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  • Alistair Tait

Not another petition!

So many people in our game Just. Don’t. Get. It. Yet another petition is circulating to try to make golf an exception to the stay at home order the government has mandated. It is doomed to failure, just like the last two petitions.

That’s as it should be, especially this time around.

The petitions had amassed 97,745 signatures before I posted this blog. If it reaches 100,000 then MPs will have to debate it in parliament. As if our politicians don't have enough to be getting on with right now without having to debate whether golf should or shouldn't be allowed.

The latest petition is entitled "Allow golf to be played with appropriate safety measures." It argues:

“The Government should allow golf courses to remain open during the second lockdown, and any future restrictions. Shops and clubhouses can close, but courses should be allowed to remain open, with social distancing in place.”

England Golf has come out strongly to try to persuade the government to allow courses to remain open at this time. Chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson writes on the England Golf website:

“I would ask government to consider golf to be seen as part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem itself.
“I would very much class golf alongside other pursuits such as walking, running and cycling which are already part of the country’s daily exercise routine.
“When you boil it down golf really is a sporting version of a walk in the countryside.
“It’s in the open air, you naturally socially distance, you don’t touch anybody else’s equipment, you get a mental and physical boost from taking part. It’s enjoyable and relaxing.
“If golf courses were open for limited play in line with government regulations on outdoor meetings, then it would also help ease the strain being placed on other open spaces and public parks which are currently able to operate in an unregulated fashion.
“If you reopened golf courses to allow the community of two million golfers in England to have that as a safe option for exercise, then I think that could be a huge positive in the fight against the physical and mental health issues posed by lockdown.
“We hope to be able to convince the government of that and at the very least to bring golf back sooner, rather than later.”

A petition before the first lockdown last March failed, as did one in November before lockdown number two despite garnering over 250,000 signatures. I didn’t sign either petition, and won’t be signing this one either.

I was dead set against the March petition from the outset, but admit to having reservations in November. I’d played enough golf between both lockdowns to realise golf can be played safely with the correct precautions, and I was torn. However, I ultimately realised then, and realise even more now, that our sport shouldn’t be given an exception, especially now with cases soaring and deaths topping 1,000 per day.

Scotland is the only country in the UK allowing golf right now, and it must be at a local club. Indeed, the St Andrews Links Trust has made it crystal clear only St Andrews locals should play the town's courses either alone or in two balls.

I won't be popular with Scottish friends, but I think that’s misguided. I think the Scottish government should get into line with the rest of the nation and shut courses down too.

I get the exercise argument, but you don’t have to go to the golf course to exercise. We can walk out our front doors and go for a walk. I went for a six mile walk yesterday and will probably go the same distance again today.

The last thing we need right now is the possibility of up to two million individuals travelling back and forth to golf clubs, the majority in cars, with all the possibilities that entails. Everyone needs to stay at home and circulate within their communities as little as possible right now.

Surely golf can wait until we get on top of this mess? Otherwise there may be golfers who won’t be able to play golf once the dust has settled on this pandemic. And that’s the last thing we need.

Yet again, I won’t be signing the petition.

#JustSaying: “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” Audrey Hepburn

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