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golf course reopening

Clubs reopening is more than unlocking the gates – golf is safer than it’s ever been

Steve Carroll was part of the process of reopening his course. He gives us the inside story of what has been anything but a straightforward procedure
 

There was never a question of teeing it up today. Too much to do and too little time.

We’d talked about reopening, had already put together a document painstakingly detailing the procedures players needed to follow throughout their time at the club, but the Government’s decision on Sunday night was still as much of a surprise as it was welcome.

A committee meeting had already been timetabled to move those plans forward. They were merely advanced a little quicker than any of us expected.

It’s amazing the minutiae you have to focus on. You might think it’s all about big picture stuff – how to maintain social distancing, what to do if people refuse to follow it, how do you get people on and off course safely?

And it is. But it’s also benches, toilets and bins.

Being our club’s rules secretary is fairly straightforward at a time like this.

There aren’t any competitions and probably won’t be for quite some time. We’ve put together a calendar – a provisional schedule that could get under way at the start of July – but it’s as much in hope as expectation.

My club is a proprietary operation. It’s family owned. As a committee, we’re consulted and we express our opinions but it’s for the owners to take the final decisions.

They’ve had a lot of things to consider. I’m not giving away any trade secrets when I tell you reopening isn’t as straight forward as taking the lock off the car park gates.

Especially when you get not much more than 48-hours notice. There are questions every club has faced over the last day or two.

Staff have been furloughed, who and how many do you bring back? Is it better to keep some on that government scheme, given there’s no likelihood of clubhouse revenue for the foreseeable?

Can we offer anything except golf? What if there’s an emergency? How long do staff need to be on site for? Will the greenkeepers have to work around golfers? Can they do it safely?

I’m only scratching the surface.

We’re opening on Friday. Our tee sheets went live at 5pm on Tuesday and the first day filled up in two minutes. Within an hour, all spots were booked for the next five days.

Will I be playing? I’ve got 5pm on Saturday.

Some of my pals won’t be setting foot near the course any time soon. They’re still cautious about the lockdown and want infection rates to fall before they decide to get the clubs out again.

I respect their decision and share their concerns.

But I also think back to the last time I played – on March 14 – when afterwards I sat in a crowded clubhouse with a pint and facing a virus that was spreading unchecked throughout the country.

It was another world – one where we were almost blasé about the threat enveloping us.

Golf, with the measures put in place to try and protect us, feels safer to me now than it did looking back then.

So with a touch of trepidation, but more a feeling of huge excitement, I’ll get back to playing the sport I love – and hope better times are just around the corner.

Have you been back on the course yet or are you building up to the weekend? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

Golf courses reopen: Essential reading

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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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