Golfers returned the fairways of local golf courses this week for the first time since the lockdown was imposed two months ago. The re-opening of courses, which was announced on Monday, is among the first steps in easing the lockdown restrictions and has been welcomed by club members throughout Fermanagh and the surrounding areas.

Courses have been busy putting in place protocols which must be adhered by players and these include maintaining two metre social distancing at all times, a maximum of a three ball permitted and the name of anybody playing must being recorded on the time-sheet.

On the course, flag-sticks must not be removed while any balls in a bunker must be removed and dropped and the sand smoothed over with your foot as no rakes are allowed. Cups will also be adopted to prevent the total dropping of a ball.

Blacklion Golf Club opened up on Monday in line with regulations set by the government in the Republic of Ireland while Enniskillen Golf Club were back up and running yesterday (Wednesday) morning and Secretary Barbara Thompson says that there has been a strong interest from members to get back out on the course.

“It’s been really busy. As soon as we set the booking line it has just hasn’t stopped from then on in. Everybody is just looking forward to getting out and hitting a few balls,” she explained.

And she says that they have worked hard to make sure that everything was in place for golf to return on Wednesday morning.

We are all prepared and ready. We have everything in place, we have gone down through the protocol and made sure that we have met all the requirements.

“We have signs up around the course and there will be somebody on the gate to make sure that you are on the time-sheet and not just turning up while the head greenkeeper has been back for two weeks and with the help of the greens convenor and some volunteers we have the course looking just brilliant,” she added.

However, the secretary acknowledges that golf is very much in the spotlight and that protocols must be adhered to.

“The GUI are very aware that golf is one of the first to make this jump into playing again so the eyes are going to be on it and if the protocols aren’t adhered to and there are breaches they will retract the ability to go out so we all have to do what we can.”

Barbara also believes that getting out on the course will help to relieve the stress of the last couple of months.

“People have been cooped up so long that they will just be dying to get out in the fresh air and on to the golf course.

“I think people just want to get out and hit a few balls and shake off the stress of the last number of weeks.”

Over at the Lough Erne Resort, home of the Castle Hume and Faldo courses, they were getting ready to open the gates this morning (Thursday) for members to get back on the course.

“We want to make sure that everything is in adherence with the guidelines set out by the GUI and the government and the fact that we have the two courses to set up on a 600 acre peninsula, we are just making sure that everything is ready to rock for Thursday morning. There is a lot of organisation with protocols but the main objective is to ensure the wellbeing of staff and members,” said Lough Erne Golf Operations Manager Barry McCauley.

And he says there is great excitement among members who are eager to get back into the swing following a two month hiatus.

“There is a big excitement, the time-sheet for Castle Hume is fully booked tomorrow from 8am to 6pm and the Faldo Course is 80 per cent booked already for the same times while the weekend is also really busy so the demand is there and it is exciting times for the golfers to get back on the course,” he added.

Barry also urged members though to heed the protocols that are in place.

“I suppose the game of golf is very much in the spotlight with it being one of the first sports reintroduced across Northern Ireland and it is vital therefore that the rules and regulations be adhered to so that we can ensure a nice long summer of golf because the authorities have made it clear that were guidelines not adhered to then they would have no hesitation in closing the game of golf.”

The finishing touches were being put in place yesterday (Wednesday) for the opening of the courses and McCauley was full of praise for the work of the greenkeepers who have the course in immaculate shape for re-opening.

“In fairness to Sean and his greenkeeping, they have two courses to take care of with a smaller team than usual but they have done a really good job.

“The course have been maintained really well, the greens are in good condition and the fairways are like carpet.

“Everyone is just now looking forward to getting out to play,” he said.