Recreational golfers across England have been able to return to the tee – with strict social distancing and health and safety measures in place – following the Prime Minister’s coronavirus update on Sunday evening.

England Golf, the governing body for amateur golf in the country, confirmed this week after consultation with the government that courses could reopen as of Wednesday the 13th May for ‘limited play’.

The new government rules mean that only the following groupings are permitted to play:

  • Individuals playing golf on their own.
  • Games involving two people, comprising of individuals from different households
  • At the discretion of the golf club, members of the same household playing in groups of two, three or four

The rules on limited play mean that the sport is played in line with wider government rules which are allowing exercise with one person from another household.

And for recreational golfers like Matt Kerry, who plays at Ruddington Grange Golf Club in Nottinghamshire, the lifting of restrictions on playing the game is a massive boost for his physical and mental health.

Recreational golfer Matt Kerry says getting back on the course will mean a lot to the golfing community

“When I do go and play golf it’s a release for me from any stresses I have.”

“It is a form of exercise aswell and I think a lot of people miss that… if you walk around a golf course it’s generally between 4 and 5 miles so it does get people out there, especially for those that are retired or a bit older it’s probably their only exercise.”

And Matt is confident that the measures that have been taken will allow golfers to get back playing safely.

“The club that I play at have sent out communications about how we need to be safe, and there could be risks there but they’ve absolutely minimised them.”

England Golf launched their #PlaySafeStaySafe campaign to showcase their safety guidelines

“What my golf club have done to make the course safe I think has been excellent and I’ve got no concerns about going to play.”

Guidance from The R&A & England Golf have set out measures to ensure golf is played safely, including:

  • Rakes, benches, bins, ball washers & drinking fountains to be removed/covered up
  • Flags must not be touched
  • Clubhouse, locker room and practice areas to be closed
  • Minimum 10 minute intervals between tee times
  • No trolleys, carts or other items for hire unless safe sanitising practices guaranteed
  • 2 metre social distancing must be maintained at all times
  • Scorecards should not be exchanged
  • Players must leave immediately after their round

Intially there had been no confirmation to golf clubs & professionals about the operation of retail shops, driving ranges, and the provision of coaching.

But on Thursday morning England Golf released a statement confirming that coaches are now able to return – providing they follow strict social distancing measures and only work with 1 person from another household at any one time.

Ian Gregory is a golf professional and coach in Loughborough. He still can’t return to coaching as he teaches at driving ranges which currently remain closed, but he’s hopeful he’ll be able to start teaching again soon.

Golf professional Ian Gregory thinks driving ranges should be able to reopen soon

And Ian is confident he’ll be able to adapt to work around social distancing regulations.

“Not being hands on is going to be difficult because you naturally want to move people into position, so it will be a lot more of show and copy… a lot more explanation and demonstration.”

“We’re lucky in a way that the majority of people that get golf lessons are from an older category and they tend to have a little more time and money, so it shouldn’t have hit them too badly. So I think they’ll be knocking down the door when we get the true green light.”

Ian has been providing lockdown drills for his clients on social media to help them stay engaged with golf during lockdown

The guidelines for coaching advise using an ‘alignment stick’ for moving players into position, providing sanitising wipes and getting those being taught to use their own golf balls.

Golf retail premises will have to remain closed for now – except for click & collect orders – whilst further clarification is being sought in relation to the reopening of driving ranges by golf’s governing bodies.