Coronavirus: NZ Golf confirms strict guidelines for Level 3 return to play

The Government's decision to downgrade the COVID-19 alert level from next week was a heartening sign of progress for most of the country, but few are smiling wider than New Zealand's significant population of avid golfers.

Under Sport NZ's direction, golf clubs nationwide will re-open for business on April 28, albeit with strict guidelines imposed.

Those guidelines are expected to be announced during the Government's daily coronavirus briefing at 1pm Wednesday.

Restrictions aside, NZ Golf chief executive Dean Murphy says it's a huge step forward for the industry.

  "There's still a bit of detail to come tomorrow," Murphy has told Newshub. "But we're really pleased we can start getting out there in some manner from next week."

Murphy confirms that all clubhouses, pro shops and built assets - driving ranges and practice facilities - will be closed under Level 3.

All common touch points, such as flag pins and rakes, will also be removed.

"Golf lends itself so well to being outside and distant from one another, so it's something we can do quite safely.

"We want to make sure we're doing everything right under the alert levels, but we're going to be out there next week and playing some sort of golf."

Judging by the edicts for other recreational activity under level 3, only solo or play within your extended bubble will likely be permitted.

Clubs must be vigilant in managing the flow of players, Murphy adds.

"We just need to make sure we're being safe and clubs can control the access, and make sure people aren't crowding or gathering. 

"Going outside, and playing on your own or with someone else in your bubble with lots of space around you is a good thing to do, and I'm sure people will welcome it next week."

With greenkeepers only granted a dispensation to attend to links maintenance last week, each course will have varying degrees of readiness, but Murphy is confident most, at the very least, will be playable.

"There'll be some that aren't quite in the right shape, but most will be," says Murphy. "That [essential service exemption] was a great relief. 

"The Government did a great job of looking at that and helping us out, and it's certainly going to help us get back to normal quicker.

"Some will still be battling through that kind of repatriation, but most will be getting pretty close."

As for official competition, Murphy says that must wait until the next drop in alert levels.

"At Level 3, we'll need to be very, very careful… strict guidelines and it's going to be a different kind of golf than we would play. Level 2 will start seeing us get back a bit closer to normal.

"But golf at any level is a game played with plenty of space that suits isolation, so we're well suited to it and hopefully we can start getting back on that journey next week."