The announcement of opening of golf courses has given sports in Uganda a sudden spike in the route to resume following the blow by the coronavirus pandemic. Sport in the country was suspended on March 18 by President Yoweri Museveni as one of the restrictions to stop the spread of the deadly virus.
On Wednesday, golf clubs Entebbe and Lake Victoria Serena Golf Resort in Kigo announced they would be officially opening up to their members for activity with guidance from Uganda Golf Union (UGU) who have made consultations with government.
“We are in adherence with government’s statutory instruments,” UGU president Moses Matsiko said yesterday. “Our case has always been very simple that golf is a social distancing game.
“We presented our SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) for golf and there was no objection from the Ministry of Health (MoH) and Covid-19 Security Committee but we are waiting for a formal response very soon,” he added.
Ministry speaks out
However, MoH insists that golf does not have the greenlight yet. “SOPs have to be approved before we give them a go ahead,” Health ministry spokesperson Emmanuel Ainebyoona said.
“If they have submitted their request with suggested SOPs, then the Ministry will need to look at it, assess, once they are suitable, and then we can approve them and give a formal response,” added Ainebyoona.
It is on the basis of interactions with MoH and the Security Committee on the Covid-19 National Task Force that UGU executive wrote a letter to all clubs in the country on guidance to resume activity on Tuesday.
“As we engage, our case in summary has been as follows: That golf is a totally non-contact recreational outdoor exercise played in a hygienic environment under natural breeze and sunshine that increases vitamin D in the body,” read part of the letter.
“This has been shown to help against Covid-19 infection. That golf is an aerobic exercise and non-congested air that expands the lungs and improves lung functioning and thus preventing lung infections. That golf is good for physical and mental health and naturally a social distancing discipline played by teams not exceeding four players with not less than two meters apart from one another. And with each one using their own equipment and balls from start to finish.”
However, according to Museveni’s last address on June 1 about easing lockdown still has sport suspended and National Council of Sports (NCS) had set up a committee to prepare SOPs for the fraternity to resume activity.
Recreational not competitive
So why does golf tee-off ahead of the rest? “Golf is planning to resume, yes, but what golf?” Matsiko explains.
“What we are preparing to resume is outdoor recreational exercise golf. It means all tournaments are still suspended, there is no prize giving or 19th hole,” he said.
“The purpose of our letter was to answer questions that came from members in line with the government’s statutory instruments on the pandemic. Every stakeholder must know that the SOPs are clearly known, understood and 100 percent adhered to,” he added.
UGU’s SOPs are captured in three phases; before, during and after a round.
These include having players do a 2-ball or 3-ball format, restaurants and bathrooms at club houses shall remain closed to ensure that there is no congestion and one can only play on a pre-booked arrangement or an app.
Others include; no crowds at tee-boxes, players must be two meters apart on the greens, flagsticks to be retained but not to be touched when a ball rolls into the hole, it does not fall below the surface of the putting green. Serena Kigo and Entebbe clubs have too issued more SOPs in line with those of UGU and government on social distancing, hand sanitization and wearing of masks.
“We are good to go,” stated Entebbe Club captain Edwin Tumusiime after their SOPs were passed on Wednesday. They include; no caddies on course, gloves to be worn by all club staff and ball spotters handling shared items like course equipment, scorecards and receipts.
Activity at Kigo may a take while though even if they released a modest rate card for rounds.
“For now the only hole completely unplayable is Hole No.18 as we have started with reconstruction on this hole,” said Serena golf director Theodor van Rooyen.
“We are planning to do work on Hole No.7 and Hole No.8 as well but we have come up with a revised routing for players to still play 18 holes without being disturbed by the construction,” added van Rooyen. And players particularly the professionals who rely on the sport can’t wait to stretch out again.
Yet, golf may be doing everything in the right manner but they seem to be way ahead of father figure NCS, who are preparing a document with SOPs to assist all disciplines resume.
“I am not aware of that,” NCS chairman Donald Rukare said of golf’s developments to resume.
“Get information from the golf union, I am not aware of that development,” NCS general secretary Dr. Patrick Ogwel didn’t differ.
“I note the last Presidential directive still suspended sports indefinitely and other social activities. This is still in force,” added Ogwel.
This paper understands NCS categorised disciplines for anti-Covid-19 mitigation measures into low, medium and high risk depending on the level of contact. Golf is considered a low risk discipline, so are others like chess, darts, lawn tennis and even cricket.
“If golf resumes, it also builds the case for cricket to resume because it is a non-contact sport,” opined Uganda Cricket Association (UCA) CEO Martin Ondeko.
If golf’s lobbying falls through, they might have to wait until the latest lockdown extension ends on June 22.
Dr George William Galiwango (chairman), Dr. Nana Nakiddu (UOC medical head), Cecilia Anyakoit (NCS technical), Beatrice Ayikoru (VP UOC & UAF GS), Moses Baryamujura Matsiko (UGU head), Nasser Sserunjogi (Fuba head), Ganzi Mugula (UOC), Joshua Cheptegei (athlete), Jamil Ssewanyana (Namboole Stadium), Isma Lule (StarTimes), Ismail Dhakaba Kigongo (NCS ) and Ivan Mugowa (NCS).