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England Golf CEO Jeremy Tomlinson has penned an open letter to the country’s golfers in which he has pledged to fight any order to close golf courses when new COVID-19 mitigation measures begin this week.
An England-wide lockdown will come into effect in England on Thursday, November 5, and will last until December 2.
During this time, non-essential shops and hospitality will be forced to close, with restrictions on travel also being enforced. All household mixing has been banned, except for childcare and other support.
It has been reported that outdoor exercise and recreation is being encouraged and is unlimited but only within your household or bubble, on your own or with one other person from a different household.
However, it is unclear where golf fits into that.
Despite courses and driving ranges being listed on the government website amongst the facilities that will be required to close, Tomlinson says that no such directive has been communicated to England Golf.
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“Having digested the Prime Minister’s statement to the nation on Saturday night and read the guidance which followed, there is an element of confusion around the government’s stated intention to close down golf courses and facilities from Thursday 5 November,” wrote Tomlinson.
“As a result of this, and with the health of the nation very much at the heart of my thinking, I would like to make clear England Golf’s intention to respectfully challenge the government’s rationale for closing golf courses.
“We will do so utilising all in our network – MPs, colleagues, media and friends – to make sure we are heard by government.
“Listening to the Prime Minister, the news that he is actively encouraging safe and responsible outdoor exercise for households or two individuals pointed to our great game of golf being at the heart of this policy.
“The guidance which followed stating that golf courses were on a list of venues which should close, therefore, appeared contradictory and came out of the blue.
“At no point was England Golf – as the governing body for the amateur game of golf in this country – consulted about this decision.”
He added: “Of course, we fully recognise and accept the need to suppress the virus to save lives and protect the NHS.
“Throughout the pandemic England Golf has endeavoured to act with authority, knowledge, understanding and extreme diligence. At all times we have placed the health and wellbeing of our communities as a priority.
“For this and many reasons, it is our sincere belief that it is now counter-productive to shut down a healthy pursuit which naturally lends itself to social distancing and is played in a COVID-secure manner in the open air.”
Tomlinson also said that, together with the All-Parliamentary Group For Golf, will “pro-actively continue dialogue with government challenging the current position… to allow golf courses to remain open for play (in some format) from Thursday.”
“I truly believe this would not, in any way, undermine the huge public health efforts that are going on in the country during these times,” he continued. “Golf, in fact, can help us get through this terrible pandemic and be stronger for it once we emerge on the other side.”
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