It was G-Day for clubs in England as many opened their courses after nearly two months. We asked a quartet how it felt to welcome members back
It was a day for early alarm calls, for clubs and shoes to be cleaned, a new shirt to be donned and a fresh sleeve of balls to be unleashed.
It was the day for which many golfers had yearned – the reopening of their courses.
But it was also a different sport many returned to as clubs across England took down the closed signs and opened their gates after the UK Government eased some of the coronavirus restrictions.
Those who teed it up on G-Day did so in a new era of socially distanced golf, with clubhouses that were shut, and rigorous guidelines that strove to keep players safe.
So how did clubs get through their first day back? We spoke to four to discover what happened as members returned…
Bradford Golf Club
— The Bradford Golf Club (@TheBradfordGC) May 13, 2020
Big competition days will see around 140 golfers descend on Bradford, but returning to the club after so long away saw incredible demand that stunned club chiefs.
Even with the restrictions in place surrounding group sizes, more than 200 got a round in at the West Yorkshire course.
One of those was board member George Pye, who said it was a very positive and relaxed experience.
“It was very well organised. We split the course into two loops and so there were holes 1 to 10 and 11 to 18. I played the back eight and it was great. The 10-minute intervals between twoballs meant there was virtually no chance of catching up with the people in front.
“Everybody was well apart, in a good mood, and just pleased to be out. The feedback that we had, speaking to the manager, was that it was brilliant we had that two-tee start and everybody was very clear about social distancing.
“Special mention has to go to the greenkeeping team. It’s been genuine essential maintenance but the course was looking in superb condition.”
On how he played, Pye added: “I parred the first two and then chipped in from off the green for a par on the 16th!
“While we were all really excited and pleased to be out, we were also very conscious of the responsibility we had as golfers to show the nation that we could behave ourselves and follow the guidelines.”
Long Ashton Golf Club
Supply outstripped demand at Bristol club Long Ashton and general manager Gareth Morgan’s only regret was that not every member who wanted to play was able to tee it up.
Tee sheets for four days were filled in just 12 minutes and that was despite some technical issues as players from clubs across the country swamped software providers to book precious spots.
Long Ashton have limited the number of rounds golfers can book in a rolling seven-day period – it’s currently two – and Morgan said he’d spent most of the first day back around the 1st tee area making sure the club’s extensive procedures were followed.
“It’s gone really well and we haven’t had to remind anyone [about social distancing],” he said.
And we are BACK!!!!! 😃🏌️♂️ pic.twitter.com/3xT3bkTkJ1
— Long Ashton Golf (@LongAshtonGolf) May 13, 2020
“We do have a natural bottleneck here when you arrive at the club to get to the 1st tee so we have created a one-way system. You can only come in the way you would normally enter and can’t come back that way.
“That should prevent anyone going within two metres of each other. There are all sorts of other measures in place on the driving range and practice ground. We’ve even put in a one-way system on the putting green.
“We’re delighted to be open. Demand is far greater than supply for the first four or five days and I am almost preaching to the choir today and meeting the members happy to be getting back on the course.
“I do spare a thought for those who wanted to get out over the next couple of days and haven’t been able to get on the tee sheet. Hopefully, that disappointment will be short lived.”
Scarcroft Golf Club
“It’s a very different day at work where there are people around,” said Scarcroft general manager Mick Thorpe. “It’s been like a ghost town for the last few weeks. It’s almost back to the ‘normal’ golf problems.”
Although as Thorpe pointed out, there was nothing normal about re-opening day at the West Yorkshire club.
It was like a supermarket queue, with lines and a one-way system, as members waited to get in and retrieve their kit from lockers. That’s a limited time deal – the clubhouse will be closed for the foreseeable.
“There was a fair bit of planning, on theirs and the club’s behalf, to get it (reopening) done but it was a nice day and they were all chuffed to bits to be getting out there. They were shouting across the car park at each other.”
There wasn’t a space on the tee-sheet from 7.30am until 6pm and it’s like that for the next couple of days too.
And, Thorpe said, as great as it was to see those members who could take to the course, he was also mindful of those who couldn’t.
“It still feels a bit eerie and strange with the format we are doing. A lot of members are still having to protect themselves or their partners and are staying away. They’re still a bit cagey and careful and I can understand that.”
Thorpe spoke to NCG last month about his fears that a £100,000 financial loss was the worst case scenario for Scarcroft, depending on how long the crisis lasted.
As play got back under way, though, he had some brighter news to report.
“You are fearing the worst but, interestingly, we had two new members join today and we’ve had plenty of enquiries.
“I know people want to get back into golf but these were established golfers and, for us, that’s a positive.”
No one is getting ahead of the game at Scarcroft, but they’re glad to be back and playing again – even though times may still be uncertain.
Oswestry Golf Club
If you wanted to play at Oswestry, you could – after the Shropshire parkland put in restrictions to manage the demand.
It was all part of a plan the club’s management group had been working on behind the scenes, explained secretary John Evans.
“It’s been great seeing the members back out on the golf course,” he said. “To manage demand we decided to put in place some restrictions, and this approach has worked out very well and has given everybody the chance to play.
“The first day back has gone very well, thanks in no small part to the small management group working behind the scenes so we were ready for any eventuality. This has ensured we have been able to open quickly and efficiently.
“The golfers are understandably delighted to be back out and all of them have behaved impeccably, adhering to social distancing and other guidelines put in place.
“It would be remiss of me not to mention the tireless work put in by our Head Greenkeeper Gary Barnfield and his skeleton staff to ensure the course has been maintained to such a high standard for our return.
“It is worth pointing out that, we in the golf industry, are in a fortunate position to be able to re-commence activity, so to all golfers out there, enjoy it, but please remember to abide by the guidelines set out by England Golf and our club and stay safe.”
Did you get out to play as courses in England reopened? Let me know how your round went in the comments, or tweet me.
Golf courses reopen: Essential reading
- It’s back! Golfers share their joy of being out on the course again
- Clubs reopening is more than just unlocking the gates
- How can UK golf clubs take advantage of the pandemic?
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