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Golfers urged to practice social distancing at all times as courses remain open across Northern Ireland

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Golf in Northern Ireland has been continuing.

Golf in Northern Ireland has been continuing.

Getty Images

Golf in Northern Ireland has been continuing.

Golf in Northern Ireland has been continuing.

Getty Images

Golf in Northern Ireland has been continuing.

Golfers continuing to play on Northern Ireland golf courses have been urged to ensure they stick rigidly to social distancing practices.

Amid the almost total sporting lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, courses have remained open with thousands playing over the weekend.

Governments on either side of the border have so far stopped short of ordering total lockdown, instead advising a social distancing rule of ensuring a barrier of two metres is kept between members of the public.

Clubs in Northern Ireland have followed the lead of their own governing body - the Golfing Union of Ireland - and health officials by keeping courses open, although have taken steps to ensure the risk is kept to a minimum.

"The clubs are doing everything they can, from making sure nobody has to touch the flags, to removing rakes from the bunkers and bins from the courses," said Peter Hanna, Professional Golfers Association Captain of GB and Ireland and club professional at Lurgan Golf Club.

"We've made sure that doors are open into the shop so that people don't have to touch anything."

Ultimately, however, it is down to each individual golfer. If they are going to take to the course, constant vigilance is the minimum requirement.

"All players have to be mindful of the social distancing guidelines at all times," continued Mr Hanna.

"There is absolutely no reason to come within two metres of your playing partners at any time or to touch anything other than your own ball and your own clubs.

"We're constantly looking at this and our club are considering moving to only allowing groups of two players onto the course rather than fourballs and spacing out the tee times so groups would only go out every 12 minutes rather than every nine minutes. That will all help to decrease any chance of players coming into contact with others.

"People should drive separately to get to the course as well to take everything into account and ensure there is no contact."

The Golfing Union of Ireland stressed that the body will continue to adjust its policy in response to guidance from healthcare officials and governments in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

"We're not medical experts and we'll continue to take our lead from the health officials on both sides of the border and act on their advice," said a GUI spokesperson.

"If you look at the social distancing guidelines we have at the minute, golf is a relatively low risk sport.

"We're encouraging clubs not to accept visitors at the minute because of the health crisis but members can still play as long as they respect the social distancing guidelines from health officials.

"Clubs need to make sure they make all members fully aware of the requirements that are in place in order to use the facilities.

"If every golfer can follow those then the sport remains low risk."

Belfast Telegraph