IT FELL upon the captain, Mick McGarry, to launch what felt a seminal swing of a golf club this morning in Ballyliffin.
McGarry, the Ballyliffin Golf Club captain, led a three-ball group on the Glashedy Links at 8.30am as golf returned following the easing of the Covid-19 lockdown measures.
Picture: A general overhead view of Ballyliffin Golf Club. Picture by Stephen McCarthy (Sportsfile)
Across Donegal, hundreds of golfers returned to the tee boxes of the county’s golf courses this morning.
Restrictions that remain in place mean that courses are operating at just over half their capacity at any given time, while bars and restaurants remain shut and clubhouse access in confined for toilet access.
The greying skies overhead meant little this morning as eager golfers took aim.
“It’s a long time since people saw rain, but it’s been longer since they saw golf,” John Farren, the General Manager of Ballyliffin Golf Club, told Donegal Daily/Donegal Sport Hub.
“We were busy enough today, but not overrun by any means.”
Three-ball groups started at 14-minute intervals and the two courses – The Glashedy Links and The Old Links – meant that Ballyliffin, the host venue of the 2018 Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, was able to cope with relative ease.
“They were cautious first steps,” Farren says, “but hopefully it things go well, and if today is a reflection they should, we will step-by-step return to normal.
“People were delighted to get out and get a game after seven or eight weeks of hibernation. We have restricted our opening hours and the 5k restriction still means limited numbers.
“Our greens staff and office staff have been very busy since the lockdown. We have been flat out getting the courses ready and getting the procedures in place to realistically allow for a return.
“People have been more than happy to work within the new protocol. We have to supervise the social distancing and enable contact tracing so there is additional staffing requirements with the restricted opening, but people are just delighted to get a chance to get out and play again.”
It was a similar tale at Donegal Golf Club in Murvagh, where Sales and Digital Marketing Officer Sean Martin says the day ran ‘smoothly’.
“We had a lot of eager locals up playing today, each one with a smile on their face as they checked in with our starter,” Martin says.
“The day ran smoothly from our perspective as everyone who played today kept full compliance with the regulations in place and kept their distance from each other too. It was great to be back.”
Portsalon Golf Club PRO Enda McElhinney complimented the work of Johnny Shields and the greens team during lockdown.
“The course is in excellent shape,” McElhinney said.
“Unlike the returning golfers, the greens staff will be content to see some rain falling this afternoon.”
Portsalon reported a ‘quiet enough day’, but he added: “Members who played were very happy to see the course open after eight weeks of shutdown.
“It’s going to be another couple of months at least before the club can get back to operating close to normality, but its good to have the process started.”
A full time sheet was in operation at North West Golf Club in Lisfannon. The early risers who straddled the waters of Lough Swilly enjoyed kinder conditions.
“It was just great to see people back in,” says past captain and North West Golf Club trustee Donal Dunn.
“The course is absolutely lovely and the rest, I think, actually helped the course. We had a full time sheet today and the golfers all stuck by the new rules.
“We have additional signage up and there is gel located through the course for players. Most people actually brought their own stuff.
“The day worked out much better than we imagined. We were worried that people mightn’t adhere to things, but they all did. It went as well as we could have expected.”
Only full paid up members can book a place on the time sheet and Dunn added: “Hopefully now things can move on if today is anything to go by.
“People have been in their homes and not fit to come out at all during lockdown. It has been a long few weeks for them and people were just been glad to get a chance to come out again.”Tags: