The Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey, has presented the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Oliver Dowden MP, with a detailed paper making clear that golf can be played safely in line with Covid-restrictions.
The paper, available on the Group’s website, has also been sent direct to the Secretary of State for Health, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Sports Minister and the Chairman of the Digital, Media and Sport Select Committee. Members of Parliament in the Group representing Northern Irish, Scottish and Welsh constituencies will present the paper to ministers in national governments.
Compiled from the work of industry bodies involved in the All-Party Parliamentary Group, and building on the operational experience established by clubs and facilities throughout the UK, the paper demonstrates that golf has established COVID-secure practices including rule changes and other mitigation measures that meet the Hands, Face, Space directive.
While the meeting comes after the Prime Minister’s announcement that golf will be allowed to return after the end of the national lockdown in England, the paper highlights that the sport functions in total compliance with these tiered COVID Alert Levels, and it delivers physical activity and mental wellbeing within the Rule of Six.
After the meeting, Tracey said: “I am grateful to the Secretary of State for taking the time to meet with me today and hear the evidence that golf is a sport that can be played safely during Covid. He recognises the incredibly hard work of golf bodies throughout the UK to ensure this is the case, as well as the outstanding conduct of staff and players involved in the sport in their compliance with government guidance.
“As the paper makes clear, an estimated 20 million rounds of golf took place between June and September, and academic opinion from advisors to the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) indicate that any level of community transmission attributed to playing golf is likely to be extremely low. This is to be expected; not only does golf provide greater social distancing than the likes of walking, running, or cycling in urban settings, those who play do so with enhanced hygiene and social distancing measures implemented and monitored by golf clubs and facilities.
“Armed with the paper, I was able to make clear that in lockdown conditions and at lower COVID-19 alert levels, golf can be played safely within the Rule of Six and without restriction on number of households.
“I was very pleased to be able to present this to the Secretary of State, and additionally make the case that that with the well-documented health benefits of playing golf, not only should it be allowed to continue during any future restrictions, the UK and other governments should recognise its importance in supporting people’s physical and mental wellbeing and that ministers and officials should speak to industry bodies about how the sport can be made more accessible to people now, when they need it most.”
Oliver Dowden, Culture Secretary, said: “Due to the head room we got from the difficult national restrictions in November, we can now ensure grassroots sport can reopen across all three Tiers. I know the great benefits playing golf and being part of a community club brings, which is why, working with the APPG for Golf, we ensured they would be front of the queue to be reopened. Golf is a fantastic sport with millions playing and watching every week, myself included.”
Golfers around Wales will be able to enjoy the first Club Finals Weekend next year, with several of the traditional tournaments being wrapped into one event.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant those events were cancelled in 2020, but also saw lessons learned which have contributed to planning ahead for their hopeful return in 2021.
“We are planning an inaugural club finals weekend at Mold in September next year, which is a great chance to add to the profile and make them more of an occasion for players, supporters and clubs next year,” explained Wales Golf Championships Manager David Wilson.
“We have looked at what happened this year, including some of the contingency plans we put in place to try and run the tournaments, and decided we can put those ideas together with tradition to come up with a better result. Having a weekend for some of our club finals will give those players the feeling they are at a big event, the chance to mix and hopefully provide a real incentive for them to play in their club competitions to qualify for the finals.
“The mix of events will include club players who have won through, ladies and men, seniors and juniors. We think that mix will give the weekend a special feel and become a highlight of club golf in Wales.
“We are grateful to Mold for becoming the first hosts of this event. It is a quality venue to introduce this new concept for Wales Golf.”
The competitions which will be played at Mold on September 9-12 are the Centenary Greensomes. The Welsh Senior Greensomes, The Australian Spoons, the Ping Mixed Challenge, the Victory Shield and also the finals of the Ping Welsh Junior Tour.
The Centenary Greensomes is a ladies club qualifier with the winning pair at each club going through to the finals, the Senior Greensomes is the same format for players over the age of 55.
The Australian Spoons is a ladies foursomes competition, again starting with a club qualifier. The usual regional finals will not happen next year, with ongoing uncertainty about COVID-19 restrictions, so pairs will go straight through to finals.
The Ping Mixed Challenge and Victory Shield are long-established club team events. They are both foursomes events in which club pairs win through to the finals. The Ping Mixed is for men and ladies with an appropriate handicap, the Victory Shield is for men and no handicap is applied.
The Victory Shield moving to September in 2021 will allow more time for knockout rounds in these uncertain times.
The Ping Welsh Junior Tour is an established event which is held at several courses round Wales, with junior players qualifying for a finals weekend. It is an event which has grown every year until, unfortunately, it had to be cancelled this summer.
Former women’s world No.1 Annika Sorenstam has been elected president of the International Golf Federation Board following current incumbent Peter Dawson’s decision not to seek re-election following a 10-year spell in the role.
Sorenstam’s appointment was announced at a virtual meeting held by the IGF yesterday (December 2), which primarily focused on long-term strategic planning and progress toward next summer’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Sorenstam will begin her term in office on January 1, 2021.
Outgoing president Peter Dawson, who has been in post since 2010, during which time golf was readmitted to the Olympic Games, said: “It has been a great pleasure and privilege to serve as IGF President. Golf’s reinstatement to the Olympic programme was a landmark for our sport and it was a true thrill to witness our return at Rio 2016. Our Olympic status has been a strong catalyst for increasing cooperation and coordination between the major organisations in golf and has significantly strengthened the bonds between the IGF and our National Federations.”
He added: “My thanks go to so many people in golf and in the Olympic family for their support over the past 10 years. Their help and goodwill have been invaluable. I wish my successor, Annika Sorenstam, every success. The IGF could not be in better hands.”
IGF Board Chairman Jay Monahan, Commissioner of the PGA Tour, commended Dawson for his decade of service with the IGF.
“On behalf of the IGF Board, I want to extend our sincere gratitude to Peter for the outstanding job he has done over the past decade on behalf of the IGF, including helping to assure golf’s highly successful return to the Olympic Games,” said Monahan. “Peter has had a distinguished career dedicated to the growth of golf and the IGF has been fortunate to have him as such a strong advocate.
“With Peter’s impending departure, we are thrilled to have someone as accomplished and universally respected as Annika Sorenstam to move into the role as IGF President. As a generational talent in women’s golf, Annika played a prominent role in golf’s successful Olympic bid by serving as a Global Ambassador with Jack Nicklaus and since retiring from competition, has been dedicated to promoting women’s golf at all levels through her foundation. She is the ideal person to succeed Peter in this role.”
Sorenstam said: “Peter did a great job the last 10 years as IGF President and I am humbled and honored to have been asked to succeed him. As an international player, having golf back in the Olympics means so much to me and to our sport. I very much look forward to working with the Board, the IOC and the governing bodies of golf in their efforts to continue to grow the game globally.”
In addition to naming Sorenstam as the new IGF President, the Board appointed PGA TOUR executive Ty Votaw to another term as IGF Vice President.
During the virtual meeting, the IGF Board was addressed by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach on the status of the Olympic movement and then followed by IOC Sports Director Kit McConnell, who provided updates and answered questions regarding preparations for Tokyo.
The overarching message was one of determination and confidence that the Olympic competition will proceed as scheduled with particular focus on health, safety and the simplification and reduction of the complexity of the Games. The Board expressed support and a shared commitment to deliver the golf competition with safety for the athletes and all involved a top priority.
Sportscar manufacturer Porsche has reaffirmed its commitment to world-class golf with a three-year extension of the title sponsorship of the Porsche European Open, with Paul Casey set to defend his title next year at Green Eagle Golf Courses from June 3-6, 2021.
Porsche became title sponsors of the European Open in 2015 when it returned to the European Tour International Schedule after a five-year hiatus and the event has been held on the Porsche Nord Course at Green Eagle Golf Courses, located on the outskirts of Hamburg, since 2017.
Last year, Casey claimed his 14th European Tour title, his first in five years, as he finished one stroke ahead of Germany’s Bernd Ritthammer, Matthias Schwab of Austria and Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre.
TThe Englishman made no secret of his desire to win the event, having volunteered at the tournament as a child in the 1980s when it was staged at Walton Heath. “It was an incredible feeling after winning this prestigious tournament,” said Casey. “My heroes are all engraved on the Porsche European Open trophy. It was one of the best experiences with the fans and it makes it all the more pleasing that I can be a part of this important tournament in 2021.”
He addd: “The Porsche European Open stands for the very best in golf and for thrilling experiences – in equal measure for the fans and the competing world class golfers,” said Detlev von Platen, member of the Executive Board responsible for Sales and Marketing at Porsche AG. “We want to continue to offer golf lovers the outstanding sports event in the future. Hamburg is the ideal place as the northern German city has a long golfing tradition and is the home of many fans of the Porsche brand.”
After a successful partnership with the European Tour in 2019, U.COM Event will take on the role as promotor of the Porsche European Open from 2021.
“Taking over the Porsche European Open is something that is dear to our heart,” said Dirk Glittenberg, CEO of U.COMEvent. “We love golf and it’s a part of our lives. We want to help its continued development in Germany and at the same time create new event experiences reaching out beyond the competitive side of the game. Together with our partners, we would like to enthral existing and new golf and event fans and in doing so make this wonderful sport more accessible and above all present it in a more entertaining way.
“Sport events today are more than just a place where top athletes meet. They are major societal events that enthuse people in a wide variety of ways. It has all, especially in 2020, been sorely missed. In the belief the general conditions will be better in 2021, we are looking forward all the more to three fantastic Porsche European Open years.”
Keith Waters, Chief Operating Officer of the European Tour, said: “We are delighted to have a brand and a product which reflects excellence make a long-term commitment to the sport where they continue to enhance the quality of the tournament.
“The Porsche European Open will continue to grow at Green Eagle under the new guidance of U.COM, who have an excellent track record of promoting sports events across the World and especially in Germany.”
Trafford Golf Centre has expanded its team of PGA Professional coaches in order to cope with increasing demand at its academy.
As the golf boom continues, the popular Manchester-based facility has taken on three new PGA-registered professionals, taking the coaching staff up to a team of 11.
PGA-qualified golf coach Jamie Forshaw joins from Worsley Golf Club, while Matt Phillips and Calum Heyes-Smith have joined as PGA registered trainees.
Having already been part of the Trafford Golf Centre team for three years, Matt and Calum are known to many of the regular customers at the driving range and will become fully qualified in 2023. Both are excited to start offering coaching sessions in the popular junior and adult group sessions, which gives golfers a great value option to learn how to play.
Pete Styles, Director of Golf at Trafford Golf Centre, said: “As a Senior PGA teaching professional and part of The Academy, it is fantastic to see the team growing and we’re so pleased to welcome Jamie, Matt and Calum to the team. This year has certainly been a year of mixed emotions – we have experienced so many highs and lows as a venue, but we’re pleased to be growing and reporting positive numbers.”
Having delivered 14,000 individual and group lesson in the last 12 months, covering all aspects of the game, the PGA professionals at the centre coach all levels from beginners all the way through to experienced golfers. Following temporary closure during the second UK lockdown 2.0 in November, Trafford Golf Centre and Dino Falls Adventure Golf will re-open on December 2.
Styles added: “To further support the growth of the team, the teaching studios are being relocated to a quieter area of the range, while £30,000 is being invested in upgraded and new technical equipment. The analysis software has been upgraded to Gasp Lab 7, and the cameras used have also been upgraded to industry-leading models. We pride ourselves on being the north’s centre of excellence for golf improvement and will continue to upgrade and improve for our customers.”
Trafford Golf Centre is continuing to defy the slide in visitor attraction numbers due to Covid-19, hitting over nine million golf balls since the re-opening in May 2020 – including 73,000 in one day, the record number of balls hit at the TraffordCity venue to date.
Now featuring TopTracer and Power Tee in all 53 bays, Trafford Golf Centre boldly names itself the best practice facility in the UK. Featuring an exact replica of the most iconic par three hole in the world, the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, Trafford Golf Centre also boasts a dedicated short game practice area, featuring the best Huxley synthetic turf.
Featuring a licensed Café & Bar proudly serving Starbucks, six target greens spread over 300 yards and the largest American Golf retail store in the north, Trafford Golf Centre is like Disney World for any golfer – as quoted by Vice Chairman of Battle Back and past Invictus Games Captain, Bernie Broad.
Trafford Golf Centre is also home to Manchester’s most popular 36-hole adventure golf course, Dino Falls Adventure Golf. For more information, visit: www.traffordgolfcentre.co.uk
Martin Gilbert, one of Scotland’s best-known business figures, is set to become the chair of Scottish Golf, the national governing body of the sport in Scotland.
The Scottish Golf board has announced that Gilbert, who has actively supported golf in Scotland for over 20 years, will be presented as chair-elect at the AGM in March 2021, when Eleanor Cannon will step down after a six-year term as chair.
Gilbert has been a prominent supporter of golf in Scotland for many years, firstly through Aberdeen Asset Management and latterly Aberdeen Standard Investments. Via his businesses he has also sponsored several leading Scottish golfers, including Open Championship winner Paul Lawrie, Women’s Open winner Catriona Matthew and recent European Tour winner Robert MacIntyre.
Eleanor Cannon said: “This is a tremendous coup for golf in Scotland and the entire board is delighted that Martin, whose passion and support for the sport are very widely known, has agreed to take on this role next year.
“His achievements, both in business globally and in his role as the biggest supporter of Scottish Golf over the past two decades, speak for themselves and I am sure his dynamic approach will allow Scottish Golf to flourish. I am extremely pleased that our members and our sport will benefit from Martin’s guidance and undoubted love for golf in the years ahead.”
Gilbert said: “As many people know, golf has been a lifelong passion of mine and I’m hugely excited to be taking up this role in the Home of Golf. I commend Eleanor and her team for their sterling leadership of the new, amalgamated body since its inception in 2015.
“The strategic direction that has been adopted by Scottish Golf is bold and exciting. I am very much looking forward to progressing this strategy and working closely with the board, the team and the membership in continuing to develop the game, at all levels, in Scotland.”