Boris Johnson was asked in the House of Commons to give a 'clear route map' that 'sets out the potential' for when golf courses in England could reopen

Boris Johnson has been asked to give a road map for when golf courses in England could reopen.

During a Covid-19 Update debate in the House of Commons, Craig Tracey, chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, asked the prime minister to set out in the coming days a clear route that “sets out the potential for further easing of restrictions, such as when outdoor exercises such as golf courses can resume”.

Johnson said he would be “supplying, I hope, exactly that” and added that over the course of the next few weeks the aspiration was that “we will be able to populate the diary ahead with some more milestones”.

Tracey, who represents the North Warwickshire constituency, was speaking after MPs were told Johnson hoped schools in England could reopen from March 8 – depending on the success of vaccines and the suppression of infections.

Golf courses have been shut since the third national lockdown was announced on January 4 and, with the traditional renewal season around the corner in April, it’s a critical time for clubs as they hope members sign up for another year despite months of disruption.

Tracey asked Johnson: “The rollout of the vaccine has been an undoubted success for the Government, but it brings us to a point where people now want to understand the path ahead to give them something to aim towards.

“I welcome the clarity the prime minister has given today on schools but in the coming days can he also give a clear route map which sets out the potential for further easing of restrictions such as when outdoor exercise facilities such as golf courses can resume, hospitality events can restart, and our high streets can reopen to reassure people that there is light at the end of the tunnel and that we will shortly realise some of the benefits for the incredible sacrifices they have had to make over recent months.”

Johnson replied: “My honourable friend is entirely right in what he asks for and I will be supplying, I hope, exactly that.

“He will recall last year how we set out a series of dates by which the earliest we hoped to do certain things.

“He will recall July 4th, I think, for opening hospitality. I hope that in the course of the next few weeks, we will be able to populate the diary ahead with some more milestones, some more assumptions, about what we may be able to give reassurance to him, to businesses in his constituency, to all of us.”

Later, in an adjournment debate on golf tourism, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr asked Nigel Huddleston, Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage, why people could be in close contact with others in supermarkets but not play golf.

“People do not yet appreciate why they can walk around supermarkets, and be in close contact with many people, yet they can’t walk out in the fresh air and golf in a socially distanced way and in a safe way, and keep their local course open,” he said.

“Can you help explain that and help us get out of this pandemic?”

Huddleston explained: “Nobody wanted to close down golf courses. It’s absolutely vital that we do let people get out and exercise.

“The problem was we would have confusing messages. If it was stay at home – and that is the fundamental clear message: stay at home unless you have to leave for certain reasons, or for a limited number of low impact exercises.

“There would have been confusing messages, had we done anything else and also, of course, the goal is to try and get golf and other sports open as soon as possible and that is absolutely the shared aim.”

Huddleston, replying to North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain, who had secured the debate, added that he understood “the frustrations of those who are desperate to get back on the course”.

“We want to get them back on the courses as soon as possible, start lifting restrictions, and grassroots sport will be among the first to return.”

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Steve Carroll

A journalist for 23 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former captain and committee member, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the national Tournament Administrators and Referee's Seminar. He has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying and the PGA Fourball Championship. A member of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap.

Handicap: 10.9

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