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England Golf

‘I’m an optimist and I’m going to keep believing’ – England Golf CEO still hopes to avoid shutdown

CEO Jeremy Tomlinson revealed the governing body was not consulted about the decision and is working on a plan to counter it
 

England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson said he still had not given up hope of changing the Government’s mind – as clubs across the country announced plans to shut ahead of Thursday’s national lockdown.

Speaking on an Instagram Live with Nick Dougherty, Tomlinson was reacting after prime minister Boris Johnson appeared to dash hopes that golf could be exempt from the list of businesses and venues forced to close when new coronavirus measures come into force from November 5 until December 2.

Responding to a question from James Sunderland, the Conservative MP for Bracknell, on whether he might reconsider, Johnson replied: “I must apologise to my honourable friend for not being able to offer the House a huge list of exemptions to the rules that we are setting out because once you unpick at one thing, alas, the effectiveness of the whole package is compromised.”

But Tomlinson told Dougherty: “I’m an optimist and I’m going to keep believing. We still believe that maybe our prime minister left a little bit open, when he was presenting his bill, that maybe there could be something that could persuade him.

“Either way, we are going to give it a go.”

On Sunday, Tomlinson revealed that “at no point was England Golf consulted about the decision” and the governing body will “respectfully challenge the government’s rationale for closing golf courses”.

He penned an open letter to golfers, issued on England Golf’s website, in the wake of Johnson’s weekend press conference announcing the new restrictions.

Included in the guidelines issued on the Government’s website was “to reduce social contact, the Government has ordered certain businesses and venues to close”.

Those included: “Indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks.”

England Golf

Here is Tomlinson’s letter in full:

Dear fellow golfers,

Having digested the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation on Saturday night and read the guidance which followed, there is an element of confusion around the government’s stated intention to close down golf courses and facilities from Thursday 5 November.

As a result of this, and with the health of the nation very much at the heart of my thinking, I would like to make clear England Golf’s intention to respectfully challenge the government’s rationale for closing golf courses.

We will do so utilising all in our network – MPs, colleagues, media and friends – to make sure we are heard by government.

Listening to the Prime Minister, the news that he is actively encouraging safe and responsible outdoor exercise for households or two individuals pointed to our great game of golf being at the heart of this policy.

The guidance which followed stating that golf courses were on a list of venues which should close, therefore, appeared contradictory and came out of the blue.

At no point was England Golf – as the governing body for the amateur game of golf in this country – consulted about this decision.

Of course, we fully recognise and accept the need to suppress the virus to save lives and protect the NHS.

Throughout the pandemic England Golf has endeavoured to act with authority, knowledge, understanding and extreme diligence. At all times we have placed the health and wellbeing of our communities as a priority.

For this and many reasons, it is our sincere belief that it is now counter-productive to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in a Covid-secure manner in the open air.

Golf returned on 13 May this year following the first national lockdown as an extension of outdoor recreation.

We achieved this after presenting a unified golf industry (All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf) strategy paper that not only outlined a “return to play” roadmap beyond reproach, but which was heralded as best practice for many other sports to reference!

Our (England Golf’s) ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ guidance was endorsed by government, adopted by golf clubs and is now ingrained in the minds of all golfers.

With safe and responsible exercising being encouraged by government during the second period of national lockdown, it seems incongruous to call for golf courses to now close.

Golf is widely acknowledged as a game which is good for the body and soul, with outstanding research reiterating its benefits for the older generation recently shared by The R&A.

But even without a research paper, the physical benefits of exercising in the open air are obvious and known to all.

In the current situation, the psychological gains from being able to enjoy a social and safe form of outdoor activity, enjoying a temporary release from the pressures of everyday life probably outweigh the physical.

I’m aware from the numbers who have signed a national petition that a great many golfers around the country share this belief.

To be clear, I was also very happy to sign this petition.

Alongside our colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf (APPGG) we will pro-actively continue dialogue with government challenging the current position hard, but with great reason, to allow golf courses to remain open for play (in some format) from Thursday.

I truly believe this would not, in any way, undermine the huge public health efforts that are going on in the country during these times.

Golf, in fact, can help us get through this terrible pandemic and be stronger for it once we emerge on the other side.

I wish good health to you and your families. Please continue to stay safe.

Kind regards

Jeremy Tomlinson, CEO England Golf

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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