A collective sigh of relief swept across England as golf re-opened last Wednesday, 13th May. Golfers, who have been under strict lockdown, were delighted to be allowed to play again. Obviously, many new safety procedures have been put in place and these have all been embraced by golf operators, there staff and customers alike. Play is in the reduced one and two ball formats, except for the occasional larger group if they are all from the same household.
Tom Brooke, Managing Director for Glendale Golf said: “We are very pleased with being open again and also by the responsibility shown by our customers who have adapted well to this new style of golf. Rounds are being played much faster which is a pleasing benefit. Under normal circumstances we would do everything possible to encourage our customers to linger longer and enjoy a drink and something to eat after the round. It goes against the grain, but everybody understands why we must discourage any type of socialising before or after a round.”
Neil Burke, who runs Horsham Golf and Fitness, is thrilled to have his customers return to the course. He commented: “The pace of play has been a major advantage and we are considering adjusting our future management style to include times when people can play in two-balls only. There has been quite a lot spoken about the fact that golf is too time-consuming but most of our players are getting round in less than three hours and that gives them more time to enjoy other activities with their families. There is obviously a market for faster golf. In addition, the attitude of our members and visitors has been excellent. They have been polite and eager to fit in with our new operating rules and restrictions and a delight to deal with.”
The UK Golf Federation and the R&A along with the PGA, BIGGA, GCMA, BGIA and the regional golf unions have acted with the All Party Parliamentary Group for Golf (APPG) to ensure that golf has re-opened on sound principals and with safe social distancing. There have been very few reports of any problems and it is much to the credit of all these different organisations that they have worked so smoothly together to provide a safe environment for golf to be enjoyed once again.
Ian Bonser, who owns the 3 Hammers Golf Complex was delighted with some of the comments made about his safety policies: “Several of our customers have commented that they feel safer at our golf centre than at their local supermarket due to the thoroughness of the social distancing and signage my team have deployed. I couldn’t ask for better feedback than that.”
Doug Poole, the Chief Executive of the UK Golf Federation is delighted with the progress made:
“Across the country we have had excellent reports from clubs of all different types and sizes. The UK Golf Federation has been keen to share best practice on all government’s safety procedures throughout its membership and we are proud that we have been able help golf resume safely.
“Importantly, all of our members realise that this is a critical time for the country and we are very grateful to be open at all. Being one of the first sports to re-open to the public is especially important for the country’s well-being and fitness. We have set the highest safety standards and I am extremely impressed with this level of restraint and understanding of everyone involved, from customers to operators.”
The Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey, has called the reopening of golf courses “safe and successful” but reiterated the need for continued discipline by golfers and staff.
“I am sure colleagues will join me in congratulating all those at courses who went back to work and to players who have returned to golf with enthusiasm but care. However, that level of discipline when it comes to social distancing rules, in particular, is critical to ensure courses stay open and golf is able to remain at the forefront of the recovery. We need to be constantly mindful that if the R number increases, the Government is able to review their position and reinstate a greater degree of lockdown, either partially or wholly, which obviously we don’t want to see happen to our golf courses.”
Regular meetings of golf industry bodies have been taking place since lockdown began, taking place weekly with daily communication as things progressed. This has enabled golf to be in the position it is now, and there has been unexpected outcome as Tracey concluded:
“One of the terrific pieces of news that we had picked up on over the week, and was confirmed by industry bodies today, is the increase in membership applications and innovation that has resulted. This should be a really significant positive impact for the sport moving forward.”