The European Tour is planning to host at least five closed-doors tournaments back-to-back in England and Wales across the months of July and August as it seeks to bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The tour has struggled to provide playing opportunities for its members during the crisis, with 21 of its tournaments either cancelled or postponed, forcing it to come up with the creative plan to play clusters of events in single countries.
The plans for a “British Swing” would allow the tour to overcome restrictions which require visitors to the UK to quarantine for two weeks. The tour has scheduled the events on courses with hotels on site so that players will be able to isolate in a self-contained health and safety bubble.
The tour’s salvage schedule will start with £2m (€2.2m/$2.4m) Betfred British Masters at Close House in Newcastle, which will be brought forward a week to July 23-26, The Telegraph reports. There will then be an event at Forest of Arden near Birmingham, followed by one at Hanbury Manor in Hertfordshire. Two tournaments at Celtic Manor, the Welsh course that staged the 2010 Ryder Cup, will round out the schedule.
A further two-day event has also been mooted in the build-up to the British Masters although it hasn’t been confirmed yet.
It is thought the European Tour could then replicate the model, with multi-event clusters in Austria and Portugal, and even return to the UK in the autumn, to deliver as many as 22 events before the end of the year.
The five initial events are likely to offer reduced prize funds for players but players. In mid-April European Tour chief executive Keith Pelley warned players that they would have to reduce their expectations in terms of prize money, player lounges and courtesy cars because of the constrained commercial environment.
Existing travel restrictions, however, make it unlikely that Europe-based players will forsake the European Tour for the more lucrative PGA Tour in the US. The latter has announced it plans to return to spectator-free action in mid-June but the Tour estimates around 25 regular competitors are based outside the US.
In comments reported by the Golf Channel, English golfer Lee Westwood said he would be unlikely to compete in the first two PGA Tour events after the lockdown because of the current travel guidelines.
“Right now I won’t be playing them, not with having to leave here two weeks before, quarantine, then play the two tournaments, then come back here and quarantine again,” Westwood said. “It’s six weeks for two tournaments, and to me that’s just not worth it.”