Here's when golf courses could reopen, and the social distancing measure that may be in place

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 12:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 13th May 2020, 10:25 am

Despite the UK now posting the worst coronavirus death toll in Europe - and the second highest in the world - talk of lockdown restrictions being lifted is on the lips of just about anyone.

People are eager - and with good reason - to get back out there and continue living their lives as normally as possible.

One demographic who've been unable to enjoy their favourite pastime is golfers.

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While the countryside remains open for reasonable, socially-distanced walks and exercise, privately owned golf courses do not, despite providing ample space to enjoy the game at a distance from others.

So just when might golfers be able to get back out onto courses to enjoy a round?

When will golf courses reopen?

The UK Government has announced that golf will be able to resume in England on Wednesday 13 May.

Unfortunately, due to devolved administrations taking differing approaches to the lockdown, golf courses in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales will remain closed.

What might a day at the golf course look like post-lockdown?

"Evidence from other countries and UK dependencies where courses have reopened suggests that demand for golf will be very high," say BIGGA.

An increase in demand will mean an increase in course maintenance, which would have to be carefully considered in a socially distant climate.

Measures put in place to allow for proper maintenance could include the prohibition of play before a given time each day, and a strict limit on the number of starting points for golf.

Clubs could also implement scheduled course closures to allow for keepers to keep up with maintenance, and an agreed a pace of play so golfers don’t catch up with greenkeepers.

Will you have to socially distance on the golf course?

Of course, much like is being practised now, social distancing among players will likely need to be observed for a time, even once lockdown is lifted.

That could be much easier on the open expanse of a golf course, but precautions will still have to be taken.

Increased hand sanitation stations in club houses and on courses is almost a given, and a more stringent policy on the hiring and sharing of equipment could be in place.

Clubs could also choose to enforce the mandatory wearing of facemasks on their grounds, even while playing out in the open.

"When governments and authorities give express consent, play may be able to begin in a regulated way," say BIGGA.

Their advice suggests that courses implement a number of procedures if and when courses are allowed to reopen, including:

  • Online tee time booking
  • Increased time between tee times to allow for easier social distancing
  • Restricted numbers of players in a group
  • Playing a reduced number of holes (e.g. 9 holes)
  • Payment taken online or by contactless methods
  • Marshals on the course to ensure social distancing is maintained
  • Using a hole liner system that means the ball doesn’t drop and can be retrieved without touching the cup
  • The removal of bunker rakes and other 'course furniture', and the covering or closing of ball washers
  • Golfers should be asked to leave the venue as soon as their game is completed