MEMBERS of local golf clubs are eagerly anticipating getting back out onto their respective courses over the coming days after the Northern Ireland Executive announced a five point plan to bring the country out of lockdown on Tuesday.
A return to the playing of golf, albeit under severe restrictions, is included in the first phase of that plan although at the time of writing frustratingly the government stopped short of providing a definite timetable or specfic dates.
Yet with golf courses in England declared open on Wednesday and courses opening for business in the Republic of Ireland on Monday, local golf clubs are preparing the way for a return to action soon.
A number of clubs, including Omagh, are held a council meeting last week via the Zoom platform, and club captain Martin Turbitt admits that members are ‘busting to get at it.”
“We have exceptional circumstances at the minute and we just have to be patient,” he said.
“We are planning away and like everyone else we were hoping to have a date on Tuesday. We don’t have a date so we just have to follow both government and GUI guidelines.
“We have to be patient and think of everyone’s health and safety before letting any body on the course. That is our responsibility.
“We have to ensure our members’ safety at all times but as a club we have things ready to go. All we need is three or four days notice and we are ready.”
That said when members do get the green light to start playing it will be golf but not as they know it.
Omagh, like every other club the length and breadth of Ireland, will have strict new rules and regulations to adhere to.
At Omagh only fully paid up members will be allowed to play the course. No guests of any description will be allowed and bookings for tee times will be open on a weekly basis rather than monthly in anticipation of surge of bookings.
The club will also be keeping a record of who is playing with who for six weeks so in the event of a Covid case there is full traceability while many of the facilties around the club, the practice area, putting green, bar, restaurant and so on will be closed.
“It’ll be a matter of turning up five or 10 minutes before your tee time and a way you go,” continued Martin, who admitted that so far it had been a very frustrating season for everyone involved with the club.
“A lot of members have been walking the course. It’s in great shape, the weather is good and it’s enticing members to get out as soon as possble.
“For everyone’s mental wellbeing it would be good to see people, many of them who have been stuck indoors, out playing again.
“On a personal level it’s also been frustrating but I have been really busy making sure everything is all right. I’ve spent a lot of time down around the club but I’ve enjoyed it.
“The frustrating part is we had planned for such a busy April, May and June, big functions, competitions, societies coming and we had a new caterer Joan Poyntz who was making a massive difference. Her Sunday lunches were something else and there was a fantastic buzz about the place. We’re missing that but hopefully we can get that back again at some point.
“Like every other club we have taken a big hit financially and I can’t stress the importance that the members stick with us.
“We need them so so much, their help and support. There is no doubt we have taken a big hit but then we are no different to anyone else.”
The captain said while the club was experiencing difficult times there had been considerable interest from people wanting to become new members. Those looking for membership can ring the club on 02882243160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neighbouring clubs Fintona, Clogher Valley, Newtownstewart and Strabane all have a similar tale to tell and their members, just as they are at Omagh, are itching to get back to driving, chipping and putting.
Tommy Graham, secretary of Newtownstewart Golf Club, said it had been a challenging time for his club but they would pull through.
“The GUI is held a Zoom meeting with clubs in Northern Ireland and obviously we’ll take feedback from that,” he said.
“To be honest I formulated an action plan back at the end of March and formed a sub committee to among other things look at reducing expenses and our outgoings. We succeeded in that to a certain extent.
“We are all prepared for a restart whenever that is. Obviously there will be no competitions to start with, it’ll be a matter of players getting out and stretching their legs.
“Obviously there will be restrictions and we’ll be adhering to those guidelines. Financially we are working hard at it, it’s not easy but we’ll pull through it. One thing’s for sure life won’t be the same.”
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