Golf: Fears over ‘free for all’ if clubs are not given adequate time to prepare courses for easing of coronavirus restrictions

Clubs feel 72 hours is ‘reasonable timescale’ to prepare for reopening

Golf clubs ideally need 72 hours’ notice to be ready for reopening without worrying about a “free for all” that fails to comply with measures aimed at delivering “safe golf”.

The message was delivered by an official at a Lothians club after greenkeepers were advised to have their courses ready for reopening at very short notice, “perhaps even overnight”.

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“Whilst getting back to golf would be fantastic, we cannot have a free for all,” said Uphall treasurer Bill Mackintosh.

“Assuming there are going to be recommendations per BIGGA, the R&A etc, these need more than 24 hours’ notice to ensure safety of players and staff.

“Our club’s view is that 72 hours notice would be a reasonable timescale to ensure that we get all of the necessary bits and pieces in place to allow everyone to play safely.

“That way, we minimise the risk of anything going wrong or action being taken against the club for failing to comply with whatever measures are required.”

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While greenkeepers have been working at most courses since they closed en masse due to the coronavirus chaos on March 23, Mackintosh says its not as easy as flicking a switch to get things back up and running again overnight.

“Members need to be advised of the conditions applying to golf,” he added. “Tee time intervals need to be input, while booking systems need to be updated and activated and staff need to be recalled from furlough.

“Clubs need to be retrieved out of lockers in an orderly manner while, out on the course, tee markers need to be put out and holes need to be cut.

“Some of this can be done in advance (and we have a detailed action plan), but much depends on how many of the conditions we need to apply and what local variations are needed.

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“I spoke to our head greenkeeper today and he said that the reason we have been able to keep things in good shape with a smaller staff than normal, is that an empty course allows tasks to be done without interruption.

“He gave the example of cutting our fairways, a task which normally takes two man days - that takes 1.5 man days at the moment.”

Due to demand exceeding supply when courses reopen, it is being suggested that members could be restricted to how many rounds they play per week at the outset.

On that, Mackintosh said: “Much depends on whether we come back with limits on player numbers per group.

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“Booking systems don’t really cater for a restriction on rounds played and we think it’s really difficult to say to someone who’s faithfully paid their subs with no golf, that they can only play x times in a week or whatever.

“We’ve also no real feel for how confident people will feel, especially in the vulnerable categories, about coming out from “stay at home” straight onto the golf course. We’ll have to be nimble and try to accommodate everyone as best we can.

“We will be open as soon as humanly and safely possible!”

Gullane secretary Gordon Simpson also believes it would be helpful for clubs to be given more than a day’s notice, especially in respect of the administration side.

“Ideally, we would obviously love some lead time into re-opening but course wise we could get this set up with 24 hours’ notice no problem although the course may not be 100 per cent how we would like it at this time of year,” he said.

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“The difficulty is booking and controlling the tee times in such a quick turnaround as when we do open as we don’t know all of the regulations as yet.

“The last thing any club would want to do is open too quickly and there be some issues to attract attention from the authorities.

“We are all working on hearsay and gossip at present to try and devise a re-opening plan.

“It would be great if we had clear guidelines to work towards, but I think the bottom line is that all clubs would do everything practically possible to get open as quick as they can to try and get our members back playing.”

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