Why it's great to see Scottish golf scene start to get back to normal

At long last, it finally feels as though things are returning to normal in the Scottish golfing landscape, even though that has probably escaped the attention of the vast majority of people who actually play the game in this country.

Carys Irvine, one of the Stephen Gallacher Foundation ambassadors, took this photograph of squad members enjoying being back out on the course together as Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Picture: Carys Irvine

All the way back to last May, courses in Scotland have remained open, something that should be widely applauded, even if restrictions meant that some people were prevented from playing at home clubs for a period of time if that involved cross-boundary travel.

The main thing, surely, is that golfers could still get out for a game during a time when other leisure activities and pastimes remained off limits, with competition play now back in full swing at clubs and tee sheets being opened up again to visitors.

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Yes, of course, those visitors are not Americans or from anywhere else around the world, but it’s about taking small steps at the moment and that element of life being normal again will need to wait a little bit longer.

For now, let’s be grateful for the majority of clubs continuing to benefit from last year’s membership boom and also for the fact that the domestic calendar is starting to crank up again.

In Edinburgh alone at the weekend, the Lothians Team Tournament took place at Craigmillar Park while the Midlothian Women’s Championship reached its conclusion at Kingsknowe. In addition, the men’s Edinburgh Summer League is now underway.

Other than those who take part in these events, they mean little or nothing to the vast majority of golfers in Scotland and that is perfectly understandable, but, make no mistake, it is important they are taking place.

Last year was virtually a write off across the board in terms of these events and, due to all sorts of concerns surrounding the Covid-19, that was probably the right call.

A year on, though, Scotland’s golfers have proved beyond any doubt they can adapt to restrictions still in place and, that being the case, it is time for that tournament scene to become vibrant again.

Another event taking place in the Edinburgh area at the weekend was a Stephen Gallacher Foundation tournament at Gogarburn, which followed on from one at Swanston and, coming up over the coming two weekends, events at Broomieknowe and Linlithgow.

The Paul Lawrie Foundation is staging a flag tournament soon at Paul Lawrie Golf Centre then the Junior Jug at Newmachar in a few weeks’ time, while the Barrie Douglas Junior Masters also takes place later this month at Strathmore.

Add in the PGA in Scotland’s Arnold Clark Tartan Tour being up and running and Scottish Golf starting to stage tournaments again as from this week and that journey to normality is definitely beginning to take shape, with credit due to those who have made that possible by doing themselves and the game proud by adhering to what was asked of them since last May.

Speaking to Paul Lawrie recently, he talked about being nervous when he launched the Tartan Pro Tour, his new circuit for home-based professionals, last year in the middle of a pandemic. He knew it had to be spot on in terms of adhering to protocols and fair play to him, his team and the players themselves for ticking those boxes.

They say every cloud has a silver lining and that has certainly been the case as far as that circuit is concerned. Events have already taken place on an expanded 2021 schedule at Montrose Links, Kilmarnock (Barassie) and Royal Dornoch.

A match-play event is also underway, leading to a final at Muirfield, with stroke-play tournaments taking place at Pollok, the New and Jubilee Courses at St Andrews, Blairgowrie, Leven Links, The Renaissance Club, Royal Aberdeen and Carnoustie later in the year.

Add in the Scottish Par 3 Championship at Paul Lawrie Golf Centre and what a terrific schedule, with Farmfoods as the title sponsor, that is, especially when you think it wasn’t even in existence 12 months ago.

The same, of course, applies to Alan Tait’s excellent Get Back to Golf Tour in Scotland and the Rose Ladies Series, which was set up last year by another major winner, Justin Rose, and his wife, Kate, with a similar aim to Lawrie of providing playing opportunities for British-based professionals at a time when circuits were in lockdown due to Covid-19.

That also has also been expanded for this season, having started last week at West Lancs and once again being held predominantly in England, though heading to Scotscraig, where Rose tried to qualify for The Open as a 14-year-old, in August.

That Scottish golfing landscape won’t be what it needs to be for certain places until the sound of those American accents in particular return, but let’s keep taking those small but positive steps and enjoying what they are providing on this long but important journey.

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