Following the rapidly-escalating situation regarding a return to full national lockdown restrictions for England, which followed on the heels of similar restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) has sought clarification regarding the level of course maintenance work that is able to take place on golf courses and other facilities.
BIGGA has reviewed the UK Government guidance and liaised with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf and The R&A and can confirm there will be no limitations placed on maintenance activities able to be undertaken by the greenkeeping teams at golf facilities, driving ranges and other venues where golf and shorter forms of the game take place.
While golf courses in Scotland are able to remain open, golf courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are closed. Taking place primarily outdoors with limited opportunities for cross-contamination, greenkeeping teams have adapted well to ensure staff stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff at all facilities should continue to be aware of social distancing requirements and ensure any activities are undertaken in a manner that minimises interaction with others.
Golf clubs may choose to take advantage of the extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which is expected to run until at least April 2021, and BIGGA is asking facilities to consider the mental health and wellbeing of all staff, both those who have been under significant pressure to work with reduced staff levels for an extended period and those who have been asked to remain at home. Rotation of staff may be deemed appropriate, as is enabling all team members to take part in professional development opportunities, such as BIGGA's Continue to Learn online education programme that is taking place during January 2021.
BIGGA is also appealing to the operators of golf clubs to use common sense when assigning tasks to the greenkeeping team and reminds club managers of their responsibility to provide a COVID-safe working environment for all members of the team.
BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton said: "With widespread vaccinations taking place across the country, our hope is that this is the final hurdle and golf courses will take the opportunity presented by reduced playing levels to prepare their courses for what we hope will be a busy and prosperous summer season out on the fairways. In the meantime, the focus must be on safety and not putting anyone at risk. Course managers should have an awareness of what work is considered a priority during this period of the year and advise senior management as to these requirements, adjusting staffing levels to suit the needs of the golf facility and to ensure the continuing safety of the entire team."
BIGGA will continue to monitor this situation and provide addition guidance as appropriate.