November 29, 2020

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Italian golfers take a swing at coronavirus lockdown freedom

3 min read
Practicing for a golf tournament is reason enough to avoid coronavirus travel restrictions.

If you want to avoid Italy’s internal coronavirus travel restrictions, you’d better buy a set of golf clubs.

In an attempt to contain the second wave of coronavirus, Italy banned non-essential movement between municipalities within high and medium risk regions (15 out of 20) as well as between the regions themselves. But there are some notable exceptions — among them golf enthusiasts.

Players — professional or not — can travel from region to region to practice their swing, no matter if the course is located in a high-risk area (the so-called orange and red zones.) The exemption comes with some conditions — Italy’s golf federation explains — but they are easy to fulfill. Players need a golf license and must be training for or participating in a competition.

Nearly every golfer in Italy meets these criteria, according to Lorenzo Damiani, vice president of the golf club Punta Ala, a glamorous 18-hole course on the Tuscan coast with stunning sea views. “That’s the advantage of golf compared to other sports,” he said.

“Our golf course measures 6o hectares … and all precautions have been taken,” he explained. “Benches and rakes [used to tidy up the sand in bunkers after a shot] have been removed. You can’t touch flagpoles and locker rooms are closed. The bar and the restaurant are only open for take-away.”

“I can’t think about a safer sport,” he added.

In a normal pre-pandemic autumn, the Punta Ala course is mainly visited by Northern European golfers, looking for some sun and Chianti before winter. But this year things are different. Domestic players have taken the place of foreigners, explained Damiani. Some of them even temporarily moved to their holiday homes, bringing a laptop and a golf bag with them.

While most of their compatriots risk heavy fines if they are caught moving from one town to the other, golfers can cross regional borders with no fear. Their special status — shared with many other sportspeople — is the result of a combination of national rules and policies set by sports federations.

Earlier this month, Rome banned all non-essential movement in medium and high-risk areas. New rules provide for some exceptions such as sports competitions “of national relevance” as well as preparatory training.

The list of permitted sports events is drafted by the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), based on inputs from the different sporting federations. Tennis authorities, for example, have decided that competitions for which competitors can move between regions count more than a hundred events between now and the end of the year.

But for golf there is even greater latitude with practically all competitions deemed “of national relevance.” Golfers can therefore travel around the country to attend tournaments, or even just to practice with their favorite club.

“If federations consider that a given competition has a national interest, nobody can question [that decision] because it falls within the technical autonomy of federations,” said a spokesperson for CONI, acknowledging that might come as a “surprise” in the middle of a pandemic.

But a spokesperson for the Italian golf federation said there were good reasons why golf should not be subject to extra restrictions. “Golf is universally recognized as a low-risk sport,” he said. “Italian golf has proven to strictly comply with rules — which is one of the founding principles of this discipline — and it is ready to take not one, but 10 steps back [if the public health situation deteriorates],” he added.

Source: POLITICO https://www.politico.eu/article/golf-italy-covid-restriction-exception-travel-ban/?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

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