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A growing golf movement calls on the Ford government reopen Ontario golf courses

ONTARIO’S GOLF COURSES are joining a growing chorus of organizations declaring the Ford government’s latest batch of public health restrictions a total bogey and are calling on the government to allow outdoor golf courses to remain open.

“We are disappointed that the Ontario government made the decision today to close golf courses and driving ranges as of April 17th,” Golf Ontario wrote in a statement released to its members on Friday. “It is clear that they made a broad decision with health and safety as the number-one priority to eliminate any non-essential activities, including removing access to outdoor recreational amenities. … We believe that golf is an important outlet and will continue to make this case with the hope that we are able return to allowing courses to open as soon as possible.”

“Golf can be a humbling and frustrating game, and on Friday it was again,” added Mike Kelly, executive director of Golf Ontario, in a video released on Monday. “Me and the entire golf industry tried incredibly hard to keep golf open.”

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On Friday, in response to still-rising case counts and a healthcare system nearing its breaking point, Ford announced the closure of virtually all outdoor public spaces and sweeping police powers to enforce the order. For golf courses, the timing is particular unfortunate, as many were nearing their opening date (or had already opened) and are now seeing tee-times cancelled in droves.

“It is not just about golf, but soccer fields and tennis courts as well,” Kelly said. “The science is clear, outdoor transmission is very rare, and Ontarians need recreational options like these for their mental and physical wellbeing.”

Medical experts (and civil liberties advocates) have been highly critical of the move, which they point out would seem to push people indoors, where transmission risks are exponentially higher than outdoors, like on a golf course. “It’s actually going to make the problem worse,” Dr. Sumon Chakrabarti told CTV Toronto. “I’ve seen so many Covid patients and all of them have the same story. It is heavy, indoor transmission.”

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Golf courses say they were taken by surprise at being included in the order. “Ontario’s We Are Golf partners have been actively engaged with the Ontario government throughout this process, right up to, and including, this morning. The key message has been that golf is safe and that now, more than ever, safe outdoor recreational options will be critical to ensure the physical and mental well-being of Ontarians,” Golf Ontario wrote to its members. “It takes place in vast outdoor spaces and is played with four people or less. Perhaps no other sport is this well positioned against this terrible virus.”

As well, they point out, 2020 saw no Covid outbreaks linked to golf courses.

“We all share the same feeling of frustration,” Kelly said. “Golf is safe, we all know that. here is no doubt that golf is among the most safe outdoor recreational activities, at a time when it is needed most.” Teed off golf Sports & Recreation Kieran Delamont

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