Is It Safe For Greenkeepers To Work During The Coronavirus Lockdown?

Courses in the UK are now closed so does that mean that greenkeepers are not allowed to work? It is still slightly unclear...

Course managers
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

Courses in the UK are now closed so does that mean that greenkeepers are not allowed to work? It is still slightly unclear...

Is It Safe For Greenkeepers To Work During The Coronavirus Lockdown?

After Boris Johnson's demand for people to stay indoors for three weeks due to Coronavirus outbreak, golf's national unions told clubs and courses to close.

The government advice was for people to only leave their house to go to work, buy food or medicine, or to exercise once per day.

Initially this made some believe that golf was still open due to the fact that it is exercise, but then on the other hand it is unnecessary travel getting to-and-from the course.

Related: How social media reacted to UK golf courses closing

The R&A backed the national union decisions to close all courses immediately.

But with the courses closed, what does this mean for greenkeepers?

BIGGA, the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, were informed by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) that they can still go to work for security and essential maintenance reasons.

“For security and essential maintenance reasons greens staff can still attend work," the brief statement said.

BIGGA is trying to clear up what exactly that means, as does maintaining the golf course count as essential maintenance when there won't be any golfers playing for at least three weeks?

We are in an unprecedented time and health, of course, has to come before everything.

Here's how BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton reacted to the news:

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Mine and most peoples' guesses probably are that essential maintenance includes maintaining the golf course, as I can't even imagine what an unattended golf course looks like after three weeks and how long it would take that to get back to a playable condition, therefore costing clubs much-needed money.

Currently it sounds as if clubs are either suspending their greens staff whilst we're on lockdown, keeping them separate in pod systems or allowing them to continue their jobs under safe practices.

My own club's greenkeepers didn't go to work today but are returning tomorrow in a pod system.

We'll wait for more clarification and will perhaps see a universal system put in place with greenkeeping teams across the country over the next few days.

"England Golf have put guidelines out that allow us to work as long as we maintain safe practices," Chipstead Golf Club Course Manager Sam Bethel replied to us.

"Some are having none in, some are reducing staff levels, some have split their teams up.

"All about being sensible and whether you can be safe on your journey to/from work too."

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BIGGA is stresing "that our members’ health and that of their families come first."

We must be very thankful to our hardworking greens staff who are currently facing unprecedented and unimaginable times after what has been a dark and difficult winter in the UK.

We'll surely hear more over the coming days.

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Elliott Heath
Senior Staff Writer

Elliott Heath is our Senior Staff Writer and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016. He graduated in Sports Journalism in 2016 and currently manages the Golf Monthly news, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. Elliott has interviewed some huge names in the golf world including Sergio Garcia, Thomas Bjorn, Bernd Wiesberger and Scotty Cameron as well as a number of professionals on the DP World and PGA Tours. He has also covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as three Open Championships including at Carnoustie in 2018 when he was inside the ropes with Tiger Woods. He has played 31 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Old Head and Alwoodley. He currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 4-6. His golfing highlight is making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, and he has made one hole-in-one.

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Honma TR20

3 wood: TaylorMade SIM2 Max

2 iron: Mizuno MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi

Irons: Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x