ABC INTERVIEW WITH MARRICKVILLE GOLF CLUB
Golf a ‘reason to get up in the morning’ and keeping Aussies on course amid coronavirus
The coronavirus outbreak has brought most sport to a standstill, but one game is giving some Australians respite from the ongoing uncertainty.
- Golf is exempt from some COVID-19 restrictions in some states, with strict conditions
- At the most personal level, players are only allowed in pairs and must maintain social distancing
- Health experts warn of the “profound impact” of inactivity on the cardiovascular system as a reason to keep exercising
Despite increasing efforts to limit life outside the home, golf has been allowed to continue in most states — as long as clubs adopt strict conditions in keeping their courses open.
The move has been praised by players and medical experts concerned about the potential health risks of social restrictions on older people.
Sydney resident John Parker has been playing at Marrickville Golf Club for 40 years and he has never experienced conditions like those under COVID-19.
Players are restricted to groups of two and must keep 1.5 metres apart at all times.
Carts cannot be shared, hand sanitiser is freely available, and the clubhouse is closed.
Despite the extreme measures, the retiree is thrilled to be out in the fresh air.
“I just love it, it’s a reason to get up early in the morning,” he said.
Golf is one of his last remaining social activities.
He is unable to visit his grandchildren and his outings to the theatre stopped weeks ago.
State-specific golf guidance
- It remains Golf Australia‘s formal recommendation that all golf clubs and facilities should close until further notice
- The latest notice from Queensland Health is that clubs may operate under the exception to the list of non-essential business and activity closure direction
- Tasmania’s Government has set a limit of 2 people per hole on the golf course
- Office of Sport – NSW Government advises golf can continue in line with Public Health Orders relating to public gathering limits, social distancing, and the elderly
- SA Police Commissioners’ office advises that courses are treated no differently to restrictions on public parks and beaches with no more than 10 people congregating and social distancing requirements
- The Victorian Government’s Stage 2 restrictions regarding COVID-19 directs all golf clubs and facilities to close
- The NT Chief Health Officer’s direction is that sporting facilities, indoor and outdoor, are closed to the public, including to customers and members
Correct as at April 7, 2020.
Source: Golf Australia’s COVID-19 information for clubs and golfers, which will be maintained with the latest advice
“[Coronavirus restrictions] have had a big impact on my wife and I,” he said.
“We always went out on a Tuesday night and that’s no longer possible.
“Not being able to see the grandchildren has been one of the biggest impacts, but we talk to them everyday on the phone.”
He said the potential of losing golf would be a difficult blow to many people.
“The elderly and retired generation really look forward to it and it’s devastating if they can’t play,” he said.
For fellow golfer Peter Harrison the game has been a respite from the uncertainty of the world around him.
“It’s definitely a release,” he said.
“Once you’re on the course you switch off from everything else and that just brings you back to where you used to be.”
While most health experts agree that self-isolating is a top priority, researchers are also concerned about the consequences of residents remaining inactive.
Australians suffer from high rates of cardiovascular disease, with factors like being overweight or obese contributing to around 119 deaths from the chronic illness every day.
Dr Erin Howden from the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute said scientists know how quickly the body can deteriorate due to inactivity thanks to the Dallas Bed Rest study.
In 1966, five men young men were confined to bed for three weeks, causing their cardiovascular health to plummet.
Researchers, including Dr Howden, tracked down these participants 30 years later and found that the weeks of bed rest were more damaging to their bodies than decades of ageing.
She said the research highlights the importance of keeping active during this pandemic.
“We are very concerned about the effects of COVID-19 and how this might impact individuals’ cardiovascular health,” she said.
“Golf is one of the lucky sports at the moment allowing people to get out.
“It’s really important to avoid being sedentary as much as possible … so I think it’s a great activity.”
But keeping the courses open has been a balancing act for clubs, according to Marrickville Golf Club president Andrew Tighe.
“We’re trying to do our best to be responsible to the community and to our members, however we are also keen to keep to the course open if we can,” he said.
“We are constantly monitoring the news and we are being very diligent to comply with every directive the government gives.”
Despite some initial confusion and inconsistencies across the country, golf can go ahead in most states except for Victoria and the Northern Territory.
Golf NSW spokesman Graeme Phillipson said it is a challenge every club has had to face.
“There are individual clubs that have chosen to close and that’s their individual decision,” he said.
“While the NSW Government is allowing people to play golf we are encouraging clubs to do so [stay open].”
With the coronavirus restrictions expected to last for months ahead, Mr Parker said he is determined to make the most of his favourite outdoor exercise.
“As long as I’m capable of playing and we’re allowed to play I will still play,” he said.