Golf courses open: What are the new rules you must follow?

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced over the weekend people would be able to take “unlimited” amounts of outdoor exercise as of Wednesday, May 13. As well as cycling, walking and running, people are now able to go fishing and play golf. However, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, people who choose to play golf will have to abide by social distancing measures.

What are the news rules for golf?

Although lockdown rules have been eased slightly, people are being told to adhere to social distancing rules.

This means keeping at least two metres apart from people not in your household and paying attention to hand hygiene.

People are now allowed to meet one person from another household while maintaining social distancing.

However, you will not be able to play sports with a person not from your household.

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The R&A, who organises The Open every year, has outlined the following groupings will be permitted upon resumption of golf this week:

  • Individuals playing golf on their own.
  • Two-balls comprising of individuals from different households
  • At the discretion of the golf club, members of the same household playing in two, three or four-balls.

There are likely to be many updates in the coming weeks on golf and preventing the spread of COVID-19, but at the end of April the R&A made a number of recommendations for helping to control the virus.

Some of the organisation’s suggestions for golf courses to follow include:

  • All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed.
  • Ball washers and drinking fountains to be covered up.
  • Benches and bins to be removed, covered or sign-posted in such a way that players don’t touch them.
  • All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions.
  • Flagsticks can be retained but it is strongly recommended that a sign is put on the flagstick stating that it is not to be touched.
  • A method of inserting the hole liner to be used so not all of the ball falls below the surface of the putting green and can be easily retrieved by handling the ball only.
  • Practice areas, including practice nets, to be closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.
  • Clubs/facilities to organise a system of booking and allocation of tee times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers.
  • The maximum number of golfers in a group per tee time to be confirmed by the club/facility and must be in accordance with any government requirements.
  • There is to be a minimum of 10-minute intervals between tee times, but longer intervals may be more appropriate depending on the club/facility.
  • The clubhouse and locker room facilities will be closed. Limited essential access (for example to use the toilets) may be allowed by the club/facility.
  • Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the club/facility, for example not leaving cars until a certain time before their tee time.
  • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place to ensure social distancing requirements in the area of the professional’s shop or starter’s building in advance of golfers teeing off.
  • No trolleys, carts or other items to be available for hire unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.
  • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green, for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to tee off.

Both the R&A and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) include more details on guidance for golf course reopening on their websites.

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Where can I play golf?

In England, as of May 13, a number of golf courses will begin to reopen under new social distancing guidelines.

The R&A said in a statement: “As a sport we must work together to resume play responsibly as and when the relevant Government determines it is safe to do so.

“We must ensure that the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved from golfers, to club staff and greenkeepers is maintained at all times.

“Golf clubs and golfers have observed the lockdown very well and must keep it up and act responsibly as play resumes.”

Wales Golf, the national governing body for the sport in Wales, has advised golf courses they can open from May 13 “if they so wish”.

However the body has asked golf courses to wait until Monday, May 18 to reopen.

In Wales, social distancing rules differ, and people will only be able to play on local courses and with members of their own household.

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