After Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced new protective measures to enforce social distancing, golf courses and driving ranges were immediately seeking clarity from the government if courses in the United Kingdom -- England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland -- can remain open during the three-week order.
Are golf courses allowed to remain open in the United Kingdom?
Prime Minister Johnson's order included allowing citizens and residents the opportunity to leave the home once per day for exercise. The question is if golf counts as exercise.
— UK Prime Minister (@10DowningStreet) March 23, 2020
It does not.
England Golf and Scottish Golf strongly called on courses in their respective countries to close in response to the order.
"Following on from the Prime Minister’s statement tonight, golf clubs, courses and facilities in England must now close," a statement from England Golf reads. "It is England Golf’s position that this deeply regrettable, but highly necessary and responsible course of action must be implemented with immediate effect and be maintained until further notice."
The statement went on to say, "Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with the updated policy of government which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency. The health and wellbeing of the nation is the only consideration that matters at this moment in our history."
It concluded, "We would like to assure the golfing community that England Golf staff will continue to work remotely with all affiliated golfers, clubs and counties to try and minimize the damage caused by this suspension of regular golf club life."
Wales Golf agreed.
Following the P.M.’s statement it is clear that golf clubs, courses & facilities must close with immediate effect. Keeping golf courses open is simply no longer compatible with gov policy which is designed to save lives in a time of national emergency. Statement to follow in a.m.
— Wales Golf | Golff Cymru (@wales_golf) March 23, 2020
Golfers around the United Kingdom are upset to learn golf courses are closing for the next 3 weeks.
In the United States, many golf courses have remained open as state governments have implemented restrictions encouraging social distancing. These governors have said they want to encourage exercise and that golf can be played with proper social distancing.
Conceivably, golf could be allowed as a form of exercise within the rules laid out by Johnson. Gatherings have to be of two people or fewer, excluding the people you live with. Provided tee times one have one or two players, and there's not mass congregation at places around the club, golf could work.
However, golf courses are not considered an essential business, so the courses would not be allowed to have staff.
A petition has been started
The UK Golf Federation has already started an online petition asking Boris Johnson to keep golf courses open. It had more than 25,000 signatures within 30 minutes of Johnson's announcement.
The petition reads, in part, "If golf courses are not kept open, potentially 30% could go bankrupt and close affecting hundreds of thousands of employees and associated industries. Also, if the course is closed and green staff stop maintaining the course it will take years to bring it back into the condition our golfers expect.
"Finally, just short of 2 million people play golf each week, many are under 70 years old! The loss of their recreational activity, social discussions and time spent with friends and partners walking in fresh air will be lost and could have serious unnecessary long-term effects on the health, physical and mental wellbeing of these golfers."
The earliest these restrictions could be eased is April 20, so golfers could be looking at keeping the clubs at home for three weeks or playing golf indoors.