By Kent Gray
Golfers in Dubai awoke Monday to the exciting prospect of being able to return to their favourite pastime after weeks in lockdown as the emirate continues to cautiously ease  COVID-19 restrictions.

While the sport’s regional governing body, the Emirates Golf Federation, has yet to release an official public communiqué, courses across the Dubai are to reopen under strict health and safety guidelines from today.

Like their counterparts in Abu Dhabi which reopened three weeks ago, clubs will only be opened to members and cardholders with member-like playing privileges at courses under the umbrella of golf management companies.

Golf Digest Middle East understands the EFG notified clubs of the Government go-ahead to re-open at the weekend but urged caution with the UAE still reporting significant numbers of new confirmed coronavirus cases on a daily basis.

Clubs began communicating the development with members on Sunday evening. They outlined stringent health and safety precautions at their respective properties and one went as far as issuing a warning that the Government decree could be quickly rescinded if players did not follow the social distancing guidelines. The Gulf News reported Sunday that the Commercial Compliance and Consumer Protection (CCCP) authority shut down 21 shops, issued warnings to 65 others and imposed penalties to seven retailers for not complying with precautionary measures.

“Any abuse of these guidelines risk affecting the enjoyment for all as we have seen recently with other facilities reopening and not adhering to regulations,” the club said.

As with Abu Dhabi, golfers must pre-book in Dubai and wear masks upon arrival at courses. One club said the use of face masks would then be  “at your discretion once on the golf course”. Temperature checks will be logged on arrival and any player showing any signs of sickness asked to leave the property.

Tee times at many clubs have been stretched to 15-minute intervals with three players maximum per slot and one person per motorised cart to comply with physical distancing best practice. Some clubs are urging players to walk but that will become more difficult as spring temperatures soar across the Middle East.

On course restrictions include raised cups with players not to touch the hole flag, no rakes in bunkers and no shower facilities or locker availability.

So what will golf be like in the new norm that is the COVID era? One player who has been playing in Abu Dhabi summed it up: “It’s one to tell the grandchildren about one day.

“It is funny…three weeks off and you do lose touch and ache like hell after a couple of days as you use muscles again that you have not used in a while. I guess the biggest thing you miss is the 19th hole and banter. You just drive straight home.”