Lee Westwood, the European No 1, wants the Government to “see sense” and allow golf courses to reopen during the current lockdown after the way was cleared for fishing and shooting to return.
After urgent representations from the Angling Trust over fears of an “absurd” ban in England but not in Scotland or Wales, and pressure from the British Association of Shooting and Conservation, the Government on Thursday agreed to formally recognise the sports as an acceptable form of outdoor exercise.
But geographical differences continue to plague other pursuits such as tennis and golf, two outdoors sports shut down in England but which can continue in small groups in Scotland.
A petition to allow golf courses to open during the third national lockdown passed 100,000 signatures on Thursday, meaning that parliament will consider it for debate.
“I signed the petition and I look forward to the Government seeing sense,” said Westwood. “I’m ok, because I’m classed as an elite athlete, so can carry on playing.
“I’m thinking about others. Take my mum. Playing golf is one of the few times during all this that she has had any social interaction. She’s petrified to go out otherwise. Why deny her and so many others something that is basically risk-free and is positive in every sense?”
Although there was no direct mention of fishing, the initial lockdown guidance stated that you could leave your house for exercise but not for the purpose of outdoor recreation or leisure.
The Government, having considered the benefits of fishing on individual health and wellbeing, decided that it will now be permitted, albeit stressing participants adhere to the rules on staying local, social distancing and limiting the time spent outdoors.
Westwood wants the same considerations given to golf. “It’s quite right that fishing is being allowed again, my dad is a massive fisherman and is delighted,” he added. “It’s good for him and I can only hope this means that golf will also get the green light to resume.
“The arguments have been made and proven about how easy it is to practice social distancing in a round of golf and about all the health benefits it brings, both mentally and physically. It is counter-production to health concerns, – especially the health of old people – to keep the golf courses shut any longer.”
England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson echoed Westwood, saying the sport was hopeful of being able to convince the Government to “at the very least to bring golf back sooner, rather than later.”
“It’s often said ‘golf is a good walk spoiled’ – of course, I don’t agree with the sentiment of the phrase, but when you boil it down golf really is a sporting version of a walk in the countryside,” he said.
“If you reopened golf courses to allow the community of two million golfers in England to have that as a safe option for exercise, then I think that could be a huge positive in the fight against the physical and mental health issues posed by lockdown.”
The Lawn Tennis Association declined to make any comparison with fishing on Thursday night, but they have set up an online petition which will look to emulate the success of the golfing equivalent, while also encouraging active players to write to their local MP, outlining the positive impact that tennis has on them and their community.