A Highland Perthshire golf club has teed-up an ambitious post-pandemic recovery plan. Pitlochry Golf Club has been boosted by attracting 30 new members over the last few weeks.
And well-known professional Niall McGill – who heads-up Perth’s Noah’s Ark Golf Centre – will assume the director of golf role this weekend.
These are challenging times for Scottish golf and Pitlochry relies heavily on visitor income for its break-even financial model.
But Niall, who takes over the reins from retiring general manager Mike Winton, and pro Gary Casey have been encouraged by the support from 350 members and visitors who are booking-up tee times again at the scenic course in the shadow of Ben-Vrackie.
Stephen Carruthers, Pitlochry Golf director, admitted the financial model had been shredded by the pandemic. But he is confident 112-year-old Pitlochry will recover from the Covid-19 fall-out.
“In some ways it has brought everyone together because membership is up 10% – which is excellent for a town this size – and members have been rallying round to carry out essential maintenance since our course manager Stuart Griffiths was hospitalised by a serious accident,” he said. “For a small town, proportionately the number of new members committing to at least the next 18-months is impressive. Numbers in our intermediate category, up to age 40, are also encouraging.
“It has been a tough time because 60% of our annual income is down to visitors. We are looking at a six-figure hit between Pitlochry and Blair Atholl. We would have expected visitors from mid-March and we had none until things opened up over the last few weeks. So it has been catastrophic.
“We did get a £25,000 grant and furloughed staff, which has helped. And on a positive note, it has brought the club closer, nurturing a real sense of community. We are looking to the future now and hoping the surge in visiting party bookings continues.
“We are well-placed geographically here in Highland Perthshire and there is plenty of accommodation on our doorstep. It’s a challenging time but we have the right man in Niall McGill as director of golf.
“We might have been tempted to muddle along but I am confident Niall and Gary will do a brilliant job and lead the bounce back.”
“It is a great opportunity for us and Gary. We are looking forward to driving Pitlochry forward,” stressed Niall. “Between us we have around 60 years’ experience in golf, although, like everyone else, we’ve never faced anything remotely approaching the last few months.
“But we are looking forward to the rest of the season now.
“Noah’s Ark had been running the pro shop but I have a more all-encompassing role now. We have a great golf course here. It has been hailed the world’s best course under 6000 yards.
“Pitlochry is an appealing destination for day-trip golfers and stay-cationers, particularly with fourballs now allowed.
“Often visitors are golfers but not necessarily here on a specific golfing break. We are aiming to tap into this market, with brand new sets of TaylorMade and Titleist clubs available for hire. Membership has been growing and Gary has enjoyed a huge uplift in our junior section over the past year.”