EAGER golfers tee'd off just after midnight with glow-in-the-dark balls this morning as the nation embraced its new lockdown freedoms.
Seven teams hit floodlit greens at the Morley Hayes Golf Club, Ilkeston, Derbys, as outdoors sport is finally allowed after three months of limbo.
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Richard Silk was the first to tee off at just a fraction after midnight.
And the seven-hole tournament was held to raise funds for the Nottingham Breast Cancer Research Centre.
Andrew Allsop, managing director of Morley Hayes Golf Club, told the PA news agency the idea for the nocturnal tee-off was made "on a whim".
He said: "It filled instantly, there was so much interest because I don't think there are any places in England that do night golf and we obviously want to try and get in the records that we're the first ones to reopen on March 29.
"I think the buzz has been made even buzzier because it's such great weather forecast this week.
"All the fair-weather golfers, everyone's out and the tees booked from Monday morning first light, 6.30am, right through … and it's like that all week.
"We've been shut six months out of 12 so it's been very difficult but we'll survive and good times are ahead and like Captain Tom (Moore) said, tomorrow's another day, so I'm looking forward to it."
It comes as the nation's stay-at-home guidance starts to lift today, with the return of organised sport and groups of up to six – or two households – now allowed to meet outside in England.
Weddings of up to six guests are also allowed, along with the opening of outdoor sporting venues.
A No 10 source said: “Today marks the first real freedom for so many people who haven’t seen their loved ones for months.”
And wellness expert Joshua Charles said everyone will benefit from a surge of endorphins today.
He added: “This is going to refresh the nation and renew our love for fitness.
“This is the positivity we have all been missing, the feeling of being part of something and a sense of community we have been craving.
“There will be such a healing impact and positive change in mental health.”
Boris Johnson has hailed the return of outdoor activities, wishing the best of luck to “the young and not so young people” returning to sports fields across the country.
The PM made clear he wants to kick off “a Great British summer of sport” — and urged the public to get outdoors and take in vitamin D to boost immune systems against Covid.
He said: “I know how hard it has been to be separated from your team-mates, your coaches and the sports that you love.
“I love sport — and I’m hopeless at it — but I can only imagine how excited you will be to be getting back out there.”
His call was echoed by England cricket captain Eoin Morgan, tennis ace Johanna Konta and rugby hero Kyle Sinckler who all urged people to enjoy the mental and physical benefits of sport.
It comes as many sessions are sold out today — including swimming pools, tennis courts, golf courses and even beach volleyball.
Sam Parish ran a rule-of-six, midnight fitness class lit by car headlights at Beachy Head, East Sussex, and said: “It sold out in five minutes. The nation needs to get fit so get out there and do it.”
Rowers were out at 6.30am. The Amateur FA, which represents eight million park footballers, said: “Our leagues are back on.”
Meanwhile, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said “the doors were always open” if Uefa wants England to host more games in this summer’s Euros.
Up to 500,000 couples are racing to tie the knot as weddings with six attendees are allowed again.
Cafés and restaurants serving take-out food will share a £1billion spending lifeline.
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