Coronavirus FAQs on the return of golf

Last updated:  Wednesday 14 October (impact of three-tier system on clubhouses, actions following a golfer/staff member testing positive for Covid-19) 

England Golf has fielded a large number of calls, emails and messages via social media about the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on golf.

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. These are published below.

Please note: In certain areas of the country, local lockdown restrictions apply which may supersede the more general national restrictions imposed by government. Details on local lockdowns can be found here

PLAYING THE GAME:

Q – What is the permitted format for groupings on golf’s return from 13 May?

A – Golf can be played in groups of between one and four golfers. Players may come from the same or different households.

Q – What is the maximum group size permitted to gather on or off the course?

A – Social gatherings of more than six people are illegal in England from Monday 14 September 2020. This applies both indoor and outdoor with a limited number of exceptions.  For example, people who provide essential support (e.g. carers) to golfers with a disability are exempt and do not count towards the six people in a group. Groups of six people may be made up of individuals from different household, both indoor and outdoor. Golf clubhouses are able to accommodate multiple social groups each containing up to six people, but these must not merge to form larger groups. Check for local restrictions which may supersede this general advice.

Q – Can over 70s play golf?

A – This decision is down to the individual golfer. The advice for clinically vulnerable groups remains the same. If you are in this group you are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if you do go out, take particular care to minimise contact with others outside your household. 

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 – What is the current advice for juniors playing the game at a time of restricted play?

A – We have developed safeguarding procedures for children and vulnerable adults during Covid 19, especially during the early phases, where social distancing will be heavily enforced.

Q – Can clubs run competitions?

A – 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 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 from Monday 14 September. Local lockdown restrictions may also impact on a club’s ability to cater for society bookings.

Q- What is the government advice on travel in relation to ‘very high risk’ (Tier 3) areas?

A- Golfers from a very high risk area (Tier 3) should avoid travelling outside their locality. Travelling into a very high risk area for the purposes of golf should be avoided. Golfers should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if resident in a very high alert level area, or avoid staying overnight in a very high alert level area if resident elsewhere.

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 happens to my handicap if I can’t supply three scores?

A – As England Golf are moving to the World Handicap System in November the requirement for three scores per year has been removed. Handicaps will remain active if you retain club membership and will be transferred into the new World Handicap System from November.

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 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 – Yes. 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 – It is recommended practice areas, including practice nets, are closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

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 – There is no definitive answer due to the variable nature of range construction and outdoor and indoor elements of their use.

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 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 buggies. Equipment for hire should be sanitised before and after each use.

PROFESSIONAL SHOPS AND SERVICES:

Q – Can pro shops open?

A – Following recent guidance from Government, pro shops re-opened on Monday 15 June. Strict social distancing guidelines must be followed. Face coverings must be worn by both staff and customers.

Q – Can the pro shop offer online service or offer a click and collect style service?

A – Yes – full guidance for the operation of PGA professional services can be found here.

Q – Can PGA professionals and clubs provide tuition/coaching for adults?

A – Yes – government has confirmed that outdoor coaching involving up to six people (e.g one coach and five pupils) is permissible under strict infection control measures and while observing social distancing.

It is recommended that PGA professionals complete a comprehensive risk assessment and refer to the coaching guidelines on the PGA COVID-19 resource hub. Further guidance can be found here.

Q – What are the rules for the coaching of children by PGA professionals?

A – Golf clubs and facilities may operate with safety measures in place for groups of children up to 15 to a staff member.  If facilities allow, there may be more than a single group at a specific time but each group should be consistent, not encounter one another, and there should be appropriate cleaning of settings and equipment between use.

The full Out Of School Setting guidance is available here.

Golf clubs and facilities are now able to open for both outside and indoor provision provided that they follow the protective measures set out by government, such as those outlined in the guidance above, other COVID-related guidance, and other safeguarding and protection requirements. 

Full details can be found here

Q – Is club fitting by PGA professionals permissible?

A – Yes – this should take place outdoors after adoption of good hygiene practices, social distancing and following a risk assessment.

Q – What is the guidance on the use of caddies?

A –  Caddies may be used, provided group sizes do not exceed those specified by government. 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.

 

FACILITY MANAGEMENT:

Q – Can clubhouses reopen for access to indoor bar and catering facilities?

A – The regulations now vary depending on the local Covid-19 alert status of your area.

In areas of ‘medium’ risk (Tier 1),  indoor bar and catering facilities within clubhouses may open provided strict guidelines on safety and social distancing are observed. From September 24, clubhouses with food and beverage facilities must close by 10pm and are not permitted to open before 5am. From this date clubs must provide table service only or serve take away for consumption off the premises.

In ‘high risk’ areas (Tier 2), the above rules apply with the additional restriction that people must not socialise with anybody outside of their household or support bubble in any indoor setting.

In ‘very high risk’ areas (Tier 3), pubs and bars must close. They can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals, such as a main lunchtime or evening meal. They may only serve alcohol as part of such a meal.

Full guidance for clubs operating in high risk areas (Tier 2) can be found here

Full guidance for clubs operating in very high risk areas (Tier 3) can be found here

England Golf has also issued clubs with a checklist and framework to assist with the safe reopening of bar and catering facilities where it is permissible to do so.

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. From 24 September 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 in the clubhouse, Pro shop and indoor areas of a golf facility?

A – From 24 September face coverings must be worn by members of the public and staff in all indoor areas of the club/ facility as well as in Pro shops. Coverings may be removed in bar and restaurant areas for the purpose of eating and drinking. 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 – From Saturday 25 July, locker rooms may be open for storage of golf clubs in allocated personal lockers. Players should still arrive changed for play and refrain from showering or changing in locker rooms.

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 – There are strict conditions governing meetings and AGMs. Full details can be found here

Clubs should understand the purpose and benefit of meeting in person and strongly consider the option of virtual meetings.

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 – 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:  Click here

Government furlough scheme: Click here

Sport England Community Emergency Fund: Click here

Government scheme for self-employed or freelance staff: Click here

 

Government Regulations for Facility Manager

Government Regulations for Public

Government Regulations for Coaches

 

For more information about England Golf’s ‘Play Safe Stay Safe’ guidelines, please visit the Play Safe page

If you need to contact England Golf, use our contact us page for individual department details.

To find all the updates and information on COVID-19 and golf read our dedicated Coronavirus information page.