When, leafing through your golfing manual, you reach the chapter on driving off the tee, you may well find tips on “maximising your distance”. The phrase recognises the desire of most golfers to hit their ball further up the fairway. But it has gained a new connotation in this time of social avoidance – keeping a good distance between you and your fellow-players as you slug your way together round the course.

Golf is unique as a ball sport in its capacity to be played both solo and socially at a distance. Players carry and use their own trolleys, clubs and balls. The swing of a club naturally deters fellow-players from standing too close. These days even the flagstick, under modern rules introduced coincidentally last year to speed play, stays in when you putt. 

Course at Sedlescombe – now closed
PICTURE: Sedlescombe Golf & Country Club

No surprise then that the local courses at Beauport Park and Sedlescombe, which were just emerging from sometimes unplayable conditions of flood and mud after the exceptional rainfall of this winter, were planning to stay open for members and casual visitors alike despite the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sedlescombe Golf and Country Club, under new owners Phil and Leigh Copolo since last November, had already embarked on an ambitious upgrading of the club’s hospitality facilities.  A new terrace has been laid in front of the clubhouse that was more or less ready now for outdoor dining. The clubhouse itself was shut to members from last Friday evening, but it was planned to continue providing food and drink from a takeaway service while the opportunity was taken to proceed with full internal refurbishment. The course and driving range would remain open, along with the ancillary hotel.

Recently arrived operations manager Jacques Gous, formerly head pro at the Weald of Kent club in Headcorn, was upbeat, despite the reduced numbers of vehicles in the car park and some cancellations (“mostly re-schedulings”, he says) of hotel and residential golf school bookings. The club was retaining its six ground staff and 14 other employees. With the weather at last improving, the course would surely attract increasing clientele in the next few months despite the lockdown elsewhere.

Up the road at Beauport Park, Roger Hyder, managing director of the club there, was also determined to keep its course and driving range open. With very limited membership the course has had little footfall over the winter and therefore, he said, suffered relatively small damage from the wet weather, with the greens staying “in good nick”. 

To get golfers back out on it, he was offering an effective two-for-one green fee price from now until the end of April. Midweek, two players would be charged £15 together for nine holes; £25 for 18; at weekends £18 for nine holes and £30 for 18. 

Now suddenly all that enthusiasm, those embryonic plans for reviving local golf in 2020, have been dashed. Mr Johnson’s blunt imposition of universal house arrest on Monday night puts golf, like every other sport, out of bounds. Social distance? Not far enough, apparently.

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