Melbourne, Australia: Emboldened by Royal Melbourne Golf Club’s stance, leading Australian golf clubs are close to finalising ‘no jab, no play’ policies of their own to return to full capacity.
Golf clubs in metropolitan Melbourne are eagerly awaiting confirmation that they will be able to welcome golfers back as of this Sunday, their capacity to be dependent somewhat on the numbers of members who have been vaccinated.
Speaking on this week’s episode of Golf Australia’s Inside The Ropes podcast, Royal Melbourne Captain Andrew Kirby revealed that 1,000 members have already lodged vaccination certificates, the response to the club’s policy almost unanimously welcomed.
Given its stature as Australia’s most prestigious golf club, Royal Melbourne instituting such a policy has been monitored closely by other clubs throughout the country.
New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney has communicated to its members that they too will be putting such a policy in place and Kirby hinted that other leading clubs on the Melbourne Sandbelt would also soon follow suit.
“Our Premier has been very strong that the pathway out is vaccination so we very much saw it as the way to get golf open. That was a really compelling part of it,” Kirby said of Royal Melbourne’s motivation to take the lead.
“We operate the public course at Sandringham and we’ve bought it in there and I’ve had lots of discussions with inter-state clubs, particularly in Sydney.
“You’re totally free not to get vaccinated but you’re not free to infect others. That’s my philosophy on this. It is a pandemic, it is an extraordinary time and the only way out of this is through vaccination.”
As of September 13, fully vaccinated adults were permitted to play in groups of four within their Local Government Area in Sydney, even in ‘stay at home’ areas and suburbs deemed ‘areas of concern’.
With Royal Melbourne and NSW at the forefront, Golf NSW Chief Executive Stuart Fraser expects other clubs to institute similar polices in the coming weeks and months.
“It is gaining momentum on the back of Royal Melbourne taking the lead on it,” Fraser said of the potential widespread adoption of a ‘no jab, no play’ policy.
“Each club is different in its own way but there’s no question the Government has shown its cards in this space.
“We’re getting legal advice on it. Obviously there’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge but ultimately it will be what our public health order says about what clubs can and can’t do, who needs vaccination and who doesn’t.
“Under the current health order it says people can play in groups of four if they are fully vaccinated but it doesn’t say that unvaccinated people can’t play in groups of two. It’s gaining momentum and hats off to Royal Melbourne for taking the lead on that in Victoria.”
A leading Commercial Litigation and Dispute Resolution Junior Counsel in Victoria and former Chairman of the Banking and Finance section of the Commercial Bar Association, Kirby’s legal acumen is notable.
He is adamant that should Royal Melbourne’s policy face a legal challenge that the club would possess a strong defence.
“It’s possible someone will challenge it. We don’t think that will happen at our club given the support we’ve had,” said Kirby, revealing that only one member had expressed reservations about the club’s decision.
“In the midst of a pandemic if someone were to challenge they would have to say it was unreasonable or oppressive to bring in such a rule. We think we’ve got an over-riding duty of care to our staff and to our members which we think would over-ride that.
“Other clubs are in different positions so I can only speak to where we’re at but I think it would be a very difficult legal challenge. I would prefer to have the brief for the club in a legal case.”
*Click here to listen to the full episode of Inside The Ropes.
*Article by Tony Webeck, PGA of Australia