“And on the tee…..”
Wasn’t it fantastic to think about those words again today as golf courses all over England re-opened for play?
The catchphrase of Ivor Robson – the starter at The Open and on the European Tour for many years - would no doubt have been mimicked from Durham to Devon as the first balls were struck (or topped!) after a break of more than seven weeks.
It was a great feeling to wake up this morning knowing that the majority of our golf clubs were ready to take down that dreaded ‘Course Closed’ sign.
My phone has been buzzing with texts from pals thankful that their daily exercise can now involve picking up their sticks again and getting out on the fairways while staying true to the ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ message. The jokes have started, the sledging won’t be far behind!
It might be the weekend before I can get back on my course at Marlborough, but I know from speaking to my chairman that there is a buzz about golf being back.
Whether it’s going out with a member of your household or meeting up with a pal again, being able to play social golf will undoubtedly lift the mood of our golfing community.
The hours since lockdown easing was announced - allowing golf to be one of the first sports to return - have been truly hectic.
I’d like to acknowledge the amazing work that has been going on in the background to prepare for golf’s comeback.
In challenging times, greenkeepers deserve a medal for the work they have put in to tend our courses and make sure that with just 48 hours’ notice they were ready for play.
General Managers, our Pros, committee members, all other golf club staff and volunteers have been through the mill and their Herculean efforts in trying to keep clubs afloat and communicating with members cannot be overlooked.
To all of you I say - great job and thank you!!
The reality now, of course, is that there is more hard work on the horizon.
The financial issues raised by temporary business closure during the pandemic also means that there are tough times ahead for all clubs.
We are not out of the woods on this one. Rest assured England Golf will do all we can to support our clubs in the weeks and months ahead.
The threat from COVID-19 is also still very real and there is a huge onus on all of us to make sure we 'Stay Alert' and don’t become complacent.
Our 'Play Safe, Stay Safe' message has resonated with golfers over the past few weeks and it’s crucial that everyone continues to act responsibly.
Health remains the priority and we cannot take our eye off the ball and put strain back on the NHS and frontline workers who deserve our support and backing now more than ever.
The media interest in golf’s return has been huge. As such, we all have an opportunity to shine a light on our game and let others see what a wonderful sport it is – and one we will never take for granted.
There are many challenges ahead, but today is a day to be celebrated and enjoyed.
Today, more than any other, it really is the taking part that counts.
Chief Executive, England Golf