With the “unreliable” public a probable contributory factor behind the closure of all UK golf courses, Robert Lee understands the decision while urging officials to avoid a late major scramble…
I’ve been self-isolating for over a week now after I started experiencing mild symptoms of coronavirus last week. I wasn’t too bad, but it ran its course and I just stayed out of everybody’s way!
And with the nation in lockdown, there’s not a lot to do anyway, apart from watching classic sport on the television. Who knows when proper live sport will return, but I feel it’s more likely to be a few months rather than a few weeks. It’s difficult to see the world getting fully back on track until a vaccine is found to combat COVID-19.
It’s possible we may see a few sports, including golf, return to competition without spectators, just to tip-toe their way back to some kind of normality, and we may see some of the top pros playing the odd exhibition match similar to the days of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf.
But that seems a long way off, and right now there is no golf anywhere in the UK at any level, or not that we know of anyway. The relevant authorities ordered all courses to close, and that wasn’t a great surprise.
Maybe it would have been different if more people had followed the guidelines pertaining to social distancing. If this had been more strictly observed, and I’m talking generally, not just on a golf course, then it might have been possible to carry on playing golf.
However, it seems they were all given an edict and were not given a choice on whether to stay open or not. When you’re relying on people to do the right thing, then it’s easy to get into a spot of bother so it’s not worth the risk.
The public are too unreliable. Golf can be done in the current climate, but it would take a lot of discipline from everyone. It’s a shame because there’s more than enough space on a golf course to keep your distance, and it’s a great way of getting in your exercise.
But you can’t rake a bunker, because you can’t have everyone touching the same rake, it’s the same for every flagstick, and you’d be putting your hand in the hole to get your ball out. Some courses removed rakes and raised the hole to eliminate the risk, but the lockdown announcement made those efforts futile.
You can’t even meet a friend to walk a dog, let alone go and play golf, so the game – like most sports – is now at a standstill. With the lockdown regulations, it might have been possible to be permitted to play golf with a member of your household, but how do you police that?
In the end, it’s just easier and more logical to say: “No more golf for the time being”, and that’s an end of it. It’s so disappointing, especially as we’re enjoying our best weather of the year. And the ban on golf also reduces the risk to the demographic that will dominate many club memberships – the senior citizens, those most vulnerable to coronavirus.
The same applies to driving ranges, even though they might be perceived as areas of “natural social distancing”, but the realism is that no kind of business can stay open unless it’s a supermarket, a chemist or a GP’s surgery.
Golf can be done in the current climate, but it would take a lot of discipline from everyone. It’s a shame because there’s more than enough space on a golf course to keep your distance.
You could argue that you stand in the bay with plenty of room between you and the nearest person, but at some point there will be a bottleneck getting in, there will be a queue for the balls, and you’re back to being reliant on everybody being sensible and adhering to the rules.
And, like the risks associated with playing golf, it’s just not worth it. It’s the same for everyone, it is brand new for everyone, and we’ve all got to be patient, ride it out and hope that golf will return sooner rather than later.
The rumour mill is in full flow around the majors all being played over the autumn and winter, but the scramble to squeeze four majors in this year seems a bit ridiculous to me. The logistics of trying to get them all in before the end of 2020 are complicated.
The players will be going into them half-baked, so the quality of golf will not be the usual standard, and that will devalue each event even more. It will be impossible for the world’s best to show their best when they have had so little competition for months.
The majors are all about showcasing the best golfers, playing to the best of their abilities, but that isn’t going to happen this year so there doesn’t seem much point in trying to accommodate four majors – and a Ryder Cup – into a short spell over the autumn and winter.
And where could you play the US Open or the PGA Championship in October or November? It would have to be Southern California, or Florida or even Texas. So that means more work changing venues and ensuring courses would be up to speed for a major.
Unless the players can be fully up-and-running by the end of the summer, my vote would be to come back with a clean slate in 2021 and start over with the usual format and schedule.
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And what of the Ryder Cup? You could argue that it is being played in the one place in the US where you could get away with not having crowds, as Whistling Straits is in the middle of nowhere! But what would the Ryder Cup be without the partisan nature of the crowd?
The Ryder Cup is as much about the spectators and the atmosphere as it is about the talent inside the ropes. And that talent would probably have to be picked this year with the qualifying system for both teams decimated by the hiatus.
If you had two teams picked outright by the captains, and no crowds present, you’d just be diluting and devaluing what is an amazing product and advert for golf.
But all that seems a long way off at the moment, and the uncertainty remains for now. I would love to think that, by the end of the year, we’ll have seen a bunch of professional tournaments completed and covered by Sky Sports Golf.
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