The Golfing Union of Ireland has released guidelines for the safe return of golf in the Republic of Ireland.
It was announced last week that the sport can return on a restricted basis from 18 May.
Club members will be able to play in three-balls at 14-minute intervals, two-balls over 12-minute intervals or as individual players every 10 minutes.
The document is part of a five-phase plan for golf’s return in the Republic after closing due to coronavirus.
A plan for the safe resumption of golf in Northern Ireland has not yet been decided by the UK Government and NI Executive.
While clubs in Northern Ireland await instructions, the GUI and the Irish Ladies Golf Union have urged golfers to adhere closely to the protocols in their five-phase plan.
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The plan has been unveiled following the Unions’ extensive engagement with the Irish government, which last week released its roadmap for reopening society and businesses, beginning on 18 May.
“As one of the first sports to be allowed to resume, there is a major responsibility on golf clubs and golfers to ensure that our sport is conducted in a safe and responsible manner,” the Unions said in a statement.
“Full adherence to the provisions of this protocol is absolutely essential.
“It should be noted that the Government continues to monitor the situation closely and have not ruled out the reintroduction of restrictions which could see golf clubs closed once again if the protocol is not followed.”
Only “casual golf” will be played by groups of no more than three members until phase two begins on 8 June, when closed club competitions will return.
During phase one, only golfers who live within five kilometres of the club will be permitted to play. This will be extended to 20 kilometres on 8 June, with visitors possibly allowed from 29 June.
The third phase may see open competitions return on 29 June while booking tee times for all five phases must be done in advance online or by telephone.
Clubhouses will remain closed with pro-shops opening for check-ins, while locker rooms will reopen for retrieval of golf equipment. Toilet facilities will also reopen.
Golf in ‘very privileged position’
The Unions stressed that the onus is on golfers to demonstrate that golf can return in a “safe, socially distant manner” while admitting that the sport is in a “very privileged position to be allowed to return at this stage.”
They also urged people who are displaying Covid-19 symptoms to stay away from the golf course and clubhouse.
“All clubs, golfers and staff have a shared responsibility to ensure the protocol is adhered to,” read the statement.
“We ask that clubs pledge their commitment to implementing the protocol by signing up using the link sent by email to the club.
“We are aware that there are several other unofficial guidelines in circulation. These documents have not been reviewed by the relevant government departments and state agencies. Therefore, golf clubs and golfers must exclusively adhere to the protocol as published by the GUI and ILGU.
“The ongoing Covid-19 public health emergency remains our primary concern and overriding priority. The Unions acknowledge the tremendous efforts of all frontline workers which has allowed golf and society in general to consider this gradual return to normal life.”
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The full document on golf’s safe return in the Republic can be read here.