Republic of Ireland's golf courses to reopen on limited basis from 18 May

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar made the announcement in a nationwide address on Friday evening

Irish golf's governing bodies say Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's announcement that "some outdoor sporting activities will be allowed" from 18 May means golf courses in the Republic of Ireland will open from then on a restricted basis.

A statement from the governing bodies "welcomed" the decision.

"In the initial stage, play will be for members only and competitions will not be permitted," said the statement.

It added that clubs should refrain from opening timesheet booking for now.

The statement from Golf Ireland, the Irish Ladies Golf Union and the Golfing Union of Ireland said in advance of when the "protocol [for return to play] is published, as it will contain vital information on group sizes and timesheet intervals".

In a nationwide address, Mr Varadkar outlined the first phase of the Irish Government's roadmap for the easing of Covid-19 restrictions later this month.

The golf governing bodies' statement said they had been "engaging intensively" with the government on the potential for safe resumption of the sport on a limited basis.

"To that end, golf's governing bodies have prepared a comprehensive draft protocol on the safe resumption of play on which we have been engaging with the Government over recent weeks.

"We now intend to finalise this protocol in the coming week, in consultation with the government, and issue clear advice to our member clubs well in advance of the reopening of courses on 18 May.

"That advice will emphasise the absolute necessity of golf clubs adhering to the terms of the protocol for safe play."

Friday's announcement related only to clubs in the Republic of Ireland and the Irish golf governing bodies said they would "continue to work with the UK authorities and the Northern Ireland Executive to seek the safe resumption of golf for our clubs in Northern Ireland".

While the current Covid-19 restrictions will remain in place in the Republic until 18 May, from Tuesday people aged over 70 will be allowed to leave their houses if they avoid all contact with other people while the 2km limit for exercise will be extended to 5km.

The Irish Government's planned phased reopening of the country indicates that sports such as football and gaelic games could return in front of limited crowd or behind-closed doors on the week beginning 20 July with close-contact sports such as rugby in line to start again in similar conditions from 10 August.

However, everything will be dependent on continuing progress in the battle against Covid-19.