Clarity required from government, as golf courses remain shut

The return of recreational golf would re-launch the industry in South Africa. Picture: iStock

The national golf federation is hoping government will allow amateur golfers to return to the course as lockdown restrictions are eased.

GolfRSA has sought clarity from government over the status of golf courses and clubs when South Africa’s Covid-19 lockdown is eased to level three on June 1, after the spread of rumours on social media that while Sunshine Tour professionals will be able to resume competition, courses and clubs will remain closed for amateur or recreational golf.

Officials from GolfRSA, which runs all golf in the country and technically even represents the professionals on the Sunshine Tour, are known to have had discussions with sports minister Nathi Mthwethwa on Monday afternoon.

“Following President Ramaphosa’s speech on Sunday night… GolfRSA – on behalf of the delegation representing the golf industry – is waiting for the level three lockdown regulations to be gazetted before making any comment. Meanwhile, we are urgently seeking clarity on golf’s position from government,” the federation said in a statement ahead of the meeting with Mthethwa.

GolfRSA had previously submitted a proposal for the reopening of golf courses and clubs to the minister, which he then took to the command council.

Insiders told The Citizen that the submission focused on the obvious reasons for allowing golf to be played, such as the safety of the sport in terms of social distancing, all the studies which indicate it is a valuable source of exercise, and the socio-economic factors.

Re-opening courses and clubs will allow more than 40 000 people, many of them vulnerable low-income workers, to return to work. The golf industry as a whole employs more than 250 000 people.

The long suspension of golf has seen eight clubs permanently close their doors and 34 others are considering retrenchments.

In terms of professional golf, the US PGA Tour will kick off with the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas, from June 11, but it’s going to be a long wait for the many South Africans on the European Tour, which will restart with the British Masters from July 23.

Both tours will return to play without any spectators allowed.

It is believed that Sunshine Tour officials feel it is more important to get amateur and recreational golf up and running first because those involved in the professional game are not keen to play without spectators.

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