Why golf is ready to lead sport’s return in the UK

In Scotland, the birthplace of golf, coronavirus never truly stopped the sport’s heart from beating. In Glasgow, at the council-owned Knightswood Golf Club, three men were seen playing earlier this month despite the course being closed weeks earlier. On the other side of the city, Linn Park has also become a frequent hotspot according to watchful locals. In fact, it’s a pattern that’s been repeated across the country, stretching along the coastline from Fife to Aberdeen, with police even called to intervene. As the late Pete Dye once said: “The ardent golfer would play Mount Everest if somebody put a flagstick on top.”

For those blinded by their devotion, the closure of golf courses has been one of sport’s more reluctant victims of the lockdown. In the US, many have belligerently remained open, convinced its innate individualism and separation are well-tailored to social distancing measures. And in that sense, golf finds itself in a unique position to return long before the lights blink on in shops and people feel safe to fall back into their old routines; although it can feel uncomfortable and insensitive to argue that case while lives are still being altered irreparably by the virus.

But on Wednesday, after the whispers of golf club secretaries plotting routes back leaked into national reports, the R&A released its detailed manifesto for golf’s return, with a target date falling in mid-May. It is the boldest step taken by any sporting body to launch a comeback since the lockdown began. Under the proposed guidelines, players would be able to play in pairs, provided they always maintain a six-foot distance and there is at least 10 minutes separating groups. Clubhouses and practice facilities will remain closed, while the likes of bunker rakes and benches will all disappear from sight.

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