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golf courses reopen

‘If we follow the science, then golf is safe’: MPs rally experts in bid to reopen courses

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf has released a report with advice from scientific experts calling for the sport to be allowed in lockdown
 

An updated report on golf reopening in England and Wales claims the sport “should be permitted to return during the current phase of national lockdown”.

A new version of ‘Covid-19 Secure Golf in the United Kingdom’ reveals that “Operational experience strongly suggests that golf can be played safely on course during this national lockdown, to risk assessed enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures”.

Issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, the body said the paper now included greater evidence and rationale from leading experts to make the case for the sport – after Government said it intended to maintain a ‘science first’ approach in decision making over coronavirus restrictions.

It was informed by Professor Charlie Foster, the principal advisor on physical activity for health to the four UK chief medial officers, and Dr Andrew Murray, a consultant in sport exercise and medicine at the University of Edinburgh and the chief medical officer to the European Tour.

Copies of the 13-page report have been sent to prime minister Boris Johnson and the chief medical officers in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

While golf is permitted in Scotland, clubs in the rest of the home nations have been closed during lockdowns.

In an overview, the report states that: “Overall, golf has the same health benefits as walking, cycling and running and, if anything, with the uncrowded nature of courses and strict protocols provided, risk of transmission during golf is lower than these other health enhancing physical activities.

“If scientific evidence is to be applied logically and consistently, golf should be permitted to return during the current phase of national lockdown (commencing 4 January 2021), incorporating enhanced protocols appropriate for the new variant described in this paper.”

It later adds: “In lockdown conditions golf can be played within a household group, or with two adults from different households.

“At lower COVID-19 alert levels (Tier 1-4) golf can be played safely within the Rule of Six (fourball). Clubhouse, retail, and hospitality facilities, as predominantly indoor offerings are, and should be subject to additional restrictions at this point in the pandemic.”

The report advocates a range of measures for the safe management of golfing facilities that have been “enhanced to reflect the new variant and national lockdown”.

They include, for lockdown or tiers higher than 4:

  • 2 metres plus (aiming for 3 metres) should be adhered to for members of different households
  • 4 markings should be placed adjacent to the tees 3 metres apart, highlighting appropriate social distancing
  • Travel to the venue must be local

The report concludes: “Golf (and other outdoor sports where physical distancing is possible) provides health enhancing physical activity across the lifespan and offers more control measures than persons walking or cycling on a busy road, street or beach.

“Scientifically, the benefits of permitting of golf with the enhanced COVID-19 protocols suggested for National Lockdown in this paper at this time very likely outweigh the disbenefits.

“The best available evidence suggests this is the right thing to do at this time.”

Professor Foster said: “As the paper shows, golf can be played safely, and it should have a central role in the government’s thinking when it comes to helping people exercise now and as we come out of pandemic restrictions. 

“I have therefore recommended that an expert in physical activity join the SAGE advisory group to ensure there is consistency across the sciences represented within it, and to provide advice on allowing physical activity to return as restrictions are reduced.”

Dr Murray said: “Regular physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your health adding years to life, and having many mental and physical health benefits, be that through – for example – walking, cycling, running or golf. Golf’s careful planning, and compliance with COVID-19 tiers and regulation means its level of transmission from playing is likely to be extremely low, much lower than indoor space, or more populated outdoor areas. 

“This is supported by the various scientific research the paper cites and I encourage those in SAGE and in government to review those as I am sure they will conclude that golf is similar to walking, running and cycling in being beneficial, and is safe to play with the relevant protocols in place.”

Craig Tracey, the North Warwickshire MP who is chair of the All-Party Group, added: “It is entirely understandable for government to utilise scientific advice available when creating its strategy, but it is equally important for that scientific evidence to be applied evenly.  

“With the help of Professor Foster and Dr Murray, this paper provides that scientific evidence and demonstrates that golf can be played safely with the various enhanced protocols appropriate for the new variants.

“I am grateful to them and all the bodies in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf for their hard work on preparing this thorough paper. Again we have been clearly able to make the case that golf is ready, willing and able to return safely at the earliest possible opportunity.”

To read the full report, click here.

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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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