Golf’s controversial ban in Metropolitan Melbourne, in accordance with the latest Victorian Government COVID-19 restrictions, has been categorically slammed by those who play the game in Australia’s sporting capital.
As construction workers continue to pound building sites, and thousands flock to golf courses for their daily outdoor exercise (minus the golf clubs!), frustration levels have reached boiling point amongst some of golf’s most influential names.
Former PGA Tour star Nick O’Hern, who famously beat Tiger Woods twice in matchplay, is now – figuratively speaking – beating his head against a wall as he tries to comprehend why he can’t swing a golf club on a patch of grass the rest of the community can freely use for outdoor exercise.
According to Golf Australia’s latest state directives, there are no changes for Metropolitan Melbourne’s current lockdown restrictions.
“Clubs/facilities must remain closed except for the provision of takeaway food and beverage and the essential maintenance of the facility.”
Golf Australia chief executive officer James Sutherland expressed cautious optimism about a return to play for metropolitan Melbourne, noting there are no guarantees and no indication of a timeline at this stage.
“Golf Australia remains committed to regular dialogue with Government to achieve the best outcomes for all,” he says. “Golf Australia continues to support the Government’s vaccination program as it is clear that the fastest road to the full resumption of golf in Victoria is the continued increase in Victorians who have been vaccinated.”
The lack of clarity has inspired one PGA professional to take matters into his own hands. Sandy Jamieson, creator of 1Club Golf – an introductory program that’s attracting hundreds of newcomers to take up the sport of golf – has written a letter to his local member of parliament to seek answers – and encouraged others to do the same.
“I don’t think we (golf) tell our story well so take 30 minutes to tell yours,” Jamieson urged his followers on Twitter.
“To all golfers, I feel the best thing you can do is write a letter to you local member outlining why you feel golf should be open.”
Jamieson then revealed this personal plea to State Member for Carrum and Cabinet Secretary, Sonya Kilkenny:
I am writing today as I have a concern that I feel needs your attention and help.
I work in the golf industry and have done my whole working life. Due to the pandemic and partial lockdown, I am at a loss to understand the government’s position on keeping us locked down while other industries that have proven to cause a greater health risk are allowed to keep operating. I know golf hasn’t always been great at telling its story, and can often be perceived as ‘a game for the privileged’. However, this letter has the intention of outlining why we ARE important and safe.
We are in a partial lockdown as the community is divided between those who can work and those who can’t. We are not only a divided country due to border closures but also a divided state, which is depressing at best. Every day I take advantage of the two-hour exercise limit by walking around our suburb and seeing the level crossing removal program in full swing and estimate only 50 percent of the workers are wearing a mask effectively. The case is worse at private building sites – this morning alone while walking along the beach, I walked past five building sites and not a mask being worn properly, if at all, in sight. The building industry has been flagged as a major concern in the spread of the virus yet they keep being able to operate and only yesterday given another week to get the first jab.
Now we have been given more freedoms to gather in groups of up to 5 adults, providing they have been vaccinated, yet how are the police going to enforce this if they haven’t got the manpower to make sure building sites are conforming to the rules? I feel very sorry for the police with the big weekend coming up due to the threat of protests, and I can’t see them being able to have the resources to police Melbourne’s parks. I fear it will be a free-for-all, leaving my industry on the couch for longer.
The golf industry has the ability to operate in a safer manner than construction and people meeting in the park. There are also long-term financial implications due to the extended lockdowns we have endured. Golf also provides health benefits that a walk in the park cannot come close to.
Golf has a structured booking system and time allocation. That means we know who is on our properties and where they are. Golf, by its very nature, requires its participants to spread out on the property. We can be totally contactless in the way we operate and check the vaccination status of golfers if that is a requirement on our opening. There are some clubs already making ‘double vax’ mandatory. I know the public course that I operate will be flooded with picnickers with nobody checking their status, whereas that wouldn’t be the case if we were operating.
Financially, golf facilities are hurting. They are not like a building site. You can’t just shut it down. You have to keep up the maintenance otherwise you lose the course. This means clubs and courses are paying staff fuel, fertiliser bills etc. In the case of council courses, the ratepayers are footing the bill. In the case of member clubs, the members are still having to pay even though they can’t play. An example of this is my wife. who’s a member of a club and in the past six weeks has paid $360 in membership for no return. For many people this will be a deal breaker when it comes to committing to membership in the future, placing clubs that are an important part of the community run by volunteers under immense stress.
The health benefits of the game cannot be underplayed. Many of the people I come into contact with say golf is their only social interaction they have each week. There is the meditative state that golf creates when you’re playing – you are totally consumed by getting that ball in the hole and for the time you are on the course the pressures and problems that life presents completely disappear, as opposed to more passive exercise that gives you more time to think about your problems.
Other Australians in lockdown are allowed to play golf. New South Wales have played the whole way through. I see Canberra is opening up golf next week. To my knowledge, golf has not been listed as a Tier 1 exposure site anywhere, again compared to the building industry that has and is still operating.
Please use your voice in government to open up golf and lessen the divide in the community between those who can and those who can’t, for no apparent logical reason.
Metropolitan Melbourne golf clubs currently banned from operating as normal include those from the following Local Government Areas: Banyule, Hume, Moreland, Bayside, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, Boroondara, Knox, Nillumbik, Brimbank, Manningham, Port Phillip, Cardinia, Maribyrnong, Stonnington, Casey, Maroondah, Whitehorse, Darebin, Melbourne, Whittlesea, Frankston, Melton, Wyndham, Glen Eira, Monash, Yarra, Greater Dandenong, Moonee Valley, Yarra Ranges and Hobsons Bay.