Lee Westwood urges authorities to 'see sense' and reopen England's fairways

James Corrigan
·3-min read
Westwood says the benefits of playing golf are numerous - GETTY IMAGES
Westwood says the benefits of playing golf are numerous - GETTY IMAGES

Lee Westwood is leading the calls for England’s fairways to be reopened immediately, as the Government prepares to bow to the pressure by taking golf off the lockdown’s banned list.

With reports suggesting that the sport will be released from restrictions imminently, a debate is due to be heard by Parliament today in response to more than 250,000 signing a petition for golf to be allowed during the four-week lockdown period, which is due to end on Dec 2. Westwood, 47, will be an interested observer.

“Golf has shown itself to be the great socially distanced sport and not only are the physical benefits enormous, but the positives it can bring for mental health are even bigger, especially during times like this,” Westwood told The Daily Telegraph. “I urge the powers-that-be to see sense and allow the fairways to reopen as soon as possible.”

England Golf will be glad of the support of the former world No 1. The governing body for the amateur game in England has chosen to keep its own counsel in the past few weeks as it has lobbied strongly behind closed doors, dealing with the likes of Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, and Craig Tracey, co-chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Golf.

It is known that senior figures were stunned when clubs were instructed to close on Nov 5 for at least four weeks, along with driving ranges, par-three set-ups and all other facilities and before it was convinced that diplomacy maybe the best policy in effecting an about-turn, England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson went public, posting an open letter on its official website slamming the decision and urging golfers to sign the petition to “exempt golf courses from the list of venues required to close due to Covid-19”.

“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,” Tomlinson said. “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.

“The psychological gains from being able to enjoy a social and safe form of outdoor activity and enjoying a temporary release from the pressures of everyday life probably outweigh the physical.”

The sport was perhaps the biggest success story in recreational sports adapting to life in the pandemic. Participation levels shot up, with Sports Marketing Surveys last week revealing that October was another excellent month for the industry, with rounds played in England, Scotland and Wales up by more than 65 per cent compared to 2019, the fifth consecutive month of record growth.

An SMS spokesperson labelled the findings as “bittersweet”. “With a mild month in progress, and with strong viewing figures for the first ever November Masters, it is tempting to wonder what might have been had golf courses been allowed to remain open and build on five consecutive months of growth,” a statement said.