R&A and BIGGA outline some of the scenarios golfers may encounter when playing golf during the coronavirus pandemic...
The R&A's agronomists have explained to golfers why standards on their course may not be at the level they expected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, writes BIGGA.
Following the outbreak of coronavirus and the implementation of government restrictions on movement and working practices, the R&A, in conjunction with BIGGA, published a series of statements on essential maintenance for golf courses.
The idea was to develop a safe framework for the way in which golf courses could be maintained during this difficult period.
The aim has been to help ensure that working environments are safe and one in which greenkeepers are comfortable going to work. Many clubs in the UK have furloughed staff and reduced the staff hours available for maintenance.
To keep greenstaff safe, measures such as social distancing, the introduction of rotas, enhanced hygiene/cleaning procedures and one person one machine directives have been introduced.
In other areas of the industry, there have been inevitable difficulties with sourcing products and equipment for course maintenance, with many clubs pausing spending.
Consequently, course maintenance levels and product supply have been reduced, and operations and applications have focused on the main playing surfaces.
Golf courses are living entities and can deteriorate quite rapidly if nothing is done to them, particularly when growth is strong. Consequently, practices such as mowing, irrigation and nutrition, and machinery maintenance were identified as essential in order to maintain a holding position and allow for swift recovery at limited cost once restrictions are lifted.
Given that courses differ in type, location, soil types and grass species, it is accepted that what is deemed essential at one club may not be deemed so at another, so there needed to be some interpretation and flexibility in the guidance.
As golf returns, time will be required for staffing and maintenance levels to return to something like "normal".
It is likely that social distancing measures will remain in place for quite some time and there may be a lag period for greenkeeping teams to get back to a full complement following furloughing.
It is important for golfers to realise that in some cases the course they return to may not be as they would expect for the time of year. We all have to have realistic expectations for the course when we do return. The following describes some of the scenarios golfers may encounter: