Growing up I was always a sporty person, getting involved in everything and anything. GAA was my primary focus as a whole. However, when I was 8 years old, a golf course (Woodstock GC) opened up just 200 yards (or a 3 wood!) from my home. I remember walking the fairways with the late Christy O`Connor Jnr on the day the golf course opened in 1993. This was my first exposure to a game I grew to love and one which eventually would become my livelihood and passion.
But golf isn’t just a game, it’s not just a past-time or a “good walk ruined”. Those people not engrossed in the golfing fraternity will think it is all of those things, but not us golfers, we see so much more. We see golf as an activity we are so lucky to be a part of. While so many sports have limitations which hamper participation levels such as ability or age, golf is not one of those. Golf is open to all and can be played by all. That is what makes our game so great and inclusive.
Last year saw so many new people take up the game of golf and join golf clubs all around the country. Ireland is very lucky to have 400 fantastic golf courses. But why golf? Was it simply that there was nothing else to do? Well yes, partially. However, the reason there was nothing else to do was, that golf re-opened prior to most other activities due to the clear and obvious ability to social distance on a golf course.
Golf clubs right around the country already had the ability, through booking systems, to safely organise and admit members/visitors at safe intervals to play golf. Furthermore, this could be done electronically and without the need for human contact. Even some clever people in the IT world came up with a way of submitting scores virtually without the need to swap score cards. This was amazing. Golf in the summer of 2020 boomed.
I don’t remember seeing newspaper headlines or hearing dramatic stories of large scale outbreaks (or any outbreaks) of COVID-19 directly associated to the playing of golf. Why don’t I remember? Why did I not see any headlines? Simple, there were none!! So we spent the majority of the summer of 2020 proving to the government that golf is well structured, well run, very popular across all demographics and most importantly, SAFE. So that begs the question, why are we still closed? I fully understand and agree with all aspects of our economy needing to shut down in order to get this Pandemic under control. The movement of people needed to stop and we all had to play our part. However, we have now reached a stage where a more pragmatic approach is required. Its time to bring back golf.
A year in review
We are 12 months into this crisis. We have all become experts at making porridge bread, zoom calls, home schooling. I could draw the floor plan of my local ALDI and layout where every item is from the top of my head at this stage and the price! We have accepted all of this and we have adapted and diversified at the request of the government and for our own safety. We know from this that the majority of us can be trusted, trusted to do the right thing.
So I ask the government now to use that trust and let us get back to some of the activities we once enjoyed and enjoyed safely. We can no longer be using an indiscretion by a minority of people last August as a scapegoat for not allowing golf to return. We have been closed far too long. Let us prove we can do it, again.
Golf in Ireland will be closed for a total of 189 days by the 5th of April. That will be longer than any other country in the world. We all know how easy it is to social distance on a golf course and I have already alluded to the ease with which people can be managed when partaking in the sport. However, there is one other benefit that does not receive enough attention. That is the health and wellbeing benefits of playing golf. A study in Scandinavia of over 300,000 golfers has shown that those who played golf lived 5 years longer than those who did not, regardless of age, gender or socio-economic status. The average golfer playing 18 holes of golf will walk 12,000 steps or 8km, the health benefits are clear to be seen here, we need to bring back golf.
Why bring back golf?
The benefits are not only limited to physical health, with psychological benefits including improved mood, reduced anxiety and increased confidence. Likewise, golf is known to boost social connections and self-esteem. So why is this not forming part of the conversation around golf? It can no longer be ignored. I am asking the government and NPHET to pay attention not only to the national emergency facing our health system. But also to the emerging health crisis of mental health and how we can help those who are struggling, who are afraid to speak and those who need help. Token gestures from the government are no longer good enough and this needs to be faced head on. There are numerous ways people can be helped and allowing golf is certainly one of those. Let us help those that need to be helped and bring back golf.
Golf Operations Manager,
Galway Bay Golf Resort
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