Liam Harrison missed golf so much that he left his house at 4 a.m. Wednesday to be the first to tee off at his club in Manchester.
The 42-year-old Harrison even believes he was the first golfer to play anywhere in England following the loosening of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions on golf courses and tennis courts.
Harrison helped put cups into three greens on Tuesday as part of his Youtube series on groundskeepers at Chorlton-cum-Hardy Golf Club, where he is a member.
“That got me permission to tee off any time I want,” he said. “This morning I thought I’ll tee off at 5 a.m. and be the first person in the U.K. to play golf after the lockdown.”
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Sunday outlined a “road map” for easing the restrictions while maintaining forms of social distancing.
“It’s quite safe really,” Harrison said before teeing off on the 13th hole in his second round Wednesday. “We’re not daft. Just go about the rules.”
Sports venues were ordered to be closed in March when Britain imposed a lockdown. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can set their own stance on tennis courts and golf courses. Wales is expected to open golf courses on May 18.
The coronavirus has claimed more than 32,000 lives across Britain in a death toll behind only the United States.
Golf and tennis clubs were inundated with calls and emails from members and the public after Johnson’s announcement to begin reopening.
At Kington Golf Club in Herefordshire, officials had hand sanitizers at the 1st and 18th holes, prohibited touching of flags, and set up one-way routes on and off the course.
Wendy Douglas, who oversees women’s tournaments at the club located on the border with Wales, said at least half of their estimated 375 members are retired.
“If we follow the guidelines, we should be absolutely fine,” she said.
The club is 1,280 feet above sea level, Douglas said, which makes for beautiful views, especially from the 8th tee.
“You can see all over Wales and back into England,” she said. “It’s about the highest spot on the course.”
About 75% of members renewed their subscriptions in April, which is lower than previous years but still “quite good” all things considered, Douglas said.
England Golf, the governing body of amateur golf in England, said it’s unclear if pro shops and driving ranges can reopen under the new guidelines.
“We recommend that, where there is any room for doubt, clubs and facilities pursue the simplest and safest option,” the organization, which oversees 1,800 clubs and 630,000 players, said in a statement on its website.
To protect workers, England Golf instructed clubs to stagger work hours and break times and allocate individual machinery like mowers to one worker only. Other measures include regularly disinfecting surfaces such as door handles.
In London, Nancy Pace had booked a tennis court for Wednesday at Will to Win Regent’s Park, but it was canceled because the club needed time to prepare, she said. Instead, she’ll play Friday.
“I also have court time scheduled Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, and I thought about Sunday. But I’m probably going to be sore,” the 46-year-old American said.
“Living indoors is unsustainable for an indefinite period of time,” Pace said. “Right now, this is no way of living. This is just existing.”
Kim Britten, another American, said she misses the camaraderie with her tennis partners, including Pace.
“I’m looking forward,” Britten said, “to the freedom of being on the court.”
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