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  • Alistair Tait

A golf itch that needs scratching

Yesterday afternoon was tough for a lover of this stick and ball game. The afternoon walk with my wife, youngest daughter and, of course, Izzy was most enjoyable. The sun was out, the temperature was lovely, very little wind, and we had a nice four and a half mile walk through glorious countryside near our home.

Yet I kept thinking: I should be on the golf course right now. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.

There was no itch to play golf when we recently had near arctic conditions and the ground was frozen over. Ditto during that dreich spell which turned the ground to mush. In both cases golf courses would’ve been shut anyway. When the sun comes out and the temperature rises, however, that’s a different matter. It’s going to be hard to be indifferent when we start getting spring like conditions.

Here in England we might find out on Monday when we can return to the fairways. Prime minister Boris Johnson is set to outline his plans for a route out of lockdown. Many are hopeful golf will be one of the first activities to get the green light.

Those who love this game will be hoping the PM has read the words of Prof Mark Woolhouse of Edinburgh University in today’s Observer, who says:

“This virus very rarely transmits outdoors. So, quite honestly, outdoor activities that don’t involve close physical contact could be adopted now. That is not an argument to say we can have crowds back at football matches. But sports involving small numbers of players or sports for children: they could start perfectly safely today.”

Those expecting an instant return, however, might be disappointed. Welsh golfers weren’t jumping for joy with the news it will be another three weeks before they find out when they can get back on the fairways after First Minister Mark Drakeford nixed any early return. Golfers in Wales will have to wait until March 12th for another update.

Wales Golf petitioned the Welsh government to relax the rules to allow golfers to return. England Golf has done the same. Chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson has been very vocal on trying to persuade government to open golf courses. Both home unions no doubt feel aggrieved because Scottish golf courses have remained open during this current lockdown.

The statement from Wales Golf was interesting, since the Welsh government concurred with the governing body that golf can be played safely.

“Welsh Government agreed that golf is a sport that can be played in a safe, socially distanced manner. Their main concerns were with the potential Wales-wide impact of relaxing the ‘stay at home’ restrictions, and the cumulative impact of doing this.”

I agree with that analysis. We’re currently only supposed to travel if it’s essential – for food, medicine, etc. – and travelling to play golf is not essential at this point in time. I also feel our game will be further cast as an elitist sport played by entitled individuals if golf is given special dispensation while other sports remain shut down.

I’ve been quite happy to follow the government guidelines by staying at home, and only traveling when essential. I enjoy my daily walks in the countryside near my home. Every Thursday I meet up with a good friend from the golf club who lives nearby and we go for a long walk. We have a good natter, but I'd obviously rather be trying to take his money on one of Woburn's three glorious courses.

However, I have to admit this latest lockdown is getting to me. Like everyone else, I’ll be hoping the Prime Minister gives us an idea of when we can get back out to play the game we love. I’ve got a serious golf itch that needs scratching.

Now, where did I leave Izzy’s leash?

#JustSaying: “I have loved playing the game and practising it. Whether my schedule for the following day called for a tournament round or merely a trip to the practice tee, the prospect that there was going to be golf in it made me feel privileged and extremely happy. I couldn’t wait for the sun to come up to get out on the course again.” Ben Hogan


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