For some much-needed good golf news, you just have to look north (way north) for examples of the successful and safe reintegration of golf into society.
While South Africans golfers remain patient, or their best version thereof, a small glimmer of positivity can be found when looking at how neighbouring countries have effectively reopened golf facilities. Not only helping struggling clubs offer their members value but also citizens a return to some sort of normality.
While lockdown laws still prevent the ’19th-hole’ type festivities many social players have grown to love, the importance of being out on the previous 18 holes is now the focus. And golfers have come to the party in a big way.
Jaco van Renen, golf director at Omeya Golf Club near Windhoek, Namibia, says: ‘We closed for outside play on 28 March and only opened again on 5 May. The return to golf has been overwhelming really and great to see. I think everyone is just loving being outside and getting their fix of fresh air.
‘We’ve even had some new golfers taking up the game. It’s a great sport … it’s easy to keep your social distance and it’s time spent outdoors with some exercise. So, it really ticks the boxes.
‘Our golfers are really good at keeping to the rules and are taking these new ones in their stride. No issues at all. We were visited by the authorities and they remarked at how happy they were at the example being set.’
The same can be said for Zimbabwe.
‘We opened golf last week … and it’s been packed. Every single day. Not a single tee time available,’ Sunshine Tour pro Ryan Cairns told Compleat Golfer from The Pro Shop at Royal Harare.
On the course, the sport lends itself to social distancing and the industry was quick to innovate to ensure the prevention of the spread of the virus in the weeks and months that have passed us by. It’s a sport that offers a staggering economic impact to benefit the country – from employment and tourism through to charity fundraising and everything in between. It continues to fight generalisations of it being an outing enjoyed only by the rich, but the fact is that people are signing up to play now – in the worst economic times we’ve seen for many years.
While the rest of the world have reopened their courses, South African golfers continue to sit in hopeful anticipation. One hopes that while golfers across the country ponder their club selection into their favoured greens and off difficult tee boxes, they take the time to learn the lessons from our neighbours up north. Go out and play … often, do it safely and obey the rules and where possible pour back into the industry that has given us all so much in pre-coronavirus days.
That’s probably three-quarters of the reason why we are so frustrated at not being out on the fairways or in the rough in the first place.