After the famine, it’s tee-time at many golf clubs across Wales as the first sport to emerge from the forced hibernation of the pandemic, appears – blinking a little – into the light. Graham Thomas looks at what you can and can’t do and speaks to two clubs who have reached differing decisions on the best way ahead.
Golf is back . . . Kind of.
At courses throughout Wales, golfers have returned to the fairways this week and been teeing up the ball to enjoy one of the most pleasurable sounds sport has to offer. Thwack!
It’s certainly not the same as it was, but with some careful attention to regulations issued by Welsh Government – and more specific advice from Wales Golf – then many golfers have been slowly venturing back.
For golfers who last blasted a driver, chipped a delicate approach shot, or rolled in a putt back in mid-March that’s something to celebrate.
So, what are the restrictions? And it’s worth stressing to all golfers that these are not “club rules” or preferences brought in by the governing body.
They are part of legislation passed by Welsh Government – The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 – and anyone ignoring them could be fined for breaking the law.
These differ from the regulations in England, where the wider rules on meeting one other person from outside the household have been relaxed.
So, in Wales golfers must either:
Play alone as a single-ball player.
Or play with one other player, provided they are from the same household.
They are also required to stay “local”, although Welsh Government has not defined exactly what the limits of “local” are and it may differ from one area to another.
And they should try and avoid driving to the course if at all possible, although it’s accepted this could be necessary for people with health or mobility issues.
It all means golfers in Wales cannot play with fellow club members, or regular golfing partners, unless they live under the same roof – even if they were to stick to strict social distancing.
In a statement to all golfers, Wales Golf suggest they are hopeful the regulations may change in the near future – but they also warn golf could disappear again if people don’t abide.
They state: “This may or may not change the next time the Welsh Government considers making changes to the lockdown restrictions. Wales Golf stresses that these regulations are those imposed by the Welsh Government and not by Wales Golf.
“As one of the first sports to be allowed to resume, there is a major responsibility for golf clubs and golfers to ensure that our sport is conducted safely and responsibly. Full adherence to the provisions of this protocol is essential. It should be noted that the Government continues to monitor the situation closely and retains the right to reintroduce restrictions which could see golf clubs closed if the protocol is not followed.”
While many golf courses in Wales re-opened on Monday May 19 – with other changes, such as arriving dressed for golf and putting on golf shoes in the car park – Wales’ best known club remains closed.
Wales Golf has published a guide to the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ regarding the re-opening of golf in Wales🏴⛳️
— Wales Golf | Golff Cymru (@wales_golf) May 15, 2020
The Celtic Manor Resort near Newport – host to the Ryder Cup in 2010 and with around 1,000 golf club members spread far and wide – does not plan to re-open its courses until June 1 when they hope that the restrictions may have been lifted further.
Celtic Manor spokesman Paul Williams says: “Due to the restrictions on only being able to play with members of the same household, and those on staying local, we don’t plan to re-open at present.
“But we are working hard on putting in additional safety measures and amending our playing procedures so that we are ready to start golf again as soon as possible. And the staff we have working are making sure the courses will be ready to play.”
Just a couple of par fives away from the Celtic Manor, at Llanwern Golf Club, though, it’s a different story.
It’s a different kind of club with a much more locally-based membership and it has embraced the opportunity to open its fairways – albeit with strict following of the new rules.
Llanwern has only around the half the membership of the Celtic Manor and few live any significant distance away.
The club has already been busy posting clips on their Twitter account of members teeing off – including one of young member Taylor Pardue landing a beauty straight onto the green with the opening drive of the day.
Ian Harrison, the club’s strategy and policy director, says it was important the club fulfilled its community role of providing physical and social benefits to all its members.
“We are pretty happy that the protocols we have put in place provide a safe working environment for our staff as well as a secure one for the members to come and play,” he says.
“We have adapted our booking system and people are mostly playing single ball golf on their own, or, a few of the fortunate ones are able to play with members of their own family.
56 Days Later…………. Golf is back @llanwerngolf Thank you for your patience and support. See if you can spot yourself or someone you know in the video. Tag away and help share the Llanwern Love ❤️ #happy #happygolf #golf pic.twitter.com/xV1YFyy612
— Llanwern Golf Club (@llanwerngolf) May 18, 2020
“It’s wonderful to have golf back, however strange it seems with the restrictions. Although much of the emphasis has been placed on physical exercise, we really value the aspect of mental health.
“We have some members, who are over 65 and living on their own and golf provides them with some crucial social interaction. That’s essential.
“At present, we have one set of rules for golfers this side of the Severn Bridge and another set just a few miles over the other side, but hopefully, in time, that will change.”
Members should contact their local club to ensure they understand the processes that have been put in place as they may differ from club to club. Contact should be made before attending your club’s course.