There’s been so many positive stories around the game of golf in the past two weeks that it’s hard to know where to begin.
With very few exceptions, the safety measures put in place for golf’s return have been embraced by golfers and golf clubs across England.
The ‘course closed’ signs have been replaced by news of full tee sheets.
We have witnessed a rise in membership rather than a drop off and last week we were delighted to bring you news of financial aid for clubs in the shape of The R&A’s Covid-19 Support Fund.
On a personal level, I’d almost forgotten how good it felt to be up with the lark and out on the golf course.
Although I was behind most of the golfers in England on this one, it was still a great feeling to be back out at Marlborough Golf Club last week for the first time in months.
Hats off to the greenkeepers for their work! The course was in great nick.
After being checked in by my lifelong pal and Head Pro Simon, I’m pleased to say that the new procedures in place to allow us all to ‘Play Safe, Stay Safe’ worked like clockwork.
Like many, I anticipated teething problems under the new guidelines. Yet the vast majority of golfers and clubs have seamlessly returned to playing and any problems have been quickly ironed out.
Clear guidelines have helped, but golfers and clubs alike have “stepped up”, taken responsibility and applied the unwritten rule of common sense to their actions.
We have been contacted by many happy golfers extolling the virtues of social rounds as well as zipping round their course in under three hours.
There have also been a great number of enquiries about when clubs may return to three and four ball play outside of household groups.
I empathise with this request and understand the point, sharing the frustrations of golfers and clubs.
Social distancing can still be achieved in fourball golf not to mention the freeing up of precious tee times, allowing clubs to welcome back guests and visitor green fee income.
But as we are all aware, the protection of public health must continue to be our key priority.
With no specific government rules for golf, the guidelines exist for outdoor recreation as a whole. Any change will be a change for everyone that we would then apply to golf.
Please rest assured we will continue to constructively and passionately promote a speedy, safe return to increased playing numbers as quickly as possible.
An additional pressure on golf clubs at the moment is a welcome one… creating space for new members.
It’s been wonderful to hear news of lapsed members returning to the game or newcomers embracing the fact that golf is one of the healthiest and safest sports around.
On average, each club we have spoken to has recruited a minimum of 15 new members over the first two weeks of golf’s return.
It’s great news that many core values of golf club membership - camaraderie, freedom to play and a sense of belonging - once again have new meaning!
Looking to maximise this new membership momentum, we will soon be reaching out to all clubs with our national membership growth campaign which will be adaptable to suit clubs of all sizes.
We will also be communicating criteria for clubs to apply for our Covid-19 Support Fund, so please keep an eye out for further details over the coming weeks.
In among the good and positive feelings, I also want to convey our understanding of the financial strain on golf clubs that have re-opened.
You will have heard me speak before of the increased expenditure without many income streams for example bar and restaurant, function fees and retail. In many cases, these are secondary to subscription income, but just as essential to balancing the books.
With this in mind, I again ask that we keep the faith. This time, of course, the light we head towards is brighter, but still a little way off.
Golf as a sport is shining and, in no small way, that's thanks to you!
And, of course, to all golfers who enjoy “a good walk spoiled” I’d say lap up the sunshine and a continued return to playing the game we love.
Chief Executive, England Golf