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Could your golf course close every winter? Why some clubs are considering it

Last year's lockdowns gave courses an enforced rest, but some clubs are looking to make winter closures an annual thing. Consultant Phil Grice explains the reason behind it
 

Could golf course closures be brought in on an annual basis? One consultant said he’s been speaking to some considering doing just that.

Talking to the From the Clubhouse podcast, Phil Grice revealed the enforced Covid lockdown that closed clubs in England – and comes to an end on Monday – has led a few to ponder whether a short break during the winter could bring long-term benefits to the course.

Despite a difficult couple of months weather-wise in parts of the country since the start of the year, golfers are set to return to courses that have had a much-needed rest. The restrictions have allowed tees, fairways and greens to recover from golf’s Covid boom in 2020 and should lead to better playing conditions this season.

Grice, who runs Golf Transition Management, said: “The golf course has been getting a rest and there’s a number of courses and people I have spoken to – and one really commercial operation I was talking to the other day – and they’re really considering now that for probably two weeks, at the back end of February and two weeks at the start of March, they will close down for a month and actually rest the course each year.

“They’ll allow the greenstaff to get on with essential maintenance and actually, looking at the usage on the course at that time, it [continued play] probably does more harm than good.”

Clubs usually run as year-round operations and members expect the course to be open wherever possible during the winter. There are a number of courses, though, particularly in Scotland such as Kingsbarns and Dumbarnie Links, that shut when temperatures drop.

Asked whether golfers in general would accept mandatory closures, Grice said he felt it would depend on the case put to members.

He said: “If there was a business case put forward to say that the course will really progress, we can get so much work done in this window of opportunity, I think you’d find 85 per cent of the members support it.

“You will absolutely get resistance, of course you will, because there are people who depend on it but there’s certainly no benefit to being open, apart from getting a small percentage of your members out there.

“There is an opportunity to move the course forward at a time when there’s little or no growth and there’s still a chunk of usage on it.”

Grice added: “Don’t get me wrong, it’s a small number of people that are talking about it. I could see it, not throughout the industry, through like-minded clubs – who want to be progressive – who would actually say that doing that, even if it was for a two-week period, would really give the greenstaff an opportunity to do some essential stuff.”

The From the Clubhouse podcast with Phil Grice

In our podcast, Grice also talked about the prevalence of fair use policies at golf clubs as we emerge from lockdown, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on managers and why dress codes have got to go.

Listen to the full episode below, or search ‘The NCG Podcast’ in your preferred podcast platform.

What do you think? Would a two-week winter shutdown help your course, or does membership mean 12 months a year golf? 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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