Golf clubs in England may need to brace themselves for a shutdown lasting longer than four weeks.
Speaking on the NCG Podcast, independent consultant Phil Grice fears that, unless there’s a significant change in Covid case numbers before the country’s second lockdown is due to end on December 2, restrictions may stay in place and golf clubs could remain closed.
“I’m not a politician but I think that we’re all understanding that the likelihood of this just being a four-week lockdown is remote,” he says, while adding he hopes his prediction proves to be wrong.
“The numbers would have to change significantly and that then doesn’t bode well for the fact that golf courses potentially could be closed for the next two to three months.”
Grice, a former general manager at Royal Norwich and chairman of the Golf Club Managers’ Association, believes the current uncertainty may also have a greater impact on those clubs that charge subscriptions by calendar year, who could have to enter a renewals period with the gates still locked.
While golf reopened to a boom in the summer months, with players flocking to join clubs, he also thinks the onset of winter could complicate the membership process this time.
“The uncertainty, I believe, will have an impact on membership renewals – it certainly did with us [at Royal Norwich in the spring] – and while a lot of clubs recovered from that and maybe even in some cases got ahead of the original point, there is the vast majority of clubs that are now going into their renewal period.
“This uncertainty will do none of them a favour – because it will be a first for them…trying to convince members to carry on paying when it is not just about golf. It’s wider than that.
“Some of these people will be back on furlough, some will be losing their jobs so [will be] paying a subscription for something – and they believe in their minds that if they lose the next two or three months that they’re probably not going to play golf until March or April.
“I believe, for the uplift we’ve had, it will create a lot of doubt and uncertainty and for general managers and their teams, who have been under an incredible amount of pressure.”
He adds: “There will be a darker cloud over this shutdown, especially as most of us will believe it will be slightly longer than four weeks.”
Grice says he continues to be optimistic about the club game – despite the ‘bumpy’ period that lies ahead – as long as the sport builds on its summer success and makes a point of listening to its customers.
“We’ve had a good year and it’s been great. What we’ve got to do is batten down the hatches and make sure that when we come out of it on the other side, that we have learned.
“I do think this next period is going to be bumpy and we did get a little bit of a free lunch.
“We’ve got to look to find ways of making sure we do listen to our customers and we don’t lose the head of steam we have got this year and we build upon it.
“The future is definitely positive for golf. I just sincerely hope golf clubs, who gained a lot of new members, don’t take that just as a free lunch and think they are fixed.
“They’re not. They got it by default. You’ve got to listen to what these people want. We’ve got to move forwards.”
For progressive and practical solutions to support the evolution of your club, contact Phil Grice at via email.
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