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.
Jeremy Tomlinson, CEO England Golf
This article was originally published by our partner National Club Golfer