'Why can walkers and joggers use our courses when we can't?' - Golfers inundate Scottish Government with pleas to resume the sport

Citizens submitted around 1500 ideas after the Scottish Government called on the people of Scotland to ‘help us take the next steps to navigate to a new normal’
Golfers play a round at North Berwick West Links in late MarchGolfers play a round at North Berwick West Links in late March
Golfers play a round at North Berwick West Links in late March

Golfers have flocked to a new government website aimed at gathering input from the general public about the next steps in Scotland’s fight against the coronavirus.

Around 1500 ideas have already been submitted in response to the Scottish Government’s new document ‘Coronavirus (COVID-19): framework for decision making – further information’ which was published on Monday 5 May.

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Among the issues included in the new document are resumption of school classes, visiting other households and the future of businesses subjected to restrictions or closure.

A little over two per cent of all submissions concerned golf, with players offering a number of suggestions about how to safely resume the game in the current climate.

The sport was one of the last to be shut down completely earlier this year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and a petition started up by an Edinburgh golfer calling for Scots to be allowed to play the game again has so far garnered more than 1200 signatures – with the total rising steadily.

‘Casual play’

The most popular idea so far concerns courses reopening for ‘casual play’ only, and not competitions, “provided strict social distancing rules are applied and adhered to, and only play at your own ‘home’ club”.

Most golfers, the submission points out, “do not get near to each other as their golf balls are normally well separated and they need to stand more than a club’s swing length apart anyway”.

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There are more than 60 replies to the submission with the majority supporting the idea. However, there are a handful of dissenting voices with one responder saying: “Golf courses are like any other tourist attraction. They should remain closed until it is safe for all areas where people gather in large number to open.”

However, another citizen points out: “It’s a type of outdoor exercise with minimal contact, which would help boost mental health and exercise, along with helping private clubs, economy, jobs etc. Could be done with maximum two players, social distancing, minimum time between tee-offs etc.”

‘Why is it ok for joggers and walkers to use our course when we can’t?’

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Many of the submissions offer ideas for limiting contact with others while arguing that reopening courses would benefit physical and mental health as well as helping support clubs and the country’s economy.

One member of the public who responded said: “It sums up how crazy the current rules are that you can walk on a golf course but you can’t play golf.

“Can someone explain the huge risk that playing golf involves as opposed to walking?”

In a similar vein, another responder wrote: “Please reopen the golf courses. It is an exercise that is fully compliant with government guidelines – physical distancing and daily exercise.

“Why is it ok for our golf courses to be used by walkers and joggers but golfers are not allowed to use the golf course?”

‘Limited golf’

One suggestion that was met with near-universal approval was the prospect of a phased return to golf. The submission read: “Restart golf, but limit to two players well-known to each other with non-competitive match play… keep two metres apart at all times and no use of clubhouse etc., also only playing on nearby, local courses.”

One supporting comment points out that the R & A has already issued “sensible and easy guidelines” which make golf “easy to manage in terms of distancing and hygiene”.

What next?

The consultation runs until 11 May, by which point there are likely to be many more submissions overall and almost certainly more voices urging at least a partial resumption of golf. With the R & A already producing rules for safe play during the ongoing circumstances, and the Scottish Government exploring ways of relaxing lockdown measures, golfers in Scotland will be waiting with bated breath for the next update.



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