COMPETITIVE sport has returned to Helensburgh and Lomond for the first time in almost 10 weeks – at least for some of the area’s sports clubs.

The easing of Scotland’s lockdown restrictions meant that non-contact outdoor solo sporting activities such as golf, tennis, bowls and fly-fishing were permitted from last Friday morning onwards – and the fairways, courts and greens of the area’s sports clubs were soon abuzz with activity as club members made the most of their first opportunity to play since late March.

Joe Rowan and Gary Tolland were up at the crack of dawn to be the first to play a round at Cardross Golf Club – where, within five minutes of last Thursday’s confirmation that golf would once again be allowed, every one of the following day’s tee times was booked up, right through until 8pm.

Joe and Gary brought to an end to one of the longest periods of closure in the history of the renowned championship course, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

The only other time it was closed for so long was during the Second World War, when German bombs fell on the course by accident during the nearby Clydebank Blitz of 1941.

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Club secretary Graeme Dixon said: “We are delighted to be opened again.

“The support from our members has been magnificent and there is huge demand to get back on the course to celebrate our 125th anniversary year.

“Our green keeping staff have done a wonderful job during lockdown ensuring that the course is in amazing condition and we have taken every precaution to ensure that our members are as safe from coronavirus as possible.”

It was a similar story at Helensburgh Golf Club, where the available tee times were quickly snapped up – not just for the first day’s play but for most of the first week.

At both courses, strict rules are in place to ensure social distancing is adhered to, in line with regulations approved by Scottish Golf, including a ban on competitions and the continued closure of clubhouses.

The same applies at the two Helensburgh tennis clubs: both Helensburgh and Craighelen opened for play on Monday morning, and the courts were soon occupied by keen players.

The Helensburgh club waited until Monday to ensure the Suffolk Street venue was ready with a range of precautions and new procedures in place for members to follow.

Club member Ann McKelvie said: “We prefer to play doubles but understand the new rules say that doubles pairs have to be from the same household, so singles it is until the rules relax.

“I’m just happy I can get on court and play.”

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At Craighelen, the squash courts and clubhouse remain closed, as do the gym and fitness facilities run by Chris Bowman Fitness.

But the Craighelen tennis courts have also been busy since Monday morning, with hand sanitising facilities available, pre-booked slots only, and social distancing emphasised throughout – while subscription fees have been reduced to reflect the limited re-opening.

Elsewhere in the town, there was rather less ceremony to the official opening of Helensburgh Bowling Club’s (HBC) greens for the new season than usual – but the combination of optimism and sheer relief when Susan Claisse, whose husband Eddie is the club’s president, threw the first bowl of the season on Monday to declare the outdoor season to have officially started was still clear to see.

Play is limited to HBC members, who must book a slot in advance as per procedures which have been sent out to all members of the club.

Any HBC member who has not yet received information about the procedures in place to ensure games are played in line with the latest government guidance can contact the club for more information.

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