WARRINGTON Golf Club officials and players have spoken about this week’s reopening of the course after seven weeks of lockdown, writes Isabel Baldwin.

In accordance with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s gradual easing of lockdown measures that were forced by the coronavirus pandemic, players were permitted to return to golf clubs across England from Wednesday – but under strict government guidelines.

Staff at Warrington Golf Club took measures to ensure the safety of members returning to the fairways.

Warrington Guardian:

Members are restricted to playing in pairs, but, unlike originally expected, can play with someone outside of a household group.

Intervals in between tee times have been increased to 10 minutes and players tee off from both the first and 10th holes for nine-hole rounds only to minimise people meeting and accommodate initial demand.

Additionally, rakes have been removed from the bunkers and holes have been cupped round the edges to prevent contact and contamination.

Warrington Guardian:

“We were lucky having the golfing organisations behind us really,” said Warrington Golf Club general manager Neil Coulson-Bence.

“It was great guidance that came out from the start which has really been supported by the Golf Club Managers Association along with the PGA and BIGGA.

“They joined together with the R&A and England Golf to come up with what was known as essential maintenance. The main concern for all of us was to protect staff.

“It was probably a little bit easier for ourselves as we have a tee-booking system at Warrington. And that was an essential item, so that we could know who was on the golf course, when they were coming, when they were leaving.

Warrington Guardian:

“The primary focus was on safety and we felt that in two-balls (two players) we were able to enhance and make sure that we could put the message across about social distancing.

“The demand was a worry for a lot of golf clubs. But, because we’ve had the tee-booking system, limited the amount of times a member can play in the week, and been able to spread it out over two tees and have only nine holes, it’s meant that there’s been no bottlenecks, no people hanging around on tees, no large gatherings in the golf club.

“It’s been a very lovely flow and I’m really proud of all the work that’s been put in by all staff, the council and members.

“There’s a wonderful joy and a massive respect from golfers to realise that this is a lovely opportunity for them beyond a lot of sports and a lot of things that people can’t do. I’m really proud that they’ve respected that and it makes my job and the staff’s job easier.

Warrington Guardian:

“I have a feeling now that people will start to appreciate a bit more what they have and golf is a bit of that.

“I think the support for our staff, our team and the council has been really quite remarkable and has been a really nice experience during what has been a tough time.

“As long as we keep compounding the guidance, keep the communication with people and be involved with whatever feedback we get back from the golfing bodies and the government, then I’m sure we can maintain that status.”

Club chairman John Monaghan added: “There’s been a huge investment of time and effort.

“It’s been a tremendous challenge because it has been against a background where we haven’t really known what is going to happen from one day to the next.

“There’s a lot of very sad things going on and we’re very fortunate against that background to have the worry that we can’t play golf. So it puts it into perspective.”

Men’s captain Martin Jenkins was thrilled to be among the first to tee-off for the first time in almost two months when the course reopened.

“It was a really great feeling. Everything’s been put in place to ensure safety and the course was immaculate,” he said.

“It was really enjoyable, the weather was nice. We were playing in twos so there were no hold ups. It was superb.

“A lot of work has been done by the competitions committee, by the general manager and by the greens staff . They really have made the course appear safe and I’m sure it is.

“For members, naturally the feeling of the community of the club, the feeling that we are a community within a community is actually quite important. And I think that has probably strengthened during this time.

“I would like to stress how good our staff have been and that our members have really stuck by the rules. It’s been really encouraging from that point of view.”

For women’s section member Judith Brown, who has suffered through a lonely lockdown, the return to golf has provided a welcome opportunity for social interaction.

“I’m eating on my own, I’m being on my own and now I’ve got to play golf on my own,” she originally thought before renewed guidelines permitted playing with someone outside of your household.

“But that’s not the case, so it’s great.

“Golf does matter, it really does matter to me. It is the social side as well, just seeing the girls is lovely, particularly when you’re on your own.”