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Itinerant golfers who play regularly but who are not members of a club are signing up in droves to beat the virus lockdown playing restrictions.

Golf – along with angling and tennis – was the first sport to be given the green-light after nine weeks of lockdown.

But amongst the many restrictions imposed by the government was a requirement for clubs to allow only their own members to play their own course – leaving an estimated 1.4 million wanna-be golfers in England with nowhere to play.

Bedfordshire Golf secretary David Hawkins says as a result, all 23 member-managed clubs in the County have experienced a constant flow of applications from people wanting to join.

Says David, who was Captain at Millbrook golf club in 1994 before joining Leighton Buzzard in 2000 and becoming Club Captain in 2011 and President in 2013-14: “The latest membership figures indicate that around 25,000 people in England have joined a golf club in the last month.  The vast majority of them are people who play golf on different courses on an occasional basis with friends or with a golf society. Which is great news for clubs and the future health of the sport.”

Almost 8,000 golfers are affiliated to  clubs in Bedfordshire, but it’s estimated three times that number of “independent golfers” in the County play at least twice a month at a “host” club.

Adds David, a 12-handicap golfer who was Bedfordshire County President in 2016-17: “With social distancing a natural ingredient of golf, it’s a great sport to be involved in in these difficult times. Our members’ clubs in the County will make the newcomers very welcome.”

Playing restrictions at member clubs are gradually being lifted in line with government advice and guidance.  At present, only social golf is permitted, with the initial requirement limiting two people playing together at any one time now extended at Leighton’s Plantation Road course to three playing in one group.