Golf is back! With England's golf courses reopening on Monday (March 29) after another lengthy Coronavirus clourse, we bring you key tips to play well, enjoy yourself and stay safe during your first rounds back in these Covid-19 times...
Clearly it will be a while before golf (and life) as we used to know it resumes, but the reopening of England's golf courses as Boris Johnson and the Government continue their 'roadmap' out of the latest lockdown is a great start.
Alastair Sinclair, CEO of PlayMoreGolf, the UK's biggest golf membership operator, welcomed the news of England's courses reopening.
“For thousands of golfers in England, this news comes as a relief and a renewed sense of optimism towards a new normal," he said.
"The last 12 months have been physically, emotionally and mentally draining for everyone and we hope that golf’s return can undo some of the negative mental health impacts.
“2021 is an important year for Golf, as a sport and leisure activity, to appeal to a wider audience. How as an industry we present ourselves to the consumer is crucial not just to attract new but retaining current golfers to the sport.”
We want you enjoy your first rounds back and keep safe so we've pulled together a host of tips and advice to ensure you get the most out of your rusty game and follow all of the Covid-19 rules.
Always book your tee times
Firstly (and we hope you've all done this already), make sure you book your tee-times. It sounds obvious, we know, but there’s going to be a mad rush for those precious times and clubs won't be allowing people to just turn up and play.
Understandably England's golf clubs will also be prioritising their members as the courses reopen with visitors numbers likely to be restricted for a while. So, if there’s a certain course on your ‘must play’ list, then it’s crucial to make your enquiry asap... or befriend a member!
Clean your golf clubs!
Give your golf clubs a good spring clean and check, especially if you didn't do it after your final pre-lockdown round. Pay particular to the grooves and grips – if both are those aren’t clean and up to scratch, there’s every chance your comeback round won’t be either. You'll be amazed just how much of a difference dirty grooves can make and the last thing you want is your driver slipping out of your hands as you hit your opening shot!
Give your golf shoes a refresh
While you don't want your clubs slipping out of your hands, you definitely don't want your feet slipping from under you! Check your shoes, and ensure they’re not only clean but, if you wear spiked shoes, that none of the cleats need replacing. It's only March so the courses will still be pretty damp under foot.
RELATED: Best Spikeless Golf Shoes 2021
Stock your golf bag
Check your bag to make sure you’ve got everything you need – glove, balls, tees, pitchmark repairer, ball marker, hand sanitiser, tissues etc. Pro shops aren’t due to open until April 12 so there's no point in arriving at the course hoping to stock up before your round.
Many pro shops and retailers are offering click and collect services so, if you are short of balls or your glove is looking a bit tattered, you should be able to order what you need online or over the phone and then pick it up.
And, even if you're feeling confident, be sure to take a few more balls than normal... no-one wants there first round back to end after 8 holes because they've stuck their only sleeve OB.
Remember your putter!
Ok, this is just a reminder for ourselves, but after the last lockdown we arrived at the course full of excitement for our round only to realise that we'd left our putter in dining room, next to the putting mat we'd been using to keep our game 'sharp'.
Chances are you'll all have been getting your golfing fixes in the same way since January, so just make sure you pop it back in your bag and don't end up putting with a wedge for 18 holes. It isn't that much fun... trust us.
RELATED: Best Putters
Get charged up
If you use an electric trolley then the chances are that it's been sitting in the garage without a moment's throught for months. Make sure your battery is fully charged and test it before you head to the course - you don't want to be pushing an electric trolley through the final few holes of your first (or any) round.
And if you're a push trolley user then give it a quick unfold and fold at home, just to ensure nothing has seized up through the cold months. Speaking of which...
RELATED: Best Electric Trolleys
Prepare your body
A typical golf course involves a 6.6-mile and often undulating walk so if, like us, you've spent large parts of lockdown bingeing on boxsets and biscuits then your first round back will probably prove a bit of a test for the bones and muscles.
Try to take a couple of decent walks in the days before your first round to loosen yourself up. Which leads us nicely on to our next tip...
Fuel yourself well
Check if your golf course will be operating a takeaway food and drinks service. If not, make sure you take plenty to drink and eat throughout your round. Water, nuts, homemade flapjacks and protein based snacks are all ideal choices.
RELATED: How to solve slow play
Find out your new handicap
Ok, realistically very few players will play anywhere near to their handicap in the first few rounds back, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't know what it is and understand the new system.
The new World Handicap System has been in place for almost five months now, but the pandemic means that many of us haven't got to grips with it yet. Head across to our dedicated WHS page to find out exactly what it means and what your new handicap is before your season gets underway.
Get in some last-minute home practice
The range has been shut since the turn of the year but that doesn't mean you can't improve your game from home and ensure it's in great shape for your first few rounds back. Top coach Adrian Fryer shares all of his best home golf practice tips, here, and you can give your grip a quick check-up, here.
We've also enlisted the help of YouTube sensations Me And My Golf to share their best tee-to-green tips to help you get game back on track quickly. Watch them all here.
If that's not enough, Rory McIlroy's new coach Pete Cowen shares his secrets, here; Renowned putting coach Phil Kenyon helps you save six shots, here; Lee Westwood shows you how to think smarter, here; Tour sports psychologist Karl Morris explains how you can avoid making a bad start to your first round, here.
And just because the facilities are reopening, that doesn't mean we couldn't all benefit from doing a bit more practice. And for that you'll need one of our Best Golf Practice Nets.
RELATED: Best Putting Mats
Warm-up for your round
Yes, we've all made a mad dash for the first tee and hit our opening driver without so much as a stretch, but this is not the time to do it.
Unless you've been lucky enough to have a decent home practice set-up or simulator then you won't have swung a club properly in months and, regardless what some people may say, golf is an athletic sport for which the body needs to be prepared. Try to go hell for leather off the first tee without getting your muscles warm and you could find yourself missing another few months of golf with an injury.
If you have time then head to the range and work your way through a proper routine, moving through your clubs gradually, focusing on getting loose and stretching your body ready for the round. Not only will it ensure you're warm enough for that first tee shot, it'll prove less daunting knowing you've hit some on the range beforehand.
If you don't have time for such a thorough warm up then at least be sure to stretch properly!
RELATED: Best Home Golf Simulators
Set realistic expectations
Be realistic. You haven’t teed it up or even had a proper practice session for ages so don’t go pretending you’re the new Bryson DeChambeau or expect to play to your handicap straight away! Lower your expectations, set a clear strategy and don't worry about your score.
Just enjoy it!
If you hit a bad shot or make a huge score, who cares? You haven't had the opportunity to hit a bad shot this year so just have fun and remember how you've felt during all those long days when playing hasn't been an option. You're with your mates, you're out in the fresh air and you're doing something you love... a shank or two along the way should not spoil that.
Share your pictures and experiences with us
Despite the UK’s successful vaccine roll-out programme, the pandemic is still far from over so you need to follow the rules when you return to the golf course or practice facilities.
RELATED: The Foolproof Guide To Breaking 90
England's golf courses reopening is just one of several steps towards the sport's full return from the Coronavirus lockdown in the country. Here's a full rundown of the 'roadmap' for golf's full return, Government data allowing.
Golf courses reopen with pre-booked fourball play permitted. Takeaway food and drink only. Outdoor practice facilities can re-open and coaching sessions may resume on a one-to-one basis or in groups of up to six with appropriate measures in place.
Golf clubhouses and hospitality venues will be allowed to reopen, serving food and beverages outside under the rule of six. Outdoor social areas can be used again and pro shops can reopen their doors.
Locker rooms and changing facilities will become available while self-catering breaks will also be permitted with your own household, meaning some golf breaks could be allowed. Indoor coaching facilities will also reopen to individual users for one-to-one sessions.
Golf hotels and resorts can reopen with golf clubhouses and restaurants allowed to welcome you back inside for food and drinks.
Six people from a maximum of two households will be allowed to dine and drink together. Indoor coaching can be extended to six people while the number of people allowed to gather outdoors will increase to 30.
All remaining facilities can reopen with no limits on numbers or social distancing. There will be a review on the use of course rakes, divot boxes and ball washers along with the removal of flagsticks and the exchange of scorecards.
All larger events, such as The Open at Royal St George's, set to be allowed to go ahead with crowds, although specific numbers are yet to be confirmed.