Covid-19: Call for rethink on lockdown golf ban

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image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLlanymynech Golf Club has 15 holes in Wales and three in England in the county of Shropshire

Calls are being made for golf to be treated the same as angling during England's latest lockdown.

The government has urged people to stay home in a bid to halt the spread of Covid-19.

Despite that, it gave angling the go-ahead to continue, saying it would be treated as a form of exercise.

Golfers say the same approach should be afforded to their sport, with more than 129,000 people signing a petition calling for courses to reopen.

Because the petition has passed 100,000 signatures it will now be debated in Parliament.

Paul Callin, a member of Copt Heath Golf Club in Solihull, West Midlands, said angling and golf were "very similar".

"It is important to stress none of the clubs are asking for their clubhouses to be be open, it would be all changing in car park, straight through the course on a one-way system and straight off it again," he said.

"So from that point of view it makes it extremely safe."

image copyrightPaul Callin
image captionPaul Callin said the sport can be run in a safe manner

England Golf, the governing body representing the country's amateur players, said there were about two million players in England who could benefit from a government rethink.

CEO Jeremy Tarling said the sport was "naturally" socially distanced, in the open air and people used their own equipment.

He added there were also huge benefits to players' mental health as well as getting physical exercise.

Llanymynech Golf Club, which sits on the border of England and Wales and has 15 holes in Powys and three in Shropshire, said it had also been affected by differing rules between the two countries during the pandemic - although golf is currently banned in both of them.

There are still grounds people on site and people manning phones, but no players, said secretary Sian Whiteoak.

"I've got members who are elderly and sometimes it is the only thing they do away from home," she said.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSecretary of Llanymynech Golf Club, Sian Whiteoak, said there were mental health benefits to the sport

"One member who is over 70, is a widower, hasn't had his family in his home since March. His one outlet is to drive up to the club for a round of golf with his brother - they don't have to get within 2m.

"His only other outlet is to visit his wife's grave, and I can imagine, at the moment, he is feeling pretty desperate."

Maintaining social distancing would be fairly easy, Ms Whiteoak said, given the size of courses.

"Llanymynech covers 160 acres and we have around 450 members, so even if every single member was out on our course we would only have about four people per acre," she said.

"The issue is staying local to exercise. I understand they don't want hordes of people heading to the hills and beaches, but it is very different to drive 10 minutes for a round of golf.

"We can control the amount of people... you can't just rock up and play golf."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLlanymynech Golf Club has 15 holes in Wales and three in England in the county of Shropshire

A spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said: "As we navigate these necessary new restrictions, we remain clear on just how important exercise is to people's health and wellbeing, whilst staying safe at home.

"That is why outdoor exercise within households, or with one other person from another household or your support bubble, is still permitted once a day in your local area."

But it said, the key point in the government guidance remained that people should minimise time spent outside their homes, given the gravity of the current situation.

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