• Alistair Tait

To sign or not to sign - that is the question

The petition to keep golf courses open during this second lockdown stands at 78,701 signatures as I write. Oops, make that 78,855. No, 79,109 and rising.

The petition is called "Exempt golf courses from the list of venues required to close due to Covid-19." It argues that:

“Isolation essential to the Government’s strategy for fighting coronavirus, and UK citizens must remain healthy and exercise whilst keeping adequate distance between people. The Government should allow golf courses to open so families or individuals can play golf in order to exercise safely.”

Back in March the UK Golf Federation launched a similar petition to keep golf courses open. It failed. We shut up shop like everyone else and those of us who love our gowf had to make do with indoor putting, backyard chipping and endless hours on You Tube to get our fix. Looks like we might have to do the same for the next month.

This petition looks like it will acquire the necessary 100,000 signatures needed for the issue to be debated in parliament. It’s just moved to 85,147 signatures.

I’m not sure my name will be one of them.

I’m torn. I was adamant before the first lockdown that golf should do its bit and shut down completely to stop the spread of this virus. I wrote:

“Courses in most European countries have shut down yet we think we can carry blithely on as if everything is close to normal. There are people on social media, some prominent in the game, advising people to get out and play. That’s not the message we should be sending at this time.
“I realise clubs will suffer at this time, but we need to act responsibly and give the game up for now to take pressure of our NHS and emergency service workers. This is the time for golfers to act responsibly.
"So please #STAYATHOME – Don’t Play Golf!”

Part of me still feels that way. Why should our sport be given special exemption when others have to close down? Won’t that just contribute to the prevailing attitude that golf is for the privileged, and make us appear arrogant? Surely the whole idea behind a lockdown is to stop people from moving around to contain the disease. If golfers are traveling to their clubs to play then isn't that counter productive?

Yet at the same time I can see the rationale behind letting golfers get out to play as part of their daily exercise. If we went back to two-ball play as we did initially post lockdown then I can’t see why we shouldn’t be allowed to use golf as a means of exercise since social distancing is no problem. Albeit clubhouses would have to remain shut. As I noted when we were allowed back on the fairways in two balls only, pace of play picked up immensely. Three hour rounds became the norm. Heaven.

I also get the argument that golf is an important form of exercise for so many people. It’s a lifeline for many, especially those who live alone, and those worried about their mental health.

Yet surely the same thing could be said about gyms, bowls clubs, hill walking groups, etc? Why should adherents of those pastimes have to sit at home while we get to enjoy our favourite sport? Doesn't our parliament have more important matters to debate than the needs of golfers?

The number of signatures has now reached 90,102. To sign or not to sign – that is the question.

#JustSaying: “Golf keeps the heart young and the eyes clear.” Andrew Kirkaldy


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