What do the Government's coronavirus restrictions - which now include Tier 4 - mean for your round? Steve Carroll explains

Note: The below is relevant to the tier restrictions in place up until January 4, 2021. For more information on the new lockdown announced to run through January and February, click here.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced new coronavirus restrictions in the light of a new, rapidly spreading, Covid-19 variant. Now we’re all asking: “Can I play golf in Tier 4?”

You may already be used to the tier concept, but the latest measures announced by the Government came into force in parts of England from 6am on December 20.

The Covid alert levels – or tiers – determine what applies to you and your club in England and they are still labelled Tier 1: Medium Alert, Tier 2: High Alert, Tier 3: Very High Alert and Tier 4: Stay At Home.

So in which tier is your golf club and how will this affect you? Let’s take a look at them.

What applies to every Tier?

Golf courses will be able to open in every tier, subject to the relevant social contact rules in each.

What’s different in Tier 1?

The rule of six will apply, meaning you must not socialise in groups larger than six people indoors or outdoors, except where a legal exemption applies.

Hospitality businesses selling food or drink for consumption on their premises have to provide table service only, for premises that serve alcohol, close between 11pm and 5am. They must also stop taking orders after 10pm.

Organised outdoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes can continue, as can indoor sport if the rule of six is followed. There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.

The PGA have confirmed that coaching can take place outdoors. Following the rule of six for indoor coaching means the coach plus up to five others.

If you are embarking on a golf trip, live in a Tier 1 area and travel to a higher tier, you should follow the rules for that area while you are there. You are asked to avoid travel or overnight stays in Tier 3 areas other than where necessary. You can travel through such an area as part of a longer journey.

What’s different in Tier 2?

You cannot socialise with anyone you don’t live with, or who is not in your support bubble, in any indoor setting. You also cannot socialise in a group of more than six people outside.

Pubs and bars must close, unless they are operating as restaurants. Hospitality venues can only serve alcohol with substantial meals.

While outdoor sport can continue, organised indoor sport, physical activity and exercise classes is only allowed if people can avoid mixing with those they do not live with (or share a support bubble with). Exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s continue to apply.

England Golf advice says coaching is permitted outdoors and one-to-one coaching can take place indoors. Coaching a group from the same household, or bubble, can also take place indoors.

While you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, you should aim to reduce the number of journeys made where it is possible to do so.

If you live in a Tier 2 area, you must follow Tier 2 rules when travelling to a Tier 1 area. As in Tier 1, you should avoid travel or overnight stays in Tier 3 areas other than where necessary.

What’s different in Tier 3?

You must not meet socially indoors or in most outdoor places with anybody you do not live with, or who is not in your support bubble, and you must not socialise in a group of more than six in some other outdoor public spaces – including a “sports facility”.

Hospitality settings, including bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants, are closed, although they are allowed to continue takeaway, click-and-collect, drive-through and delivery services.

While leisure and sports facilities can continue to stay open, group exercise classes, including fitness and dance, should not go ahead.

Organised outdoor sport can continue, but higher-risk contact activity should not take place. Organised indoor sport cannot take place, save for the exceptions in Tiers 1 and 2.

Coaching can also take place outdoors but people should avoid higher-risk contact activity. England Golf advice says one-to-one coaching can take place indoors, while coaching a group from the same bubble, or household, can also take place indoors.

While you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, you should aim to reduce the number of journeys where possible.

You should also avoid travelling to other parts of the UK, including for overnight stays, other than where necessary. That includes work, education and receiving medical treatment.

Can I play golf in Tier 4?

Announced in response to rapidly rising cases of a new Covid-19 variant in London, the South East and parts of Eastern England, Tier 4 areas are subject to much tighter restrictions.

But golf courses are listed among the businesses and venues that can remain open, following Covid-19 secure guidelines.

Guidance on gov.uk states that, while indoor gyms and sports facilities will close, golf courses can “remain open for individual exercise, and for people to use with others within your household, support bubble, or with one person from another household.”

England Golf confirmed that means courses in Tier 4 areas can remain open for play in the following formats:

  • Individual play
  • Twoballs from same or different households/bubbles
  • Three or fourballs involving people from the same household/bubble

In terms of travel, those who need to do so “should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall.”

You can leave your home to spend time, or exercise outdoors. “This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your Tier 4 area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space).”

The guidance says you must not leave your Tier 4 area, other than for legally permitted reasons such as travelling to work, when you can’t work from home, travelling for education and for caring responsibilities, visiting those in a support bubble (or childcare bubble for childcare) and attending hospital, GP or other medical appointments.

It adds you should not travel into a Tier 4 area from another part of the UK, other than for legally permitted reasons, and the regulations add you cannot leave home for holidays or overnight stays away from your main home unless permitted by law.

For those who in Tier 4 areas that have booked golf trips, the advice is crystal. “This means that holidays in the UK and abroad are not allowed.”

Hospitality venues such as cafes, restaurants, pubs, bars and social clubs must shut, with the exception of providing food and drink for takeaway (until 11pm), click-and-collect, drive-through or delivery.

In a statement, the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf added: “Under Tier 4 restrictions, non-essential retail – including Pro Shops and golf retailers – must close. Click and Collect will, however, be permitted.

“Outdoor coaching will be allowed on an individual basis or for multiple members of the same household or support bubble. Indoor coaching will be not be permitted.

“There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.

“Custom fitting can take place outside on a one-to-one basis but is not permitted indoors.

“Some golf ranges can be classified as indoor settings, but it would be for each facility to read and interpret the guidelines against their own venue – it is suggested that if confirmation is required they contact their local authority who will be best placed to advise.”

To see the full guidance, click here.

If you have any questions, you can leave a comment below or tweet me.

Subscribe to NCG