Confirmed: Golf courses in Republic of Ireland will reopen on April 26th
Tennis and training for under-18s in groups of 15 will also return at the end of April
Golfers play at Bunclody Golf Club after the first reopening last year. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
At this rate, there’ll be some kind of slow play penalty to be applied when golfers finally get into the swing of it. But at least the countdown is on – just a few more ticks on the clock for those in Northern Ireland, over three weeks longer for those golfers domiciled in the Republic – for a return to the fairways, which have been lying unused for most of the past year.
That old adage about golf being a good walk spoiled (and, no, it wasn’t Mark Twain who first coined the phrase) will certainly be embraced again by those who get the green light to return to the fairways. At last, golf clubs can be retrieved from cupboards, garden sheds and garages and dusted off with a return to play in sight.
With golf club members in the North resuming a form of play on Thursday, April 1st, the Irish Government’s decision to give a green light for golf clubs in the Republic from April 26th will come as some relief for the men, women, boys and girls – numbering almost 200,000 – who are members of clubs and who will be able to get playing again.
Golf, tennis and children’s underage (under 18s) training – in pods of a maximum of 15 for team sports – will resume on April 26th as part of the easing of restrictions. Under these guidelines, it means that golf clubs will also be able to schedule junior camps in adhering to the pod system recommended.
By April 26th, golf clubs in the Republic will have been closed for a total of 210 days – the equivalent of 30 weeks – over the past year, which equates to the highest number of days closed anywhere in the world.
Come that day, though, it won’t be a free-for-all in terms of hitting the fairways again as the resumption will only apply to golf club members playing at their own clubs, while society and casual green fee golfers will have to wait until further easing of restrictions at a later date. In effect, it will be a slow, step-by-step return – over further weeks – before all golfers get playing, as different easing of restrictions occur going forward.
There’s also some good news for those golf club members who need to cross county boundaries. The travel restrictions will be eased in the Republic from April 12th – with the 5km limit extended to travel within their county or within a 20km radius even if crossing county lines – and so will also provide some degree of solace for those club members who live in an adjacent county to their club.
While golf clubs in Northern Ireland reopen for members on Thursday, it should be noted that members living in the Republic subject to a local travel ban will not be permitted to travel across the Border to play at this time.
For those golfers living in the North and who are members of golf clubs, the return to play comes with different levels of adherence in the initial phase (to April 12th) which includes a regulation that no organised social gatherings of any size are permitted at golf facilities and all activities are based on an “arrival-play-depart without delay” arrangement with tee-times pre-booked. However, it will be possible for members to compete in conditions that meet the new World Handicapping System.
The initial return to play phase in the North will also see groups limited to a maximum of two households, with tee-times either in two-balls, three-balls for four-balls, while there is a requirement on clubs to retain the time-sheets for a period of six weeks. That is a roadmap that is likely to be replicated in the Republic come April 26th.
“We welcome the fact that golf, along with tennis, will be the first sports which will open from April 26th. While this is some weeks away, we look forward to members having the opportunity to exercise and play golf in a safe manner,” said a spokesperson for Golf Ireland, adding: “Following intensive engagement with the Department of Sport and Sport Ireland, Golf Ireland has drafted a Return to Golf Protocol to assist clubs in their preparation for the resumption of play. Now that the resumption of golf has been confirmed, this will be finalised in consultation with the relevant authorities, and issued to clubs as soon as possible.”