These measures will ensure social distancing and safety can be maintained at golf clubs

How Golf Will Be Played Safely Post-Lockdown

Golf courses are opening in England this week with players allowed to play with someone from another household in two-balls.

The R&A and golf’s stakeholders have been planning for the game’s return and recently outlined a guidance and submitted it to the UK government on how golf can be played once Coronavirus lockdown measures have been eased.

Golf courses in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain closed as things stand.

The R&A’s guidance for how the game will be played post-lockdown features five points, which are Course Set Up, Before the Round, During the Round, After the Round and Rules of Golf Related Matters.

Related: Golfers in England allowed to play with someone from another household from Wednesday

Many of the points and measures will not be new to anyone who was playing golf in the UK right up until the lockdown, although something interesting is that the R&A is not completely disallowing competition golf if electronic scoring can be done, albeit it is still to be decided whether rounds could count towards handicap.

“If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be used that does not require any handling or exchanging of scorecards,” the R&A outline.

Here is how golf will be played post-lockdown:

Course Set Up

This will see pre-lockdown measures return like rakes being taken out of bunkers, and bins, ball washers, drinking fountains and benches all being placed out of use.

Flagsticks must not be touched and a method of making sure that all of the ball does not go beneath the surface must be put into place.

Practice areas including nets must be closed unless safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

Before the Round

Clubs are to organise a system of booking and allocating tee times, which will be at a minimum of 10 minute intervals.

The maximum number of golfers in a group will be two.

Clubhouses and locker rooms will be closed but limited essential access to toilets may be allowed by the club.

The club will also have procedures in place to ensure social distancing requirements around the pro shop, starter’s hut and practice putting green.

Hire items like trolleys and buggies will only be available if safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed.

During the Round

Players must remain 2 metres away from each other at all times and clubs will provide guidance and reminders of this.

Players must not touch stray golf balls and must make their best efforts to smooth bunkers with feet or clubs after playing from them.

Guidance and reminders should be provided by clubs/facilities to golfers is to ensure that they keep at least 2 metres apart during the round.

After the Round

Golfers must leave the club immediately after completion of the round to avoid gatherings.

Rules

Below is the R&A’s official advice on Rules post-lockdown –

Until further notice, the following provisions are considered acceptable on a temporary basis:

Forms of Play and Scoring

It is recommended that non-competition play is used during the initial period of golf being played, and that stroke play competitions involving players in different groups are avoided.

If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be used that does not require any handling or exchanging of scorecards.

Committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in stroke play that do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal methods used under Rule 3.3b. For example:

  • Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is not necessary for a marker to do it).
  • It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification should take place.
  • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in another way.

As provided in the Rules of Golf, scorecards can be electronic, which could include emailing or texting scores to the Committee. 

Bunkers

If golfers take due care when smoothing bunkers, there should be no need to provide a Local Rule for bunkers. But if the Committee feels that the enjoyment of the game is being significantly affected by there being no rakes, it may introduce preferred lies in bunkers and provide that a player may place a ball in the bunker within one club-length of the original spot and not nearer to the hole than that spot.

Flagstick

Golfers are required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times and not to touch it. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of the Local Rule.

As a temporary provision, flagsticks can be used for the purpose of player safety which do not meet the specifications in Part 8 of the Equipment Rules.

Hole and Holed

The hole liner (sometimes referred to as the hole ‘cup’) is to be set in a way that means that all of the ball cannot be below the surface of the putting green, so the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the surface of the putting green.

To minimise the need to lift the ball from the hole, it is recommended that the Committee provides that a ball is holed with the next stroke if it is within 12 inches of the hole (which is just over the length of a standard putter grip). This does not prevent a player in match play conceding a stroke that is outside this length.

The Committee may decide to have the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treat a ball as holed if it strikes the liner.

Note: Consult the relevant handicapping authority on whether scores using any of the above provisions are acceptable for handicapping purposes.

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