Last updated: Monday 17 May
England Golf has fielded a large number of calls, emails and messages via social media in relation to the reopening of courses and facilities from 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 from Monday 29 March as well as updated guidance in line with the road map out of lockdown.
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?
A – As of 29 March, golfers 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 – Up until 17 May, the outdoors ‘rule of six’ remains in force 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 as well as caddies are exempt and do not count towards the maximum number of six people in a group of golfers. Groups of six people may be made up of individuals from different households.
From 17 May, the rules on gatherings change to allow groups of 30 to meet outdoors with six people or two households permitted to gather in indoor facilities.
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 – 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 – 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 – Can inter-club matches take place?
A – Matches can take place at each club’s discretion provided government regulations to do with gatherings, group sizes, social distancing and safety are observed as well as the ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ protocols on playing the game.
Clubs and golfers should also consider the current government advice to minimise travel when coming to a decision that they are comfortable with and which ensures the safety of all staff and golfers.
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- It is recommended clubs/facilities organise a system of booking and allocation of tee times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers, lessens the chance of people congregating and helps with track and trace. A 10-minute interval is advised between tee times and has been ratified by DCMS, but clubs may use shorter intervals provided they can demonstrate 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 – For now, 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 gatherings are within the permitted limits.
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 – outdoor coaching is permitted from 29 March with no limit on group numbers for either adults or children in line with government regulation on organised sport.
All coaching should still take place under strict infection control measures and while observing social distancing.
Indoor coaching is permitted from 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.
Until 17 May, only individuals or members of the same household/bubble can use/share buggies.
Where they are hired, individuals can use trolleys. These should not be shared.
From 17 May, while sharing of buggies is permitted for members of any household, users should exercise caution and consider the risks associated with Covid-19.
Facilities should follow sensible precautions and clean equipment after every use.
PROFESSIONAL SHOPS AND SERVICES:
Q – Can pro shops open?
A – Pro shops can reopen from 12 April. Face coverings must be worn inside shops (exemptions apply).
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 – Can touchscreens be used for the input of scores?
A- Player Score Input (PSI) screens may be used where players can sanitise or wash hands before and after use. Please ensure social distancing measures are in place at all times.
Q – What is the guidance on the use of caddies?
A – Caddies, both professional and informal, may be used. 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 – Food and drink, including sale of alcohol, can be served outdoors in accordance with the rule of six from 12 April. Table service only.
From 17 May, the numbers allowed to gather outdoors increases to 30.
Also from this date, indoor social areas of clubhouses (including bar and catering facilities) may open in line with the rule of six.
Detailed information on the reopening of outdoor hospitality can be found on the government website.
Facilities should also check with their local authority for further clarity on regulations.
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 17 May every customer aged over 16, whether sitting in an indoor or outdoor location, must be asked to check in to the venue using the NHS COVID-19 app. Clubs/ facilities should display an official NHS QR Code for track and trace purposes and also provide an alternative option to collecting details in writing from customers who don’t have a smartphone or who do not wish to use the app.
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 – From 12 April, locker rooms are permitted to open for the purposes of changing, storage of clubs and showering. Use of shower areas should be minimised where possible.
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 – The latest information relating to meetings and AGMs from 17 May can be found here.
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