Golf is one of the few sports that has been fortunate to continue during different levels of lockdown, or return quickly when restrictions eased in England. With membership and participation up across the country and the current lockdown measures starting to be eased later this month just as spring begins, demand is expected to be high and will inevitably put pressure on golf courses.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Golf has been meeting with industry bodies frequently during the pandemic to see where it can support them and also working with government to make a positive case for the game to return as quickly as possible as restrictions begin to be relaxed.
Following the Prime Minister setting out his roadmap for a return to normality, meetings have focused on the sport’s readiness to open up after what has been a very wet winter that followed six months of intense use for many courses. So, whilst Golf’s return will bring a welcome boost to the sector, it is important that players have an appreciation of the level of work going on behind the scenes to make courses playable, against an incredibly challenging backdrop.
The APPG for Golf’s Chairman, MP for NW Warwickshire, Craig Tracey said: “When lockdowns were first mooted, we worked quickly to ensure greenkeepers were able to complete essential maintenance on their courses. That was a critical decision for the sport as it ensured courses were playable immediately or very soon after restrictions were eased. Not only that, but courses saw significant increase in rounds played so they had to be in the best possible condition to stand up to much higher wear and tear. On average courses in the UK experienced an additional 1,000 rounds per month for the six months after they first re-opened.
“The current lockdown has coincided with the period when greenkeepers would normally protect and prepare greens ready for the coming year. In speaking with the likes of the British and International Golf Greenkeepers Association, the Golf Club Managers Association, the UK Golf Federation and England Golf, as well as the other bodies involved in the APPG, it is clear they all are continually working as hard as possible to maintain courses, clubs and other facilities as we all wait for normality to return.
“We need to be mindful though that no two clubs are alike and for a wide variety of reasons, some have been able to retain more staff than others. They have also had to contend with the bad weather that winter brings against the backdrop of a global pandemic that has drastically cut revenue and often led to members of the team being placed on furlough, so unable to help prepare the course.
“I have no doubt that all golf club teams will be working flat out to present a welcoming, enjoyable playing experience and I’m sure golfers will appreciate the extraordinarily hard work that has taken place to enable them to get back out on the fairways this spring. However, it is important ahead of the return that every club manages its own members’ expectations when it comes to the pressure on things like tee time availability and that many courses will likely need a bit of breathing space to allow them to return to their peak condition.
“When stepping out on to that first tee again, it would be great if we all took the time to remember the key role greenkeepers have played throughout the pandemic and thank them, club managers and all staff for their dedication to their jobs which will allow players back again in what I’m sure will be record numbers.”
Download the roadmap for the return of golf in England