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Golf chiefs issue guidelines for return to courses after coronavirus closures

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The coronavirus pandemic has hit the golfing calendar (Gareth Fuller/PA).

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the golfing calendar (Gareth Fuller/PA).

The coronavirus pandemic has hit the golfing calendar (Gareth Fuller/PA).

It is as yet unclear when golf courses in Northern Ireland will reopen after their closures due to the coronavirus crisis.

However, in anticipation of a potential return to action, the sport's chiefs have issued a set of guidelines for clubs on how to get golfers back onto the course in the safest possible manner when it is time to do so.

Clubs are advised to begin putting plans into place on procedures that may be required once courses are allowed to reopen under government policy.

The guidelines have been led by the Professional Golfers' Association, with support from other key golfing bodies such as the R&A, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers' Association and the UK Golf Federation.

Included are suggestions that tee bookings should be made online, time gaps should be increased between playing groups, which may be limited from fourballs to fewer players per group.

There is also the advice that car-park lay-outs should be considered to facilitate social distancing while course marshals may be necessary to ensure social distancing is being practiced at all times.

Bunker rakes, ball washers and other course furniture should be removed, while flags should either be removed on left in the hole at all times, with a raised cup in use so that the flag need not be touched to remove the ball.

Clubhouse facilities are likely to remain closed, in whole or in part, after courses open and the advice suggests hand sanitiser is available in all communal areas.

According to the guidelines, only two golfers should be permitted in the shop at any one time with a clear screen in place to protect staff.

"The purpose of this document is to offer practical advice and guidance across a number of areas to help golf clubs and courses, driving ranges and their professional staff to prepare for re-opening when the government advises that it is safe to do so," read the statement.

"This guidance has been prepared and is supported by key stakeholders in the golf industry with a view to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of golfers and members of staff alike."

The PGA is also working with the UK Government, the All Party Parliamentary Group for Golf and other leading bodies on a wider strategy and framework for the re-opening of golf.

Belfast Telegraph