You might not have heard of Llanymynech Golf Club in Wales but you are about to. That Welsh golf club is at the centre of a bizarre situation that is not of its own making and exists in golf in the United Kingdom as a result of the COVID-19 lockdown.
On Friday 8 May, citizens of the United Kingdom were united in celebration of Victory in Europe day (VE Day) 75 years earlier. On Sunday 10 May, citizens of the United Kingdom were not united in golf.
Why not? First a lesson in British politics. The United Kingdom comprises England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. All four are governed by the prime minister from the houses of parliament in London but many issues are devolved to regional governments. And that is where the fun started last week.
How come? Because on Friday 8 May citizens of Wales were told by the first minister, the most important politician in the country, there would be no change in the lockdown that had been in place since March. That meant no golf. This view was repeated by Scotland’s first minister and Northern Ireland’s.
The alliance of the four countries sundered when Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those who lived in England could drive anywhere they liked for exercise and sports such as golf could recommence in a limited way within a few days.
And this is where Llanymynech comes in. Llanymynech Golf Club is the course where Ian Woosnam played much of his junior golf. It straddles England and Wales with 15 holes in Wales and three in England. On the fourth hole, golfers tee off in Wales and putt out in England.
Oh and by the way, it is the course where Caractacus made his stand against the Romans in AD 51. You might not have known that. And to digress a little more. Do you find Llanymynech a mouthful? Just be grateful I am not talking about the village in Anglesey with the longest name in the UK. Stand back, here goes: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch. It means: St Marys Church In The Hollow Of The White Hazel Near To The Rapid Whirlpool Of Llantysilio Of The Red Cave. You might not have known that either.
Anyway, what happened at Llanymynech last week? Was golf forbidden because the club, if not all the holes, is in Wales and therefore subject to Welsh, no golf, rule? Or did golfers rush to play the four holes in England?
Golfers flocked to Llanymynech and played a full round and officers of the Welsh government did not descend on the club to arrest transgressors. “We were fully booked,” Sian Whiteoak, the club secretary, said. “This (lockdown) has been hard for us. We are like any other business. We have not had an income.”
At this speck of a club at least, golfers in the United Kingdom were united.