Although most clubs across the country are still closed, some have already reopened and welcomed members again.
Confusion reigns over the distance people can travel to play a round of golf after Tuesday’s announcement that clubs could reopen.
Jason Thomas, director of the Welsh government’s department of culture, sports and tourism, said golf courses were never forced to close, but restrictions on non-essential travel meant that in reality they had to do it.
“Legally, they should not be closed,” said Mr. Thomas. “We made it clear that we want to encourage people to exercise but to exercise locally. “
In England, golfers are allowed to travel any distance for exercise, including playing golf.
In Wales, however, this is not the case. Instead, the Welsh government states that “people should not travel a significant distance from their home to exercise” – but there are no specific rules or guidelines on what “a significant distance ”refers.
The Welsh government website states: “People are asked to exercise good judgment and common sense. “
Wales Golf – the governing body of amateur golf in Wales – has issued guidelines on when and how clubs across the country can welcome members back onto the tee.
They advised most clubs not to open immediately so that they can “make sure they have sufficient protocols to follow these guidelines.”
They have designated Monday, May 18 as the day of their reopening, allowing “a managed and coordinated reintroduction of golf across Wales”.
However, some clubs in Wales have received the green light for the early opening by the governing body, notably Derllys Court on the outskirts of Carmarthen.
As a family business, the owners have been there since the lockout started. This means that the maintenance of the course has been maintained and that the protocols and security measures mentioned above have already been implemented.
Arriving at the car park, it is clear that many members are already taking advantage of the situation.
All members arrived by car – a necessity given the club’s rural location between the towns of Carmarthen and St Clears – and all considered themselves “local”.
A member, who lives a few kilometers from the course, said that he had not traveled “a significant distance” from his home to play, adding that it was difficult to determine how it would be defined anyway without concrete directives.
The club owner – who has been busy making sure the course is ready to function in this new era of social distancing – was delighted to welcome the members again.
“We have been closed since the Prime Minister announced the lockout on March 23,” said Rhian Walters, who runs the Derllys Court Golf Club with his parents and brother.
“We have managed the course throughout this period and have been in close contact with Wales Golf, who have supported us from the start, helping us prepare and making sure we have everything in place, which is why we can open now, before May 18.
“It’s great to see people back on the course and the atmosphere is great. I have been inundated with messages and calls and the people here are happy to be back. I kept in touch with the members throughout this period, just making sure they were fine and showing that we care about us.
“Membership fees were due in April and many people were happy to pay for the year because they care about the golf club and its future. “
While Wednesday May 13th saw players return to the tee, strict guidelines are in place that state that people can only play in groups of up to two and even if only the other person is in the same household.
This differs from England, where from Wednesday people can play with someone else outside their home.
On the course itself, players are advised not to touch the flags or pins, not to pick up stray balls, not to ring warning bells and not to hang around and socialize after their turn completed.
The course benches were also decommissioned and the rakes removed from the bunkers, which means players can only store sand with their sticks or shoes.
The clubhouse is closed and club stores have a strict “one in and one out” policy.
Meanwhile, tee times must be booked in advance online or by phone and must be spaced, without two games of two (or individual players) departing within 10 minutes of each other .
A local member who bounced off the course on the first day back was Teifryn Bowen, who has been part of the Derllys Court community for over 20 years.
He hadn’t swung a golf club since the day before Boris Johnson announced locking restrictions in March.
“With the lock in place, I work – delivering meat to my home – so it was something that at least kept me busy. But I found the weekends very boring – I mowed the lawn more than ever! “
Walking alone to the first tee, he said, “I can’t wait to play again. Obviously, I would prefer to play with someone else but at the moment this is not possible.
“I hope things continue to improve, but for now it’s just nice to be on the course.
“I don’t have a lot of other exercise options – just work and golf – so it’s great to be back. “
Everyone at Derllys Court was in a similar mood: acknowledging that golf has returned to their lives while adhering to the new standard.
Guidelines are established on benches and signs along the course, cars are parked at a healthy distance from each other in the parking lot, and a hand sanitizer awaits each player as he heads to the first tee .
While Mr. Bowen was left to fend for himself with a tour, a couple also benefited from the reopening of the club.
Edward Ress, a local hairstylist, and his girlfriend Sara Tidey, a local optician, have been members of the club for a few years and were delighted when they discovered Tuesday that they could return to the fairways less than 24 hours later.
“This is our first day back in ages,” said Rees. “I have never seen so many couples on the course.
“The last time we played was in winter conditions, so to see it is fantastic. We didn’t find out until yesterday (Tuesday) and we quickly managed to book a start.
“This is the best exercise you can get, especially in terms of social distancing. I’m also a junior football coach, but that’s not the case right now, so it’s great to come back and play golf – I’ll play everyday if I can; it breaks the day and gets you out into the fresh air – I think for seniors in particular, it’s extremely important. ”
As for the new guidelines in place, Mr. Edwards was more than happy to follow them if it meant resuming the course.
He added, “We played the first nine holes first, but then we had to wait about half an hour to start the last nine, so we sat in the car and waited for our turn. “
Rees’ partner Miss Tidey said it was “a huge relief” to see the course reopen.
“I haven’t played golf since March,” she said.
“I was on leave from work, so apart from going to the supermarket, I really couldn’t go anywhere, so it’s nice to be back. “
Although the club may seem and feel slightly different to the members since they last took the fairways at a different age, in their minds, all golf is better than no golf, for physical and mental health .