Golf clubs across Laois and Ireland re-opened their gates - but not their doors - as golfers returned to action under strict social distancing rules after eight weeks in lockdown last week.
Only members who live within 5km of their club were allowed to play in Phase 1 of the Irish government’s Roadmap for Reopening of Society and Business, with clubs across the nation reporting huge interest.
Liam Ryan, Men’s Captain at Abbeyleix Golf Club said, “It feels fantastic to be back. People were out of golf for what seemed like an eternity, leading to a great sense of enthusiasm in the town.
“We had around 120 people out on the course on the first day back (Monday, May 18), from 8am in the morning until 6pm in the evening. The course had been maintained impeccably during the absence by the professional staff and by a whole host of volunteers.
“People were delighted to be out and about and the weather was extraordinary which helps too. Everyone was out in their t-shirts and shorts for the week.”
Abbeyleix is fortunate to boast clubs for three of the few sports that returned on May 18, with golf, tennis and athletics all returning in the town under strict guidelines.
One of the rules in force at the golf club is that all bookings for tee times had to be made online or by telephone with increased intervals between tee times.
Clubhouses, bars, and restaurants remained closed during this first phase with access to the pro shop only for check-in purposes. Toilet facilities are accessible along with locker rooms for the retrieval of equipment but golfers were instructed to arrive at courses just five minutes before their tee time and leave directly after their rounds.
“The guidelines have gone very well because the two fundamental rules are to keep two metres apart at all times, and don’t touch anything that somebody else can or has the potential to touch,” explained Liam.
“We started back with three balls going out at 14-minute intervals, in line with the Golfing Union of Ireland’s guidelines. We’ve been keeping account of the time sheets so that contact tracing can take place, if required.
“We have the rules and the guidelines well-publicised and so far the people have shown a sense of respect for their own health and their neighbours, which is great to see,” finished Liam.
The 5km travel limit currently in place has proved to be an obstacle for some clubs, which will be increased to 20km on June 8th and then beyond 20km on July 20th. Club competitions will not be permitted until Phase 2 comes into force on June 8.
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Photos by James Carroll.