Hundreds of golf clubs have reopened their courses following an easing of lockdown laws in Ireland.
Hailed as “Christmas Day” for golfers, players flocked to fairways after an eight-week hiatus.
Shaun Donnelly, club professional at Rossmore Golf Club in County Monaghan, said that many of the club’s members have been “ecstatic” to return to the golf course.
“Golfers have been arriving before 6am and I think the time sheet is pretty much booked out until 7.30pm this evening,” he said.
“There’s been massive enthusiasm, it’s a bit like Christmas day to a lot of golfers.
“There’s been a lot of golfing frustration out there and they’re all mad keen to get back, and the weather’s pretty good too.”
The club, which is only permitting members to play, has been busy putting measures in place to abide by health regulations.
“We have a whole list of different regulations set out by the Government, and the Golfing Union of Ireland (GUI) and PGA have been helpful to give us basic requirements to keep golfers very safe and ensuring that social distancing and good hygiene are practised,” Mr Donnelly added.
“The team at Rossmore Golf Club has worked hard, not only preparing the golf course but ensuring that all measures are in place for golfers.”
Tee times are staggered every 14 minutes, only three golfers are allowed in each group and golfers have been told not to arrive at the course more than 15 minutes before they are due to start.
“They are not allowed to touch any course furniture, flags and the bins, seats and ball washers are all out of play, and we’re also encouraging no shaking hands, definitely no high-fives and no exchanging of money,” Mr Donnelly added.
Golfer Jim Harte, who has been a member at Rossmore Golf Club for some nine years, said he is excited to return to the golf course.
“I’ve been really looking forward to getting back out on the course. I’ve been locked up in the house for weeks,” he said.
“It’s nice to get outside and get some fresh air and the course looks good too.
We played all winter through rain, hail and snow and then we sat in the house for eight weeks when the sun was shining so we've been dreaming of the course and the condition it would be inJim Slevin, member at Rossmore Golf Club
“Booking our slot to play a round was like trying to get tickets for a concert – I was hitting buttons and refreshing the page.
“The clubs haven’t been out of the bag since March so I might be a bit rusty.”
Jim Slevin, who plays golf almost every weekend, is a semi-retired nurse.
“I’ve been living for the day to get back out,” he said. “We played all winter through rain, hail and snow and then we sat in the house for eight weeks when the sun was shining so we’ve been dreaming of the course and the condition it would be in.
“It’s great to get back and we are delighted to be out again but there could be a few lost balls today.”
Tennis courts and clubs also reopened on Monday as part of the Government’s first phase on easing Covid-19 restrictions.
Members of the Claremont Railway Lawn Tennis Club in Sandymount in County Dublin were on hand from Sunday to help the club reopen on Monday.
The club’s head coach, Will Wilshere, said members have to book a spot online instead of turning up to play.
“A lot of work has gone on behind the scenes in conjunction with the club’s committee to get us back up and running today,” he said.
“Tennis Ireland supplied us with guidelines so we have been prepared. The courts have slightly different layouts and markings to ensure players comply with social distancing.”
“Bookings are taken online and the games are staggered so that we don’t have too many people on the court.”
“It hasn’t been mad busy today – mainly because we spread out the slots when you can play. People are delighted to come back in and play and just have a change of scenery. It’s also nice to let off a bit of steam on the court when you have been cooped up for weeks.”
“There’s a strange atmosphere but it’s a good atmosphere… like anything, we will adjust.”
Dozens of early-morning swimmers also took to the water at Greystones beach in County Wicklow.
Around 30 people were in the water while dozens more waited on the beach.