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‘We had members going out at 7pm for another nine’: How golf clubs celebrated the return of golf

‘We had members going out at 7pm for another nine’: How golf clubs celebrated the return of golf

Five managers tell NCG how the reopening of golf courses in England went at their clubs
 

Packed tee sheets and car parks greeted the return of golf to courses in England – and no one could have been happier.

After a long three-month absence, golfers could finally swing away as March 29 marked the moment the country’s coronavirus lockdown eased again.

It was fourballs and frolics, and probably far too many shots, as players flocked to the fairways and clubs welcomed back their members.

We asked five managers to tell us how the first day of term went for them…

‘I don’t think it could have gone better’

Scarcroft

Mick Thorpe, general manager, Scarcroft, Leeds

The captain wanted to make a statement and be there for the first players off, and we got down there and took some photographs. There was a steady stream of golfers all day, really chuffed to be out there and, obviously, the weather helped.

We got lots of commendations about the quality of the course, which was great to see for all the time and effort that’s gone into preparation.

I don’t think it could have gone better, really. They fully valued the effort that had gone into getting the place ready. We wanted to make sure they had a first-class reception, and welcome, and the feedback suggests that’s been the case.

The last three months have been tough but we don’t hide behind the tests and tribulations, because there are people who’ve had far worse to deal with.

We’ve got lots of membership applications. There’s a lot of interest in golf in general and this is an opportunity for the industry. We’ve got to jump on the bandwagon to make sure we don’t miss out on it.

‘We had a full tee sheet from 8am to 6.30pm’

Boyce Hill

Scott Clark, general manager, Boyce Hill, Benfleet

The key thing is: it wasn’t the first time we’d done it. We’ve been well prepared from the previous two lockdowns so we knew what to expect.

Fourballs helped tremendously and we also had the extra hour of daylight and, so, an extra hour of tee times. We had a full tee sheet from 8am to 6.30pm off both tees.

We had starters on the 1st and 10th, we had our course marshal going round, and we specifically managed it in three blocks of two tee starts – from 8 until 10, 12.10 to 2.10 and 4.30 to 6.30. Everything moved really smoothly.

It gave people the option of either playing 18 or just 9. As it happens, it seems most people actually just played the 9 holes.

[Going forward] Vaccination has certainly provided a great deal of optimism. From a golf course perspective, it’s quite nice timing around opening up.

Our renewals are April 1 and this lockdown has helped that situation in terms of the demand for golf. With people coming back, it looks like our renewals are looking very rosy.

There’s optimism all round and the next step is to get the hospitality facilities open.

‘To not have them here has been quite soul destroying’

Verulam

Paul Keen, general manager, Verulam, St Albans

It’s actually gone really smoothly, in terms of an eight-day booking window, so we’ve managed to disperse golf [over that time] – rather than having a mad rush of a two-day or three-day booking window like previously.

Members have got their golf. The course is extremely busy, as you’d think, coupled with Easter school holidays which has also made it probably busier than it would normally be.

When you’ve done your golf management diplomas, you’re trained to get members to the club early for their rounds early, and try to keep them for as long afterwards.

We’re still not in that situation yet. They’re arriving 20 minutes before tee off and going straight home afterwards and it’s been a challenging three months when our careers are built around membership and the success of our membership base.

To not have them [members] here has been quite soul destroying. We thrive off the buzz and the day-to-day membership interacting and enjoying themselves. It’s been challenging for them but it has been challenging for club managers at the same time. I hope this is the last one.

‘We were giving everybody free tea and cake halfway round as a thank you for their patience’

golf courses

Gareth Morgan, general manager, Long Ashton, Bristol

The first day was great. We’ve done a lot of work here since we’ve been closed, particularly around the practice area and driving range. A lot more safety work has been put into place. The feedback from the members about that was good.

It was the first time we’ve seen a lot of members and it was great to hear from them that they were really pleased with the communication that’s gone out during the latest lockdown. Those were the biggest things that came out of Monday. We were giving everybody free tea and cake halfway round as a thank you for their patience.

It was an opportunity for me to make sure I saw most people who played and there were a lot of happy people. We’ve had some tough times over the last three months with restructures and everything else and turning up to an empty car park every day doesn’t help the mood.

To turn up on Monday morning to an already full car park at quarter past eight, to walk out there and see people playing, and stopping halfway round with a smile on their face for a cup of tea and a slice of cake, to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a long time, it was an enjoyable day. It was very, very busy, but I think all the staff are the same. We were just delighted to have some members to talk to again.

‘We’ve got joy going on here every day’

sunningdale heath

Anthony Mocklow, manager, Sunningdale Heath, Ascot

Like every golf courses in the country, tee tee sheet was packed solidly from 6.45am to 6.45 at night. We still had members going out at 7pm for an additional nine holes.

We knew it was coming but there was extraordinary member participation and a few members bringing guests in the afternoon, which always helps.

The phone is ringing off the hook with golf society days for the next month or two and it’s just an incredible effort by everybody.

We are very intent with our position about what the club is all about. This club is about having fun. And if you’re a member here, this club needs to be part of your lifestyle.

We are a service and hospitality club first and foremost, and the members join here for that reason. We’ve got joy going on here every day.

We put out a buffet on the 1st tee for members to have snacks, coffee, tea, fruit. We did a breakfast buffet – which we’re doing for three or four days – and who isn’t not going to smile when they’re greeted with a morning snack before they go and play golf? I’m lucky I’ve been around great service all my life and this place is very special.

We can’t wait for April 12 so we can open up our outdoor marquee and dining area.

How did your club celebrate the reopening of golf courses after lockdown? 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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