Cabinet minister apologises for getting golf and tennis lockdown rules wrong

Golf courses will remain shut for a month

Golf courses will remain shut for a month - Credit: PA

Golf and tennis enthusiasts have had hopes dashed that the sports they participate in could be exempt from the forthcoming lockdown.

There has been plenty of lobbying by both sports that playing singles tennis or two-ball golf would be easy to keep social distancing requirements, as well as provide exercise and well-being.

And hopes were raised further last night as Michael Gove, The Chancellor of Duchy of Lancaster, suggested people may be able to play on golf courses and outdoor tennis courts.

Speaking on an interactive Facebook Q&A with Surrey Residents Network, Mr Gove, who is MP for Surrey Heath, responded to a question about the likelihood to continue to play tennis during lockdown by saying,”the key thing here is you will probably be able to continue playing singles tennis.

“At the moment the guidance that we have is that if people are appropriately socially distanced they can take exercise with one other person.

Fynn Valley director, Jenny Holmes

Fynn Valley director, Jenny Holmes - Credit: Archant

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“Golf clubs, clubhouses will have to be closed but we are looking at allowing people to play on golf courses with one other appropriately distanced. I think the same would apply to tennis.”

However, today Mr Gove retracted his comments.

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In a tweet this morning Mr Gove said: “My apologies, I got this wrong.

“Outdoor leisure facilities including tennis courts and golf courses will be closed from Thursday.”

Campaigners for the two sports argued that while they fully understood golf clubs and tennis clubs to shut, playing the sports as singles or two-balls was little different than going for a jog with one other person around the park.

One local golf enthusiast tweeted: “So, I can walk round a municipal golf course with a mate, all 18 holes, but I can’t hit a ball!”

The official government guidance on the new restrictions states that among venues to be ordered to close are “indoor and outdoor leisure facilities such as bowling alleys, leisure centres and gyms, sports facilities including swimming pools, golf courses and driving ranges, dance studios, stables and riding centres, soft play facilities, climbing walls and climbing centres, archery and shooting ranges, water and theme parks.”

Earlier, Jenny Holmes, director of golf at Fynn Valley, near Ipswich commented: “If the Government are happy for people to socially distance and still get exercise, that nails it for me - golf is perfect.”

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