Golf clubs stay open during Coronavirus epidemic but with some extra rules

Golf clubs stay open during Coronavirus epidemic but with some extra rules
Gary O'Flaherty (Cork GC) pictured during the Lee Valley Senior Scratch Cup. Picture: Niall O'Shea

RACING, albeit behind closed doors, and golf are the only sports to survive restrictions placed on the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But, it’s not golf as we know because of social distancing and the general advice on public health.

Courses remain open to play, though usually on a reduced number of holes with an emphasis on social golf rather than competitive.

Normally, April is the start of the big inter-club competitions like the Fred Daly Trophy for juveniles, but this is clearly under threat.

The advent of milder weather combined with the closure of schools and people with more time on their hands than usual has led to a significant increase in the level of activity.

Clubs are cognisant of the dangers posed by youngsters mingling with the seanoirí section (generally retirees) and threat of spreading the virus, unintentionally, of course.

Kinsale GC, for example, have set aside certain times for juveniles between 2pm-3pm Monday to Friday and 3pm-4pm Saturday and Sunday.

And such is the level of activity among most clubs that a time sheet, even for casual golf, is in operation to ensure smooth running.

Clubs are also advising parents and guardians about the dangers posed by groups of youngsters congregating in any one place at the same time.

It’s a regular sight during the school holidays to observe them on the putting greens and pro-shops in clubs.

And many clubs are also placing restrictions on juveniles from being on in the clubhouse, bar and restaurant areas during certain times.

The Golfing Union of Ireland has issued guidelines similar to those of HSE with particular emphasis on certain elements of the sport’s etiquette.

Naturally, the traditional hand-shake before and after completing a round is banned as is the so-called shot-gun start.

This is a popular way to begin competitions with all 18 tee-boxes congregated by players waiting for the signal to begin.

There are some clubs who’ve done away with flags on greens on the basis players use their hands to take them out and replacing them, when the hole is finished.

There are obvious implications for everyone which is why some clubs are happy for members to play with the flags in, which doesn’t infringe any rule anyway.

The GUI is also discouraging social meals after play which is often part of society golf and inter-club matches.

Another vulnerable aspect is the handling of scorecards, especially for those tasked with finalising results.

The advice offered is for the wearing of gloves though, since last year, scorecards can now be in electronic form, which is an option open to all clubs.

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