Golf courses split on coronavirus advice to close

New restrictions force major changes to playing conditions.

COVID-19 UPDATE

Queensland golf courses have been advised to close following the announcement of further social distancing measures to combat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, however some are continuing to operate.

Golf Australia chairman Andrew Newbold said in a statement on 30 March the recommendation was based on Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s announcement on 29 March that restricted outdoor gatherings to two persons.

Mr Newbold said government messaging was clear on what constituted exercise and while golf was used as exercise for many, it was clear the sport no longer fell inside the new parameters.

“While this is a difficult time for the golf industry and wider society, Golf Australia is committed to working with clubs and facilities across the states and territories to ensure that we return a vibrant, strong industry,” Mr Newbold said.

However, while some Queensland clubs have heeded the advice and closed, others chose to open while abiding by social distancing restrictions.

Carindale's Pacific Golf  Club was one of the courses that decided to re-open under new guidelines on 3 April.

The course is open to members for social play only and players can only tee off in groups of two with 15-minute intervals. Players must abide by the 1.5m distancing requirement at all times. 

However, the club has told anyone aged 70 or over or judged to be in a high-risk category by Queensland Health to stay home.

Others courses who have chosen to open are implementing similar restrictions.

Virginia Golf Club, at Banyo, is continuing to host competitions with groups limited to two players.

Golfers intending to play should get in touch with their local clubs to check if they are open and familiarise themselves with new regulations.

Clubs choosing to open are doing so in defiance of Golf Australia which reiterated its stance in a statement on its website on 2 April.

"Golf Australia, while not wishing to act in a manner contrary to those specific rulings or directives, remains of the view that golf is a non-essential activity, a view which sits comfortably with the current Federal Government directive and rules to 'stay at home' unless absolutely necessary," the statement said.

"Of course, Golf Australia is merely recommending that position to all clubs around Australia and ultimately we respect the right of the clubs to act in the way they see fit while complying with all social distancing requirements.

"We strongly believe that unity, prudence and safety during this unprecedented crisis is the best way for us to assist with 'flattening the curve' of Covid-19's surge through the community and we believe that golf and our industry has a role to play in doing this.

"Our recommendation to remain closed therefore remains the same - Australia and our community come first."

EARLIER STORY

Queensland’s golf courses remain open to players despite the government announcing further measures to restrict interaction between people during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.


Golf Australia’s Queensland State Manager Luke Bates said while clubhouses were closed, except for the sale of takeaway food, golfers could continue to play by adhering to the government’s requirement for groups of people gathering in open spaces to be restricted to 10 or less while maintaining at least 1.5m separation between individuals.

Mr Bates said it was initially thought clubs would have to close completely after Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced details of the Stage 1 lockdown on 22 March and further restrictions on 24 March.

However, it has since been clarified they will be able to remain open under the current restrictions.

“We have had confirmation from the Chief Medical Health Officer that golf clubs in Queensland can open under the strict guidelines that are in place,” Mr Bates said.

He said golfers could play in groups of four or less but individuals had to maintain 1.5m spacing at all times.

“We are stressing as much as we can to clubs across the country to make sure they follow the guidelines,” Mr Bates said.

“The Department of Health and police will be monitoring facilities to ensure they are meeting those parameters.”

You want the space of the golf course to be key and you want people to be out in that space.
The ruling means golf is one of the few organised sports allowed to continue.

“It is a case of clubs watching members closely and as long as they are adhering to the policies that are in place then competition golf can be played,” Mr Bates said.

“If they find it is resulting in players spending too much time congregating with each other before and after play then courses may just be (restricted to) social golf.

“The key is you don’t want people hanging around and waiting for things. You want the space of the golf course to be key and you want people to be out in that space.”

Clubs were adjusting their procedures to ensure there was no congregation of players including increasing the length of time between groups starting their rounds.

The game’s ruling body, the R&A which is based at St Andrews in Scotland, is permitting clubs around the world to alter the sport’s rules to enable increased hygiene practices, removing the chance of contact between players.

These include allowing flagsticks to be left in holes at all times or not used at all, removing the need for players to exchange scorecards and allowing the raking of bunkers with feet or clubs rather than rakes.

Mr Bates said golfers needed to be mindful of the government’s new regulations before deciding to play.

“We have seen clubs communicating to members and stressing if they are feeling sick then don’t come to the club and if they have been travelling don’t come in within 14 days,” Mr Bates said.

“We have seen a number of clubs doing a really good job with that.

“There have been cases of members calling up and pulling out because they don’t feel comfortable, which we all understand, but at the same time clubs are saying it is nice to have people on the golf course and getting some income.”