Golf clubs ‘delighted’ that the pace of play has been so quick

By Alistair May 23, 2020 17:22

Several golf clubs in England have reported that the length of time it’s taken for post-lockdown rounds to be completed has been so fast that they are considering making permanent changes based on the last week of golf activity.

One manager said the last few days have been so successful that he’s considering introducing time slots in which golf groups are limited to a maximum of two people.

There are also reports of golfers giving positive feedback regarding just how safe they felt at clubs in the last week.

Golf club memberships in the UK have been in decline for years and one of the most common cited reasons why people have played less golf has been slow play: Many golfers do not want to spend more than four hours playing a round of golf.

Numerous initiatives have been brought in in recent years to address this but it appears that simply playing golf in the post Covid-19 lockdown era may be far and away the most successful yet.

Tom Brooke, managing director of Glendale Golf, which runs six golf clubs in the UK, 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.”

Horsham Golf and Fitness. Image from Facebook

Neil Burke, who runs Horsham Golf and Fitness in Sussex, added: “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.”

In a statement to the industry, the UK Golf Federation has said that it’s not just the pace of play that has improved, but golfers have been giving positive feedback due to the safe environment they’ve been playing in.

Doug Poole, chief executive, said: “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 to 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 reopen 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.”

Safety signage at 3Hammers Golf Complex. Image from Facebook

His comments were echoed by Ian Bonser, who owns the 3 Hammers Golf Complex in Wolverhampton, who said: “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.”

“We run two golf courses here and we’ve got tee times booked from 7.30am to 5pm,” general manager of Cottrell Park, in Cardiff, Derek Smith said.

“We are fully booked on both courses all day, predominantly one balls.

“Speaking to the customers this morning, they are very pleased with the protocols we have put in place, they feel very safe, and they are very pleased to get out there, do some exercise and take the sticks with them, so to speak.

“It’s put a lot of smiles on people’s faces given these dreadful times we are currently living in.”

The chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Golf, North Warwickshire MP Craig Tracey, said: “The overwhelming feedback is that the restarting of golf has been safe and successful. Players have been keeping to social distancing requirements with little or no instruction from staff and the new temporary rules are being diligently followed. With only two-balls being allowed, play has become faster and it is not surprising that many courses were at full capacity.

“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.”

Since English golf courses reopened last week there has been a surge in membership applications. This has not offset the problems caused by coronavirus, and The R&A has launched a £7 million fund to help UK and Irish facilities.


By Alistair May 23, 2020 17:22

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