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Government responds to petition to keep golf courses open

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport have had their say after the petition gained more than 100,000 signatures
 

Hopes that a petition to keep golf courses open would reverse the decision to close our clubs during English lockdown appear to have been dashed by the Government.

Paul Marton’s call, which was hosted on Parliament’s Petitions website, gained more than 130,000 signatures.

But a response from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: “Sport is crucial for our mental and physical health. That’s why we have continued to make sure that people can exercise. Given the seriousness of the current situation golf courses have had to close.”

A fuller explanation added that while “golf has great reach across society”, “the current spread of the virus risks the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed. This is something we cannot allow to happen and is why the current national lockdown was introduced”.

Marton’s petition, titled: “Allow golf to be played with appropriate safety measures”, asked signatories to urge that: “The Government should allow golf courses to remain open during the second lockdown (sic), and any future restrictions.

“Shops and clubhouses can close, but courses should be allowed to remain open, with social distancing in place”.

A similar petition to keep golf courses and facilities open, started when English courses were last shut in November, gained huge public support.

Gathering 10,000 signatures within hours, a total of 257,267 people put their name to the cause and it was backed by a number of golf’s governing bodies, including England Golf.

That ensured a debate in Parliament and it was discussed in late November at Westminster Hall, but without any notable conclusions being reached.

This latest petition is still waiting for a Parliamentary debate date but the DCMS response may have put the final nail into efforts to reopen clubs ahead of restrictions being eased.

Last week, England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson, speaking on the From the Clubhouse podcast, said he did not expect courses to be reopened before the end of lockdown.

The full DCMS response said: “The importance of sport and physical activity, including golf, for the nation’s physical and mental health has never been more apparent.

“They are a powerful defence against the Covid-19 pandemic, and we will need to raise levels of fitness among the population as we prepare to return to our normal lives, now the vaccination programme has begun.

“No government would want to be in a position of needing to close sports facilities including golf courses. Golf has great reach across society as people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities can take part in the game; it brings people together to experience the outdoors and enjoy nature.

“Golf courses were one of the first sports facilities to be reopened following the initial lockdown and they were also able to stay open in the local tiered restrictions, including tier 4.

“However, the current spread of the virus risks the healthcare system becoming overwhelmed. This is something we cannot allow to happen and is why the current national lockdown was introduced.

“The current restrictions are designed to get the R rate under control through limiting social contact and reducing transmissions. All decisions made by the Government relating to the pandemic and sport have been based on advice and guidance from health and scientific experts.

“During the period of these restrictions you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area. You should maintain social distancing.

“You can exercise in a public outdoor place which include:
– parks, beaches, countryside accessible to the public, forests
– public gardens (whether or not you pay to enter them)
– the grounds of a heritage site
– playgrounds.”

What do you think of the DCMS response? Have your say in the comments, or tweet me.

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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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