• Alistair Tait

More questions than answers in long wait to play golf

Let’s face it, the news from Prime Minister Boris Johnson yesterday wasn’t what golfers and golf clubs had hoped for. Nothing new there: Boris, and his government, hasn’t exactly played a blinder during this pandemic. Just the opposite. “Shamoblic" doesn’t even begin to describe our government's performance.

So, as of today, I’m still don't know when I’ll play golf again. I’m sure many of us are in the same boat. The only other person in my family who heads to the golf course on a regular basis is my dog Izzy. She might need to wait a while longer to walk the Woburn's glorious fairways.

You don’t have to have a degree in advanced mathematics to realise if golf is restricted to two members of the same household and/or one balls only for people who don’t have family members who play, then a lot of golfers are going to miss out. As PGA professional Joe Pepperell astutely noted on Twitter re: the one-ball possibility:

“Going by the 1 ball rule and assuming a club is open for 10 hours a day with 10 minute start times this means roughly 420 members can play during one week. Will be interesting to see how clubs manage the situation!”

It will. And who’s going to check to make sure members adhere to the rules? Is every course going to have a marshal on the first tee checking the two-ball to make sure they come from the same household?

Clubs could limit play to nine holes only to ensure more members can play, but that also needs monitoring.

The fact that courses are going to open in England on Wednesday yet still be shut in the rest of the United Kingdom is a recipe for disaster. (Again, well done Boris!) Does that mean Scottish or Welsh golfers can drive across the border to play golf in England? Again, who’s going to be checking that?

Will driving ranges be able to open from Wednesday? If golfers or golf club members can’t get a tee time, can they go to the club and hit range balls, or use the putting green, short game areas? Can members receive lessons from Monday? I don’t see why that couldn’t happen since it would be fairly easy for club pro and member to stay six feet apart during a lesson.

The R&A, in conjunction with other bodies, has issued guidelines on how we should resume playing golf when we are allowed back to the fairways. The most cogent part of the advice is the following:

"The effects of the virus will continue to be felt for a long time to come. As a sport we must work together to resume play responsibly as and when the relevant Government determines it is safe to do so.
"We must ensure that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved from golfers, to club staff and greenkeepers is maintained at all times. Golf clubs and golfers have observed the lockdown very well and must keep it up and act responsibly as play resumes."

Spot on. We need to remember we’re playing in front of a huge gallery when we do return to the game: the gallery of public opinion. We can’t afford to mess this up. Meanwhile we all wait for answers to a lot of questions before we start playing. Too many questions in my opinion.

As good friend Andrew Hall noted, “patience and understanding is required.” And an awful lot of both.

I might just wait until June…… Sorry Izzy.

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