The Return of Golf?
The recent lockdown had been very difficult for all of us. We are all clinging to the hope that some restrictions may be lifted or eased a little on the 5th May, particularly those of us from the golfing community. Golf was one of the last activities to stop when the full scale lockdown came into place and by logic we are hoping it will be one of the first activities to be lifted.
We are lucky that social distancing is possible on the open fairways of a golf course. It is perhaps a given that the clubhouses will remain closed and likely that stricter rules will initially be in place. We can get a bit of a steer from Denmark who has since reopened their golf courses as to what may lie ahead for Irish golf courses.
In Denmark only two balls are permitted with a 15 minute gap between each tee time, no competitions are allowed with only social golf for now. There are other smaller but none the less important measures that can be taken by clubs such as removing rakes from bunkers and turning the cups upside down etc. It also looks likely to start with that the member courses will be restricted to members only.
The two kilometre movement restriction has only been eased for essential travel. It will be interesting to see if a travel restriction of some sort will apply for golf courses. It would appear likely at this stage that a travel restriction will remain but maybe extended to possibly 10 to 15k. Logic dictates that the government and public at large don’t want the disease moving around to different parts of the country and starting back up again in the community having done so much to control it in the first instance.
Golf clubs will have to be mindful of older members and their concerns. Allocating specific tee times or days for them to play will be important much the way shops have had to readjust to accommodate everyone (much to their credit).
Golf has an enormous role to play in terms of people’s general wellbeing and the mental health benefits of getting exercise out in the fresh air. Not to mention the levels of tranquillity that can be reached watching the Masters in April!
Golf Club Closures
Another concern golf clubs like society and businesses in general face is how to deal with the financial loss as a result of the pandemic. If courses reopen mid-May there may be scope for the clubs to allocate membership fees as credit to other parts of the club such as in the club house or pro shop so that the funds remain in the club.
Resort courses had been performing quite well pre covid and a number of them had recently changed hands and had seen significant investment in both the courses and clubhouse facilities. However, some of the club courses were still experiencing difficulties from the legacy of the last financial recession and had recently closed such as Dunmurry Springs and Killerig. There would be a concern that some more clubs would come under increased pressure as a result of the pandemic. This is not an immediately obvious issue but may manifest later in the year.
Attracting New Golfers
On a positive note their have never been as many enthusiastic/new people to exercise as in recent weeks. Can golf attract more new golfers and strengthen the game and as a result the many great clubs we already have in this country? I hope so.
One thing is for sure you don’t realise how much you enjoy the game until you can’t play it anymore and here’s hoping we can get back to the fairways shortly and in a sensible fashion and not see images of packed golf courses reversing the decision two weeks later as was the case with pubs and nightclubs.
Look after yourselves,