Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell have backed the resumption of recreational golf in England after courses were shut as part of new coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
They have promoted an online petition for golf to return, which has received almost 58,000 signatures in 24 hours.
It comes as England Golf accused government of “missing an opportunity” to look after amateur players.
The governing body said the game “could be part of the solution”.
England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson said “the physical and mental wellbeing” of millions of could be helped if government were to reverse its decision to close courses.
“In excess of two million golfers could have been looked after here differently,” he told the BBC’s Sportsday programme.
“That community could have been able to exercise in a different way. It could have taken the strain form public places, parks to be done in a regulated fashion. It is a real shame.”
Northern Ireland’s McDowell, ranked 83 in the world, said “with correct safety measures, golf is a sport which can easily function in these tough times” when sharing a social media post from England’s Westwood on Tuesday.
The shutdown of golf in England was confirmed when a new national lockdown was announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday after the UK recorded more than 50,000 new confirmed Covid cases for the seventh day in a row.
Golf courses in Northern Ireland and Wales have been closed since December.
In Scotland, however, golf is permitted to continue under strict rules.
What does the new lockdown mean for sport in England?
- Elite sportspeople (and their coaches if necessary, or parents/guardians if they are under 18) – or those on an official elite sports pathway – to compete and train
- Indoor gyms and sports facilities will remain closed
- Outdoor sports courts, outdoor gyms, golf courses, outdoor swimming pools, archery/driving/shooting ranges and riding arenas must also close
- Organised outdoor sport for disabled people is allowed to continue
Leading British sports scientist Professor Greg Whyte said new curbs on grassroots sport and closure of leisure facilities has the United Kingdom “facing an inactivity pandemic” that will lead to a “mental and physical health crisis”.
“Covid has stretched the health service, however, it is nothing compared to the overwhelming demand in the coming weeks, months and years,” the former Olympian said.
Even though elite sport is being allowed to continue, Whyte has said lockdown measures could lead to “a future catastrophe” as the recreational sport industry that underpins it faces a major financial fallout.