Nick Rodger Nick Rodger
The growth in golf interest in this tough year is just like the scenes seen in an Attenborough documentary about wildebeest mass migration.
There was a real rush to golf courses here, there and everywhere when Royal & Ancient play resumed while other sports and pastimes were put on hold due to the Corona virus, as tee times were as coveted as a worldwide cure and memberships shot through the roof.
For example, after the closure was lifted, Glencruitten, the home course of European Tour winner Robert MacIntyre at Oban, added 150 new members, while The Braes, a facility that developed out of the old Polmont Golf Club, tripled its membership during a rousing revival. Across the country, tales of resurgence and redemption abound.
When the shutdown started in March and clubs feared the worst, the future appeared as grim to many as a weather forecast provided by Vincent Price’s eerie voice.
Yet the clouds had a silver lining as well. It was a call that should have been followed by a Kitchener poster when Brora Golf Club officials revealed to the world that their James Braid-designed gem was in danger of being forgotten.
Over the past few months, the response has been well reported, with different membership packages being gobbled up and donations pouring in. An appeal by five-time Open champion Tom Watson, an honorary member himself, sponsored the club’s war effort, which depends heavily on visitor revenue.
Here, in the depths of winter, the general manager of the remote Highland club, Tony Gill, will happily look on the bright side. “If I’m honest, I’m not a big worrier, although our club president may have said otherwise at the beginning of the closure,”If I’m honest, I’m not a big worrier, although our club president may have said otherwise at the beginning of the closure. I’m trying to take the approach that if you’re concerned about anything, you can stop worrying and do something about it. At the beginning of the pandemic, we responded rapidly and in a short period of time raised a large amount of money. We’re still getting people to join us, and on our website we have a button that allows people to donate. We still get people here and there to donate £ 50.
Throughout this time, the hospitality that was shown to us really overwhelmed us at the club. To tell you the truth, we got pretty emotional.
“For me, doing this job and realizing there is so much warmth for the club I run, it’s overwhelming.”
The coronavirus is not something that can be handled with a stroke saver and an experienced caddy, with all its risks and pitfalls, and Gill, like administrators and secretaries at clubs all over, crosses his fingers with happier times ahead.
We’re in a place where we’re going to be all right next year as long as we get the same domestic business we got this summer in three months,”We’re in a position where we’ll be fine next year as long as we get the same domestic business we got in the three months this summer,” “We could do a little worse and still be in a good position. But we might not be able to drag on too much longer with more hard constraints beyond 2021. We’re all hoping for a return to something approaching what it used to be.”
In these days when physical distance is the order of the day, in a turbulent year, golf was one of the sports success stories. “People couldn’t get enough of golf,” says Gill of the sudden increase in involvement.
We don’t have a huge local membership, and we usually had 15 to 20 people playing at the Saturday Medal. All of a sudden we had 30 or 40, and all the clubs had that kind of leap.
We now have people who are really committed to golf because, because of the disadvantages, they do not play other sports. That dedication will hopefully continue.