The Protocol for golfers is in place, as are the Government guidelines for Phase 1 of its roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown. Yet while there is apparent confusion at the potential pitfalls and frustration for many who live more than five kilometres from their course, there is also the overwhelming sense of relief that there is a tee time waiting for all golfers in the not too distant future.
Golf clubs from Cork to Donegal are preparing to reopen for members next Monday, while if everything goes to plan, Phase 2, scheduled for June 8, will make those clubs accessible to members living within 20km and Phase 4 set for July 20 will see travel beyond the home area make them available to all Irish members.
It will be incumbent on all golfers to follow the GUI/ILGU guidelines as outlined in the graphic on this page or risk a return to the golfing lockdown which forced courses to close in the first place on March 24.
Social media seems to be showcasing a variety of concerns about the safe resumption of golf but Kevin Morris, director of Golf at East Cork’s Fota Island Resort is simply happy to have reached a point where his 27 championship holes can be enjoyed once more, even if the numbers will be limited initially.
“I don’t know what or why or anything but at this point I would accept anything to get people back on the golf course and I’m sure people themselves would accept anything to get back on the golf course,” Morris told the Irish Examiner yesterday.
“It really is such a waste to not be able to play. It’s soul destroying to be standing here at the putting green right now and seeing all these fantastic colours and nobody around. It’s sad for everybody involved in the game right now.
“The interest is phenomenal. People are ready and they’re all champing at the bit to go and play golf. They’re tired of being locked up and people want to play.
Morris, like many other PGA Professionals and golf course managers and secretaries, is aware of the frustrations of members living outside the 5km radius of their courses.
“There are probably 100 out of just under 700 members living within five kilometres of the club, as the crow flies. We wouldn’t reach Cork City or get through the Lee Tunnel.
“The 20-kilometre limit will come in for Phase 2 on June 8 and that will bring in all of Cork City for us.
“That said, I think it makes sense to be open, for people to know that you’re there and you’re ready for when everybody can come to the golf club. I’m only waiting for people to come back down here. The place looks every bit as impressive as it was for any of the three Irish Opens (2001, 2002, 2014), it’s in great shape.
“I know there are bigger things than golf but people getting out in the fresh air has got to be a huge plus. I’m sure everybody is looking forward to getting people back. We’re all in the same position. We’re doing our best to keep things going and waiting for people to show up.
“It’s going to be very different on the course, not having rakes in bunkers and everything like that but sure, they’re hazards so people can get used to that. It’s a minor complaint right now, I’d take anything to be out on the golf course, I don’t care, so long as I can play.
“I’m sure people are only bursting to get out there. We will do whatever we possibly can that is within the guidelines.”
Now it is up to golfers to act responsibly or risk sending golf back into lockdown.
“We’ll have plenty of staff around watching what’s going on but the basic thing is, this is down to the individual themselves,” Fota’s Morris said. “The individual knows exactly what they can and can’t do so it’s not a case of policing them. They’re all grown-ups and if somebody’s travelling more than the five kilometres and they’re stopped, that’s an individual’s decision to do that and so they can explain themselves. It’s down to the individual. They know what they’re allowed to do and it’s the Guards that they have to answer to if they’re doing something they’re not supposed to do.
“I know people are frustrated but I would say the vast majority of our membership is within 20 kilometres and they are within three weeks of playing golf anyway. Of course everybody would love to play golf on Monday but the worst-case scenario is they have to wait until June 8.