golf equipment covid

Posted by & filed under Blog, Golf Equipment.

Amidst the drama and excitement of getting back out there, you may have forgotten about your gear – but there are some very important adjustments to make and guidelines you need to follow.

Hannah Holden, Equipment and Instruction Editor at National Club Golfer, has laid out some guidelines to make sure you don’t find yourself in a spot of bother.

Golf equipment vs Covid: Clubs

Do not even touch other players’ clubs. Simple as that.

We’ve all been in that situation where we’re playing a friendly round and borrowed a putter because we left our own in our bag after finding trouble near a green. Just don’t.

Stick to your own and keep them clean. (I know you’ve got a stash of anti bacterial wipes at home already so you might as well make use of them.)

Golf equipment vs Covid: Balls

Same rules. Touch your own and no one else’s.

Don’t leave yourself in a situation where you would need to even think about touching someone else’s golf balls.

Found a Pro V1 in the woods? Great! Well, any other time it would be. Leave it there.

So make sure you have plenty of balls in your bag because the rough is going to be a bit thicker than normal. Why not use this as an opportunity to treat yourself to some new balls? It’s up to you if you’d rather look for a TitleistTaylorMadeCallaway or Srixon in the trees…

Golf equipment vs Covid: Tees

I know it’s tempting, particularly on a par-3, to grab a broken tee left on the tee box and use that. But that needs to stop. You have no idea who has touched them.

In fact, while we are on this point, just don’t leave broken tees on the ground full stop. Take them with you and put them in the bin when you get home.

Don’t worry if your stock is running low, you can buy shed loads of wooden tees for next to nothing.

Or, if you want to be more environmentally friendly, why not give these 100% sustainable bamboo tees from Ocean Tee a try?

Golf equipment vs Covid: Trolleys

It seems that hire trolleys will remain off-limits for the foreseeable future so maybe now is time to upgrade to one of your own?

There are plenty of impressive options from both Motocaddy and PowaKaddy.

If you need to buy one, I really like the Motocaddy M3, which starts from £749.99, and the compact Powakaddy CT6, from £649.99. Both brands have impressive push model options, too.

If they’re a bit out of your price range and want something simple, try the Masters 1 Series, which will give you change from £40.

Golf equipment vs Covid: Rakes

OK, not something you’d normally have in your bag but England Golf have already stated all rakes are to be removed from the course.

If you want to play your part in keeping the course neat, why not add one into your own setup? You can get full rakes for next to nothing in the supermarket and Amazon has one you can attach to the end of your club.

But remember, as with everything else, don’t let anyone else touch your rake.

Golf equipment vs Covid: Anything else?

Other items that won’t be available include ball cleaners so my advice would be to carry a damp towel or flannel on your bag.

Also, remember all bins have to be removed from the course or covered and not used so make sure you take a bag of some sort to stash your rubbish while you play.

And don’t touch the flagsticks!

Enjoy your round. And remember: Play Safe, Stay Safe.

world handicap system golf

Posted by & filed under Blog.

If it seems ages ago that we were talking about the dawn of the World Handicap System, that’s because it is. The new way of measuring our ability was introduced in the UK in November.

But successive lockdowns have meant many of us have barely had a chance to get to grips with terms like Course Handicaps and Slope.

As we now return to the golf course, and with the season upon us, we’re going to be dealing with our World Handicap System Indexes for the first time in a meaningful way.

In an interview with our partner National Club Golfer, Gemma Hunter, England Golf’s head of handicapping and course rating, reveals 5 key things you need to know about the World Handicap System.

1. Your World Handicap System Index and Course Handicap are not the same thing

Now we’ve moved into the new world of WHS you have two numbers you need to remember. One is your Handicap Index, which is the exact calculation of your handicap. This is equivalent to what was your CONGU handicap.

This number [usually expressed to a decimal point] is the average of the best eight of your last 20 scores – in terms of the score differential.

So if people ask ‘what’s your handicap?’ That’s your Handicap Index and that’s how we compare each other now.

Let’s look at Course Handicap. Whenever you play on a golf course, wherever you are, your index is going to change and you’re going to have a different Course Handicap.

It looks at the difficulty of that golf course for the scratch and bogey player and works out what your Course Handicap is based on the slope rating of the golf course you are playing.

2. Your Course Handicap can change depending on the course, or even the tees from which you are playing

Let’s say you are playing your home golf course: your white tees have a slope rating of 145, your yellow tees are 125, and your red tees (for men) are rated at 95. You’re going to have three very different Course Handicaps over those golf courses.

You’re going to lose shots on the red colour, you’re going to gain a few on the yellow and you’re going to gain quite a lot on the whites.

It’s all about the difficulty for the two players – scratch and bogey – playing that particular golf course.

We’re not comparing Course A to Course B. We’re comparing the same golf course but for two players of different ability.

Your handicap is no longer based on playing one single course. It is recalculated and that’s why we call it a Course Handicap. It can change for every course you play.

There are so many different ways you can check what your Course Handicap is going to be on any particular course.

You can do it via the My England Golf app, via the club boards, or you even manually work it out if you know the calculations.

Your Course Handicap is of primary importance because that’s how we work out where you are going to get your strokes.

So, in short, you know what your Handicap Index is, you’ll choose the right tee for your game on that particular day, work out your Course Handicap, and go out and enjoy your round of golf.

3. You receive a Playing Handicap during club competitions but it doesn’t affect the score that goes forward for handicap purposes

The playing handicap is purely for competition purposes. You may find the score you enter into the computer, because that score is based on your Course Handicap, will be different to what is shown on the results sheet.

That’s to be expected. It’s going to be slightly less if you play a medal, for example, because that format comes with a 95% allowance.

But don’t worry too much about the Playing Handicap. It’s purely for competition results purposes.

If you’re recording your gross score, we will use your Course Handicap to work out your new Handicap Index.

4. Social rounds can count towards your handicap

The idea of WHS is you have more opportunity to return scores for handicap purposes. It’s not limited to competition scores. It’s not limited to scores played at your home golf club, as it was with supplementary scores.

You now have the ability to choose to return a score in general play whenever you wish – either home or away.

As long as you are playing a measured golf course, and you pre-register your intent to score before you go out and play, you can return a score from anywhere.

5. You can always check your handicap, and much more, on the My England Golf App

We have launched an app with a range of features – primarily the ability to look at your handicap record. You have full access to scores and it highlights which scores are included in your handicap calculations.

It shows you handicap trends. It has a Course Handicap Calculator, which allows you to select the golf course you’re going to play, the relevant tees, and will do the calculation for you. It tells you what the Course and Slope ratings are and reveals, based on your Handicap Index, what your Course Handicap is.

The Friends functionality allows you to set up a group of people who you might normally play with, look at their records, and send notes and messages around.

We’ve got a lot more coming on stream over the next month or so. There’s much to look forward to and the app is certainly the first port of call for golfers looking to get more out of their Handicap Index.

playing golf covid

Posted by & filed under Blog.

If you’re finding the guidelines confusing, then you’re not alone. Alex Perry, Digital Editor at National Club Golfer, has thrown together an easy-to-read dummy’s guide for teeing up after lockdown.

There are plenty of guidelines doing the rounds for staying safe in the big golf reopening across the UK – so we’ve put together this very quick guide to make sure you don’t fall foul of any rules once you’re back out there.

Here are a handful of dos and don’ts for you – the golfer – to stick to before, during, and after your round.

Golf reopening dos and don’ts: Pre-round

+ DO book your tee time online, or through whatever system your club decides to use

– DON’T forget to get changed into your golf attire at home and put your shoes on in the car

+ DO eat before you get to the club – the kitchen may not be open to make you a bacon roll, remember!

– DON’T arrive at the club earlier than 15 minutes prior to your tee time

+ DO wait your turn to go on the putting green – those next on the tee have priority

– DON’T forget to manage expectations – greenkeepers have been furloughed too

Golf reopening dos and don’ts: During the round

+ DO stay two metres apart at all time

– DON’T go onto the 1st tee until it is your time to play, ensuring 10-minute gaps between groups

+ DO follow any special routing laid out by your club

– DON’T forget to adhere to the Rule of Six

+ DO be respectful of the condition of the course – the greenkeeping staff have been under tremendous strain during the lockdown period

– DON’T touch anything other than your clubs and ball – this includes flagsticks, bunker rakes, ball washers, stakes, and your playing partner’s equipment

+ DO keep your hands cleaned and sanitised at regular intervals

Golf reopening dos and don’ts: Post-round

+ DO mark and sign your own card – or follow whatever system your club decides to use

– DON’T shake hands or hang around after your round – head straight to your car

And most importantly…

+ DO play safe, stay safe.

And hopefully that will be it for golf courses closing if the country does lock down again…

This article was originally published by our partner National Club Golfer.

Posted by & filed under Golf Updates.

England Golf have told golf clubs and driving ranges they need to close when the country locks down for the second time.

The governing body said that despite “intense lobbying to government, increased national lockdown measures will force the closure of golf clubs and facilities from [Thursday]”.

A letter, written by chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson and sent to all affiliated club and facilities, maintained that “we strongly believe that golf courses should have remained open as an extension to recreation even if it was necessary to close clubhouses and professional shops.”

He added: “The Government engaged in detailed conversation, but has decided not to amend its original guidance and we would ask all clubs and golfers to respect the legislation that is set to come into force overnight.”

It means a huge campaign supported by key figures across the golf industry, and bolstered by a petition that gathered more than 250,000 signatures in just 24 hours, has come to nought. The lockdown is set to last from November 5 to December 2.

Tomlinson wrote that the next four weeks would be spent “strengthening our network and building on this fantastic momentum to make sure that golf is never again in the position of having to close its doors when it can do so much to help support the country’s route out of the pandemic.”

In a separate statement, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf conceded that nothing more could be done to persuade the Government to change its mind.

Craig Tracey, the Group’s chair, said: “Unfortunately, unlike the lockdown earlier this year, the Government has decided to take a different approach despite golf having demonstrated it can meet the necessary requirements of the upcoming lockdown to continue to be participated in safely.

“By playing in pairs, closing clubhouses and maintaining the socially distancing rule changes already implemented, the sport could continue to be enjoyed by the 3 million participants across the country.

“When you look at the facts, it actual poses less risk than, say, walking with a friend, which is something people will be allowed to do, in closer proximity without the oversight that golf clubs provide.”

He added: “Obviously the Government has difficult decisions to make at this time but when you consider significant mental and physical health benefits of golf, and that it is a sport that is enjoyed by such a wide range of people, we are naturally disappointed they have taken the position that it has.

“There is still time for this to change and we remain available to all Ministers and Officials to explain how golf can be played under the upcoming Bill or to answer any questions they may have.

“I would also like to thank the golfers who signed the petition that will now be debated in Parliament, and those who contacted their Member of Parliament making clear the case for golf.”

Tomlinson’s letter in full

LETTER TO ALL CLUBS AND FACILITIES

It is with a feeling of deep regret that we must now inform all affiliated golf clubs and driving ranges that they should prepare to close from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December 2020.

Pending a vote today in the House of Commons, the UK Government has confirmed these closures are required as part of increased national lockdown measures designed to suppress the spread of Covid-19, save lives and protect the NHS.

England Golf, as the governing body for the amateur game and alongside our colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, respectfully, but vigorously challenged government to argue the case for golf courses to remain open.

As an open-air sport played by limited numbers in a vast outdoor setting which naturally lends itself to social distancing, we lobbied that golf should continue to be played in accordance with our Government-approved ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ framework.

With the prime minister actively encouraging family households and up to two individuals from different households to exercise in the open air without limit, we strongly believe that golf courses should have remained open as an extension to recreation even if it was necessary to close clubhouses and professional shops.

Participants would have been able to enjoy the obvious physical rewards of playing the game, but perhaps more importantly, the benefits to their mental health at a time of disruption to normal life.

The Government engaged in detailed conversation, but has decided not to amend its original guidance and we would ask all clubs and golfers to respect the legislation that is set to come into force overnight.

England Golf staff remain available to support golfers, clubs and counties throughout this period of temporary closure.

We will signpost to relevant information and government advice where we can and as quickly as possible with the help of our Club Support Officer network.

We will also maintain an open line of communication with the Government in a bid to allow courses and facilities to re-open at the earliest opportunity.

Please continue to check our social media channels and website for all the latest updates on golf and the Covid-19 situation.

I’m proud of the incredible support golf has received from so many quarters in the last few days – a sure sign of how much our game means to so many people in the country.

We will spend the next four weeks strengthening our network and building on this fantastic momentum to make sure that golf is never again in the position of having to close its doors when it can do so much to help support the country’s route out of the pandemic.

Kind regards,

Jeremy Tomlinson, CEO England Golf

This article was originally published by our partner National Club Golfer

augusta holes

Posted by & filed under Masters.

Caressing an iron through the swirling wind at 12, sweeping a big draw round the corner at 13, or taking on the water to that perilously angled green at 16, the chance to play some of the most memorable shots at Augusta National will always be out of our reach.

Just getting a ticket to the Masters, and the chance to walk round the famous property, is the golfing equivalent of winning the jackpot.

And yet while we may never have the privilege of stepping on some of golf’s most hallowed turf for ourselves, that doesn’t mean sampling a taste of what Augusta National is all about is beyond us.

When Dr Alister MacKenzie laid down the course in a former Georgia nursery in the early 1930s, he employed ideas he’d already seen or used sometimes decades before.

The fruits of those labours are still there for us to enjoy in the many courses he designed and witnessed in the UK.

So here are just five holes at Augusta National where you’ll find strong echoes of their birth at a quintet of layouts you can go and play right now and experience a little Masters magic.

17th at St Andrews Old Course (5th at Augusta National)

MacKenzie was positively besotted with the Old Course and was consulting architect to the Royal & Ancient Golf Club so it’s no surprise to find hints of the hallowed links at Augusta if you look hard enough.

Whether it’s the Eden or Tom Morris holes, there are plateaus and hollows taken straight from the Home of Golf.

But look carefully at Augusta National’s 5th – Magnolia – and what do you see? It looks quite a lot like the Road Hole flipped.

Replace the old Railway Sheds with a set of trees at the corner of the dogleg and it’s recreated before your very eyes – just without the game’s most heinous bunker.

15th at North Berwick (6th at Augusta National)

MacKenzie wasn’t the only golden age golf course architect to employ a Redan, Charles Blair MacDonald did it to devastating effect at Shinnecock Hills and next door neighbour National Golf Links of America.

North Berwick’s original version was designed by Davie Strath and is famous as much for its semi-blind tee shot as its severely sloping green.

MacKenzie’s multi-tiered green, on a hole known as Juniper, is raised by five feet on the right hand side and the bunker in front is part of a formidable challenge. Unless, that is, you are Jamie Donaldson who holed out in 2013.

5th at Cavendish (9th at Augusta National)

Cavendish is often claimed, on this side of the pond at least, to be the course that inspired Augusta.

Boasting substantial changes in elevation, holes that use the topography of the land rather than being bulldozed into it, and some severely contoured greens, MacKenzie encountered all of these at Cavendish and it left him perfectly equipped to deal with what he found in Georgia.

There are too many coincidences to count but if you look at the 5th green at this Derbyshire course, there is more than a passing resemblance to the 9th and its famous false front.

10th at Alwoodley (13th at Augusta National)

Alwoodley was the first course the good Doctor designed, back in 1907, and the opening hole to the back nine at the Leeds heathland has a remarkable amount in common with the conclusion to Amen Corner.

Consider the following: Both holes are risk-and-reward par 5s, both feature uphill tee shots to fairways that swing sharply to the left at the landing area, both feature second shots from hanging lies with the ball above a player’s feet, and both demand a sweeping draw and taking aim at some trees if there’s going to be a chance of finding the green in two.

7th at Stoke Park (16th at Augusta National)

When Harry Colt laid out the first nine holes of Stoke Poges in 1908, his relationship with MacKenzie was already set – the two having bonded when Colt was called in to look at Alwoodley.

The 7th, on what is now the Colt nine, must have been mentally carried over to Augusta by MacKenzie because the similarities were uncanny, and have remained so.

Originally, Colt’s 150-yarder played alongside a burn down the side of the hole to a green angled against the natural ball flight. Early pictures of the Augusta version – which MacKenzie felt was superior – show a similar template.

As the holes have developed, so the trickle of water at both has become a pond that both inspires and intimidates.

And take a look at the green as you walk across to the tee and you may also see glimpses of both the 12th and 15th greens at Augusta in the Stoke Park putting surface.

This article was originally published by our partner National Club Golfer.

ian woosnam 2020 masters

Posted by & filed under Masters.

Baiting Ian Woosnam was like showing a red rag to a bull. “It motivates me,” he says. “If someone says something, it was ‘Well, I’ll show you.’”

In the face of a crowd that was decidedly pro-American, willing on their favourite Tom Watson, the Welshman famously silenced the Augusta National ‘patrons’ when he won the Masters in 1991.

Now, as we prepare to break new ground with a tournament held for the first time in November, all the players are going to notice is the quiet.

The coronavirus pandemic has robbed this year’s Green Jacket winner of an adoring public and, while we can imagine it, the eerie hush around those famous holes is going to be an unusual experience wherever you take it in.

Here, in an exclusive interview with our partner National Club Golfer, Woosnam gives his thoughts on the 2020 Masters.

Ian Woosnam’s take

“It’s not going to be the same, is it?” Woosnam opines. “I guess they just feel like they have got to hold it. They just don’t want to miss out on a tournament.

“Also, you’ve got to try and think about people watching golf on the TV. It’s like watching football.

“Everybody wants to do something live but at least we can turn on the TV and watch it and see how they get on.”

That’s not just figurative as far as Woosnam is concerned. Winning the Masters gives you a lifetime ticket inside the Magnolia Lane gates but Covid-19 has turned everything on its head.

There will be an empty seat at the Champion’s Dinner table when Tiger Woods serves up his fifth feast.

62-year-old Woosnam, who stopped playing the tournament last year, bringing to an end a sequence of 31 events and seven top 25s, won’t be making the journey.

“I’m going to give it a miss,” he explains. “Next year, if things calm down I will be there. Just to go over for the dinner, it seems a long way to go. I’m high risk, I shouldn’t be going anywhere really.”

How is the course going to play?

This is perhaps the biggest question leading up to the tournament.

The Masters has only ever been held in spring, and the vagaries of a southern autumn will pose a never before experienced test.

Woosnam, though, doesn’t think we’ll see a course that looks markedly different from the image that projects into our living rooms and marks the start of the golfing year in the first week of April.

“Aesthetically, it’s not going to be much different. The weather can be very similar, maybe just a little colder.

“When you are coming out of March into April, you can get that cold streak going through there and it can play really long.

“And so, November, coming off summer and it’s just fading off. It could be similar and just a little bit colder. It will play a little bit longer.”

Woosnam, a course designer himself, continues to be in awe of the layout Dr Alister MacKenzie created, with Bobby Jones, nearly 90 years ago – believing it poses the ultimate test for the world’s best.

“It’s made for really top players and you have to get the ball in the right positions,” he concludes.

“The pin positions, the way the greens slope, it is somewhere where you really have to be superbly in control of your golf game.”