Coronavirus: 'Golf and go home' the driving principle as Singapore Golf Association unveils safety guidelines

The restrictions are designed to stem the spread of Covid-19. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - A new landscape will greet the nation's golf enthusiasts when they swing back into action from Friday (June 19).

The Singapore Golf Association (SGA) published its Safe Management Plan for golf clubs and public golf facilities on Thursday, which contained guidelines to enable the industry and golfers to resume their businesses and passion safely amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The rules also apply to golf academies and the High Performance Training Centre at Laguna National Practice Facility.

Besides the safe distancing measures and the 50-person cap on the number of persons announced by Sport Singapore on Wednesday, the guidelines also include on-course restrictions designed to stem the spread of Covid-19.

For a start, all touchable surfaces such as bunker rakes, water coolers, ball retrievers and ball washers are to be removed or disabled. Flagsticks need to remain in the hole and clubs will be providing implants to prevent the ball from dropping onto the bottom of the cup.

The use of buggies will be restricted to one person only. Buggies can be shared only if a divider has been installed or if the players come from the same household.

No caddies will be engaged and players must submit their scores online through the SGA Centralised Handicapping System (CHS) via web browser log-in or mobile application.

With the concept of "play golf and go home" in use, no lockers will be issued and clubs are "encouraged to close changing rooms if there are sufficient restrooms in the facility".

Driving ranges will see alternate bays being used or a limit on the number of golfers using the facility.

Flights at the Orchid Country Club were fully booked within half an hour of bookings opening, its general manager Emmanuel Lem told The Straits Times.

The club will implement all the guidelines with all changing rooms to remain closed too, meaning golfers will need to shower at home. A touch-free ball retrieval system will also be used.

To limit the number of people in the facility to 50, the club has increased the flight interval timing from seven minutes to 10 minutes.

"In the event of inclement weather, the course will be closed and not reopen and golfers are to leave the club," he added. "All these will reduce congregation, avoid overcrowding and reduce close contact."

Over at Keppel Club, which is also fully booked on Friday, the interval between flight times has been increased from eight to 12 minutes, thus helping to reduce the number of golfers.

Desmond Chua, its general manager, also revealed that it has taken the additional step of removing common seating areas, magazines and newspapers. Changing rooms will also be off-limits. "We want to instil the mentality that you should play your game and not loiter after that," he explained.

If the course is closed because of rain, members will be asked to leave the club and not linger on the premises.

He also urged members to be understanding of the circumstances as well as to take the guidelines seriously. "All the measures implemented at the club, we do it for the safety of everyone. We must not... end up being complacent and (risk being) infected by the Covid-19 virus."

Benjamin Seah, a 38-year-old sales manager, who will be playing at OCC on Sunday, had no complaints about the guidelines.

He said: "I have no problem with the social distancing rule as well because it is for the safety of everyone and as long as I can still golf, its fine.

"None of the restrictions are worth complaining since they are required for the golf courses to run. Honestly, I am just happy to play golf again and even if they ask us to follow some crazy rule, I will still follow it."

Additional reporting by Neo Yee Pung and Arvinash Ravindran

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