| 7.7°C Dublin

'Like Christmas' - golfers celebrate happy return to sport they missed

Close

Conor McKeon at the Hermitage Golf Club with brother Sean and dad Gay. Photo: Frank McGrath

Conor McKeon at the Hermitage Golf Club with brother Sean and dad Gay. Photo: Frank McGrath

Conor McKeon at the Hermitage Golf Club with brother Sean and dad Gay. Photo: Frank McGrath

Golfers and tennis players flocked to their clubs as the first phase of reopening some public sports facilities got under way yesterday.

At the Deer Park Golf Club in Howth, it was " a very happy day" as members took to the greens for the first time since the lockdown, according to the club's head PGA golf pro Alan Staunton.

While the club was operating at about 75pc capacity yesterday, with a strict members-only and social-distancing policy, the phone was ringing off the hook with people looking to book tee times, Mr Staunton told the Herald.

For members who managed to book a slot, the reopening of the club was a joyous occasion, he added.

Crazy

"It was like Christmas. It was crazy," he said.

Meanwhile, people have been discouraged from having picnics at nature trails and beaches, as a senior government official warned that discipline must be maintained in the face of the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

In the first significant relaxation, four people from different households are now allowed to meet up outside.

Outdoor spaces where people can move freely and maintain two-metre social distancing, such as mountain walks and beaches and their car parks, have been reopened.

Public sports facilities such as pitches, tennis courts and golf courses can also be opened, but again physical distancing must be practised.

Department of the Taoi- seach assistant secretary general Liz Canavan said yesterday that the Government still advised people to stay at home as much as possible to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

However, exercise within 5km of an individual's home is allowed.

"It is critical in this that you continue to observe social distancing while exercising," she said.

"If you're visiting a public amenity, try not to stay too long at the site or have picnics. Please do your exercise and then go home."

She said the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had set up an expert group to look at how other sports can begin again in later phases of the Government's roadmap.

"As we ease restrictions, it's really important that we are disciplined in keeping to the measures specified. Our ability to move through the phases will depend on sticking with it," she said.

"Many of these habits will have to become the norm for us for some time. Now more than ever it's vital to practise the good hygiene measures.

"These are washing hands regularly and thoroughly, good cough and sneeze etiquette and observing the social-distancing measures.

"If you are sick, you must stay at home and self-isolate and do it immediately, don't put it off."

Face coverings are now recommended on public transport and in enclosed indoor public areas such as shops.

Ms Canavan said details on how to make and wear coverings are available at gov.ie.