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.”

ryder cup 2021

Posted by & filed under Blog.

After the Masters and PGA Championship were postponed due to the ongoing uncertainty with the coronavirus outbreak, speculation is rife that the Ryder Cup will be delayed a year to make room for the rescheduled majors. Should that happen? Two of the writers at National Club Golfer disagree…

‘Do we really want to see the Ryder Cup squeezed between two majors?’

I had a horrible feeling at the start of 2020 that we might be a bit “golfed out” come the Ryder Cup, writes Alex Perry. Between March and July we were going to have the Players, the Masters, the PGA Championship, the US Open, the Open AND the Olympics before we even started thinking about September’s Ryder Cup.

How times have changed. Now we’re in this strange period of unknown. When will the Masters be played? When will the PGA Championship be played? Something’s got to give.

Let’s speculate and say this all blows over and the US Open and Open are played in their usual June and July slots, then the Olympics happens, then the FedEx Cup Play-offs. Perhaps the PGA Championship is played in the September “off season” and the Masters in early October.

No one wants to see the majors cancelled, that would be a terrible shame. And do you really want to see a Ryder Cup squeezed into all of that?

Moving it to 2021 is the sensible option. It will no longer clash with the Olympics and it takes the competition back to its rightful place in odd-numbered years – it was postponed in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks.

But the decision needs to be soon, so we don’t have a repeat of 2001 where the qualifiers’ spots were held and several players were out of form by the time it was played.

The Ryder Cup is incredible and is the second best sporting occasion I’ve ever attended – Torquay United 2-0 Cambridge in the 2009 Conference Play-offs final, since you ask – and it will, as always, be worth the wait.

‘It’s important for golf that the Ryder Cup remains on the calendar’

It’s often claimed that the Ryder Cup is the third biggest sporting event on any calendar behind the Olympics and football’s World Cup, writes Mark Townsend. Wherever you pitch it it’s clearly the biggest event on any golfing year and, as long as there are no health issues, it should be played this year.

We’ll likely miss a huge chunk of the season and the emphasis will be to get the four majors and the Ryder Cup played. For all manner of reasons the regular events are a big miss from the calendar but we need the big ones and now more than ever.

This is when anyone who otherwise have no interest in the game sit down in front of the TV and get into golf. This is a big way of getting people into the game. It’s not four rounds of strokeplay where, even for the most avid fan, things can seem a little never-ending.

The Ryder Cup is three days of Europe vs the United States and, if anything, it goes far too quickly. The interest never drops and golf, for 72 hours at least, appears as exciting as anything else out there.

If it is played then they’ll come to a logical decision on how to pick the teams. Maybe a handful of players will feel hard done by but this is the most unique of situations and just to get it on at Whistling Straits would be the lift that all of us are going to need.

Whenever the Ryder Cup happens it will be magical, let’s hope we get to see it later this year.

Who do you agree with? Join the conversation on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

coronavirus golf courses

Posted by & filed under Blog.

We’re in ‘lockdown’. Our clubs and courses are shut and who knows when we’re going to be able to get out and play golf again. Following the prime minister’s announcement on Monday night ordering us all to stay at home, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport have since clarified that greenkeepers can work ‘for security and essential maintenance’.

What does that look like? At the moment, no one really knows. It might be that the usual maintenance levels we’re all used to seeing reduce dramatically.

It could be as little as only cutting greens once a week. Perhaps the powers that be could decide to prohibit all maintenance if the crisis continues.

If that were the case, then we would see some serious changes to our courses should the restrictions carry on well into the spring.

But how drastic could they be, and what might greenkeepers and golfers face when life finally starts to return to normal?

Stuart Green, a former greenkeeper and head of member learning at the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA), speaks to our partner National Club Golfer about what the future holds for golf.

Grass will grow

Let’s start with an obvious one. If you don’t cut grass, it grows. But how much? That will largely depend on what kind of spring we have.

“At the moment it’s March and many parts of the country are still getting frosts overnight,” Stuart explains. “That’s suppressing the growth rate. But with longer days comes more sunlight and the plant reacts to that and begins photosynthesising more, giving it the strength to grow.

“We’ve just come out of an incredibly mild and wet winter, which saw turf continue to grow throughout January and February. That heavy rainfall that we saw not so long ago has still left a lot of moisture in the ground, so the turf is going to be soaking that up and combined with the warmer temperatures, growth is only going to get faster and faster.

“What are we going to see? Based on the last few years of weather data, we’ve had very cold, dry springs, which has slowed growth down.

“But if we have a ‘normal’ kind of spring, where we get into April and we’ve got sunshine and showers, we’ve got all this moisture in the ground and we are going to see some significant growth.

“There are ways of slowing growth down, such as plant growth regulators, but these require a greenkeeper to be on site to apply them.

“If that’s not the case and greenkeepers aren’t able to undertake a reasonable standard of maintenance, you can expect three to four inches of grass, or maybe even more, by the time we are able to return to the course in a few months’ time.

“I do know that if no greenkeepers are allowed to go out and cut grass on a semi-regular basis, it’s not going to be a pretty sight when they eventually come to mow it.”

You can’t just get rid of that grass overnight

Let’s say it’s a number of weeks before the restrictions are eased, the good weather continues and greenkeepers come back in May to a golf course that’s seen some serious grass growth.

The first thought would be to just get the mowers out and mow it back down to height it was previously, right?

“You’ve got to take that height of cut down slowly,” Green explains. “You can’t go in and immediately chop it straight back down to 4mm or 5mm.

“The one thing greenkeepers are always advised to do is never to cut more than a third of a plant off at any one time. When you’re mowing, you’re putting the turf under stress and as a living organism, it will have adapted to the conditions.

“Previously, it will have been used to close mowing, but if left untended will become used to growing longer. To hack it immediately back could shock the grass and you’d ultimately cause even bigger problems.

“The solution is a steady process of bringing the height of cut down. At first, greenkeepers will need to cut the greens with strimmers or rotary deck mowers. Then, eventually you’ll be able to introduce greens mowers, but it’s a process that’s going to take a couple of weeks to achieve.”

Even when the grass is at a more manageable level, Green says plenty more work would be required to achieve the kind of playing surfaces we’ve been used to seeing on a daily basis.

He added: “The greenkeepers will have to do a lot of topdressing, verti-cutting and aerating, because the soil profile will have changed as the grass gets longer. Invasive species will begin to intrude onto the greens and even when you start mowing, they will grow at a different speed to the rest, which leads to clumping and a bumpy surface.

“Longer grass also means more organic matter and this becomes a layer of thatch and other unwanted material in the upper layer of the soil. This thatch holds moisture so your greens don’t drain as quickly and it also prevents roots from growing to a reasonable depth so the ground can become unstable or certainly less healthy than you would anticipate.

“Higher thatch levels mean the greens won’t play as firm and true as you would perhaps expect, so there’s going to be a lot of work to put things right.

“Topdressing and aeration will be hugely important, so don’t be surprised if you see greenkeepers punching holes into the greens for months to come once this situation subsides.”

Posted by & filed under Blog.

With the Government advising the UK to avoid gatherings and social activities, you must be wondering how coronavirus (also known as COVID-19) could affect your golf insurance.

Lots of our policyholders have been asking what they’re covered for, so we’ve put together this FAQ page to address your concerns.

Does The Golfers Club cover club subscription reimbursements?

Unfortunately, we can’t cover the cost of your remaining golf subscription due to a nationwide pandemic such as coronavirus. However, if you have an accident whilst playing golf and are unable to play due to a serious injury, we will reimburse the cost of your remaining golf club subscription up to £1,500.

Does The Golfers Club cover tee time cancellations?

This is not covered under the terms of our insurance. If your tee time has been cancelled, our advice is to contact the course you had booked regarding a potential reimbursement.

If your tee time has been cancelled for a holiday or golfing break, you will need to consult with your travel insurance providers on next steps. Travel insurance normally covers UK trips as well as those abroad.

As a rule of thumb, most courses will accept cancellations without charge up to 72 hours before the booked tee time, but this may vary from course to course.

If you still have any questions, you can call our UK based Customer Service team on 0800 158 5550 between the hours of 9am – 5.30pm Monday to Friday.

However, please note, we are currently experiencing a high number of calls and there may be delays in getting through to us. If your enquiry is urgent, you can also email us at admin@thegolfersclub.co.uk.