Golf’s European Tour will resume in July and run through to the end of 2020 after the season was suspended in early March following the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the game’s adherence to health and safety measures, all tournaments will abide by testing protocols laid out in the Tour’s Health Strategy which will evolve in line with international Government guidance.
As many as 24 tournaments could be played within the shortened season, with the first six-week set of tournaments dubbed the ‘UK Swing’. The Betfred British Masters, to be played at Close House, Newcastle, will be the first of the six UK tournaments, followed by the English Open and the English Championship tournaments. The Celtic Classic and the Wales Open will both be held at The Celtic Manor Resort in Newport before the UK Swing ends with the UK Championship at The Belfry.
During a conference call with the media, European Tour Chief Executive Keith Pelley expressed confidence in the Tour’s ability to organise tournaments despite the potential for reduced revenue due to the coronavirus crisis. He acknowledged that while the Tour had been affected, a lot of fiscal responsibility was exercised in response to the pandemic. According to Pelley, playing multiple tournaments in a single country will reduce travel while ensuring players compete in safe environments. To emphasise this, he noted the UK Swing would have no media present, and a maximum of 500 people would be allowed on site.
Pelley also noted that subsequent events after the UK Swing would be announced later, especially since the global status of the coronavirus played a crucial role in determining the scheduling. However, even with the uncertainty, rescheduled dates have been released for four Rolex Series events. The Aberdeen Standard Investments Scottish Open will be held from the 8th to the 11th of October, while the BMW PGA Championship will be played from the 15th to the 18th of October. The dates for the year’s final two tournaments, the Nedbank Golf Challenge and the DP World Tour Championship were also announced (to be played from the 3rd to the 6th of December and the 10th to the 13th of December, respectively).
The European Tour’s Health Strategy, developed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Andrew Murray, will govern how the tournaments are played for the remainder of the season. The strategy has been developed together with Cignpost, who will be responsible for the testing procedures carried out on players and staff.
Players will be required to take COVID-19 tests before they leave their home countries, be tested before playing in a tournament, and take regular checks for symptoms. According to the Tour’s Chief Executive, undertaking these tests has necessitated hiring more staff and incurring testing expenses, all of which are necessary for the resumption. One thing Pelley hoped the Tour would be able to accommodate again was fans, most of whom would have to follow the events from home.
Part of the Health Strategy calls for the introduction of a ‘Golf for Good’ initiative, starting with the UK Swing, that aims to promote the health benefits of golf, reward front line workers involved in the fight against the coronavirus, and support the communities where European Tour events will be played. After the first six events, £500,000 from the Tour will be equally distributed to charities local to event venues and charities selected by the top ten players based on a mini Order of Merit that will categorise players across the six events.
As golf resumes, enthusiasts and players such as Kevin Neal will have to make do with a few changes to their favourite sport. For starters, many venues will likely insist on players pre-booking their tee times, arriving shortly before the start and leaving as soon as play is done. Potential areas where touching objects can happen, such as swapping scorecards or moving flagsticks, will be prohibited. Additionally, golf courses will likely fill holes with devices such as foam to make it easier for players to pick the ball without coming into contact with the playing surface.