknowes next Thursday, with dates still to be confirmed for both Portobello and Wee Braids.

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