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Guidance Updated 23 September 2020 – Updates highlighted in blue
This framework forms a part of our ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ support and
guidance for golfers, clubs and counties. All frameworks can be accessed through
our website – www.englandgolf.org
Any guidance may be re-issued as government measures to combat COVID-19
are updated in the future.
A FRAMEWORK FOR PLAYING GOLF
England Golf has been working closely with partners from across the sport,
including The R&A, Home Nations, PGA and other industry associations to draw
together a framework under which golf be safely enjoyed.
There are many different types of golf clubs and golf facilities, requiring safe
procedures to be finalised and implemented locally. However, the fundamentals
are the same throughout the sport, which has a good record of compliance with
rules and procedures.
These procedures include all aspects of the golfing experience. The over-riding
consideration throughout must be to ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’.
While each club/facility will need to adapt its procedures to ensure compliance
with government restrictions, the following aspects of the golfer experience,
divided into the five following categories, will need to be considered

  1. Course Set-up
  2. Before the Round
  3. During the Round
  4. After the Round
  5. Competitions and Rules of Golf
    Clubs/facilities should adhere to the guidelines provided. These have been
    published to assist clubs/facilities in providing as safe an environment as they
    can. Failure to follow this guidance may leave clubs/facilities open to
    enforcement action from local authorities and/or Police, or subject to
    disciplinary procedures from England Golf.
    Additional restrictions are in place in some parts of the country, which may
    supersede those in this document and should be followed. Click here for
    details of local restrictions.
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  6. Course Set-up
    On-Course Items
    • All rakes and ball-retrievers to be removed. Players may bring their own
    personal rakes and retrievers, which should only be handled by that
    player and taken away at the end of their round
    • Ball washers and drinking fountains to be covered up
    • Open-top bins may be used on course, provided that measures are taken
    to sanitise the bin and to ensure players do not touch the bin or its
    contents
    • All other removable items to be removed, except that stakes defining
    areas of the course can be treated as immovable obstructions
    Hole and Flagstick
    • Flagsticks can be retained but it is strongly recommended that a sign is
    put on the flagstick stating that it is not to be touched
    • A method of inserting the hole liner to be used that means all of the ball
    does not fall below the surface of the putting green and can be easily
    retrieved by handling the ball only
    Practice Areas and Lessons
    • Practice areas, including driving ranges and practice nets, may be
    opened if safe sanitising practices can be guaranteed
    • Indoor practice areas and swing studios may also be opened if
    appropriate risk management and sanitising practices can be guaranteed
    • Lessons, including group lessons, may take place providing government
    guidelines are followed and appropriate sanitisation is guaranteed
    ▪ Junior group lessons classified as ‘Out-of-School-Settings’ are
    covered by government guidance – click here to access this
    guidance
    ▪ Adult group lesson sizes are covered by the government’s general
    advice on social groupings – click here to access this guidance
  7. Before the Round
    Bookings
    • Clubs/facilities to organise a system of booking and allocation of tee
    times that ensures the safety of staff and golfers
    • The maximum number of golfers in a group per tee time to be confirmed
    by the club/facility and must be in accordance with any government
    requirements
    • A minimum 10-minute interval is advised between tee times, but clubs
    may use shorter intervals, provided that they can demonstrate that this
    is safe and ensures appropriate social distancing
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    Arrival and Waiting to Play
    • Clubhouse bar and catering facilities may be open
    • From Monday 14 September it is illegal for gatherings of more than six
    people to take place either indoor or outdoor, except for limited
    exceptions – click here for more detail
    • Clubs/ facilities have a legal obligation to collect details of all members
    and visitors entering the clubhouse for track and trace. These details
    must be stored, in compliance with GDPR, for 21 days.
    • From Thursday 24 September clubs/ facilities must also display an official
    NHS QR Code poster so that visitors can ‘check-in’ as an alternative to
    providing their contact details. Click here for more detail and to create a
    QR Code.
    • Locker rooms may be open for storage of golf clubs in allocated personal
    lockers. Players should still arrive changed for play and refrain from
    showering or changing in locker rooms
    • Toilets and wash-hand basins in locker rooms may remain in use
    • Face coverings must be worn by staff, golfers and visitors in all public
    indoor areas of the club/ facility, as well as in Pro’s Shops. Coverings
    may only be removed when seated in bar and restaurant areas. There
    are some exemptions to wearing face coverings including children
    under the age of 11 and those with certain disabilities. Clubs should
    refer to government guidance to ensure compliance.
    • Clubs/facilities to communicate in advance with golfers to advise on
    social distancing requirements that are being applied on arrival at the
    club/facility
    • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place to ensure social distancing
    requirements in the area of the professional’s shop or starter’s building in
    advance of golfers teeing off
    • It is a decision for facility managers whether or not they hire out
    equipment. Where they are hired, individuals can use trollies. These
    should not be shared. Two members of the same household may share
    buggies but otherwise they should be used by individuals only.
    Facilities should follow sensible precautions and clean equipment after
    every use
    • Clubs/facilities to have procedures in place for the practice putting green,
    for example giving priority of use to the players in the next group due to
    tee off
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  8. During the Round
    Guidance and reminders should be provided by clubs/facilities to golfers to
    ensure that they maintain appropriate social distancing during the round.
    Teeing Areas
    • Remind golfers to maintain appropriate social distancing at teeing areas
    due to the normal close proximity of golfers to one another when tee
    shots are being played
    General
    • Remind golfers to maintain appropriate social distancing when walking to
    the ball, searching for a ball and playing shots
    • Remind golfers not to touch stray balls
    Bunkers
    • With no rakes allowed on the course, remind golfers to make their very
    best efforts to smooth the sand using their club and/or their feet
    Putting Green
    • Remind golfers to maintain appropriate social distancing on the putting
    greens and not to touch the flagstick
    Caddies
    • Caddies may be used, provided group sizes do not exceed those specified
    by government
    • Where used, caddies should only provide guidance to players and should
    not handle clubs
    • Appropriate social distancing and sanitising should be maintained by
    players and caddies at all times
    • Competition organising committees should consider whether to permit
    caddies during competition play
  9. After the Round
    • Bar and catering facilities within clubhouses are now permitted to open.
    Social distancing remains important at all times. Clubs must provide a
    safe and sanitised indoor environment in line with government guidelines
    • Clubhouses must close by 10.00pm and not open before 5.00am
    • Food and beverage must be provided as table service. Take-aways may
    also be served for consumption off the premises
    • Clubs/ facilities should also remind all members and visitors of the need
    to adhere to government guidelines – from Monday 14 September it is
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    illegal for gatherings of more than six people to take place either indoor
    or outdoor, except for limited exceptions – click here for more detail
  10. Competitions and Rules of Golf
    Clubs may choose to run competitions provided all social distancing and safety
    rules are strictly observed. Gatherings of people must be avoided at all times,
    including for registration or for presentations.
    It is the responsibility of the host club to ensure that all relevant guidelines are
    followed and that a safe environment is provided for all players. Failure to do so
    may leave the club liable for enforcement action.
    Registration Process
    • Where Open competitions take place, Organising Committees must put in
    place a registration process to capture full contact details of all players in
    case of the need to track and trace following a confirmed case of COVID19.
    Foursomes and Greensomes formats
    • Each partner should use their own golf ball, which is only handled by
    that player. For example, the player teeing off from hole 1 is the only
    player that touches the ball from teeing off through to completion of the
    hole. The partner teeing off from hole 2 does likewise with their ball.
    Under the Rules of Golf, a partner is permitted to drop the side’s ball in
    taking relief. It is also permissible to drop another ball when taking
    relief.
    • When marking and replacing the ball on the putting green this should
    be conducted by the partner the ball belongs to. Under this situation (or
    any other where the ball must be replaced) the original ball must be
    used and must not be substituted by another ball.
    Handicapping Provisions
    To enable some of the changes to the way the game is played, CONGU
    (Handicap Authority) has issued some temporary adjustments to the playing of
    scores for handicap purposes, which may differ from the temporary changes to
    the rules of golf. Some of these are outlined below.
    Note: Consult the relevant handicapping authority on whether scores using
    any of the provisions below are acceptable for handicapping purposes – click
    here to access CONGU guidance
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    Forms of Play and Scoring
    • If competitive stroke play is played, a method of scoring needs to be
    used that does not require any exchanging of scorecards
    • Committees may choose to allow methods of scoring in stroke play that
    do not strictly comply with Rule 3.3b, or do not comply with the normal
    methods used under Rule 3.3b. For example
    • Players may enter their own hole scores on the scorecard (it is
    not necessary for a marker to do it)
    • It is not necessary to have a marker physically certify the
    player’s hole scores, but some form of verbal certification
    should take place
    • It is not necessary to physically return a scorecard to the
    Committee provided the Committee can accept the scores in
    another way
    • As provided in the Rules of Golf, scorecards can be electronic, which
    could include emailing or texting scores to the Committee.
    • Further Guidance on this has now been provided by CONGU – click here
    to access the guidance
    Bunkers
    • The distance for preferred lies in the bunker is limited to 6 inches and the
    area cannot be smoothed before placing.
    Flagstick
    • Golfers are required to leave the flagstick in the hole at all times and not
    to touch it. It is a matter for the Committee to decide whether it
    establishes this policy by way of a Code of Conduct or Local Rule, and
    whether it provides a penalty under the Code of Conduct or for a breach of
    the Local Rule
    • As a temporary provision, flagsticks can be used for the purpose of player
    safety which do not meet the specifications in Part 8 of the Equipment
    Rules
    • Allow players to centre the flagstick in a safe manner which does not involve
    using the hand, even when wearing a glove or using a towel (for example,
    by using a club). The centring of the flagstick may be allowed while another
    player putts (this may be desirable in windy conditions when the flagstick is
    required to be left in the hole and is leaning towards the player making the
    stroke).
    Hole and Holed
    • The hole liner (sometimes referred to as the hole ‘cup’) is to be set in a
    way that means that all of the ball cannot be below the surface of the
    putting green, so the ball is considered holed if any part of it is below the
    surface of the putting green