GOLF clubs throughout the district have praised the dedication of their members for helping them reopen this week.

On Wednesday, golf courses throughout England reopened after lockdown restrictions were eased; but new rules and standards will apply.

The sport is one of the first to resume in the country after the Government produced its phased plan to move out of lockdown.

England Golf, the sports governing body, welcomed the Government’s clarification on outdoor recreation and rules on social distancing in England, which allowed for golf courses to reopen with restrictions in place.

Clubhouses and changing facilities will remain closed, but tee times can be booked in advance at 10-minute intervals.

“These will affect how golf can be played from Wednesday, May 13 and, in particular, the configuration of groupings on a golf course,” a statement from the governing body said.

At Stocksfield Golf Club, finance director Bill Martin said the course had continued to be maintained in good shape by the course’s greenkeepers throughout the lockdown.

“The news of the Wednesday restart was taken favourably by all the members,” he said. “They’re all excited to get playing again.

“It’s a form of physical exercise and a huge social aspect back into our lives.

“There is no competitive golf but we are not getting too ahead of ourselves just yet. We all fully understand for the first three weeks we will all be playing social golf.”

However, local clubs fear for their future after the continued closure of clubhouses and hospitality facilities are affecting finances.

Graham Wilson, chairman of Bellingham Golf Club, said: “For us, the damage started last summer when we had the most horrendous weather that has continued through the winter.

“The course was closed on March 23 this year and we have been fastidious about keeping people away.”

Golf membership at courses throughout Northumberland has waned over the past 10 years, and Graham said rural courses like Bellingham were those which suffered the most.

Graham explained: “If it had not been for the £25,000 grant we received from Northumberland County Council I don’t know what we would have done. "

Bellingham Golf Club received an increase in membership inquiries ahead of the course reopening on Wednesday, which has helped generate income for the time being.

“By the time we get to July, the situation will get tight again,” Graham said. “We need to get the course open by then to help get more money in.”

The prospect of future financial difficulty could also be experienced at Stocksfield Golf Club, Bill Martin said.

“Our income is going to be significantly down by it,” he said. “It’s going to be a disaster, but we are not alone, all clubs are in the same position.”

Under the new social distancing measures, games of people from different households are limited to two-balls.

Other strict measures introduced include the removal of bunker rakes, no removing of the flag stick and scorecards must not be exchanged.