Courses start to reopen
Golf courses in Europe and the Middle East are starting to reopen – and approximately 80% of courses in the United States are expected to be open by mid-May, according to the National Golf Foundation (NGF).
But golfers are being warned that restrictions and social distancing will remain in place – and the limitations of ‘essential maintenance’ imposed on greenkeepers during lockdown means additional work will be required before many courses can be brought back to prime condition.
Courses in Denmark and parts of Scandinavia started to open in mid-April, with some reporting high levels of demand and even “panic booking” of tee times.
Courses across the UAE have also opened following a lockdown, with Dubai clubs opening from April 27.
France is preparing to open courses on May 11, following a government statement, with the French Golf Federation providing operational guidelines to courses.
In the UK, golf magazine Bunkered reported today that a leaked document from The R&A ‘paves the way for golf’s return,’ although a date has yet to be set.
This followed a statement from the UK’s Parliamentary Golf Group on April 28, in which chairman Craig Tracey MP said: “The initial challenges with lockdown meant golf had to close in Britain, but the nature of the game means it can, and should, return quickly provided there are steps taken by all involved to maintain social distancing and to meet any other government instruction.”
Meanwhile, in the United States, 60% of courses are now open, with 80% predicted to be open by mid-May, according to the NGF.
But, NGF President and CEO Joe Beditz, had a word of warning for the industry. He said: “While course openings are increasing, restrictions on pro shops, cart usage and F&B operations will result in lower overall revenue per round for operators. For some, this reduction in revenue could be very challenging.
“This is a reminder that while news of golf continuing to gain traction as a safe and healthy activity is encouraging, the industry is not out of the woods yet – by any means.”
Golfers are also being advised that greenkeepers, who have had to work under restrictive conditions at a time when most people have stayed at home, are likely to require additional time to bring courses back to peak condition.
Jim Croxton, CEO of BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association), told Syngenta Growing Golf, said: "When golfers finally start to get back on their courses, they will really start to appreciate the work that has been done because it will take some time for the vast majority of facilities to go from being loosely maintained, in the way described by the (UK) government and golf industry as being essential, to actually being in tip-top playable condition.
“And I really hope that will help our members will be appreciated by golfers and their employers and see what it is, technically, that is done by our members.”
• Keep up to date with the latest data, government information and course opening in the United States via the NGF’s dedicated COVID-19 update page: https://www.thengfq.com/covid-19/