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Tralee Golf Club re-open. All golf courses can be opened where social distancing can be maintained. Local golfers within 5km are all set for a round of golf: Vera Tierney, Lady Captain, Tralee Golf Club; and John O’Brien

Tralee Golf Club re-open. All golf courses can be opened where social distancing can be maintained. Local golfers within 5km are all set for a round of golf: Vera Tierney, Lady Captain, Tralee Golf Club; and John O’Brien

Tralee Golf Club re-open. All golf courses can be opened where social distancing can be maintained. Local golfers within 5km are all set for a round of golf: Vera Tierney, Lady Captain, Tralee Golf Club; and John O’Brien

Signs of normal life re-emerged on Monday, not least at the many golf courses in Kerry - albeit with strict caveats applied.

Players living within five kilometres of a golf club could take to their local course from Monday, provided they have membership at that course. Strict social-distancing rules also applied with play ongoing, with limited numbers for each group and staggered tee-times enforced.

At Killarney Golf and Fishing Club, the first group teed off at 8.56am, and so began life after lock-down at the popular venue.

"We're at close to full capacity for what's allowed," Sales and Marketing Manager Meg Dalton explained. "The mood has been really positive. The members will have the course to themselves for phases one and two - and it's unprecedented for them to be able to enjoy the course exclusively!

"One of the major challenges, not only for us as a golf club but for the hospitality industry here in Killarney as a whole, is that we've had a lot of cancellations.

"That said, we've had a lot of rescheduling of events and bookings as well from visitors, so we're looking towards the end of the year to have a busy season."

Ms Dalton said the club has a duty to ensure the game is played safely while members are there, and she explained that tee-times on both courses were at 14-minute intervals and that the timesheet is only open for a week's golf at a time. The nine-hole Lackabane course and driving range remain closed, though this remains under review.

On the topic of travelling more than five kilometres to play, however, she said there will be a major responsibility on the public to obey COVID-19 regulations.

"We're adhering to the protocols the Golf Union of Ireland have laid down - and there's a big responsibility on the individual to adhere to society-wide public-health guidelines," she said.

"We've to ensure the game is played safely when members are here, but really it is their responsibility to ensure they abide by the law of the land.

"We have a large membership, and there's quite a spread, but it's up to them to self-police or self-regulate."

She also heaped praise on administrative staff who've been working remotely, as well as staff who've kept the course in shape during lockdown.

At Tralee Golf Club, tight measures were also in place. The club is only open to members living locally and has been strict in enforcing that; its clubhouse remains closed, and an usher was on-site directing movement around the course.

A disc placed a small way down each hole also allowed for easy ball-retrieval and meant there was no need to touch the flagpoles.

"The course is looking lush, green, and has probably benefited from the lack of use in that way" one observer told The Kerryman. "It's been given time to flourish.

"Even at that, the workers were still out manicuring the course."

Further west, Castlegregory was also open only to locals - and even club secretary and Tralee resident Tommy King said he won't be able to play for a while yet.

"The clubhouse will be closed until June 8, and it's all locals that were there this morning I understand," he said on Monday. "All the bookings are being done through our online BRS system. The tee times are set with 14 minute intervals.

"I'm not going to be able to play for now, but I have to respect the guidelines and respect the local community as well.

"It's definitely been a tough time for courses, and it still is. You're talking about missing out on four or five months of green fees. There are still difficult times ahead."

Kerryman