Letter from GolfRSA and PGA to minister of sport - There is hope!

 22 April 2020
Mr Mthethwa

Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture.

Dear Minister,
GolfRSA as the appointed Federation for golf in South Africa, has been working closely with the Professional Golfers Association of South Africa and the Club Management Association of Southern Africa prior to and during the lock down. The three bodies are responsible for governing golf and the management of golf facilities in South Africa.
As with most industries in South Africa, the lockdown has had a debilitating economic effect on the majority of golf clubs throughout the country. For this reason, the Club Management Association of Southern Africa conducted a survey of its members to ascertain the level of strain these clubs are currently under.
A very succinct summary of the impact the lockdown has had and will have on the golf club industry is as follows:
• Golf clubs throughout South Africa employ approximately 20 000 permanent employees.
• 83% of all Clubs that participated in the above-mentioned survey, indicated that they would be able to pay full salaries to their permanent employees during the initial 3-week lockdown.
• Only 34% will be able to pay full salaries to their permanent employees if the lockdown is extended to a 6-week period.
• A somewhat more distressing concern, is that more than one third of golf clubs in South Africa will commence with the retrenchment of personnel, should they be deprived of income for a period of 6 weeks or longer.
• In addition to permanent employees, there are a large number of workers who are not formally employed by clubs but who have no other source of income. These include caddies, casual waitrons, and other staff that golf clubs hire from time to time. The exact number of these vulnerable workers is between 12 000 and 18 000.
• Insofar as persons not formally employed by Clubs, but who nevertheless have no other source of income i.e. caddies and other casual and temporary workers, more than 80% of clubs made arrangements to take care of these individuals during the lockdown. However, only 14% of clubs indicated that they will be able to continue to look after this vulnerable segment of workers should the lockdown be extended beyond 6 weeks.
• The most distressing indicator from the survey is that 31% of clubs do not believe their clubs will survive a 6-week and longer lock-down period.
Golf as a recreational activity allows for, and encourages, social distancing for the following reasons:
• Golf is played in what is called “four-balls” i.e. no more than 4 people play together at any one time.
• The nature of the game, which is played over an area that is on average 40 hectares, is such that nobody has to be within 5 meters of each other whilst playing.
• As physical outdoors exercise it is ideal, as a normal round of golf takes between 4 and 5 hours during which time an area of 8 to 10 km’s is covered.
• It is internationally recognised as the best recreational activity for persons over the age of 35.
• According to our shared research with global PGAs and Club Management Associations, every country in the world that encourages social distancing as a definitive measure to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus, allows golf courses to remain open under certain strict conditions. This is done to provide a safe recreational activity in addition to, walking, and running.
We recognise and understand that the safety of staff and the customer/golfer is of the utmost importance going forward and will enhance on the strict measures that were implemented by golf facilities prior to the lock down and during the lock down. A minimal care and maintenance program were implemented by golf facilities as afforded within regulation 11(b)3 of the disaster management act.
To ensure the activity of playing golf in no way could compromise the efforts to limit the effect of the Covid-19 virus on our communities we propose the following measures and conditions. These are all directed at social distancing and therefore the safety of both patrons and employees. It is also noted that no clubhouse activities i.e. bar, halfway house, restaurants, be allowed until such time as all restrictions applicable to restaurants and public bars are lifted.
• All employees, including caddies to be trained prior to engaging with any golfer on Covid-19 and the importance of social distancing, hygiene, etc, both in the workplace as well as at home.
• Golf Operations and maintenance staff to work rotational hours to deliver a basic payment service and monitoring of the course environment.
• Upon arrival at work all employees to be tested for elevated temperatures and any employee that may be sick, will be sent home. Golf facilities will also ensure that sick leave policies are flexible and consistent with public health guidance and that employees are aware of these policies. Any employees that are showing symptoms, or those that have been in recent contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, are not being allowed to work and asked to contact their doctor immediately.
• All facilities to provide disposable disinfectant wipes so that commonly used surfaces such as doorknobs, keyboards, timeclocks, tools machinery steering wheel and touch surfaces to be wiped down by employees before and after each use. Plenty of hand soap or hand sanitizer is being made available. Employees are being encouraged to wash their hands frequently if possible, the use of hand rubbing 70% alcohol solution is suggested or washing of hands with soap – for at least 20 seconds each time – and avoid touching their faces. Toilets and sinks should be disinfected after use – every time. A designated person to be assigned and be responsible for the cleaning of change rooms, toilets etc.
• Staff members to be issued with Personal Protection Equipment – wearing of masks, at all times is compulsory. A spray bottle with sanitizer is to be given to all staff to spray down surfaces, machinery and equipment before and after having contact and/or use.
• Golf clubs to offer a “one-tee start” only.
• Tee time intervals between four-balls to be limited to a minimum of 10-minutes.
• The effect of the above two measures will be that there are no congregation of people golfers and/or staff at any time during the day.
• Upon arrival at the golf course, all members/visitors/golfers to be tested for elevated temperatures through recommended non-invasive measures. Any person with an elevated temperature will be denied access to the golf club.
• Walking during playing will be encouraged rather than carting.
• Golf clubs to facilitate minimum employment of caddies by golfers to ensure social distancing between golfers whilst on the golf course.
• All golfers and employees will have to submit to a temperature scan when entering the facility.
• Golfers will be obliged to wear face masks when in 5-meter proximity of each other.
• Basic toilet facilities will be provided and duly cleaned every few hours as required. All locker room facilities will remain closed.
• Flagsticks will be regularly sanitised and other options such as the raising of the cup will be proposed to ensure no unnecessary touching of the flagstick or golf hole.
• Frequent cleaning and sanitising of high touch areas of golf carts and/or making hand sanitiser/wipes available in carts.
• Spacing of golf carts in the applicable area an appropriate distance apart to encourage social-distancing of 1.5 metres or more.
• Only one person per golf cart.
• All bunker rakes must be removed
• All water fountains and ball-washers will be closed and covered.
For the reasons above, together with the implementation of the proposed rules, we wish to request that golf clubs throughout South Africa be permitted to open for the purpose of playing golf only as of 1 May 2020.
Signed jointly on this 22nd day of April 2020 by:
Grant Hepburn Chris van der Merwe Ivano Ficalbi
Chief Executive Officer Chairperson Chief Executive Officer
GolfRSA CMASA PGA of South Africa