GolfRSA chief executive Grant Hepburn has extended an olive branch to all those in the golf industry who have been without work and frustrated golfers who have been unable to play, saying the organisation’s patient approach to government has paid off as clubs and courses can now open for both amateurs and professionals.
The department of sport, arts and culture announced on Friday that any member of a federation, agency, club or body may begin playing golf again from Saturday, subject to certain regulations.
Clubs first needed to complete a confirmation of compliance document and submit it to GolfRSA before they could open their facilities.
“These have been incredibly difficult times with the stress of lockdown and the number of jobs lost, and we have been aware of the frayed tempers and frustrations,” Hepburn said.
“We have been in the same boat with friends and colleagues losing work, but we just had to be patient. We knew government were listening to us and they had given us assurances, but it’s been a very complex time and a massive challenge for golf bodies.
“But we believed in the process we were following with the department. They were always extremely positive and the whole way through they engaged with us in the right way.
“We wanted to do the right thing and we needed to wait for the new directives. The most important priority is to save lives and mitigate the risk, and the time it has taken us has allowed us to prepare and put things in place at the clubs.”
Hepburn warned, however, that golfers could not just rush out on Saturday and expect everything to be back to normal. The golf industry, which contributed R48 billion to the South African economy, would take time to become a well-oiled machine again.
“The job is not yet done. This is not about celebrating,” he said.
“It’s a step in the right direction but there are still many people involved in golf who still can’t put food on their table. So I hope people continue to support clubs and I know our golfers and clubs will be responsible when it comes to the scanning and the monitoring process.
“Through the HealthDocs app we’ve bought for all clubs, information can be sent back to government at the push of a button.
“We need to control the numbers of golfers and the times they arrive and leave, but it’s time to get busy now with saving golf clubs through the safe return of golfers, which will generate the income for them to survive and save thousands of jobs, especially of those in the vulnerable sector, which makes up 85% of the industry.
“We know our clubs can comply and sport can help government because exercise is good at reducing comorbidities.”