One game per week when golf courses are open again
● Club managers are braced for tight restrictions as they prepare for easing of the shutdown
Golfers have been warned they could initially be limited to one round per week due to the expected high demand when courses in Scotland re-open following the coronavirus closure.
In another message that will grab the attention of the country’s army of golfers, it is being predicted that some clubs are likely to limit play initially to single players and two-balls from the same household.
David Roy, who holds that post at Crail Golfing Society, and Gordon Simpson, who runs the day-to-day affairs at Gullane, are still waiting to hear exactly what the government guidelines will be and when courses can reopen.
However, they are in agreement that golfers around the country are going to be faced with some restrictions at the outset that might not be met with approval but, nonetheless, will need to be followed in an attempt to create “safe golf ”.
“I think it is safe to say there will be an excess of demand over supply when the courses reopen,” said Roy. “Therefore, do we say to the members: ‘you are only going to get one single game in the week?’
“Every single club will have a bundle of members who want to play every single day in the year. We can’t have a situation where the place is being hogged by a handful of members. So, do we say in the first week ‘you are only getting one game’ and just be prepared for the flak from that?”
It was initially suggested by Karin Sharp, Scottish Golf’s chief operating officer, that play at first might be limited to single players and groups from the same household. The R&A plan submitted to the government made no reference to that, but Roy reckons some clubs could go down that route at first.
“Our feeling, and this comes from talking to as many people as possible at other local clubs, is that, regardless of what government restrictions come out, in the early phase we might insist on single players and two-balls from the same household,” he added.
“You wouldn’t want to have a situation where two players find themselves in the same group due to that being the only available time and a potential argument ensues because one of the players isn’t comfortable. It might be simpler in the first couple of weeks to say it’s single players only or two players from the same household.”
Even with three courses in operation, Simpson reckons restrictions are also likely to be in place at Gullane. “I believe that we will have to introduce limitations when we first get the go ahead to open up as there will be huge demand,” he said.
In Ireland, golf is set for a phased return on 18 May, starting with members living within five kilometres of their club before being extended to 10km on 8 June then beyond 20km on 20 July.
“I’m not sure there are going to be travel restrictions in the UK,” said Roy. “But, if there are, my guess would be it is going to be broader than 5k. At the moment, we don’t have the same travel restrictions they have in Ireland.
“We’ve done our stats on membership numbers based on how many members live in the KY11 postcode. We’ve got 550 out of the 1400 playing members, with 400 who have an alternative place to play golf due to being a member of another club.
“That leaves us with potentially 500-600 members who are going to be inconvenienced by not getting a game. We would only be able to deal with that as and when we know more.”
A large chunk of Gullane’s big membership live in and around Edinburgh, meaning either a 5km or 10km restriction would stop them from heading down the East Lothian coast if that sort of restriction was part of the UK plan.
“I prefer a postcode system,” admitted Simpson. “I feel a 5km boundary would be very limiting to many clubs and unrealistic for clubs to police.”
Greenkeepers have been advised to have their courses ready for reopening at very short notice, “perhaps even overnight”, by the British and International Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA).