Coronavirus FAQs on the return of golf

Last updated:  Friday 3 July (PGA update on Pro-am events)  

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 have been 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 dealt 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.

PLAYING THE GAME:

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

A – Individual golfers or two-balls, three-balls or four-balls with players from same or different household

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 – Under the unlimited exercise guidance from government, there is no ceiling on how many rounds an individual can play while following all the rules. 

Golf clubs may, however, in the interests of fairness, 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.

Three and fourball groupings involving golfers from different households and with social distancing taking place have been permitted since Monday June 1.

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 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 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 1 is the only one that touches the ball from teeing off through to completion of the hole. The partner teeing off from hole 2 does likewise with their ball. Under the Rules of Golf a partner is permitted to drop the side’s ball in taking relief. 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 3 scores per year has been removed.

This will no longer be part of the new system moving forward, so please be assured that your handicap will remain active if you retain club membership and will be transferred into the New World Handicap System from November.

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 – For now, no. The PGA website contains guidance on professional events re-starting and an update on Pro-Ams.

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 re-open?

A – After consultation with government on this matter it is not possible to provide a definitive answer. The variable nature of range construction and outdoor and indoor elements of their use means there cannot be a blanket response to this question.

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 comprehensive risk assessment considering current government advice. You may also want to check specific queries with Environment Health and Trading Standards in your local area.

Full government guidance on opening outdoor facilities can be found here

Q – Can buggies and trollies be used?

A – It is a decision for facility managers whether or not they hire out equipment. Where they are hired, individuals can use trollies. These should not be shared.

Individuals or members of the same household can use buggies. Facilities should follow sensible precautions and clean equipment after every 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. 

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

A – As long as club staff adhere to social distancing guidelines in the workplace, pro shops can offer online and click and collect services. Full guidance for the operation of PGA professional services can be found here.

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

A – The UK 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.

In order to comply with this regulation, you should enforce strict hygiene measures and 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 – Is club fitting by PGA professionals permissible?

A – Club fitting is allowed but should take place outdoors in accordance with good hygiene practices and social distancing rules and after an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out.

FACILITY MANAGEMENT:

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

A – From Saturday 4 July, pubs and restaurants may reopen in England. Indoor bar and catering facilities within clubhouses are also permitted to open from this date by observing strict guidelines on safety and social distancing. Precise details and links to government guidance can be found here.

Locker rooms should remain closed except for allowing access to toilets and wash-hand basins.

England Golf has also issued clubs with a checklist and framework to assist with the safe reopening of bar and catering facilities.

Q – Can benches be used?

A – Clubs must cover or remove all benches / seating from the course and clubhouse area if possible. If benches are not covered or removed, golfers should act responsibly and avoid use.

Q – Can golf clubs sell takeaway food and drinks until indoor bar and catering facilities reopen?

A – Yes, in line with their existing licences and provided food and drinks are only consumed on the course or away from the premises. From 4 July, indoor bar and catering facilities can reopen under strict control. Payments should be contactless or made during pre-order. Clubs are reminded outdoor seating areas around the clubhouse should not be in use at this time. 

Q – Can golf clubs open toilet facilities?

A – Yes. If you opt to open your building for these purposes, there are a number of things you can do to help minimise risks and avoid accidental gatherings.

Ensure clear signage is in place so people can find their destination quickly. Look at how people walk through your building and consider how you could adjust this to reduce congestion and contact between customers. For example, queue management or one-way flow, where possible. Use outside premises for queuing where available and safe, for example car parks.

Take into account total floorspace as well as likely pinch points and busy areas. Limit the number of customers in the building, overall and in any particular congestion areas, for example doorways between outside and inside spaces. 

Within toilets look at the following best practice: 

  • Using signs and posters to build awareness of good handwashing technique, the need to increase handwashing frequency, avoid touching your face and to cough or sneeze into your arm
  • Providing regular reminders and signage to maintain hygiene standards
  • Providing hand sanitiser in multiple locations in addition to washrooms
  • Setting clear use and cleaning guidance for toilets to ensure they are kept clean and social distancing is achieved as much as possible
  • Replacing hand dryers with paper towels in handwashing facilities
  • Minimising use of portable toilets

Clubs should also maintain a record of when cleaning of toilet facilities has taken place should this need to be referenced in the future.

Q – What is the advice for greenkeepers during this period now that golf has returned?

A – For security and essential maintenance purposes, greens staff can continue to work. This has been clarified by government and details of ‘essential’ work have been specified by BIGGA (British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association) and The R&A. Any 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:

Q – What are the details of business rate relief and government support for golf clubs?

A – The UK Government has introduced a number of measures to help businesses deal with the economic impact of the current COVID-19 outbreak. For details click here

Q – How do golf clubs access the 80% wage contribution for retained workers from government?

A – Details of government policy on the furloughing of retained staff can be found here

Q – Apart from these government schemes, is there any other funding potentially available to golf clubs?

A – Sport England has announced a Community Emergency Fund (31 March). This aims to help community sport and physical activity organisations who are experiencing short term financial hardship or the ceasing of operations due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. For details of eligibility and how to apply as a funding last resort, please click here

Q – Are England Golf part of any group lobbying government for financial aid for the golf industry?

A- England Golf – along with the other home unions and The R&A – are in contact with government on all matters regarding the golf industry. We will continue to champion golf’s cause.

Q – What help and advice can we provide to self-employed workers at affiliated golf clubs?

A – On 26 March, the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced measures to mitigate against the financial impact of Covid-19 for self-employed or freelance operators. Details of the policy can be found 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, individual department details can be found here

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