Golf courses across Northern Ireland have closed today in line with the latest coronavirus restrictions, despite a letter sent to First Minister Arlene Foster by the Professional Golfers' Association.
Courses are due to remain closed for six weeks, the third time the sport has been shut down since the beginning of the pandemic, but the PGA has appealed for the NI Executive to rethink its stance over the sport's restrictions.
The initial shutdown lasted almost two months from March to May with a second, two-week-long lockdown in effect from November 27 to December 11.
Strict regulations began across Northern Ireland at 12.01am on Boxing Day but the PGA had written an open letter to the First Minister on December 21.
Chief Executive Robert Maxfield, writing on behalf of more than 150 PGA members across Northern Ireland, pointed to the "undeniable health and mental wellbeing benefits that golf offers to a significant proportion of the country" while also stating his belief that the sport has proven its capability to continue in a covid-safe manner.
"It is worth noting that golf courses in England and Scotland have remained open even as those two countries moved once again into Tier 4 restrictions, confirming the ability of golf to operate safely during the pandemic," he wrote.
"The average golf course covers a 60-hectare space, which on average would see only 96 people on it at any one time, which makes it the perfect setting for people of all ages and abilities to get their daily exercise in an extremely safe environment."
Maxfield also addressed any potential perception of the sport as elitist.
"We appreciate that there are often misconceptions about who golf is accessible to, but the reality is that there are over 3m people who regularly play the game in Great Britain spanning all abilities, age groups, backgrounds, genders and faiths," he continued.
"Whilst we agree that certain measures will have to be adopted, such as closing clubhouses, these should not be seen as prohibitive to allowing play to continue. Golf clubs have already embraced a raft of changes with the vast majority offering online booking services, having pre-scheduled arrival times to eradicate contact with other people and rule changes which ensure players stay socially distanced."
Golf courses across the border in the Republic of Ireland are remaining open despite the Level 5 restrictions that came into force on Christmas Eve.
Executive ministers have said they will review the lockdown measures after four weeks and the golfing community will hope its shutdown may be cut short.
The NI Executive has been approached for comment.