Green light for return to fairways welcomed by golf clubs in Badenoch and Strathspey
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Golf clubs in the strath have said that their courses are ready to welcome local members after Nicola Sturgeon signalled a return to the game this lunchtime.
The First Minister has indicted that golf courses will be able to re-open from as early as next Thursday if progress continues in suppressing coronavirus.
But there will remain restrictions in place and social distancing rules will need to be strictly adhered to. The specifics of a return to non-contact sports has yet to be spelled out in full.
The First Minister has given an outline of a four phase return from lockdown covering a wide range of sectors including education, business, culture and leisure.
Golf courses in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are already allowed to open.
Clubs across the strath have suffered from a huge loss of income already and they have warned this will not be recouped while visitors cannot play and clubhouses are out of bounds.
But they have welcomed a return to the fairways.
Keith Hunter, vice president of Kingussie Golf Club, said: “Our committee has fully discussed Covid-19 precautions for when we return to some kind of normality, taking our lead from both Scottish Golf and the Scottish Government.
“These precautions will be easily implemented on the course, but it will be the times just before teeing off and after finishing the round that will be more tricky as golfers like to congregate and chat.
“We will have to trust our members to observe social distancing at these times, as well as on the course.
“We have two greenkeepers still working and the course is looking immaculate.
“We will have to juggle our fixture list a bit to make sure the more important club trophies are played for.”
Boat of Garten Golf Club secretary Gordon Hay said their members have been very supportive and more than 90 per cent have now paid their annual subscriptions despite not being able to play this Spring.
He said: "This will allow members to feel that they are getting something for their money.
"No date has been given yet for competitive golf to be played and many clubs like ours will need to re-arrange their fixture card to catch up on the more important club competitions which have already been missed this year.
"Open competitions which bring a great number of visitors to the area and provide clubs with good green fee income will continue to be cancelled until clubhouses are allowed to open.
"Like other clubs Boat Of Garten has been preparing for the re-opening of our course to members and careful consideration has been given to the steps necessary to comply with social distancing regulations.
"The Scottish Government has still to provide guidance on the number of players permitted in a group.
"To date we have furloughed two greenkeepers with just one being left to maintain the course.
"We are very grateful to our head greenkeeper Michael Mann for thetremendous effort he has put in keeping our course at or very close to the high standard our members have become accustomed to.
Heather Bantick, Abernethy Golf Club secretary, said: "Our biggest hardship has been the frustration of not being allowed to play golf on our own or with our household as one of the permitted exercises.
"Financially, we know we are going to have a big deficit this year because our greenkeeper has continued to work full time, a lot of members are struggling financially and we have no visitor income.
"Because we have kept the greenkeeper working, the course is in great condition and we are as ready as we can be to start playing again.
"We have removed all shared course furniture like rakes, flags, ball washers, benches and so on. There are hand sanitisers in place and notices will indicate what members should do."
She added: "Initially, we assume that we will be restricted to members but hope that we will soon have visitors even if restricted to those from Highland region.
"We have not yet cancelled our Opens towards the end of the season but we will be following Scottish Golf guidance in all that we do."
A spokesman for Macdonald Aviemore Resort said they are looking forward to welcoming back players to Spey Valley.
He said: “Our head greenkeeper Dave Braidwood has been working tirelessly to maintain the course during lockdown and we thank him for his efforts.”
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