Can I play golf now? Latest lockdown advice as outdoor sport rules ease

Outdoor sports that can be practised in a socially-distanced way have been making strong representations to the Government throughout these national lockdowns.

And now golf’s gates have finally reopened, here is all you need to know…

When can I tee-up?

England’s fairways reopened at first light on Monday, March 29 with clubs primed for full starting sheets and minimal disruption due to Covid-19 restrictions. 

Among the first to re-open its doors was the Morley Hayes Golf Club, near Derby, with players teeing off at 12.01am on Monday for a seven-hole floodlit charity tournament.

The unseasonably warm weather surely led to a bumper week for the sport in the country as golfers at last had the chance to emulate their counterparts in Scotland and Wales, who have been merrily teeing it up at different degrees.

England Golf, the governing body, made clear its anger at the decision to bracket golf together with other outdoor pursuits, adamant it proved itself as “the official socially-distant pursuit” last summer. But now the pins are back in the holes, there is an urgency to build on the spectacular growth of 2020, which saw participation levels soar and memberships bulge. 

Tim Barnes, who co-owns and runs two courses in Cheshire, highlighted the demand. “I’ve just had a text from one member asking that if he shines his car headlights down the first at 12.01am, he could hit a shot,” he said on Sunday morning. “We are pretty much booked up for the whole week at both Hartford Golf Club and Pryor Hayes. With the sun promised and the clocks brought forward, we are anticipating an exhilaratingly busy week.”

What forms of golf can I play?

The industry has been buoyed by the allowance of fourballs from the off, a scenario not yet permitted in Wales which is limited to two-balls. Of course, this means more players able to re-indulge immediately with their passion; albeit sanitised. However, golfers are now accustomed to the coronavirus rules and observing the necessary caution, including not using bunker rakes, cleaning the pin, not shaking hands etc 

Will clubhouses be open?

England Golf has published its ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ protocols, which it says “should be referenced by all golfers and golf clubs”. Clubhouses will remain shut for the next few weeks – until drinks are allowed to be served outside – but the thirst to play is the priority and is about to be blessedly sated. 

Some clubs have decided to reopen with a charity event. Ferndown Golf Club in Dorset has chosen to mark the reopening of its course from March 29 with a charity fundraiser for Marie Curie. The idea behind the initiative is simple, if unusual – the worse you play, the more money you raise. Each golfer pays a £3 entry fee, marks a card according to their handicap and for every shot they finish above par, they donate an additional £1 to Marie Curie funds. Harry Redknapp is one of the entrants.

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