COVID-19 Operating Procedures
As Restrictions Ease
23 April 2020
I am sending this to the membership and thank you for your continued support during this difficult time. The Government’s televised press conference last night stated that the UK will have to live with some disruptive social measures for at least the rest of the year. As yet, The Government has no “exit strategy”.
We have taken advantage of the support available from the Government furlough scheme and a retail, hospitality and leisure industry grant, but we have yet to hear from our bank regarding further finance.
This document sets out the changes that I envisage will have to be made to our operating procedures, to ensure we operate as safely as possible and in line with government advice, as the lockdown restrictions are eased. Initially, the changes to our procedures will be based on industry opinion as to what the relaxing of certain restrictions will look like. I understand that we may need to alter our approach as the Government’s directives change.
My initial assumption is that we will be back playing golf again, in some form with lots of restrictions, by the end May. I am therefore initially basing the timelines mentioned in this document on the assumption that we can play golf again from Monday 25th May 2020. If it turns out that a further extension to the lockdown is put in place, this date will be pushed back accordingly. Despite being able to play golf again, it is likely that we will be observing social distancing restrictions for a long time, probably until Covid-19 has been stopped by a vaccine or ameliorated by treatment.
Initial easing of full lockdown restrictions (Stage 1)
When our course can open again it is highly likely that we will have to put significant restrictions in place to comply with Government advice. Hopefully, nearer the time, England Golf will release guidelines for clubs to follow. In the meantime, I have formed the following opinion on what the restrictions will look like, based on UK golf industry opinion and looking at the way golf is being played in other European countries. Initially, the restrictions will probably look like this:
- Maximum of 2 balls but the golfers must live in the same household. Otherwise play will be singles.
- 10-minute tee times. England Golf advice may be 12 or 15 mins.
- Maximum of 9 holes.
- Rakes, ball washers, shoe cleaners and water fountains still not to be used.
- Flagsticks must be left in the hole and not touched.
- Members only to play initially, no visitors or societies.
- Two loops of 9 holes could be put in operation to enable more members to play.
- Tee booking system will be used full time.
A maximum of 2 balls from the same household would mean most of our members would have to play as a single. Using two loops of 9 holes and 10-minute tee times, we would be able to get 12 (singles) or 24 (2 balls) players on the course per hour. No roll up groups would be able to play in their usual manner.
We can naturally accommodate two loops of 9 holes on our course, using the front 9 and back 9 with both loops starting and finishing near the clubhouse. Our usual scorecards will also support this.
Our tee booking system would need to be altered to reflect booking for two different golf courses. It is fair to assume that initially the bookings would fill up extremely fast. It will probably be necessary to restrict the amount of times per week individual members can play, to ensure all members get a fair chance to play.
The pro shop will open as soon as golf can be played again. Entry to the shop would need to be restricted to no more than one person at any one time and it would have an open-door policy to reduce the need to touch handles etc.
The pro shop staff would be able to police the tee bookings and ensure playing privileges are not being abused. We may also look to have a course marshal to keep on top of this and monitor the course for any of the public that still think they are able to hop over the fence and walk through the course!
Our golf professionals may be able to start one-on-one tuition again, following PGA guidelines.
Initially, it is looking like the bar and catering would need to remain closed and this restriction would be lifted further down the line. In this situation, we would only have the changing rooms open for members to access their lockers and use the toilet facilities on the ground floor. We would not have any patio furniture in place and members would be told to leave the Club straight after their golf.
The office team would continue to work as they are at present. They would still need to follow all social distancing guidelines. Members would not be able to visit the Club office in person and they would be required to phone or email.
The greenkeepers would continue to work as they are at present. They would still need to follow all social distancing guidelines.
I anticipate opening the driving range as soon as golf can be played again. Entry would need to be restricted to the driving range with alternate bays only in operation and an open-door policy to reduce the need to touch handles etc.
Members and range users would still need to follow all social distancing guidelines.
The next steps in easing restrictions (Stage 2)
It is likely that the next steps in easing restrictions will be towards the end of June. I am anticipating that at this stage I would be able to open the bar and catering again. We would still need to follow very strict guidelines for social distancing. Restrictions to the bar and catering operations could be as follows:
- Separate entry and exit doors from the bar and restaurant area to avoid touch points on door handles.
- 2 metre distancing would be observed between members and staff working behind the bar. Tape on the floor would mark this boundary.
- Tables and chairs would be laid out in the spike bar and main clubhouse to ensure appropriate distances between seats.
- One-way system for members to navigate around the clubhouse to avoid passing others where not necessary would be set up.
- All gatherings would still be banned so this would mean no functions and events.
- Staff numbers working at one time would need to be limited.
It is likely that at this stage golf may be played in larger groups, i.e. 2/3 balls. However, social distancing would still need to be followed. It is also likely that we would be able to go back to a single 18-hole course again at this point.
It may be possible for the office to be able to function properly again. Staff desks would need to be social distanced appropriately or staff shifts staggered.
At this stage, some golf competitions may be introduced for members. It is likely that we would still not be using rakes or removing flags so we would need to question whether it would be appropriate to hold ‘honours board’ competitions, but we may wish to play roll-up type stableford events. We would expect England Golf to offer more detailed guidance on this at the appropriate time.
The final stage of easing restrictions (Stage 3)
As mentioned previously, social distancing restrictions are likely to be in place for a considerable time. However, I anticipate by the end of July/early August that the lockdown restrictions will have been eased to a point that we are back to normality as much is possible whilst observing the social distancing requirements. It is at this time that I anticipate the following:
- Larger gatherings would be allowed again, to a maximum number, although I am unsure what this number could be at this stage.
- Golf in 4 balls would be allowed again.
- At this stage we would start allowing visitors and societies again.
- Driving range bays would be fully open.
Depending on restrictions with rakes and flags, we would need to decide if we thought it appropriate to play ‘honours board’ competitions again.
I believe that there will be three main stages to the easing of the lockdown restrictions, and I have tried to put dates to these stages whilst realising that these dates could be optimistic. It is essential that we all fully comply with our operating procedures and follow all social distancing guidelines. The welfare of our staff is also of paramount importance and we do not want to compromise staff safety.
Club competition Impact
Club competitions for 2020 could be impacted to the point that all events are ‘not played’. We will only run ‘honours board’ competitions if the England Golf advice is that it is permissible to do so. I have yet to ascertain if the restrictions on rakes and removing the flag stick will continue.
I have asked Match & Handicap to go through the men’s competition schedule for the year and give a category of importance to each competition. This information is currently being prepared and will be circulated in due course.
The ladies, seniors and junior sections of the Club will prioritise their events so that rearrangements can be made for their events to be played when possible.
Kindest regards and stay safe,
23 April 2020