Are clubs doing enough to attract players in the winter?
James Savage: There’s lots more golf clubs can do during the winter. I think it’s largely up to the pro to come up with ideas like longest drive or nearest the pin on a launch monitor.
I think too many clubs just try and ride the winter out like they are in some sort of disaster movie.
Alex Perry: Completely agree. A club at which a friend of mine is a member has a couple of golf simulators on which they play competitions if the course is unplayable. Raining? Get your fivers in, have a stroll round Pebble Beach.
James Savage: Absolutely. Snooker tournaments, yoga. Good stuff like that.
Alex Perry: Bowling?
Mark Townsend: I never understand why clubs don’t do more mind or fitness bits at any time of year but particularly winter. Could have a massive stretch, then a mental clear-out and celebrate with a carvery.
Or a winter workshop where the pro does 20- minute indoor lessons, subsidized by the club, for a tenner. Anything to get people down there. And then have a carvery.
Alex Perry: Is the carvery subsidised depending on which meats are available?
Mark Townsend: Food and drink are the big profit makers on my Super Sunday, I’d split everything with the chef.
James Savage: Sign me up already. However some golf clubs might be better just shutting down over winter. Save in staff costs, keep the course nice for the season. I often feel sorry for people who work at golf clubs during the winter. It must be soul destroying at times.
My mum and dad used to run a hotel in Newquay and it was like a ghost town in winter. Their approach was to work their tails off for six months of the year and then chill out for the other six. I don’t think that’s a bad model for some golf clubs.
Mark Townsend: What was the name of the hotel?
James Savage: The Kallacliff. Over-looking Lusty Glaze Beach.
Alex Perry: My parents ran a hotel in Cornwall too. Amazing how similar our life trajectories have been, and have landed us both at NCG.
Mark Townsend: What was theirs called?
Alex Perry: The Widemouth Manor, overlooking Widemouth Bay, then the Bullers Arms in a nearby village, then the Inn on the Green, overlooking Crooklets Beach and the 4th hole of Bude & North Cornwall Golf Club.
Mark Townsend: My parents were a headmaster and deputy head, hence my air of authority.
Alex Perry: Which school?
Mark Townsend: Bishop Gilpin and Hillcross in south London
Alex Perry: Bishop Gilpin sounds like the name of a school from Harry Potter.
James Savage: Bishop Gilpin: Quidditch champions 1998.
Mark Townsend: I recently went to Knowsley Safari Park – bear with me – for my birthday and it cost five of us £9 to get in which was a fraction of what it should have cost. It was cold, wet and the animals were a dumbed-down version of what normally goes on.
I thought this was one of the best gestures I had ever come across, we stayed for five hours, the same monkeys climbed on our car and all we missed were a couple of tranquilized lions. I now want to go again even more as I feel like it’s run properly and they’re not taking the proverbial out of punters.
I don’t even feel like I’ve played the course if it has temporary greens. If they’re working on one green and we don’t play it I leave feeling a bit discombobulated. It’s nice to get out and all that in winter but you’d be hard pushed to charge very much to play to a flag in the middle of a fairway.
Alex Perry: If someone is playing on Monday and pays a £20 winter green fee and the course is fully open, then someone rolls up the next day and pays the same amount only to find there are 8 temp greens, that’s not fair, is it? So they should reduce the price.
Steve Carroll: Clubs already charge you less in the cold and wet. It’s called a winter green fee.
Alex Perry: But that is on the assumption most – if not all – greens are in play.
Steve Carroll: Why is it? If it’s winter, shouldn’t you actually ‘assume’ otherwise?
Alex Perry: If I go to a golf club any time of year I expect the full course to be in play. If there are a number of temporary greens in play, I would like to be told then and make my decision based on that.
Mark Townsend: A winter green fee is based on a full course being open. If it’s not a full course you shouldn’t have to pay the full price.
James Savage: You get reduced green fees in the winter because it’s a lot quieter, colder, wetter and generally less appealing. I’d want a further reduction in green fee if half the greens are temps. I’d be happy to pay full green fee with two or three temp greens in play. Any more than that and I’d want some sort of discount.
Or give me a free bacon sandwich. Should all golf clubs give out free bacon sandwiches in winter? Probably. Or a bacon sandwich for every temp green in play.
Alex Perry: A slice of bacon for every temp green in play, up to three slices, one sausage per temp green thereafter.