Golf courses in Wales will be allowed to open from tomorrow (March 13) following the latest easing of the lockdown unveiled by Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford at a Welsh Government press conference held on March 12.
Outdoor sports facilities will be able to welcome visitors back from this weekend, while four people from two households will also be able to meet outdoors to socialise.
Key to allowing outdoor sports facilities to resume trading is the Welsh Government’s lifting of its ‘stay at home’ requirement and replacing it with ‘stay local’ from Saturday, marking a departure from restrictions which meant exercise had to start and finish at your front door and not include driving.
The ‘stay local’ rule is likely to be similar to what people in Wales were asked to adhere to last summer when they were told to stay within a five-mile radius of their home. Golfers from England will not be allowed to travel to Wales to play golf, however close they live to the Welsh border. Golf courses in England will be allowed to re-open on March 29.
The British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association and the Golf Club Managers Association have both welcomed the reopening of golf courses in Wales, although both were surprised at the short notice given.
In a joint statement, the two associations said: “As welcoming as the relaxing of restrictions are, the incredibly short notice of just one day presents a significant challenge for the golf facilities of Wales to achieve readiness. There are many logistical challenges to opening a facility at short notice and a number of facilities will be part-way through significant on or off course projects that may take time to complete.
“Golfers will no doubt be eager to head back out on the course as soon as they can get an available tee time and we look forward to golf clubs becoming thriving hubs of activity once again as people enjoy the many benefits that golf can bring. However, on behalf of our members, both BIGGA and the GCMA ask for consideration from golfers and an understanding that courses may not be able to open immediately and, when they do, they may not be prepared to the usual standards golfers have come to expect.
“It can be reasonably anticipated that limitations on winter maintenance and renovations caused by an exceedingly wet winter, restrictions on activities due to COVID safety measures and the potential placing of staff onto furlough to protect the golf club business will have restricted what the team have been able to achieve. Additionally, 2020 saw participation at unprecendented levels which reduced maintenance opportunities and created more wear and tear on turf and other areas than usual.
“The preparation and maintenance of a golf course is a year-round process; as life returns to the golf club following the reopening, so too will life return to the course itself. As golfers return to the fairways, we ask for patience and consideration of the activities of the entire golf club team, from managers through front-of-house staff and the greenkeepers who have, like each of us at some time in the past year, worried about their livelihoods, their personal health and wellbeing, and who take great pride in their work but due to circumstances beyond their control have perhaps been unable to achieve the high standards they set for themselves.
Meanwhile, in Scotland, where golf courses have remained open during the third national lockdown, fourballs can now play together from today (March 12), Scottish Golf have confirmed.
Following first minister Nicola Sturgeon’s update on Covid-19 restrictions, the governing body has provided interim guidance to clubs ahead of a fully updated guidance grid.
In a statement, Scottish Golf said: “Guidance previously allowed golfers to travel up to five miles outside their local authority area to take part in informal exercise using household rules. Yesterday’s announcement to allow organised sport will allow fourball play with no restrictions on the number of households; however, this is only applicable to members who live within the golf club’s local authority area. Where golfers are required to travel up to five miles across a local authority boundary, players will be required to adhere to informal exercise guidance which is subject to household limits of four players from two households.”