GUI and ILGU call on all golf clubs on island to close their facilities

Unions will monitor options to offer clubs business support during close down

Rather inevitably, golf courses – who had practiced additional health measures in recent times which included physical distancing, the removal of rakes from bunkers, leaving of flagsticks in the hole etc – have been advised that even such actions were insufficient and that the only option was for a complete closedown on the entire island.

All clubs and public courses in the North had closed following the UK government’s announcement on Monday night and the Golfing Union of Ireland and the Irish Ladies Golf Union reissued that same decree following the Irish Government’s move to further restrict movement and leisure activities in the effort to combat coronavirus.

In a joint statement, the GUI and the ILGU recommended that “all golf clubs, practice facilities and courses across the island close with immediate effect until April 19th, 2020. While golf is an outdoor sport that allows players to exercise in the fresh air, the message is clear: people must stay at home to help the spread of COVID-19.”

While many sporting activities had ground to a halt in recent weeks, and competitive golf was part of that shuddering halt, social golf had continued and indeed had been actively encouraged by the HSE and the NHS as a means of getting people and families to get exercise.


A number of GUI and ILGU championships and interclub tournaments had already been postponed, among them the Irish Girls’ Open Strokeplay at Roganstown, the Irish Colleges Matchplay at Woodbrook and the Four Nations development matches scheduled for Donabate. The two governing bodies had also postponed a range of national underage squad coaching sessions.

All GUI provincial, regional and Leinster “pathway” sessions have also been called to a halt for the forseeable future.

All golf clubs had already closed down their clubhouses and ceased hospitality in recent weeks on previous advice from the GUI and ILGU, with many players adopting the old ritual of changing their shoes in the car park, and using hand sanitising before and after play, while also adopting measures such as removing rakes (with bunkers in many cases deemed GUR) and leaving flagsticks in the hole.

In the statement, the GUI and the ILGU recognised the “need” for clubs to engage in business support. “We will monitor options available and engage with the relevant sporting bodies in due course to make representations for our member clubs. We know that these decisions are difficult ones to make, but right now, it is our shared responsibility to prioritise the health of our local communities by working together to follow the respective government guidelines,” the unions acknowledged.

Golf clubs have endured a heavy hit on a number of fronts in recent years, with the recession resulting in a haemorrhaging of membership for much of the decade from 2008 to 2018, while bad weather over the winter months had also impacted heavily.

The GUI and the ILGU had recommended clubs in Northern Ireland to close following British prime minister Boris Johnson’s speech on Monday night, it became an all-island policy following the Irish Government’s adoption of similar measures.

While all playing activity has ceased, greenkeeping staff at clubs and public courses can continue to work as well as physical distancing guidelines are followed. Clubs have been advised to “divide course staff into two teams where possible” to aid continuity of maintenance programmes.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times