Germany, like so many other countries, is in severe lock-down, due to the present pandemia. Two weeks ago, all we knew, was, that Mrs. Merkel would talk to the Governors of all Federal States about further actions to take in the week after Easter. There was rumour about easing some restrictions come May. Some, mind you. There was no talk of any sports to be involved in these measures.
Then this online-meeting was held, Mrs. Merkel informed the public: some classes at school were to reopen after the Easter brake on April 20th. (first step:those, who are to take exams to go to different levels of schooling, only), small businesses not larger than 800 sqm were to reopen, too. Mouth-nose-covering strongly recommended in public transport and other public spaces. All other restrictions (no travel, no sports, all hygiene and distancing measures, no more than two persons in public other than family, etc.) were to stay in place, at least until May 4th, 2020. At which time the pandemic situation was to be re-evalued and further actions decieded.
So I was actually looking forward to another fortnight of sweet nothing to do. Pottering away in my garden, staying at home with sweetheart. And I mean it: despite my workaholic appearence, I learned during the lock-down, that a prolonged absence from work is very enjoyable. All fears of retirement are gone now – I am looking forward to it.
BUT: The best laid plans of mice and men……
The day after Mrs. Merkel’s press conference on Wednesday, I was flabbergasted to read, that the neighbouring State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern would open its golf courses for play as of Monday, April 20th. (Not that this would help the golf clubs there much, as 90% of their customers are tourists from Berlin, Hamburg and elsewhere and travel restrictions are still in place).
Until Friday, April 17th, it became clear, that each Governor in Germany decided individually, what she/he saw fit to reopen. For Brandenburg (where most of the Berlin area golf courses are located) it seemed to include golf courses. Berlin took its usual sweet time to come up with any information, what so ever, despite the promise from Berlin Major and Governor of Brandenburg, to always coordinate their actions (as it is almost impossible to separate the two – a big part of Brandenburg is Berlin-suburbia).
So we decided on Friday, to reopen Wednesday, April 22nd. Promising our members, that booking of tee-off times would be possible from Monday, April 20th, 12:00 noon, sharp. Thus, we all had to jump from zero to hero. My boss and I had the weekend to organise ourselves, call a staff meeting Monday morning and get things going.
Over the weekend, some colleagues from Brandenburg wrote something about a special license, one had to apply for at the local health authority. Despite the Brandenburg government communique, that outdoor individual sports facilities may be entered by their members, as long as all hygiene and distance rules were followed. Other golf clubs – like us – took the communique as it was printed in the papers and decided to reopen anyways. But on Monday evening, we did compare the news text to the now published official text of the Brandenburg government communique and found no such thing as a mention of outdoor sports. That was a shock!
From 12:00 to 18:00 on Monday, we had already booked 1.800 tee-off times for play from Wednesday onward. The need from our members for a round of golf in this glorious spring time was so great, that the booking server broke down completely. We had to staff five phones, to take in the calls. Still people found it difficult to get through. What if we had to cancel all these bookings again?
My boss quickly contacted the Major of our town and other politicians and asked for help. They helped out immedieately. The Major rang the county health department on our behalf in person. The problem was quickly explained: the Brandenburg communique had inadvertently missed out the passus from the overall decision made by Mrs. Merkel and the Governors assembly. So, officially, in Brandenburg all restrictions concerning outdoor sports were officially still in place and the law. And so, indeed, we would have to have this licence. The head of the health department at the county promised, that we would be the first to get the ruling. At the latest would we have the signatue in 48 hours. Which equals speed-of-light in authority time.
Yet, this would have been 24 hours too late for our members. No wonder, my boss and I slept not so well from Monday to Tuesday. Tuesday, my boss already wrote up apology texts to our members. For the worst case. But the politicians kept their word. Even faster than promised: Tuesday late afternoon, the licence arrived.
We were so relieved and are still thankful for the support, we were shown. You know, here in former East Germany, golf is still very strongly viewed as a sport for the rich. For golf to get privileges, that tennis or soccer do not get, is a downright miracle.
This licence is to be granted by the local county health authority – elsewhere in Brandenburg, golf courses are still waiting for it, to this day. Having to keep their courses closed. Others, who opened without licence, had to close again and apply. Yet another, who had a licence but didn’t control their members well enough, was shut down due to too many people too close to each other on the driving range. And so forth.
So – all in all – and despite all the stress we had during the last ten or so days, we managed really well. I don’t want to brag, but our members are thanking us like never before.
This was some jump start into the season. And life is still up side down at work. No play without pre-booked tee-off time (the licence orders us, that in case of an infection, the health authority has to be provided with names and contact infos of everybody involved at all times. So we really need to keep track of who plays when with whom and in front or after which people). Members only, no guests allowed. Always keep 1,5 meters apart. Wash your hands whenever possible. Don’t take the flag out of the hole. Don’t rake the bunkers. No usage of driving range or training greens other than with a golf pro during a lesson (1 Pro – 1 pupil, pre-booked lessons only, times stating names and contact info). No tournaments, no club facilities other than pure play for members. Come five minutes prior to your tee-off time directly to the tee and leave immediately after the end of your round. Twopeople per flight only. Tee 1 and 10 on each course staffed with a starter all day long. Only some toilets open, but these disinfected on a regular base. No restaurant open, but daily take away snacks and drinks on the courses on each halfway hut from 10:00 to 18:00. And so on.
As I said: the golf world is upside down. But it is spinning again. Which is great.