‘It’s very frustrating’. Many Scottish golf courses want to reopen now

By Alistair May 17, 2020 16:28

Scottish golf club employees from greenkeepers to PGA professionals, as well as golfers, are becoming increasingly frustrated that they cannot reopen while almost all other golf venues in the UK now have golf being played on them.

Cupar Golf Club head greenkeeper Gary Douglas has told The Courier it’s “very frustrating” to be cutting the grass with no knowledge of when the course will be played again.

“It is very frustrating and very unknown not knowing what’s going to happen,” he said.

“It’s more frustrating now that there’s golf down south and there’s no golf here.

“But I understand why that is. I understand what’s being said by Nicola (Sturgeon). I don’t want Scotland to do anything too soon that could lead to a second wave of cases.

“We are following R&A guidelines and have a plan in place to be ready. Hopefully we’ll hear more soon about when we can reopen and exactly what the restrictions will be.”

An empty Cupar Golf Club this week. Image from Facebook

Cupar’s captain, Keith Ridley, added that the club broke even last year – but today 30 per cent of its 200 members haven’t yet renewed their membership. English golf clubs have seen a surge in membership applications since they reopened.

“Bonkers,” wrote Tom Abbott, who works for the Golf Channel in the US, of Scotland’s courses remaining closed while retired Blairgowrie professional and former Ryder Cup referee Charles Dernie said: “People’s mental well-being needs a lift and some sports can be pretty safe. Think she’s missed an opportunity here.”

“If Ireland, Wales and England are open, then golfers in Scotland will be extremely disappointed at not being able to be given the chance to act like adults!” Campbell Elliott, the pro at Haggs Castle in Glasgow, told The Scotsman.

“I hear from fellow pros that they have on a daily basis around 100 people on the course walking dogs, kids etc but no golf allowed seems bizarre when we are told that exercise is very important for our wellbeing and social distancing on a golf course looks to me to be far safer than queuing and shopping at a supermarket!”

“It is a very frustrating time for Scottish golf clubs at the moment,” added Aberdour’s PGA professional Allan Knox..

“With the rest of the UK courses now open, I feel it’s time for Scotland to follow suit.

“Golf with the correct restrictions can be a safe place to get your daily exercise. Golf is an institution in Scotland and plays a huge part in people’s daily lives. The worry is the longer this goes on more clubs are going to be in a detrimental financial position.”

James Hair, the captain and treasurer of Ladybank Golf Club, stated that the club could potentially lose £230,000 in visitor revenue, meaning “very tough” times ahead.

While conscious of the “balancing act” required to keep people safe, he said there was a feeling that daily exercise by golfers could have been carried out safely on the course throughout lockdown.

Scotscraig Golf Club has warned it is “highly likely” they will have to make significant savings and may be forced to consider redundancies due to the impact of coronavirus.

Captain Ken Glass said the financial impact of lockdown had already been “significant”.

“We are fortunate to have a solid membership and loyal and supportive staff,” he said.

“We are fortunate to have a team of accountants who are members and they are crunching numbers and modelling how our finances will develop over the next two years.

Scotscraig Golf Club

“Sadly it is highly likely that we will have to make significant savings and we may be forced to consider redundancies.

“We are to consult with staff regarding this and to seek ways of avoiding such an event.

“We are looking at methods of support from the government schemes available to us and also from external sources.

“We are investigating the sale of some land in respect of which we have recently applied for planning permission.

“We are asking for support from members who are able to do so recognising of course that these are also difficult times financially for some of them and their families.

“Like many clubs we will likely require to ‘slim down’ to maintain cash flow. We will however develop a plan to grow again once the crisis is over.”

Some in Scotland are supportive of the continuation of the lockdown.

“As a golfer and golf industry worker, of course we want to get back to golf, but nobody wants to jump the gun and put the members and staff at a club at risk,” said Murrayfield pro Jonnie Cliff. “If another week or two is going to save lives, not just in golf but across all industries, then no one can argue with that.”

Brunsfield Links

Richard Brian, the pro at nearby Bruntsfield Links Golfing Society, added: “There are two things about this. Firstly, people need to realise that golf isn’t being specifically targeted in some way! Golf is part of the whole sporting and social decision to remain restricted. Secondly, this is still a serious virus with mortal implications.”

And Alasdair Good, the pro at Gullane, stated: “There has been understandable frustration that courses in other parts of the UK are already open and busy whilst courses in Scotland remain closed. But it is hugely important that we can reopen in a way that is safe for our members and staff.”

Martin Dempster, a journalist for The Scotsman, says people should be patient about a possible June 1 restart, but warned: ‘A week ago, Scottish members of English golf clubs might have been reluctant to cross the border for a game but not any more, by the sounds of things and, the longer the courses in Scotland stay closed, that temptation will start to grow among many others.

‘[This] is why someone needs to stand up and deliver a detailed explanation about why the home of golf is staying closed as the sport is back being played in just about every country on the globe.

‘Covering Scottish golf has given me the odd headache over the years, but this current one is a stonker and it’s not about to go away.’


By Alistair May 17, 2020 16:28

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