Teed-up for Restart

MEMBERS of local golf clubs are eagerly anticipating getting back out onto their respective courses over the coming weeks after the NI  Executive announced a five point plan to bring the country out of lockdown on Tuesday.
A return to playing golf, albeit under severe restrictions, is included in the first phase of that plan although frustratingly the government stopped short of providing a definite timetable or specfic dates.
Yet with golf courses in England declared open yesterday (Wednesday) and courses opening for business in the Republic of Ireland on Monday, local golf clubs are preparing the way for a return to action, possibly before the end of the month.
A number of clubs, including Strabane, have been closely monitoring developments and club captain Kevin Neeson admits that members are ‘itching to get going’ when they are given the green light.
“After Tuesday’s announcement I suppose everyone is hoping that stage one of the plan is implemented as soon as possible,” he said.
“The members, like everybody else, are anxious to get back playing. With England opened up some people were thinking we would be the same but nothing is written in stone at the minute I can tell you.
“Golfers in the South will be playing from Monday and for us I suppose May 28th is the big date that everyone is looking at. It seems that if scientists give government the go-a-head that date could possibly be brought forward.
“Everyone is itching to get back playing and I suppose one of the problems that clubs have is getting fees in because members don’t know what is happening. That’s a big issue.”
The Strabane captain said that as soon government releases a date for the implementation of the first phase of their plan, the Ballycolman Road course will be opened for business.
That said he accepted that the environment and landscape will have changed quite dramatically for club members. 
Strabane, like every other club the length and breadth of Ireland, will have strict new rules and regulations to adhere to. It will still be golf but not as the members know it.
“We’re anticipating that Ulster Branch will follow the same guidelines set out by the GUI, which as we know is an all Ireland body,” he said.
“We are working away on the premise that we will be opening shortly. If it was announced today, the course is ready to go. Social distancing rules will be put in place. Time sheets are now every 14 minutes and members will be booking on line.
“I’d safely say they have all read the protocol so all the members will be well versed.”
Tommy Graham, secretary of Newtownstewart Golf Club, said it had been a challenging time for his club but they would pull through.
“The GUI is holding a Zoom meeting with clubs in Northern Ireland and obviously we’ll take feedback from that,” he said.
“To be honest I formulated an action plan back at the end of March and formed a sub committee to among other things look at reducing expenses and our outgoings. We succeeded in that to a certain extent.
“We are all prepared for a restart whenever that is. Obviously there will be no competitions to start with, it’ll be a matter of players getting out and stretching their legs.
“Obviously there will be restrictions and we’ll be adhering to those guidelines. Financially we are working hard at it, it’s not easy but we’ll pull through it. One thing’s for sure life won’t be the same.”

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