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greenkeepers

The incredible numbers that prove just how much extra work the Covid boom has given greenkeepers

The British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association commissioned a survey to find out the impact full tee times had on courses. The results are astonishing
 

Sometimes figures can tell the whole story: 15 million extra rounds across the UK; 180 billion additional footsteps; 270 million more divots; 150 million new pitchmarks.

What do these numbers show? They reveal the strain our courses took as we all flocked to play when golf became the socially distanced sport of the coronavirus pandemic.

We know membership surged and we know tee times were full for much of 2020. But the British and International Golf Greenkeepers’ Association (BIGGA) wanted to find out the effect so many more rounds, swings, and footsteps had on tees, fairways and greens.

They commissioned research experts, Sports Marketing Surveys, to quantify that increased footfall. And the results, outlined in this month’s Greenkeeper International magazine, are little short of incredible.

SMS surveyed 250 courses from across the UK and looked at the key period between May and October – from when golf was allowed to return as the first Covid lockdown was eased until the end of summer.

They found, per course, per month, that each layout experienced an average 1,000 extra rounds compared with the previous year, 12 million more footsteps, 18,000 additional divots and 10,000 more pitch marks.

And the sum total of each course’s extra burden allowed them to calculate the huge UK totals.

greenkeepers

Clearly, that added wear and tear put huge pressure on greenkeeping teams, many of whom were still working with restricted numbers – either as a result of continuing furlough, team members who had lost their jobs to redundancy, or because they were ill or having to self isolate.

Richard Payne, SMS director, told Greenkeeper International: “Now obviously more footfall means more people playing, more traffic and less time for people such as members of BIGGA to get out there and repair the golf course. You have to consider not only the number of footprints, but the more golf is played the more divots will be taken or pitchmarks that are created.”

He added: “For BIGGA members, we can see that increase in golf, in terms of increased footfall and in terms of the boom we’re describing, it has actually led to a huge increase in the amount of work that greenkeepers have had to do.”

Check out BIGGA’s website to see the full survey results and reaction.

How have your greenkeepers coped with golf’s coronavirus boom? If you’re a greenkeeper, what has the last few months been like? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me.

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Steve Carroll

Steve Carroll

A journalist for 25 years, Steve has been immersed in club golf for almost as long. A former club captain, he has passed the Level 3 Rules of Golf exam with distinction having attended the R&A's prestigious Tournament Administrators and Referees Seminar.

Steve has officiated at a host of high-profile tournaments, including Open Regional Qualifying, PGA Fourball Championship, English Men's Senior Amateur, and the North of England Amateur Championship. In 2023, he made his international debut as part of the team that refereed England vs Switzerland U16 girls.

A part of NCG's Top 100s panel, Steve has a particular love of links golf and is frantically trying to restore his single-figure handicap. He currently floats at around 11.

Steve plays at Close House, in Newcastle, and York GC, where he is a member of the club's matches and competitions committee and referees the annual 36-hole scratch York Rose Bowl.

Having studied history at Newcastle University, he became a journalist having passed his NTCJ exams at Darlington College of Technology.

What's in Steve's bag: TaylorMade Stealth 2 driver, 3-wood, and hybrids; TaylorMade Stealth 2 irons; TaylorMade Hi-Toe, Ping ChipR, Sik Putter.

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