05 Dec 2021

Why Golf Courses should not close in Ireland during the present lockdown

Why Golf Courses should not close in Ireland during the present lockdown

Much has been said and written about this second ‘lockdown’, including most sports, but many believe that some of these sports closures are a contradiction of what the government and sports bodies are trying to achieve in way of confining and eventually eradicating the Covid virus. One of the main, and in Ireland I would suggest a monumental issue, surrounds the closure of all things golf, ie., golf clubs, golf courses and golf driving ranges.
For the non-golfer and those who have no interest at all in golf, allow me to firstly state that following the previous lockdown when we were ‘back to sport’, golf’s governing bodies, associations, clubs and members abided by every rule published [and more] to contain the virus. Rules involving food, [clubhouse bar & restaurant closed], amenities, [toilets closed], social distancing, [playing 8mins apart] and indeed, numbers [groups of 2 or three only].
All of these ‘rules’ stated could have been very easily implemented once again, indeed many of them had not been rescinded, and the only thing that golfers asked for in this second ‘lockdown’ was for the courses to remain open for playing purposes. So why the closures?
This is not about people missing out on a few games of golf over the next few weeks or facing a month without golf. We can all live with that, as we did before, but it's the bigger picture that really matters.
This is about people being prohibited from getting through a difficult time, physically and mentally, in contradiction of the government’s health advice. All medical experts will tell us that golf plays a massive part in people's health, and this pandemic has shown us all just how much. With safe and responsible exercising being encouraged by government during the second period of national lockdown, it seems incongruous for all golf courses and golf amenities to now close.
We, as golfers, cannot understand this contradiction of the government’s health warning during this crisis, of getting out into the fresh air, walking, swimming, running, exercising. What is golf all about? I believe that golf would not, in any way, undermine the huge public health efforts that are going on in this country during these times. Golf, in fact, can help us get through this terrible pandemic and be stronger for it once we emerge on the other side. When golf returned from the first lockdown, we saw a massive uplift in golf club membership and participation in the sport. There are plenty of reasons behind this, but, from a younger generation’s point of view, they were mainly because of the clear benefits that the game offers. Of course there are plenty of issues to address right now but golf gives everybody, especially older folks, the opportunity to get some exercise.
An argument against keeping the courses open would be the fact that people will have to travel to them, which I understand could be considered as unnecessary travel. But what would be the problem of one person [or family members] driving to golf and straight home again in their own vehicle? Golf has always been renowned as a sport that has instilled respect in people, it's one of the great qualities that it teaches, and you cannot say that golfers wouldn't respect the rules of social distancing on the golf course, a much larger area than any other sport and you can't deny the fact that, with the amount of space you're in, how easy it is to socially distance. Why wouldn't they when they would be expected to in their local supermarket and all other public areas? For this and many reasons, it is my belief that it is unnecessary to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in the open air.
One of the puzzling factors from when this lockdown on golf was instigated was the lack of any form of written or verbal, socially or otherwise, protesting from our own golf club committees, local council representatives, TD’s, or indeed, golf’s governing body representatives [GUI] here in Donegal.
In the U.K., England Golf has confirmed they will “respectfully challenge” the government’s decision to close golf courses and driving ranges as part of lockdown restrictions as from tomorrow, Thursday 5th,
An online petition to make golf courses exempt from venues required to shut down received more than 100,000 signatures in a matter of hours, meaning it will be considered for debate by Parliament, with former world No 1 Lee Westwood among those sharing the petition on social media.
"Golf is widely acknowledged as a game which is good for the body and soul, with outstanding research reiterating its benefits for the older generation recently shared by The R&A. But even without a research paper, the physical benefits of exercising in the open air are obvious and known to all.
"In the current situation, the psychological gains from being able to enjoy a social and safe form of outdoor activity, enjoying a temporary release from the pressures of everyday life probably outweigh the physical”.

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