How will golf look after coronavirus lockdown?
One of the biggest issues surrounding the coronavirus and the lockdown isn’t how to follow the rules or keep safe. Instead, the issue is how to come out of lockdown and find a new normal that protects people and stops the spread of the virus, but allows people to do some of the things they need or want to do.
For golf, both professionally and at an amateur level, discussions and plans are already being made. With golf clothing apparel sites like www.golfposer.com seeing a slow uptick in traffic and sales, it is clear people are looking ahead to when golf can return. But how will the sport look after lockdown?
R&A suggested approaches
The R&A is the organiser of the Open and most international major championships. They also operate a range of amateur championships and international matches such as the Walker Cup. They work with the USGA to govern golf worldwide.
They have submitted proposals to create “safe golf” that would allow players to resume their favourite sport but with amendments in place to help with post-lockdown advice. Items such as bunker rakes, ball retrievers and ball washers as well as drinking fountains would be removed to reduce the risk of people touching items others have touched – and potentially spreading the virus.
Other suggested measures include:
- Flagsticks should not be touched
- Tea times should be done with a booking system at 10-minute intervals
- Social match play games rather than stroke play competitions are recommended
- Clubhouses remain closed apart from toilet facilities
Safe golf for all
The measures are part of ways that the sport’s administrators can demonstrate that golf is safe and that it can be played under new rules that recognise the continued threat of the virus. The measures have the backing of England Golf, the Professional Golfers Association and other bodies.
Even with these measures in place, the government needs to have changed its current stance on complete lockdown before any golf courses can reopen. Under the current rules, golf courses are all closed, and no one is permitted to travel to them to play, even alone.
When lockdown is released somewhat, there isn’t going to be an instant return to normal, which is why the R&A have announced these measures. Other steps would include the removal of benches and bins, while practice areas will remain closed until ways to safely sanitise them can be found.
Clubs will also not be permitted to offer trolleys, carts or other items for hire. Obviously, players will need to remain conscious of social distancing rules and keep two metres apart.
Natural social distancing
Golf is a game where social distancing is quite natural in many situations, and this has allowed certain countries to permit it to take place. Courses are already open with restrictions in Germany, Austria and Denmark, and, most recently, Ireland is considering how to reopen courses and what rules are needed.
Clubs will need to have their own plans in place and measures to protect their staff as well as players. Online booking systems are already in place for many and these may become a compulsory way to book a round.
Even changes to the actual rules of the game are being considered to allow play to resume. Drawing a circle around the hole is one suggestion and if the ball lands within it, it is considered to be holed. And the handshakes after the game are obviously off the menu of things players can do.
Laying out where players stand on the tee while one is taking their shot is another measure many clubs will bring in. But these and other measures will be willingly embraced by golf fans if it means a return to the sport they love.
The editorial unit