Martin Dempster: It’s time for clubs to get green light for open competitions

Events bring in valuable cash and there’s no reason they can’t be held in a safe environment

In the latest set of guidelines, Scottish Golf CEO Karin Sharp said open competitions are still not permitted
In the latest set of guidelines, Scottish Golf CEO Karin Sharp said open competitions are still not permitted

It’s the one thing we’re still waiting for, but not for too much longer, hopefully, as the return of open competitions at Scottish golf clubs is being eagerly awaited.

Since courses re-opened around the country at the end of May, members have 
probably been appreciating their home venues more than ever before.

The majority enjoyed 
starting back with two-balls, which reminded many people that the game can actually still be played at a decent pace. Equally, it was a welcome move when three-balls from three different households got the green light and likewise with the latest change to guidelines allowing normal four-balls.

Competitions, of course, have restarted at golf clubs around the country but only for members for the time being, something that is probably starting to puzzle some people.

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Why is that the case? Well, it was explained by Karin Sharp, Scottish Golf’s chief operating officer, as she delivered the governing body’s updated guidelines as the country moved into phase three of lockdown restrictions being eased last week.

“At this time, there remains no change in stance on the playing of competitive golf, with only club competition permitted despite the relaxation of travel restrictions,” she said. “This decision is consistent across all sports and is based on the continuing premise that we are operating under an extension of exercise and not a return to sport.”

If it’s across all sports, then that is maybe understandable, especially as the Scottish Government has been cautious in its approach in each step of the route map out of lockdown.

However, it’s surely time for Scottish Golf to be applying a bit of pressure on behalf of member clubs for the return of open competitions as soon as possible. Having found itself in the spotlight as one of the sports to come out of lockdown, golf has done itself proud in the main and that should be recognised accordingly.

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Open competitions bring in valuable money for clubs and there is still time for some to be salvaged over the coming two or three months. By the beginning of August at the latest, that side of things should really be back up and running.

It needs to be for the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s British Open to be staged back-to-back at The Renaissance Club and Royal Troon respectively in the middle of the month.

It needs to be for the new Tartan Pro Tour, a six-series event set up by Paul Lawrie for home-based tour professionals, to take place in August and September.

It needs to be for the Stephen Gallacher Foundation National Matchplay Championship, set to be spearheaded by Hannah Darling as she takes on some of the best boys in the country at Castle Park next month, to also go ahead.

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There is absolutely no 
reason whatsoever all those events should not take place with appropriate safety
measures in place, but, for the time being, clubs are being urged to remain patient.

“All clubs are asked to continue to respect the government position in this regard,” added Sharp in that latest update of guidelines, “and not seek to jeopardise the image or trust in the golfing community by overlooking this key aspect.”

In the main, the governing body seems to have done a decent job during these difficult times, especially bearing in mind that every action it takes at the moment probably has to be rubber-stamped by the Scottish Government.

Here’s hoping, though, that its own decision to scrap the entire 2020 schedule early on in lockdown isn’t clouding a judgment about how things should be allowed to keep progressing at club level. Just saying!

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