Golf lockdown exemption debate to be heard by Parliament

Jack de Menezes
·3-min read
<p>A petition calling for golf’s exemption from lockdown will be heard on Monday</p> (PA)

A petition calling for golf’s exemption from lockdown will be heard on Monday

(PA)

A petition signed by more than 250,000 people for golf to be exempt from England’s lockdown restrictions will be discussed by Parliament on Monday.

257,627 people lobbied for golf to be allowed during the four-week lockdown period, which is due to end on 2 December subject to government approval.

The sport was one of the first allowed back after the initial lockdown period earlier in the year, with players restricted to two-ball pairings with a person from outside of their own household, while other measures were implemented such as the removal of benches and ball cleaners, while touching the flag was outlawed.

But despite England Golf “vigorously challenging government to argue the case for golf courses to remain open” alongside the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, the government refused to make an exemption for the sport and all golf courses were forced to close on Thursday 5 November.

Under the government’s current regulations, any petition that gains more than 100,000 signatures will be discussed in Parliament, with an announcement confirming that the issue will be raised on Monday 23 November, nine days before the lockdown is due to be lifted.

READ MORE: Golf, swimming and tennis banned during lockdown

Among those who are set to lobby for golf’s exemption is MP Craig Tracey, chair of the APPG for Golf, who joined England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson and several other golfing authorities in raising the mental and health benefits of the sport while operating in a Covid-proofed environment.

A letter sent to Prime Minister Boris Johnson by the APPG for Golf at the start of the month, before the lockdown measures were implemented, read: “During the lockdown implemented earlier this year, the game of golf was able to clearly demonstrate that it could be enjoyed in a Covid safe way, which is why it was one of the first sports to be able to return once restrictions were relaxed.

“This was a privilege that the sport took incredibly seriously and accordingly adopted the highest possible standards to keep the participants safe, which have remained strictly in place to date. The average golf course covers a 60-hectare space, which on average would see only 96 people on it at any one time, which makes it the perfect setting for people of all ages and abilities to get their daily exercise in an extremely safe environment.

“We appreciate that there are often misconceptions about who golf is accessible to, but the reality is that there are over 3m people who regularly play the game in Great Britain spanning all abilities, age groups, backgrounds, gender, and faiths. It also provides welcome access to green spaces for many people who aren’t able to access them elsewhere and has proven health benefits. Leaders in public health recognise the benefits it can offer in not just tackling physical inactivity, but also its contribution to the prevention of a range of non-communicable diseases including heart disease, stroke, diabetes as well as certain cancers.

<p>Golf courses in England have been shut since 5 November</p>PA

Golf courses in England have been shut since 5 November

PA

“Whilst we agree that certain measures will have to be adapted, such as closing clubhouses, these should not be seen as prohibitive to allowing play to continue. Golf clubs in England have already embraced a raft of changes with the vast majority offering online booking services, having pre-scheduled arrival times to eradicate contact with other people and rule changes which ensure players stay socially distanced. In reality, a round of golf affords greater Covid security than comparable activities of walking, running and cycling in an urban area.

“In view of the undeniable health and mental wellbeing benefits that golf offers to a significant proportion of the country, we would ask that you consider exempting it from the proposed restrictions, should they come in to force on Wednesday.”

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