Last updated: Monday 1 March (preparation for the return of golf on 29 March)
England Golf has fielded a large number of calls, emails and messages via social media ahead of the planned reopening of golf courses on 29 March.
Our staff are working hard to reply to each individual and club query and we thank you all for turning to us for advice and support in these unprecedented times. We appreciate your patience while we deal with your questions.
Given the volume of enquiries, we felt it would be useful to compile a series of FAQs complete with answers, guidance and signposting to other relevant authorities.
All FAQs and guidance reflect government regulations put in place for the resumption of golf in England on Monday 29 March.
Please note: All dates in this document are indicative and may be subject to further government change.
PLAYING THE GAME:
Q – What is the permitted format for groupings when golf returns?
A – From 29 March, golfers will have the choice of playing in groups of up to four players.
Q – What is the maximum group size permitted to gather on and off the course?
A – From 29 March, the ‘rule of six’ comes into force again in England. There are a limited number of exceptions when it comes to group gatherings. For example, people who provide essential support (e.g. carers) to golfers with a disability are exempt and do not count towards the maximum number of six people in a group of golfers (i.e four golfers and two caddies). Groups of six people may be made up of individuals from different households.
Q – Can over 70s play golf?
A – Yes – but this decision is down to the individual golfer based on their own circumstances.
If you are living in a household with a possible COVID-19 infection or if you are classified as extremely vulnerable on health grounds, the guidance is that you should remain at and exercise at home.
Q – How many rounds can an individual play in a week?
A – There is no limit on exercise set by government. Golf clubs may, however, in the interests of fairness and because of the increased demand, choose to limit the number of rounds an individual may play in a week.
Q – Do golfers need to nominate designated individuals from outside their household to play golf with or can they play with different people each time they tee up?
A – Golfers may choose a different playing partner or partners every time they tee it up. Social distancing rules must be observed at all times and golfers should be mindful of the increased risk by widening the scope of their social contacts.
Q – Why can golf be played in Scotland at this time and not in England before 29 March?
A – In England, the regulations and laws are set down by the UK Government in Westminster.
In Scotland, as is the case in Wales and Northern Ireland, the regulations and laws are set down by the devolved parliament/assemblies.
The First Minister of Scotland has chosen to adopt a different approach to the UK Government based on the COVID-19 circumstances in Scotland.
Golf courses in Wales and Northern Ireland remain closed as instructed by their devolved governments.
Q – What is the current advice for juniors playing the game at a time of restrictions?
A – We have developed safeguarding procedures for children and vulnerable adults during COVID-19, especially during the early phases, where social distancing will be enforced.
Q – Can clubs run competitions?
A – When golf returns, clubs may choose to run club and open competitions provided all social distancing and safety rules are strictly observed.
If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be used that does not require the exchanging of scorecards. Find the full guidance document here.
Q – What is the guidance on shotgun starts?
A – We do not recommend the use of shotgun starts at this time because of the increased likelihood of creating congregations of people before and after the round.
Q – What is the guidance on tee time bookings and intervals between groupings?
A- Clubs/facilities should organise a system of booking and allocation of tee times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers and lessen the chance of people congregating. A 10-minute interval is advised between tee times, but clubs may use shorter intervals provided that they can demonstrate that this is safe and ensures appropriate social distancing.
Q – What is the advice for nearest the pin and longest drive elements to competition play?
A – Neither are acceptable in their traditional forms due to the sharing of apparatus. Clubs intent on including such prize elements in any competition must guarantee that any method of measurement guarantees safe sanitisation at all times for all competitors.
Q – Can society bookings still be taken by clubs?
A –Society bookings can still be taken and can still go ahead. However, both clubs/ facilities and society members must ensure that congregations are avoided and that no groupings larger than six are formed at any time.
Q- What is the government advice on travel from 29 March?
A-The government advises that people should minimise travel from this date and golfers should bear this in mind when selecting venues for play.
Q- What rules are in place to deal with fixed flagsticks and play from bunkers that are not being raked?
A- During the period of COVID-19 restrictions, CONGU has provided clarity on the rules for the purposes of handicap qualifying competitions and supplementary scores. Find the details here
Q – How can foursomes golf be played safely?
A- Should you wish to play foursomes golf the following is recommended:
- Each partner should use their own golf ball, which is only handled by that player. For example, the player teeing off from hole one is the only person who touches the ball from teeing off through to completion of the hole. The partner teeing off from hole two does likewise with their ball. Under the Rules of Golf, a partner is permitted to drop the side’s ball in taking relief even if it is not his/her turn to play the next shot. It is also permissible to drop another ball when taking relief.
- When marking and replacing the ball on the putting green this should be conducted by the partner the ball belongs to. Under this situation (or any other where the ball must be replaced) the original ball must be used and must not be substituted by another ball.
Q – What is the advice on the use of artificial fairway mats over the winter months?
A- Golfers should avoid the sharing of fairway mats. Clubs may consider giving a mat to each member for individual use and offering mats to visitors which can then be sanitised on return. In social golf, clubs may wish to consider allowing the ball to be moved from fairway to the nearest area of semi-rough.
Q – Is insurance cover provided by England Golf to members of affiliated golf clubs still valid?
A – As long as golf courses are legally open for play then current insurance cover remains valid.
Q – Following the return of club competitions, is it possible for Pro-Am events to take place?
A – For details on professional and pro-am events , the PGA website contains more guidance.
Q – Is there any advice for blind golfers on the return to play?
A – Yes – the RNIB has published guidance on this subject which can be found here
PRACTICE FACILITIES/EQUIPMENT HIRE:
Q – Can outdoor practice areas, nets and putting greens remain open?
A – Yes – provided safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed for practice areas, including practice nets.
Clubs/facilities should consider procedures for the putting green to make it easy for social distancing rules to be followed (i.e giving priority of use to the player/s in the next group due to tee off).
Q – Can all driving ranges reopen?
A – Outdoor driving ranges are permitted to reopen from 29 March.
Driving ranges contain a number of hard surfaces and remain a high-risk area for the spread of COVID-19.
If you are considering opening your driving range, you should carry out a risk assessment in line with current government advice. You may also want to check queries with Environment Health and Trading Standards in your local area. Government guidance can be found here
Q – Can PGA professionals and clubs provide tuition/coaching for adults and children?
A – Yes – government has confirmed that outdoor coaching is permissible from 29 March.
Adult group coaching is permitted according to the ‘rule of six’. Children’s group coaching may take place in groups of up to 15 people. All coaching should take place under strict infection control measures and while observing social distancing.
Indoor coaching is not permitted until 12 April when it can return on a one-to-one basis. Indoor coaching according to the ‘rule of six’ can return from 17 May.
In relation to junior coaching, the full Out Of School Setting guidance is available here.
It is recommended that PGA professionals complete a comprehensive risk assessment and refer to the coaching guidelines on the PGA COVID-19 resource hub.
Q – Can buggies and trolleys be used?
A – This is a decision for facility managers. Where they are hired, individuals can use trolleys. These should not be shared.
Individuals or members of the same household/bubble can use/share buggies. Equipment for hire should be sanitised before and after each use.
PROFESSIONAL SHOPS AND SERVICES:
Q – Can pro shops open?
A – Pro shops must remain closed for retail when golf resumes on 29 March. However, pro shops may choose to operate a click and collect service from this date.
Q – Can club fitting services be provided?
A – From March 29, club fitting can take place outdoors on a one-to-one basis. This may happen indoors from 12 April.
Q – What is the guidance on the use of caddies from 29 March?
A – Caddies may be used provided group sizes do not exceed those specified by government (rule of six). Where used, caddies should only provide guidance to players and should not handle clubs. Consideration should be given for caddies to use trolleys supplied by the club and sanitised before and after use. Competition organising committees should consider whether to permit caddies during competition play.
Q – Can clubhouses reopen for access to indoor bar and catering facilities?
A – No – clubhouse bar and catering facilities must remain closed when golf courses reopen on 29 March. However, a takeaway service may be provided.
Food and drink can be served outdoors in accordance with the rule of six from 12 April.
Indoor social areas of clubhouses (including bar and catering facilities) are scheduled to open from 17 May in line with the rule of six.
Q – Do golf clubs have to collect contact details for ‘track and trace’?
A- Golf clubs are legally obliged from Monday 14 September, 2020 to collect details of those entering the clubhouse. These details must be stored, in compliance with GDPR, for 21 days and be made available should track and trace be required. Clubs/ facilities can display an official NHS QR Code for track and trace purposes as an alternative option to collecting details in writing.
Q – What are the rules on wearing face coverings?
A – If there is a requirement to enter an indoor area from 29 March, then face coverings must be worn. There are some exemptions to wearing face coverings. Clubs should refer to government guidance to ensure compliance.
Q – What procedures should a club follow if a golfer/staff member returns a positive test for Covid-19?
A – Best practice guidance on this subject can be found here
Q – Can locker rooms be opened again?
A – Locker rooms are not permitted to open until 12 April under the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. Until this date, players should still arrive changed and ready for play.
Q – Can golf clubs open toilet facilities?
A – Yes. Please consider a number of options which may help minimise risks and avoid accidental gatherings. For example, ensure clear signage, consider potential areas of congestion and develop a one-way system.
Use of posters on handwashing techniques and social distancing, provision of sanitiser and hand drying facilities (paper towels or electrical dryers) and minimal use of portable toilets should be considered. Clubs should keep a record of when toilets are cleaned should this need to be referenced in future.
Q – What guidance is available for the staging of club committee meetings and AGMs?
A – All club meetings and AGMs should continue to operate online.
Club Support Officers and Partnership Managers are able to support clubs wishing to organise virtual meetings.
Q – What is the advice for greenkeepers during this period now that golf has returned?
A – There is no restriction on what work can be carried out. Work must be carried out in accordance with rules on social distancing and greens staff should consult with employers on work options. Greenkeepers can find out the latest details and contact BIGGA through their own website.
BUSINESS SUPPORT FOR CLUBS:
- Business rate relief/government support
- Government furlough scheme
- Sport England Community Emergency Fund
- Government scheme for self-employed or freelance staff
- Government instruction for alert level 5 (national lockdown)
For more information about England Golf’s ‘Play Safe Stay Safe’ guidelines, visit the Play Safe page