So far so good. Golf clubs re-opened their gates across Ireland after eight weeks in lockdown today as apprehension about the potential pitfalls gave way to gratitude that members were acting responsibly.
With golf determined to play its part in a successful implementation of the Government’s Roadmap out of Covid-19 restrictions, the opening of courses to members living within five kilometres of their clubs was an opportunity to showcase the sport in the best possible light.
Individual responsibility was the order of the day and across Ireland, reports were positive.
Former European Tour pro John McHenry, now general manager at Cork’s Douglas Golf Club said: “I’ve been very impressed so far having been on the tee box since 8am.
"There’s a huge appetite for golf, great goodwill and an awful lot of discipline.
"We’ve asked people not to come here until 20 minutes before their tee time.
"That’s what they’ve been doing, they’re behaving in an orderly fashion and going out in 15-minute intervals so by the time they go out on the course the group in front are a hole-and-a-half ahead of them.
"They’re seamlessly going round the golf course, getting back in their cars and leaving. Everybody’s being responsible.”
McHenry, an Irish Examiner golf columnist, said his members had been self-policing the 5km travel limit by intervening ahead of schedule.
“Where there has been an instance of that, the men’s club or the ladies’ club have got onto the individual and reminded them of the 5km rule and they’ve taken them off the list.
"So the men’s and ladies’ clubs have ownership of that but by and large most people are being responsible and they’re not attempting to abuse the situation.”
Such abuse of the guidelines would lead to the swift re-imposition of the course closures in place since March 24 but McHenry added: “I think people are so relieved to be back on the golf course they don’t want anything to go wrong.
"Times have changed but people are seeing this as a great opportunity to get back to doing something they like.
“There’s two sides to this: golf might get a boost because people realise how much they missed it when they didn’t have it, they maybe took it for granted a little bit, and the second thing is you’re asking people to be responsible and take ownership of the issue and if we are going to come out of this it is only by letting people take responsibility.
"You’re not going to be able to patrol every single thing that people do.
Douglas have limited their members to just nine holes per round for now in order to accommodate each of their members up to three times a week.
“It’s brilliant, there’s a great buzz. There’s been so much pent-up frustration and just from a mental health point of view it’s such a benefit.
"We’re getting into the nice part of the season, we don’t need any blips now and people are conscious of that and hopefully we can just go from strength to strength.”
There is still frustration for golfers living more than 5km from their courses but across the southside of Cork City from Douglas, Frankfield Driving Range may found a solution by offering 45 of their socially-distanced bays to GUI Card holders denied a chance to visit their clubs.
“We’re aware that for all the golfers within 5km of us, there are members that can’t legally access their course for the next six weeks,” Frankfield owner Colman Ryan said.
“We’ve met with a Health and Safety officer and everything has been certified and signed off for us to open our indoor and outdoor ranges but only to GUI Card holders from any club.”
Those golfers that can reach their own clubs received glowing reports regarding their behaviour and sense of responsibility today.
At Castletroy GC in Limerick City, the club’s prestigious Senior Scratch Cup, scheduled for this month has been postponed but otherwise all was well.
Honorary secretary Dermot Coughlan said there had been: “full compliance on the course, as it should be.
“There’s been a huge rush for the timesheet but apart from that the course is in an absolutely pristine condition and everybody was just champing at the bit but it’s a different game.
"Golf by its nature is a social event and for many of us the 19th is as important as the other 18 and unfortunately that’s missing.
"But we’re getting our exercise and having a bit of fun.”
Jonathan Sparling is the Pro Shop manager at Dooks in Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry noted the reopening of the links as a boost for the area.
“Usually we’d be heaving down here in Glenbeigh at the moment but it’s quiet for this time of year in relation to tourism,” Sparling said, "so we’ll take what we can.
"Hopefully towards the end of the year things might get a bit better but at the moment it is what it is.”
In Donegal, Ballyliffin general manager John Farren, who oversaw his club’s successful staging of the Irish Open, was of a similar mind.
“We’re lucky, we’ve two courses we can accommodate most of our members at any given time so we have to be grateful for what we have and grateful to be allowed back out on the golf course.
“The Covid wage subsidy has been a godsend in terms of keeping the place functional, allowing us to maintain the course, deal with inquiries and the various cancellations and postponements we’ve had to deal with.
"We’re rescheduling for next year and trying to accommodate people and convince them not to cancel but delay.
“That said, the only way is up, certainly, and the first glimmers of hope in Irish golf appeared today with the golf courses opening up to members.
"If people act responsibly and respect the sacrifices that have been made by the people of Ireland to get us to this point I think we can move forward gradually and slowly but surely get back to some new form of reality.”