It’s a headache as Scots’ hopes of hearing ‘game on’ are frustrated
MARTIN DEMPSTER ON GOLF
Bloody hell. Covering Scottish golf has given me the odd headache over the years, but this current one is a stonker and it’s not about to go away. Not with so many opinions flying about over courses all around the country continuing to remain closed.
It didn’t help, of course, that hopes about a reopening were raised by a weekend report claiming that the Scottish Government had been expected to ease lockdown restrictions this week, paving the way for the Royal & Ancient game’s imminent return.
In one fell swoop, golfers the length and breadth of Scotland began to have thoughts about being back on their local course by this weekend, perhaps, and next Monday at the latest. And why not?
Courses in England have now been open for almost a week and, by the sounds of things, guidelines in place to deliver “safe golf ” have been working a treat. Golfers are also now back out on courses in Wales and the Republic of Ireland, with courses in Northern Ireland set to follow suit as part of lockdown restrictions just being lifted there.
In Scotland, though, that return will now be 29 May, the day after the Scottish Government’s next official review of lockdown restrictions, at the earliest and, most likely, Monday 1 June.
On the one hand, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that the first phase of a lockdown exit road map including “some limited outdoor sports” such as golf and fishing being allowed “within a few days” of 28 May should be applauded.
That, after all, is what most golfers have been waiting to hear ever since Boris Johnson gave the go-ahead a week past Sunday for courses in England to reopen and the Welsh government following suit last week.
On the other, though, she has also added fuel to a raging fire of frustration as Scottish golfers continue to be kept off their courses at a time when they are being used on an increasing basis by walkers, runners and cyclists.
Twitter went into meltdown as golfers north of the Border faced up to another ten to 14 days before they are probably back occupying those huge open swathes of land instead and enjoying the fresh air the sport affords.
Even now, a full eight weeks into lockdown, golf is still way down the list of priorities as the world continues its fight against the coronavirus, but, as the home of golf, it seems feasible to suggest the time is right for someone to open up a bit more about why the process of reopening courses in Scotland is taking longer than England, Ireland and Wales.
If it is down to concerns about people starting to travel a bit more again, venturing from built-up areas where there have been more Covid-19 cases into rural areas, then come out and get that message across.
That should probably come from the First Minister but, if not, then sportscotland and Scottish Golf are “working through final details” with the Scottish Government about a planned return, so they could be putting people in the picture a bit more.
I’m still in the camp of believing that people should be patient and a 1 June restart will still give golfers an opportunity to enjoy a decent summer season out on courses that continue to whet appetites by looking in mint condition.
However, I can also see why frustration is growing day by day among Scotland’s army of golfers as their neighbours south of the Border prepare to enter a second week back on their courses without a hint of any reported problems with social distancing.
A week ago, Scottish members of English golf clubs might have been reluctant to cross the Border for a game but not any more, by the sounds of things and, the longer the courses in Scotland stay closed, that temptation will start to grow among many others.
It’s a pity, really, that it is getting to that stage, which is why someone needs to stand up and deliver a detailed explanation about why the home of golf is staying closed as the sport is back being played in just about every country on the globe.
It’s not often the world is watching Scotland, but you get the feeling that’s exactly what is happening at the moment and, therefore, it is time for the rationale behind the Scottish Government’s position on golf to be outlined.
If not, more and more golfers around the country are going to grow frustrated over the coming days and, believe me, that is not going to allow my mother of all golfing headaches to ease!