Following new guidance issued by the Prime Minister, London and areas of the south east of England will move into the Tier 4 COVID-19 alert level from Sunday, December 20.
The measures in Tier 4 will impact millions who now cannot meet other people indoors, including over the Christmas period, unless you live with them, or they are part of your existing support bubble. Outdoors, you can only meet one person from another household.
Naturally, golfers in the impacted areas are keen to establish how the rules affect the sport.
The good news is that golf courses in Tier 4 areas in England CAN remain open, provided that play is restricted to the following formats:
- Individual play
- Two-balls from same or different households/bubbles
- Three or fourballs involving people from the same household/bubble
Social distancing should be observed and all necessary steps are to be taken by clubs to ensure a COVID-19 secure environment.
Pro shops and golf retailers, however, fall under the classification of ‘non-essential retail’ and are required to close, although ‘Click & Collect’ will be allowed.
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Outdoor coaching can continue on an individual basis or for multiple members of the same household or support bubble. Indoor coaching is not permitted.
There are exceptions for indoor disability sport, sport for educational purposes, and supervised sport and physical activity for under-18s, which can take place with larger groups mixing.
Custom fitting can take place outside on a one-to-one basis but is not permitted indoors.
Driving ranges, particularly those which could be classified as indoor venues, are advised to contact their local authority in order to determine whether it is possible for them to remain open.
As the rules pertain to travel, Tier 4 areas must not be left by occupants or entered by anybody from a Tier 1, 2 or 3 area unless it’s essential for work or other reasons.
For full details of the ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ playing protocols, click here.
What about Wales?
The rules are somewhat different in Wales.
Its First Minister Mark Drakeford today announced the COVID-19 mitigation measures have been accelerated and will come into force from midnight on Sunday, December 20.
The conditions mean that the whole of Wales will move into alert level 4 in the new ‘Coronavirus Control Plan’ and, as a result, all golf courses in the country will need to close. Wales Golf has pledged to provide an update to clubs when further information becomes available. Its CEO Richard Dixon described himself as “disappointed” with the news and has vowed to lobby for courses to be allowed to remain open.
“Wales Golf feels there is a strong case for golf courses to remain open alongside public parks and playgrounds under Tier 4 restrictions and continues to work with the Welsh Government to make this point,” said Dixon.
“We totally understand the wider concerns, but golf is a sport that can be played safely outdoors while providing exercise. The whole golf industry has adapted to the restrictions imposed to ensure people’s safety, developed significant operational experience and established COVID secure practices, including rule changes and other mitigation measures that meet the Hands, Face, Space directive.”