A closed golf course in Australia.
A closed golf course in Australia. (Photo by David Gray/Getty Images)
  • The government has warned golfers they could be imprisoned if they are found playing the game on residential golf estates.
  • Industry body GolfRSA now advised all golf courses to remain closed, if only to not jeopardise a chance for the entire industry to reopen, soon.
  • Rumours abound that golf will be explicitly unbanned soon – though it isn't clear that the game is actually illegal under Alert Level 3 anyway.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Residential golf estates have been warned to keep players off their courses or see them arrested – even thought it is not entirely clear that golfing itself is illegal under current rules, and while the entire sport is expected to be explicitly unbanned soon.

In a letter on Friday, and since confirmed by player representative body GolfRSA, the department of sport, arts, and culture said golf estates must be told to "desist from resuming any golf activities" until the government has published rules under which golf may be played again.

"Whilst we fully understand the impact that the pandemic is having on your code of sport and the sporting sector as a whole, we must, however be reminded, that the safety and protection of human life at this time is of paramount importance," wrote the department's director-general, Vusumusi Mkhize.

In response, GolfRSA issued a strongly-worded statement on Monday – telling golf estates to cut it out.

"The actions of these estates and facilities has potentially put the reopening of the entire golf industry at risk," the organisation said about those allowing play at their courses.

At least two golf courses received visits from police in recent days.

But it is not clear that golfing, as such, is actually illegal to begin with.

"Exercise is legal, so if you sling a golf bag over your shoulder and go for a run, you're fine, right?" said one legal expert peripherally involved in discussions with the government. "Are you going to go to a judge and say 'ja, but then he took out a golf ball and hit it, and that is when it became a crime'?"

In its letter of demand, the department of sport said golf is illegal because of a general ban on gatherings, and a ban on members of the public entering places where sporting activities take place. Neither the letter, nor current regulations, seem to address cases where club members – or golf estate residents – play individually or in household groups.

Further adding to the confusion, rumours abound that golf (and other non-contact sporting codes) will be explicitly unbanned in the very near future, to the extent that GolfRSA published a statement on Friday – apparently before receiving the reprimand about golf estates – saying a decision on timing had been made.

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