They’ve gone 120 years without enforcing tee bookings at La Moye but a pandemic will bring changes overnight. A round at the Jersey club is now strictly controlled. You play as a single, or a twoball if it’s with someone in your own household.
You select whether you want to play off the 1st or 10th. And it’s nine holes only. Everything else is shut: the clubhouse, locker room, changing rooms, pro shop, trolley room.
“The whole emphasis has been on getting people on the golf course, round the course and off site as quickly as possible,” general manager Richard Cutler tells NCG.
If you’re wondering why the members at La Moye can still get a round in while your club is closed then you need to remember that Jersey isn’t in the United Kingdom.
It’s part of the British Isles but it’s a Crown Dependency so the Channel Island territory makes its own laws and arrangements.
And while the doors are bolted at UK clubs, as the governing bodies instructed their member clubs, authorities here took a different view.
“As large open spaces, golf courses can stay open as long as social distancing is fully observed and monitored, ensuring there is no congregation whatsoever on the course or in other outdoor spaces such as car parks,” said the Government of Jersey.
“The coronavirus is at a different stage in this island than in parts of the UK,” explains Cutler. “In the South of England, and certainly London, it’s probably three or four weeks ahead of the situation in Jersey right now.
“We are operating under these conditions at the moment but, clearly, that’s going to be subject to change as it progresses.”
At only nine miles by five miles, or 45 square miles in total, the opportunities for public open space are perhaps more limited for the 110,000 people who live on the island than across the water.
Keeping La Moye accessible has been a lifeline for members. Could their example, and that of nearby Les Mielles and Wheatlands who have also stayed open, give an insight into how UK clubs may operate when we finally emerge from lockdown?
“The first thing we thought we should do was concentrate on our members only,” explains Cutler of the procedures brought in to keep golf going, as well as keep players safe.
“All the measures we introduced have been about providing as much control as possible as to who is here, and how many, at any one time.
“We have got 155 acres of golf course and felt if we could control the number of people who set foot on it properly, and those people behaved properly, then we could offer a relatively safe way to keep getting some golf and some light exercise.
“I’ve had a lot of feedback from the members and they’ve been delighted to keep playing golf. But not only to keep playing, but to come out and get their light exercise in an area that’s actually safer than the public parks, or even the beaches and public spaces on the island.
“It’s a more controlled environment. With these measures, there is a limit as to how many people can be on that land space at any one time, which isn’t the case if you go for a walk in a public space.”
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Adapting to new circumstances has been key and nowhere, in Cutler’s judgement, has that been seen more from La Moye members than in the adopting of a tee booking system for casual rounds.
“Bear in mind we are a private members’ golf club that’s never operated a tee booking system before,” he adds.
“Our members don’t really want a tee booking system. As a private members’ club, they want to turn up and play at will. That’s what they can do under normal circumstances.
“They have adapted superbly well to the tee booking system. They were used to booking tee times for competitions but not for general play.
“We’ve transitioned from a 120-year-old club that’s never had tee times to one that does overnight without any complaints whatsoever.
“It has been quite amazing how adaptable big groups of people can be if the circumstances call for it.”
That tee sheet has been full each day, from 7am until 6.30pm, but don’t imagine there are hordes of golfers milling around threatening social distancing rules. It’s no more than two people, from the 1st and 10th, going off every 10 minutes.
“That’s a maximum of 36 people on the golf course at any one time, pretty much. We’re allowing members to book up to a week in advance and are urging them to cancel their tee times if it becomes clear they can’t play – so we are making best use of all available times.”
The virus sweeping the globe has brought misery for many but perhaps it’s in the small things where you can find hope for the future. For Cutler, that’s been in the unexpected combination of people who have come together to tee it up at La Moye.
“I’ve seen a lot more people playing golf with their kids than I ever have before – a father and daughter, mother and son, or similar.
“It’s happening so quickly and, frankly, we didn’t see a lot of 12-, 15- or 18-year-olds on the course.
“But when I look through the tee sheet, it’s a parent with a child so regularly now that it’s tremendous.
“I’m hoping some of these young people will have a passion for the game instilled in them during this time that might last them a lifetime.”
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