Golf courses in Saudi Arabia to reopen from May 31

Following government guidance, the Saudi Golf Federation (SGF) has confirmed that all of the country’s domestic golf courses will reopen this week, starting from Sunday May 31. (Saudi Golf)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Golf courses in Saudi Arabia to reopen from May 31

  • All golf clubs were included in the first phase of the government’s reopening plan
  • There are strict health and safety guidelines and precautionary measures that golf clubs must adhere to

RIYADH: Following government guidance, the Saudi Golf Federation (SGF) has confirmed that all of the country’s domestic golf courses will reopen this week, starting from Sunday May 31.

After more than two months of controlled movement and closures, the Saudi government this week set out a specific timetable to lift current restrictions in three phases. 

All golf clubs were included in the first phase of the government’s plans and have been given official permission to allow their members to return.


However, there are strict health and safety guidelines and precautionary measures that golf clubs must adhere to, if continued play is to be permitted. As part of these new measures, golfers must pre-book their round in advance, and wear masks upon arrival. Temperature checks will also be conducted on arrival for all members and anyone showing signs of illness will be asked to leave the course.

Commenting on the measures put in place to ensure golf’s safe return in Saudi Arabia, Majed Al-Sorour, CEO of the Saudi Golf Federation, said: “It is great news that we are now in a position to reintroduce the game we all love across the Kingdom, in line with the latest government regulations. As one of the sports which can be played safely during this period, we urge everyone to be respectful of the phased approach taken by the Saudi Golf Federation.”

Al-Sorour added: “We will continuously monitor the situation both in the Kingdom, and across the world and we have not ruled out the reintroduction of further restrictions if the guidelines are not followed correctly. It is therefore imperative that both golf clubs and members take the necessary steps and adhere to guidelines, if facilities are to remain open in the weeks ahead.”

Additional restrictions designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 include the use of physical distancing, with members keeping at least two meters apart from each other at all times.

Golf carts will only be permitted to be used by one golfer and concierge services will also be closed, meaning players will need to carry their bags to and from their own vehicles.

To prevent overcrowding on all courses, tee times have been extended to 14-minute intervals, with a maximum of three players per slot. This gap will not be altered for one or two balls.

Restaurants and cafeterias will remain closed for seating, with takeaway orders possible via the on-course cart or telephone order. For payments, only contactless or card payments will be accepted. Shower and locker facilities will also remain closed.

Player-specific restrictions have also been put in place ahead of next week to prevent the spread of COVID-19. When playing from bunkers, golfers will be asked to make their very best efforts to smooth the sand using their club or their feet, rather than use a rake. Pick and place rules apply for bad lies. It will be forbidden for players to touch or handle the flagstick.

Putts will need to be completed with the flagstick in, with players removing their own balls from the hole. Following the play of a hole, players should not enter the next teeing area until all members of the group in front have played their tee shots and left the tee box. Only one golfer should be on the tee at any given time. 

Ahead of next week’s return to golf, courses up and down the Kingdom have been hard at work to ensure conditions are pristine for the return of members. Despite restrictions resulting in a shortage of labor, agronomy teams have continued to work hard ensuring both the greens and fairways remain in superb shape, with their efforts being recognised by Al Sorour:

“Thankfully, all of our clubs have had the experience and skills to remain calm and continue their preparations unheeded, without knowing exactly when golf would be able to safely return. We will continue to remain in regular dialogue with the government, updating golf facilities and players on changes to regulations and procedures as restrictions across the Kingdom continue to lift. Given the continuous change in restrictions, there may be a requirement for the Saudi Golf Federation to update and reissue guidelines at regular intervals to reflect government and global advice.”

For further information on how to golf safely, please visit: www.golfsaudi.com


Relegation-battle boost as Al-Muwallad penalty ensures narrow win for nervous Al-Ittihad

Updated 15 August 2020

Relegation-battle boost as Al-Muwallad penalty ensures narrow win for nervous Al-Ittihad

DUBAI: After a miserable resumption of the Saudi Professional League (SPL) season for Al-Ittihad, who lost two matches in the space of a week, they finally gave their fans something to smile about on Friday with a 1-0 home win over Al-Ettifaq at King Abdullah Sports City.

However, it was another uncomfortable night for the struggling giants and the result was partially overshadowed by an unseemly scuffle between the teams’ players and coaching staffs.

Al-Ittihad started the day 13th in the league, just one point and one place above Al-Fateh, who occupied the first of the three relegation spots. With six games left to play, the message coming out of the club was that they are being treated like six cup finals — six crucial matches in the battle to avoid the ignominy of dropping out of the top flight or facing a play-off to ensure survival.

By the time the under-pressure players took to the field they knew that Al-Fateh had overtaken them in the race for survival, thanks to a 2-1 win over Abha Club. As a result, Al-Ittihad kicked off their 25th match of the season in the relegation zone.

It was perhaps not surprising then that in a first half littered with errors, a nervous Al-Ittihad lacked cohesion and confidence, and coach Fabio Carille’s decision to start Brazilian playmaker Romarinho nominally on the left side of midfield seemed to unbalance the team. Still, despite some promising attacks, especially down the wings, Al-Ettifaq were unable to take advantage of their opponents’ uncertainty.

Five minutes into the second half, Al-Ittihad got the break they so desperately needed when Al-Ettifaq midfielder Ibrahim Mahnashi clipped Saud Abdulhamid in the penalty area, and the referee correctly awarded a penalty after consulting with the video assistant referee. Saudi international Fahad Al-Muwallad made no mistake from the spot, firmly placing the ball to the right of goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi.

The Al-Ittihad giants struggled throughout the game, but finally managed to give their fans reason to smile with a 1-0 win. (SPA)

 

 

Al-Ittihad failed to capitalize on their advantage but, despite having to endure a few close calls as the referee added six extra minutes, they managed to hold out to secure a narrow 1-0 win and three priceless points.

At the final whistle, Al-Ittihad’s exhausted players sank to their knees, a reaction more often seen at the end of grueling cup final than a more routine league game. The victory allowed them to leapfrog both Al-Fateh and Al-Hazem and claim 12th place.

“This was an important win for us; mentally we needed this win,” said match-winner Al-Muwallad. “But I have to say that despite the win we didn’t perform to our best. We fell short in certain parts but, thankfully, we got the most important thing, which is the three points. I hope this will help our morale ahead of the match against Al-Faisaly (on Wednesday).”

The Saudi international admitted he is concerned about the number of mistakes his team continue to make, even after taking the lead in Friday’s game.

“If you watch the last two matches you’d see that it was individual mistakes that led to two defeats,” he said. “Today we managed to fix some of those problems but not all of them.

“We still made mistakes and, as I said, we didn’t play to the level that Al-Ittihad fans expect from us, despite the presence of a very good group of players. This win should make us more relaxed in the coming games.

“After the goal we retreated somewhat. We tried to finish the game with our counterattacks but couldn’t. Thankfully, we still got the win. We will take it one match at a time — now we should forget this match and start thinking about the match against Al-Faisaly.”

The Al-Ittihad giants struggled throughout the game, but finally managed to give their fans reason to smile with a 1-0 win. (SPA)

Abdul Aziz Al-Bishi, who was making his first appearance for Al-Ittihad since the SPL resumed after it was suspended for more than four months because of the coronavirus crisis, said the players found it hard to take advantage of the extra space that opened up after Al-Muwallad’s goal.

“The weather didn’t help, and coming back from the break maybe some of the players found it hard out there,” he said. “But this should help us in the coming matches and we can add more points to climb up the league table.”

Al-Ettifaq defender Saleh Al-Qumaizi was disappointed that his team’s performance did not earn at least a point.

“I think we played a big match,” he said. “We controlled the majority of the play and we gave everything we had. We made some mistakes and they scored from one of them.

“We have many key players on the left, right and down the middle. I think today we concentrated mostly on the left and a little on the right channels but it wasn’t to be.”

In the day’s other matches, Al-Fayha and Al-Shabab played out a 1-1 draw at Al-Majma’ah Sports City, while two goals in the last 13 minutes helped Al-Raed beat relegation-threatened Al-Hazem 3-1 to remain in fifth place.