Golf clubs in tier 1 and 2 areas in Scotland have been advised to stop people from tier 3 locations visiting with immediate effect.
The guidance from Scottish Golf is based on the Scottish Government’s new tier system restricting travel for exercise in tier 3 areas to “around five miles”.
In an update to member clubs, Scottish Golf’s chief operating officer Karin Sharp said: “On-course golf activities can continue under our current Phase 3 Guidance, with up to four players from four different households allowed to participate together.
“There are no changes to access to toilet facilities, locker rooms or professional shops, which can continue to be utilised provided all appropriate measures, such as use of face masks, increased sanitation are adhered to.
“You should avoid travel to other areas regardless of their level unless essential. For exercise/sport, there is an exemption, however, it is limited:
“In tier 4, not permitted to drive outside your Local Authority area for exercise – you can cross boundaries in the process of exercising i.e if a golf course straddles two Local Authority area boundaries.
“In tier 3, you are permitted to travel around 5 miles for exercise. In tier 2 and tier 1, you are permitted to travel freely for exercise within your own Local Authority area.
“Under-18s can travel freely for exercise in tiers 0-3. They should not travel in or out of a tier 4 area.
“All golfers should be aware of travel guidance outlined by the Scottish Government and this should always be followed.”
Under the new guidance, golfers in the Central Belt are being advised not to travel to tier 2 areas like Fife, Perth & Kinross or the Borders, with the Highlands, which is in tier 1, also deemed to be out of bounds.
Meanwhile, the governing body has been successful in lobbying the Scottish Government to provide assistance to clubs which had to close clubhouses recently to fall in line with restrictions imposed on the hospitality industry.
“Following representations made by Scottish Golf on behalf of its member clubs, we are pleased to confirm that the Scottish Government has agreed hardship grants (outside the central belt) and closure grants (inside the central belt) will be accessible to sports clubhouses which are licensed to serve alcohol, and are therefore equivalent to bars that must close or modify their operations,” said Sharp.
“Clubs can now apply for these grants here. Please note that applications for these grants close at 5pm on Tuesday 3 November.”A petition calling for golf to get a reprieve when England goes into a second national lockdown on Thursday has garnered over 250,000 signatures.
It has also been supported by some well-known figures in the game, including Sky Sports Golf’s main anchorman, Nick Dougherty.
The petition was raised after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Saturday night that outdoor sports would be banned as part of new lockdown measures in England.
By the time it closed last night, the petition had attracted a total of 254,751 signatures, more than double the figure required for a debate in Parliament.
Dougherty, a three-time European Tour winner before launching a broadcasting career, expressed his support for the petition on social media.
“The value of golf to both mental and physical well being was demonstrated in our first lockdown, although it has always been the case with our sport,” said the Englishman. “All it requires is respect for the social distancing guidelines for it to do it again.
“For me, this isn’t about folks missing out on a month’s golf. It’s about golf playing it’s small role as a solution to some of the collateral damage of this pandemic. Golf’s biggest asset is the change and growth it can offer, not just at golf clubs, but for children in schools, too.
“It’s about the healing and support that the sport can give in these strange times and the future. I’ve been lucky enough to see first hand golf change and indeed save lives. Respect the guidance and support the sport.
“The club houses don’t need to be open. We coped with just the courses open in the first lockdown.”
Scotland’s top-ranked women’s professional Gemma Dryburgh, who lives in England, also gave her backing to the petition.
“Don’t see the difference between a walk with someone in a park and a round of golf with friends/family,” she said on Twitter. “Golf has social distancing built into it. Keep the courses open.”
England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson has hit out at the Government’s plan and called for an immediate rethink.
In an open letter to “fellow golfers”, he said: “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.”
Courses in the Republic of Ireland are currently closed as part of the country’s new Level 5 Covid-19 regulations but Northern Ireland’s clubs and courses remain open.
In Wales, courses are closed for two-and-a-half weeks as part of its “firebreak” measures.
There has been no hint from the Scottish Government that golf courses could be closed as part of the new tier restrictions introduced around the country yesterday.
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