For one sport it's a case of...only handle your own balls!

Changes ahead as easing of Covid-19 restrictions will see resumption of some sporting action

For one sport it's a case of...only handle your own balls!

It will be a case of handling only your own balls as far as one sport is concerned as the Covid-19 restrictions are set to be eased from Monday.

A number of sports are set to resume - most notably golf and tennis - but there could be a few changes ahead that people will have to get used to.

Numbers and social distancing will be key.

Indeed, there will be strict conditions in place, not least the fact that for tennis players you must handle only your own balls.

As Gerry Clarke, tennis coach at Letterkenny Tennis Club, explained: “You must bring your own balls, and serve with the ball you brought. 

“The only ball you can pick up is your own ball. If another player’s ball lands on your side of the court or is at the net, you can only lift it by using your racket.”

Quite simply, the only balls that you can pick up or handle are the ones that you have brought. You cannot touch balls belonging to anyone else.

Subject to the government giving the green light phase one of the easing of restrictions will begin on Monday, and Clarke says they will reopen on Tuesday.

“We are opening for business, but it will not be normal. There is no normal, there is not even a new normal. A new normal only comes as we keep educating and repeating the process.”

He explained that they will have to follow the protocols and guidelines laid down by the HSE which are being followed by tennis’ governing body.

Initially it will be singles tennis only,  although there will also be family time.

“You will not be able to just drop down. You must be a member and you will have to book your court in advance,” he said.

He stressed that everyone will have to enter their names and must play in person. This is vital for traceability purposes. There must be an official record of who was playing, so people can be traced in the event of anyone subsequently being tested positive for Covid-19.

All players will be monitored to ensure that they are complying with guidelines - there will even be an in gate and out gate. “The key here is to educate, we must learn the new norm,” he said. There will also be a lot of signage erected.


He also pointed out that they will have a “family space” with two out of four courts in use (with the middle two vacant). The emphasis will be on exercise and having families together on courts. They can play “modified” games if not straight-forward tennis.

Interestingly, he thinks that the coronavirus pandemic could have a knock-on effect on how many families approach sport.

“Many parents beforehand were in the habit of dropping off their kids and did not engage in sport with them. But now there are many who are not working or who have more time and they have been engaging with their kids. This is a hugely positive thing.”

Indeed, he feels that many parents “will not be in a rush to drop their kids off” for some while and may become more involved with their sporting activities.

Gerry Clarke, coach at Letterkenny Tennis Club

Letterkenny Tennis Club, in a bid to encourage people to get involved, is now offering a family membership package for €200. “This will be valid for the rest of this year and all of next year so you are getting 19 months which is great value,” he said.

For more details about Letterkenny Tennis Club CLICK HERE


Meanwhile, golf clubs in Donegal are preparing for a flood of calls to book for next week.

Like tennis, there will be a number of restrictions.

In phase one of the reopening of the country, play is restricted to members, and it will be casual golf with no club competitions or opens.

Personnel will be on hand to monitor adherence with physical distancing rules and the rules for golfers.

Tee times must be booked in advance online or over the telephone, and clubs must ensure that players’ names are recorded, and time sheets must be kept for a period of at least six weeks to assist with contact tracing should the need arise. 

Daily time sheets are restricted to a minimum of 10, 12 or 14 minute intervals. Clubs may only choose one interval for each day. If clubs choose 10+ minute intervals, play is restricted to one golfer per start time. If clubs choose 12+ minutes, up to two golfers may play per start time. If clubs choose 14+ minutes, up to three golfers may play per start time.

These measures will result in a maximum of 60 golfers occupying an 18-hole course at any given time. This is around 55% of full capacity.

Bars and restaurants will remain closed and off-limits as per government policy. 

The Golfing Union of Ireland and Irish Ladies' GolfUnion have laid down strict protocols to follow.

Criteria in place will insist that members are instructed not to touch the flag, holes/cups should be altered to facilitate easy retrieval of golf balls, and sanitisers should be made available.

Where practice putting greens are open, the holes should be filled in or covered, otherwise the greens should be closed. 

Under no circumstances should golfers arrive at a club without booking in advance. 

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