*Sean Desmond in action during the 2019 South of Ireland Golf Championship, a tournament which won’t take place in 2020. Photograph: Brian Arthur
Golf clubs across Co Clare are aggrieved at the failure to reinstate competitive golf when courses reopened in May with some expecting a financial loss of thousands of euros.
The decision was reached on June 3rd, following a meeting chaired by the Expert Group on the Return to Sport, justifying that competitive golf fails to meet criteria with regards to public health and safety requirements. The governing body has opted to reinstate competitive golf into Phase 3 of the state’s roadmap, taking place on June 29th, despite the fact that casual four balls at 14-minute intervals can now take place under Phase 2.
The GUI and ILGU’s failure to stand up to the Expert Group could potentially decimate smaller clubs within the country, many of whom rely solely on the revenue that local competitions generate. Under strict guidelines, clubhouses must remain shut and visitors are not permitted on to the course, meaning that club memberships provide a solitary stream of support. Colm Mullen, Competition Secretary of Woodstock Golf Course two years running, concedes that the implications of the postponement of local competitions has a detrimental effect on the committee, members and the club as a collective unit.
“We are very disappointed due to the amount of work the committee and I have put in, in order to get the course and competitions ready. We were under the impression that they could take place on June 10th. The revenue that any club gets from competitions is huge. This keeps the day to day runnings of the committee going. At Woodstock here, we have lost well into a four-figure sum due to this decision. Woodstock has accrued 200 new members in the last three weeks. These are all guys that were keen to get to know members of the club through competitions. This is a poor start to give new guys in the club as well, greatly effecting their experience. The Handicap Committee has been processing these new members within the club system, detailing handicaps and the amount of work they have been doing recently is incredible. That’s all gone to waste now and we really have no alternative means of financing ourselves here.”
Clubs around Clare have come together to attest to the socially distanced nature of golf, opining that it defies logic to even consider collating rugby, soccer or GAA in the same category as golf in terms of personal health and safety during this pandemic.
Pronouncing that the decision fails to stand up to scrutiny, clubs have been implementing a number of alternatives to minimise close contact on the course. Technological innovation has enabled scores to be entered electronically via an app and money deducted from the golfers personal account in a matter of seconds.
For those unable to accommodate this app, scorecards are being left untouched for forty-eight hours to adhere to social distance and possible decontamination of infected surfaces. Colm notes a comprehensive two-page report put together ahead of the competitions, to ensure player safety. Clubs around the country have also appointed COVID-19 officers responsible for logging all essential data within the club.
Several local cups are due to take place in August. The upcoming Senior Cup, Barton Shield, Junior Cup and Bruen and Pierce Purcell shields mean that club members are losing out on practice time, as they will have to wait until June 29th to participate in local competitions.
Clubs are calling on an official update from the government as to on an advancement in the date. Colm highlights the importance of golf as both a physical and social outlet in the aftermath of a nationwide quarantine. This is strongly reflected in a surplus of club memberships already, as Woodstock tally roughly 500 members already this year, as opposed to 240 in 2019.
Martin Morrissey of Kilrush Golf Club closely allies with the sentiments shared by Colm and countless officials within clubs across the county, exclaiming, “It defies logic, the golf courses are open, all members are playing regularly, everyone was led to believe that in phase two we would have closed club competition, it is one of the safest sports and very simple to social distance, if there’s a logical explanation for the GUI not to allow closed competition, I would really love if they could forward it to all golfers”.