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Two Nations Divided By A Common (sporting ) Passion

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With apologies to George Bernard Shaw who may or not have  stated something very similar regarding the UK’s close relationship with our friends “ across the pond “, the Covid 19 world we all now inhabit has created a number of starkly contrasting attitudes worldwide around the most effective approach to surviving the pandemic, the best way to protect all citizens and precisely what each and every one of us should be allowed to do to occupy the endless hours, days and weeks of lockdown.

For nations such as USA and UK with a rich sporting heritage these are strange and challenging times.For the golfing community in UK you can add frustration, deep concern and more than a touch of confusion.

Frustration at seeing weeks of unseasonably good weather across these isles drift past as we are resigned to another leisurely chipping practice in the back garden which we just cut for the second time this week; determined to emulate the pros on social media who just cannot resist the opportunity to demonstrate to us mere mortals just how simple a game golf really is.

Frustration at seeing the endless stream of daily updated images of fantastic looking courses all round the country; a fitting tribute to the dedication and talent of countless greens staff charged with the task of maintaining our courses in readiness for that glorious day in the future when we get to resume friendly rivalries.

There is deep concern that for many clubs this enforced period of zero income from clubhouse catering, pro shop and visitor green fees could result in closure.

Equally concerning is the very real possibility that many social or part time players will decide they have discovered new interests in isolation and that for them the future will not involve any golf; leading to further falls in memberships, increased fees for those remaining.

Encouragingly the vast majority of club golfers do appear to have accepted that to ensure there is still a club to return to when normal practice resumes, they need to provide support through payment of annual subscriptions and to get involved with the innovative plans being introduced by numerous PGA professionals.

The confusion reigns supreme when we compare the approach of UK/Scottish government, R&A, European Tour and their counterparts in USA. In the UK we have complete closure of all golf clubs ( except for vital course maintenance ). We have on-going cancellations of professional and amateur events.We have no Open Championship 2020. Meanwhile for American golfers the decision on whether golf courses are allowed to open is dependent on a number of factors including which state the course is in, whether golf is deemed an essential activity in that state and whether the course is located in an urban or rural location. Clearly the concept of safe social distancing is very much open to interpretation.

As European Tour pros see their competitive programme rapidly vanishing, USPGA officials are announcing revised schedules including late autumn dates for both The Masters and US Open. We now also have the latest Ryder Cup news suggesting organisers are considering playing this year’s instalment of the largest crowd participation event in golf without the crowd. Confused ?

The strangest of times indeed.We will get through this. Our great game will survive. We must do what is necessary to keep everyone as safe as possible. We will never again take it for granted that we can head off to the course whenever we want to or simply relax enjoying a couple of post round drinks with fellow competitors at the 19th.

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