COVID-19 Restrictions – R&A, England Golf and CONGU Updates 29 June 2020
Well I hope everyone is managing to get out to play a little golf; it certainly feels a bit unusual playing under the COVID-19 restrictions, a bit clinical but at least we’re getting some golf in now.
Golf is a social game, and to have to leave a course as soon as you can after playing, takes some getting used to. This may change for some when Clubhouses can open, under strict conditions, on Saturday 4 July.
Remember however that the COVID-19 restrictions will still be in place and MUST be strictly adhered to comply with Government safety guidelines.
These restrictions are there for Clubs to provide a safe environment for staff and players and a means of being able to play golf safely.
The restrictions were agreed in consultation with the All-Part Parliamentary Group for Golf, led by Craig Stacey, the MP North Warwickshire and it was on England Golf’s assurance that all Golf Clubs would adhere to the restrictions that Golf Courses could open.
Many Clubs have enjoyed the opportunity to play social rounds and with the Government allowing groups of up to 4 people to play, some have even brought back competitions and qualifying rounds. I hope they do not abuse the easing of restrictions and assume it is ‘business as usual’. The pandemic still has some time to run.
The R&A and CONGU, without changing the Rules of Golf issued some temporary changes to the Rules to allow rounds to qualify for handicap purposes. These were first published at the beginning of June 2020 but were modified on Monday 29 June 2020.
You can read the full publication of England Golf’s ‘A Framework for Playing Golf’ and the R&A’s COVID-19 ‘Related Guidance on the rules of Golf’ by clicking on the respective link below.
The changes to note from the previous publications are:
- All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed. Players may bring their own personal rakes and retrievers, which should only be handled by that player and taken away at the end of their round
- Open-top bins may be used on course, provided that measures are taken to sanitise the bin and to ensure players do not touch the bin or its contents
- All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions
- A minimum 10-minute interval is advised between tee times, but clubs may use shorter intervals, provided that they can demonstrate that this is safe and ensures appropriate social distancing
- Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the club/facility, for example not leaving cars until a certain time before their tee time
- Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green, for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to tee off
- Caddies may be used, provided group sizes do not exceed those specified by government (4 people)
- Where used, caddies should only provide guidance to players and should not handle clubs
- Appropriate social distancing and sanitising should be maintained by players and caddies at all times
- The distance for preferred lies in the bunker is limited to 6 inches and the area cannot be smoothed before placing.
- 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
- Players may centre the flagstick in a safe manner which does not involve using the hand, even when wearing a glove or using a towel (for example, by using a club). The centring of the Flagstick may be allowed while another player putts (this may be desirable in windy conditions when the Flagstick is required to be left in the hole and is leaning towards the player making the stroke).
- 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
- However, if any of the following provisions are used, play in such circumstances is not in accordance with the Rules of Golf:
- Treating a ball as holed or holed with the next stroke if it is within a certain distance of the hole.
- Having the hole liner sitting above the surface of the green and treating a ball as holed if it strikes the liner.
- Treating a ball as holed when it has bounced out of the hole for any reason (for example, when it has bounced off the flagstick, a tray attached to the flagstick or the hole liner).
- Golf clubs can sell takeaway food and drinks until indoor bar and catering facilities reopen on 4 July 2020, in line with their existing licences and provided food and drinks are only consumed on the course or away from the premises. From 4 July, indoor bar and catering facilities can reopen under strict control. Payments should be contactless or made during pre-order. Clubs are reminded outdoor seating areas around the clubhouse should not be in use at this time.
So, enjoy your golf, Stay Safe and Play Safe