Andrew Cotter: "I question the rationale behind golf courses being closed"


TG columnist and BBC commentator Andrew Cotter is struggling to understand why golf courses are closed during the latest coronavirus lockdown and believes a "tiresome perception" of the game is to blame.

You catch me, dear reader, at a slightly low ebb. Yes, I realise, such is the way this year has gone, that I might have to readjust my mood-parameters, as my current levels of non-jolliness could realistically now be described merely as ‘standard ebb’.

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But I do feel that I am writing this in dark times. I mean that part-literally as the sun (if we should see it at all) currently sets at about 4.30pm, but mostly because everywhere we look there are things to tip us over the edge.

Andrew Cotter questions the rationale behind keeping golf courses closed.

I am also writing with the shredded nerves of a new author. I had no idea that this business was so stressful – constantly refreshing the best-seller charts, then scrolling down through 14 pages to the lower reaches, where my book about a couple of dogs does battle with a story about a worm with super powers and an out-of-date edition of The Highway Code.

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I am also, because of the deadline imposed by this magazine’s strict but benevolent editor, having to write this before being able to discover the outcome of the momentous event taking place in America – one which will shape the direction of the world and affect millions of lives: Has Rory finally been able to win The Masters?

Usually, at a time of such darkness and stress, golfers would be able to find some distraction by heading to the range or on to the course. Even in grim weather, it is such a beautiful escape to be outdoors – to be able to enjoy losing yourself in something so far from all the troubles elsewhere. Or simply to let it all out – shouting profanities that carry across three fairways after fatting a wedge about 20 yards.

Yet somebody, somewhere, has decided that this isn’t possible, making the decision that golf shouldn’t be allowed at the moment. Somebody employing the odd rationale that  a couple of people can still walk together outdoors and that going for a run or cycle is fine, but they can’t play golf. Extraordinary.

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I’m not quite sure what they think golf is, for as far as I’m aware the sport does not involve close bodily contact. True, I once knew
an assistant pro who used the storm shelters on our course for just such a purpose with the girl who worked behind the bar, but it is perfectly easy to maintain social distancing while doing the other version of playing a round.

TG readers made their feelings clear over England's golf course closures.

Sadly, you can’t help but think that golf is suffering partly because of its image – due to the tiresome perception that it is somehow still a sport of the elite. I’m sure those in government feel that if golf or tennis were allowed and not all sports then there would be some sort of outcry. But that shouldn’t be a reason to prevent hundreds of thousands of people from taking part in an activity which means so much to their physical and mental health.

Life is going to be hard enough over the next few weeks and the seemingly endless dark months of winter. So, if they are safe and cause no danger to ourselves or others in the spread of the coronavirus, let us have our distractions and escapes.

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Otherwise what are the options for a frustrated golfer? Well, not much. There is, I suppose, watching golf – but that has always come a poor second to playing. Besides, December events have never really thrilled me at the best of times. So I think it unlikely that I’m going to get excited about a handful of golfers hoovering up the cash in Florida or the Bahamas now.

Perhaps you could, on your perfectly legal walks or runs, carry a 7-iron and a ball and occasionally stop to work on your shoulder turn. How many shots does it take to turn a permissible stroll into the nefarious pastime of golf? If questioned you could offer the reasonable defence that the item in question is, in fact, your walking stick and that yes, you always go out for a run with one glove on because of circulation issues.

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Or I suppose those with the means could set up a simulator in their home. For the purposes of this article I have just Googled the price of them and it seems that it would only cost you around £23,000 which, for most of us who have had little employment this year, seems a very sound investment and one that would not at all be frowned upon by the rest of the family.

Home golf simulators are an option for bored golfers.

So, in reality, all we can do is wait. We can putt on the carpet, chip a ball or two in the garden and think about when all this is over – just look ahead to brighter, sunnier, different days.

Until then, if you’re stuck at home there’s always the Hero World Challenge to watch. Or, if you like, I can heartily recommend a good book.

RELATED: MPs to debate England's golf course closures today

Part of the BBC commentary team, Andrew Cotter grew up tackling Ayrshire’s links and plays off 3. His new book, Olive, Mabel and Me, is available here. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.

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