As golfers in England look forward to a return to the fairways next week, we consider ways the sport might be able to improve after the break.
How Could Golf Change For The Better Post Lockdown?
With golf set to re-start in England, we look at what we can take from the experience of interrupted play through a full year of the pandemic and wonder, how could golf change for the better post lockdown?
Here are five suggestions:
1 – Pace of play
After the 2020 lockdown, we saw a distinct increase in pace of play up and down the country.
At first that was largely because play was mainly in two-balls, but it was also helped by the flags remaining in, and by a generally more relaxed approach encouraging greater take-up of the concept of ready golf.
The majority of golfers enjoyed the quicker rounds and the fact that a game could be slotted more easily into a part of the day, rather than taking up a full day.
Golf would be changed for the better post-lockdown if golfers and clubs continue trying to expedite play.
Ready golf should now be the absolute norm rather than a novelty.
If all on course play when it’s sensible and helpful to do so, we’ll all enjoy our golf more.
2 – Playing at different times
Immediately after the last lockdown, tee times were hard to come by.
Simply getting a slot was a bonus.
With an online rush every time a booking sheet opened, there was no chance of the club stalwarts determinedly booking up the same times every day.
It meant they, and all of us, had to be a bit more flexible with when we played.
Many who would have only ever played before in the early morning, enjoyed a game at dusk, or vice versa…
As a result, we all experienced something a little different – playing at lunchtime, putting the flags out, or taking them in…
Variety is the spice of life and in 2021 golfers might be a little more open-minded about moving away from their, set-in-stone, 10.08 slot!
3 – And in all weathers
With tee times at a premium after the last lockdown, many “fair-weather golfers” were forced to dust down the waterproofs and face the elements in order to get a game.
And many players realised that battling the wind and rain can be a fun challenge if you have the right equipment to stand up to it.
With luck, this year we’ll see fewer withdrawals from the monthly Medal when the BBC predicts a “two-spot” day!
4 – Golf for all
A fundamental way golf might improve after this lockdown is to continue to ride the upward trend in golf’s popularity witnessed on the return to the game last year.
The game did, and needs to continue, to take advantage of the opportunity.
Clubs and governing bodies must continue to push to display the benefits of being a golfer, and a club member.
Those clubs must be open and welcoming to everybody who shows an interest in swinging a club.
The pandemic has shown people the importance of physical and mental wellbeing – Golf is great for both and that message should be to the fore.
5 – And more income from domestic visitors
With holidays abroad looking questionable, there’s a great opportunity for clubs to make some money from domestic holidaymakers and more local visitors.
The more prestigious venues may suffer through a lack of overseas business, but the lower-level clubs and facilities (that wouldn’t normally take in much in the way of green fees from foreign visitors,) could do rather nicely.
If grassroots clubs offer attractive rates or deals to domestic holidaymakers, or just to visitors from the local area, they can boost revenue and reinvest in course and facilities to improve the offering to their membership and to future visitors.
There’s great excitement around a return to golf and the game should look to move onwards and upwards in 2021.
Fergus is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin (also of Golf Monthly)... Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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