Premier League football and many other elite sports will be allowed to continue during the four-week lockdown in England. Parliament will now need to respond after a petition to keep golf courses open reaches more than 100,000 signatures
By Ali Stafford
Last Updated: 01/11/20 2:10pm
England Golf has confirmed they will “respectfully challenge” the government’s decision to close golf courses and driving ranges as part of lockdown restrictions, which come into force from Thursday.
The Prime Minister announced on Saturday evening that four-week ‘circuit break’ lockdown would begin on Thursday November 5 in England, with golf courses and driving ranges currently falling under the outdoor leisure facilities that would be ordered to close to “reduce social contact”.
An online petition to make golf courses exempt from venues required to shut received more than 100,000 signatures in a matter of hours, meaning it will be considered for debate by Parliament, with former world No 1 Lee Westwood among those sharing the petition on social media.
England Golf released a statement on Saturday evening to state they were working with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf to establish exact restrictions on golf facilities, while their CEO – Jeremy Tomlinson – has written an open letter to golfer’s to explain why he feels it’s “counter-productive” to close golf courses.
The letter, released on the England Golf website, said: “Having digested the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation on Saturday night and read the guidance which followed, there is an element of confusion around the government’s stated intention to close down golf courses and facilities from Thursday 5 November.
“As a result of this, and with the health of the nation very much at the heart of my thinking, I would like to make clear England Golf’s intention to respectfully challenge the government’s rationale for closing golf courses.
“We will do so utilising all in our network – MPs, colleagues, media and friends – to make sure we are heard by government. Listening to the Prime Minister, the news that he is actively encouraging safe and responsible outdoor exercise for households or two individuals pointed to our great game of golf being at the heart of this policy.
“The guidance which followed stating that golf courses were on a list of venues which should close, therefore, appeared contradictory and came out of the blue. At no point was England Golf – as the governing body for the amateur game of golf in this country – consulted about this decision.
“Of course, we fully recognise and accept the need to suppress the virus to save lives and protect the NHS. Throughout the pandemic England Golf has endeavoured to act with authority, knowledge, understanding and extreme diligence. At all times we have placed the health and wellbeing of our communities as a priority.
“For this and many reasons, it is our sincere belief that it is now counter-productive to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in a Covid-secure manner in the open air.
“Golf returned on 13 May this year following the first national lockdown as an extension of outdoor recreation. We achieved this after presenting a unified golf industry (All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf) strategy paper that not only outlined a “return to play” roadmap beyond reproach, but which was heralded as best practice for many other sports to reference!
“Our (England Golf’s) ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ guidance was endorsed by government, adopted by golf clubs and is now ingrained in the minds of all golfers. With safe and responsible exercising being encouraged by government during the second period of national lockdown, it seems incongruous to call for golf courses to now close.
“Golf is widely acknowledged as a game which is good for the body and soul, with outstanding research reiterating its benefits for the older generation recently shared by The R&A. But even without a research paper, the physical benefits of exercising in the open air are obvious and known to all.
“In the current situation, the psychological gains from being able to enjoy a social and safe form of outdoor activity, enjoying a temporary release from the pressures of everyday life probably outweigh the physical.
I’m aware from the numbers who have signed a national petition that a great many golfers around the country share this belief. To be clear, I was also very happy to sign this petition.
“Alongside our colleagues in the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf (APPGG) we will pro-actively continue dialogue with government challenging the current position hard, but with great reason, to allow golf courses to remain open for play (in some format) from Thursday.
“I truly believe this would not, in any way, undermine the huge public health efforts that are going on in the country during these times. Golf, in fact, can help us get through this terrible pandemic and be stronger for it once we emerge on the other side.”
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