While many golfers will be focusing on a return to the fairways next week, others will already have an eye on 2021 and there are some major changes ahead. The WHS handicapping system was launched in Ireland earlier this month and golfers will see some changes from when qualifying competitions return in the Spring. In addition to the handicapping changes, there are also changes to the cups and shields competitions. A new eight region system is set to replace the current provincial structure in mens golf, with each of the eight regional winners progressing to the national quarter finals.
Munster will be split in an East – West format but given the size of the province there is still going to be some travel involved for clubs. The vast majority of Cork clubs have been placed in Munster East. Charleville, Doneraile, Kanturk, Berehaven and Glengarriff are in the West section but the remaining 23 Cork clubs are in the East. That includes Bantry and Skibbereen which will mean a long journey as the home and away format is to be continued. The home and away format will also apply to ladies events in the Cups and Shields. ILGU clubs voted not to hold the 2020 inter-club events so 2021 will be the first time that they will use the home and away format. The format was deemed to be a success this year and a recent Golf Ireland statement confirmed the continuation of the approach. “All 2021 Inter-Club matches will be held on a home & away basis until the Area Final. For clarity, this will mean one leg matches only, i.e. where there are five matches – three will be home & two away; where there are three matches – two will be home & one away etc. It is felt that this approach is prudent and appropriate due to the ongoing uncertainty in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.”
While 2021 promises plenty for golfers, the immediate priority is the re-opening of courses which is expected to happen early next week. Courses have been closed for close to six weeks, and while it is the low season, demand is still high from club golfers. Rumours of an early re-opening started around two weeks ago, but there was no reprieve and golf like most other sports ended up being closed for the full six weeks. It’s unclear if club competitions can return from next week, but the GUI and ILGU have robust frameworks in place from May and June after the spring closure, and these can be brought back into force in line with government guidelines. Regardless of the level, or the limits on competitions, or access to clubhouses, those interested in playing will be delighted to get back onto the course.