Coronavirus pandemic

Golfers don't mind rules

A man practising his golf swing at Gardens By The Bay East during the circuit breaker period. All golf clubs were closed since April 7 in line with the measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic. Below: Buggies at the Orchid Country Club have clear pl
A man practising his golf swing at Gardens By The Bay East during the circuit breaker period. All golf clubs were closed since April 7 in line with the measures to curb the coronavirus pandemic. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Demand high at clubs despite strict curbs under the 'play and go home' guidelines

A new landscape will greet golf enthusiasts when they swing back into action from today.

The Singapore Golf Association (SGA) published its safe management plan for golf clubs and public golf facilities yesterday, 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 per facility announced by Sport Singapore on Wednesday, the golf guidelines also include on-course restrictions designed to stem the spread of the Covid-19 disease.

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 into 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.

Under the concept of "play golf and go home", 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.

The return of golf was clearly welcomed, with flights at the Orchid Country Club (OCC) fully snapped up within half an hour of the opening for bookings, its general manager Emmanuel Lem told The Straits Times.

The club will implement all the guidelines, including closing their changing rooms, 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 time from seven minutes to 10 minutes.

 Buggies at the Orchid Country Club have clear pl
Buggies at the Orchid Country Club have clear plastic dividers in line with the safe management plan issued by the Singapore Golf Association yesterday. PHOTO: ORCHID COUNTRY CLUB

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME

None of the restrictions are worth complaining (about) 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.

BENJAMIN SEAH, golfer at OCC, on the safe distancing rules at golf clubs.

"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 the Keppel Club, which is also fully booked today, 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 because it is for the safety of everyone and as long as I can still golf, it's fine.

"None of the restrictions are worth complaining (about) 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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 19, 2020, with the headline 'Golfers don't mind rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe