Golf courses across Courier Country have gone into a complete shutdown as a result of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s new restrictions of public movement to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
While playing golf was being encouraged as a form of safe exercise during the crisis – using safe distancing and without touching course equipment like flags – right up until last week by figures such as the Scottish Government’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch, the new restrictions announced by the governments in Westminster and Holyrood changed the narrative abruptly.
Scottish Golf, the amateur game’s governing body north of the border, issued a statement asking golfers to “refrain from playing until further notice”.
“The message to all of us is clear, we must stay home and play our part in containing the spread of COVID-19,” read the statement. “With this in mind Scottish Golf asks that all golfers in Scotland refrain from golfing under further notice.
“We understand that this advice will have a significant impact on golf clubs across the country and we will continue to consult with industry partners to provide clubs with all information and support possible during this time of deep uncertainty.
“It is our shared responsibility to prioritise the health of our local communities by working together to follow the government guidelines. This will ensure that we get the opportunity to play the game we all love as soon as it is safe to do so.”
Scottish Golf’s statement was not as definitively worded as that from England Golf, which ordered an immediate closure of all clubs, courses and facilities south of the border.
“Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated government policy which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency,” read the statement.
Golf courses and facilities were not specifically mentioned in the government’s detailed advice on what was regarded as essential and non-essential businesses released on Tuesday morning, but government minister Michael Gove, appearing on the BBC’s Breakfast Time, said that the exercise intended by the policy would be walking, cycling or running.
“I don’t think people should be playing golf,” he said.
St Andrews Links, the biggest golf operation in the country with seven courses, the Himalayas Putting Green and a golf academy, announced a complete closure of all operations with immediate effect.
The majority of clubs using the links – including the R&A – had already closed their clubhouses, but play was still being permitted until yesterday.
“We will spend the next 48 hours assessing the implications and most appropriate course of action,” said a spokesman. “The health and wellbeing of colleagues, customers and golfers remains our number one priority.
“We look forward to reintroducing our facilities as soon as it is safe and appropriate to do so.”
Gleneagles’ golf operations were closed along with the rest of the Perthshire hotel ahead of the government policy change.
Carnoustie Golf Links has announced a complete shutdown of all golf courses and facilities. Links House, pro shop, lockers, performance centre and management offices were also closed .
“While we are deeply saddened by this development, we hope you will understand and assist in these measures to aid public health protection,” read a statement released Tuesday morning.
“We will try to resume operations as quickly as possible. Please assist us and do not come to Carnoustie Golf Links.”
Private clubs across the Courier area had also enacted special measures with clubhouses closed by locker rooms open, and instructions for players to play with two metres safe space between them.
Blairgowrie Golf Club had been operating in such a way but also closed all three courses and locker rooms for golf yesterday.
“Whilst there is the option for local members to walk the course we would remind you to use the pathways,” the club told members. ” We will be patrolling the courses on a daily basis and have been asked to report any golfers not adhering to the guidelines.”
One Dundee club indicated that they would stay open in a message to customers on their Facebook page. Ballumbie Castle Golf Club posted a notice stating that “after some consultation with the land owner and his lawyers” the parkland course in the north east of the city would remain open, adhering to social distancing rules.
However the course remained closed and the notice was deleted.
All clubs will be allowed to retain greens staff on site to keep their courses properly maintained, while observing safe distance restrictions.
Industry partners had requested clarification from the government on this issue and were told greenkeepers could attend work for security and essential maintenance.
“All work must be carried out in strict accordance with government guidelines on social distancing,” said a spokesman for Scottish Golf.