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  • Alistair Tait

Golf can’t afford to spoil post lockdown return

Joe Beditz of the America’s National Golf Foundation couldn’t have put it any better when he issued a warning to American golfers about playing golf post coronavirus.

It’s a warning that applies equally to British/all golfers. NGF president and CEO Beditz said:

“Golf has an opportunity to lead by example, showing it can be played safely and responsibly in the midst of a pandemic. Course owners and operators need to keep following local rules and adjusting to our ‘new normal.’ And we need to continue to remind golfers that they’re playing before the biggest gallery of their lives, as well-publicized screw-ups could turn the yellow lights back to red.”

According to the latest NGF report, 79% of U.S. golf courses are open in some form with 90% projected to be opened by May 17. Only three states - Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont – have state-wide golf restrictions.

We’re waiting eagerly for our courses to open in line with what’s happening in other parts of Europe. Courses in the Czech Republic opened two weeks ago, and courses in other parts of Continental Europe are gradually opening too.

Dates for reopening are vague. Various dates have been mooted. May 7 was at one point on the agenda, with May 11 also coming into the picture. Ireland is to open its courses on May 18, and it may be the United Kingdom falls into line with that date. We await our government’s official advice, which will hopefully come this week.

However, that advice should come with the same warning Beditz has given: we can’t afford to get this wrong or we could soon be shooed off the fairways.

Some in our game, thankfully a minority, haven’t done us any favours during this lockdown. As I wrote a few days ago, a petition in Scotland asking for golf to resume was the last thing our game needed. Thankfully, at the time of writing, just 1,215 had signed the petition. Hardly representative of Scottish golfers.

Not only did that petition mark out our sport as selfish in the extreme, but it was the last thing the Scottish government needed at this time. There were calls for similar petitions in other parts of the UK at the start of the lockdown: one from a prominent golf coach who lives in the United States! As if our game should get special favours. I don’t hear reports of hill walking groups, rambling groups, anglers etc., petitioning government despite those sports capable of practising the same social distancing measures golfers can exhibit.

Meanwhile, a minority of individuals have been caught sneaking onto golf course during the lockdown, including some golf club members. Shameful!

The R&A, with the help of PGA and the golf unions, will have strict guidelines in place to tell us what we can and can’t do post lockdown. Clubs will do the responsible thing and implement those guidelines to the best of their ability. It’s in all our interests to honour the restrictions, the rules of social distancing, just as we honour the rules of golf.

Despite the actions of a few numpties, golf has always been the most honourable of all sports. I expect the vast majority to respect the guidelines, and to tell those that don’t to smarten up. Otherwise we could find ourselves on the other side of out of bounds fences. And that’s the last thing we need.

Take Beditz’s advice: don’t spoil our chance to return to the fairways.

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