Late bid to keep golf courses open during lockdown ends in defeat
"The Government engaged in detailed conversation, but has decided not to amend its original guidance and we would ask all clubs and golfers to respect the legislation that is set to come into force overnight"
By Keith Jackson
Last Updated: 04/11/20 4:52pm
Golf courses in England will remain closed during the upcoming lockdown after lobbying from England Golf and the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf failed to overturn the decision.
The APPGG has admitted defeat in its bid to persuade the Government to keep golf courses open and available for players to go out in two-balls, with their arguments highlighting the various health and wellbeing benefits apparently falling on deaf ears.
The campaign was backed by England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson, who has expressed his disappointment with the outcome ahead of the four-week closure of all English courses from Thursday.
"It is with a feeling of deep regret that we must now inform all affiliated golf clubs and driving ranges that they should prepare to close from Thursday 5 November until Wednesday 2 December 2020," said Tomlinson in a statement on the England Golf website.
"Pending a vote in the House of Commons, the UK Government has confirmed these closures are required as part of increased national lockdown measures designed to suppress the spread of Covid-19, save lives and protect the NHS.
"England Golf, as the governing body for the amateur game and alongside our colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, respectfully, but vigorously challenged government to argue the case for golf courses to remain open.
"As an open-air sport played by limited numbers in a vast outdoor setting which naturally lends itself to social distancing, we lobbied that golf should continue to be played in accordance with our government-approved 'Play Safe, Stay Safe' framework.
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"With the Prime Minister actively encouraging family households and up to two individuals from different households to exercise in the open air without limit, we strongly believe that golf courses should have remained open as an extension to recreation even if it was necessary to close clubhouses and professional shops.
"Participants would have been able to enjoy the obvious physical rewards of playing the game, but perhaps more importantly, the benefits to their mental health at a time of disruption to normal life.
"The Government engaged in detailed conversation, but has decided not to amend its original guidance and we would ask all clubs and golfers to respect the legislation that is set to come into force overnight.
"England Golf staff remain available to support golfers, clubs and counties throughout this period of temporary closure."
The APPGG conceded: "There is no more that can be done to persuade the Government to alter its position to allow golf to continue during the upcoming lockdown and the Government position will remain."
The Group's chair, Craig Tracey, said: "Unfortunately, unlike the lockdown earlier this year, the Government has decided to take a different approach despite golf having demonstrated it can meet the necessary requirements of the upcoming lockdown to continue to be participated in safely.
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"By playing in pairs, closing clubhouses and maintaining the socially distancing rule changes already implemented, the sport could continue to be enjoyed by the three million participants across the country.
"Obviously the Government has difficult decisions to make at this time but when you consider significant mental and physical health benefits of golf, and that it is a sport that is enjoyed by such a wide range of people, we are naturally disappointed they have taken the position that it has.
"There is still time for this to change and we remain available to all ministers and officials to explain how golf can be played under the upcoming bill or to answer any questions they may have."