The social life of Ireland’s golf clubs is still on hold but there will be an extra dimension returning next week if the Government moves the country into Phase 2 of its Roadmap out of Covid-19 lockdown.
Clubhouse restaurants will have to remain closed until Phase 3 kicks in, on June 29, but competitions, the centre of golf club life for many thousands of members are set to return in Phase 2, which will also see courses made accessible to those living up to 20 kilometres away.
Other possibilities available to clubs from Monday include allowing members’ guests and fourball groups on the tee at 14-minute intervals rather than the three golfers permitted per tee-time when courses were allowed to reopen at the start of Phase 1 on May 18.
Protocols instituted by the Irish Ladies Golf Union and Golfing Union of Ireland in line with the Irish Government’s Roadmap have to this point been adhered to closely by members.
ILGU communications manager Carla Reynolds told the Irish Examiner that now the initial uncertainty surrounding the re-opening of courses and driving ranges after the seven-week closure has subsided, the return to competition was a welcome development.
“Clubs were eager to get competitions started back up and eager to get information on how we were advising competitions should be run,” Reynolds said.
“I think the clubs overall are happy that there’s guidance there for them and feedback-wise, it’s been quieter in terms of what it was for Phase 1 because there were travel restrictions to deal with, but they got to terms with that and hopefully now it can open up to 20 kilometres next Monday, all going well.
“The protocols around general safety in and around the club are still in place and they will have been running for almost a month so everyone has got to terms with that, so it should be a cleaner move from Phase 1 to 2 than it was ahead of Phase 1 and we haven’t had much feedback on it at all.
"I think clubs just want to get back to normality at this stage and this is another step towards doing that. So it’s all very positive.”
The ILGU and GUI yesterday issued similar protocols for Northern Ireland, whose own roadmap moves to Phase 2 on Monday and Reynolds reminded clubs north and south that there will still be some adjustments to get used to this time around regarding the resumption of competitive play, such as electronic scoring where possible.
“One of the messages we want to get out is for club members to have patience with club volunteers because competitions are going to be a little bit more difficult to work through with the safety precautions in place. After all, we are lucky that we’re able to go back at all.
“So hopefully it all goes well and clubs will get back to getting more members in and that competitions are back.”
Not every club is rushing back into its competition calendar, however. Cork Golf Club on Little Island is holding off until later in the month, as it is with allowing member guests, general manager Matt Sands explained.
“It’s all going to plan. We’re in a better place now than we were five or six weeks ago.
"We’re expecting a bit of a surge given the raising of travel restrictions from five kilometres to 20km.
“We’re full from 8am to 8pm seven days a week and we want to carry on accommodating members.
"We’re giving any frontline workers priority on timesheets if they’d like to and the whole focus is on getting our members back playing as much as we can.”