Paul McGinley on an arduous but realistic road to recovery for golf
"As the world gets back on its feet again, I foresee economic and social corrections. All professional sport will adjust on so many levels, as sport recalculates to a different value system"
Last Updated: 31/03/20 7:00am
What are the main challenges facing golf when sport is given the all-clear to return after the coronavirus pandemic? Paul McGinley predicts a long and uncertain road ahead, but one which should end positively.
Like many other sports, the world of golf, both professional and amateur, has come to a halt. The world is reeling on the ropes from a virus that is affecting us all and that has brought such devastation. Our health workers have become true heroes.
When we come through this lockdown stage, the economic ramifications are likely to bring hardship and suffering for years to come. According to the experts, we need to be ready for this as it's coming our way fast. The post-corona fallout will have consequences to all our daily lives and businesses as well as to all sports.
As we face this long and uncertain road ahead, many will look forward to the return of sport. For golf to return, it will, first and foremost, require assurances from various governments and the international community that it is safe and right to do so.
Realistically, we will now need to get our heads around the idea that, as we try to go back to what we used to call normality, a first port of call will more than likely, and certainly initially, be that professional sport is played behind closed doors.
There are so many questions to which we, as yet, have no answers. When we begin to return to the streets, what socially-acceptable behaviours will people follow? As we have become accustomed to social distancing and avoidance of crowds, how will we adjust to shoulder-to-shoulder contact with strangers?
Was it correct to close courses?
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How soon before international travel restrictions are lifted to certain countries? Will some countries insist on a period of quarantine initially before returning to an open-border policy? What ramifications to these social changes will there be for sport with closely packed crowds and, in particular, our game of golf?
The professional golf landscape will surely be a different place. It is commonly agreed that the economic fallout will be colossal and there is no doubt that sport will have suffered as a consequence. This in itself will filter right down the golf food chain to local courses and driving ranges.
As the world gets back on its feet again, I foresee economic and social corrections as we adapt to different living standards. All professional sport will adjust on so many levels as sport recalculates to a different value system.
With regards to the new golf end-of-year schedule, I note a lot of comment and the raising of potential scenarios that are now being discussed. I'm aware that just as in all businesses a lot of talks are being escalated and conducted behind the scenes in respect of what the future might look like.
As this virus is so fast-moving and with no likely short-term end in sight, that is all they are at the moment - talks and discussions. We are told that no fixed plans can be put in place until a proven means of testing or vaccination is available to all.
From my new position of being now more involved at board level on the European Tour and Ryder Cup, I have access to many of these high-level conversations. I can assure you that, in order to get some kind of clarity and joined-up thinking on resumption, all the main major bodies in men's and ladies' world golf are communicating.
The European Tour, PGA Tour, PGA of America, USGA, LPGA Tour, Ladies European Tour, Augusta National and the R&A are all working very closely trying to piece together end-of-year schedule scenarios.
As a relative newcomer to this administrative role, I see the collaborative effort as very welcome in a sport that has been segmented with too many governing bodies for far too long. Our sport is crying out for more unification. This crisis may well have provided that valuable opportunity.
Another potential upside to this dreadful time in our lives is that although the economic landscape will probably change, it doesn't necessarily mean the values and enjoyment we garner from the game should reduce - in fact, they may well be enhanced. The more we refrain from playing, the more we will come to miss it, while appreciating it even more when we do get to return.