If We Work Together We Can Help Our Clubs Survive This Crisis

We must all dig deep if club golf as we know it is to continue in this country after the coronavirus shutdown

If We Work Together We Can Help
(Image credit: Tom Miles)

We must all dig deep if club golf as we know it is to continue in this country after the coronavirus shutdown

If We Work Together We Can Help Our Clubs Survive This Crisis

It’s very clear now that life has changed, and will continue to be changed, significantly by the coronavirus.

Quite what the world will look like after this unprecedented period is difficult to predict, but we all have to accept we are facing a long road to a return towards anything approaching the ‘normality’ we lived in until not that long ago.

At the start of March, many of us were looking forward to the golf season, to The Masters, to spring and to course conditions starting to improve.

Now we are in the midst of a complete break from golf. None on TV and none to be played for the foreseeable future. Can golf clubs as we know them in this country survive the enforced break?

At Golf Monthly, we believe they can, but for that to be the case, everybody who can must do their bit – both golf club members and the clubs themselves.

Golf has been played on our islands for 550 years and it will continue after this crisis, but we don’t want it to become something that is marginalised and only open to the elite.

We are fortunate to have many smaller clubs that provide hubs in local communities, allowing people from many different walks of life to experience the sport, to mix across the social demographic, to enjoy healthy fresh air and to exercise together.

For golf to remain a sport for all, these clubs need support from their members to make it through the coronavirus and remain available for use on the other side.

And, facilities must look at every possible option to give members the flexibility to continue displaying their loyalty to the clubs that have been so important to them.

We all have to work together to get through this crisis (Tom Miles)

With the prospect of government help, there is hope for weathering the storm. But with no visitor income, no clubhouse takings, no sales in the pro shops and no lessons given, nor other facilities utilised, a real concern is what happens if this crisis continues through the whole summer?

Many golf clubs across the country are financially stretched anyway, and there’s a significant risk this crisis could be too much to bear for some.

The crucial thing will be for clubs to communicate with their members and provide options. Clubs want to retain members and members want to preserve their clubs. Like everything in this challenging time, we have to all work together.

What we have to recognise is that people will be affected in different ways by the crisis. Some will be significantly compromised financially, while others will be better placed to get through.

Priorities have changed and there will be many passionate golfers who have to reassess their outlays. Anecdotal evidence suggests the vast majority of members want to support their clubs, but for those financially compromised that might not be possible right now in terms of monetary contributions.

Clubs must look to give these individuals options – allow facility for credit, a deferment of payments, a membership holiday perhaps. Basically, they must be given assurances that they are valued or they could be lost to club golf forever.

On the other side of the coin, there will also be members at every club with financial reserves, who can afford to pay their subs this year with a view to an investment in their club’s secure future.

We urge those who can to do your bit for club golf in this country, to support it and help it survive. Please, if you love your club and can pay your subs in full this year, do so and look on it as a contribution to the future of the game.

Although most golf clubs now have the option of monthly direct debit payments, many still depend on a significant intake of revenue at the time of the annual renewal. Many clubs will have secured this at the start of the year, but others request annual subs a little later on in the season.

Already clubs are coming up with ideas to secure much-needed income now. As an example, Tiverton Golf Club in Devon has said that members who pay their subs now will have 12 months of golf for that payment, from the point the course reopens. And others are following this lead.

We are aware of clubs offering 20% discounts to those paying in full now and others giving the option to pay 50% now and the balance on reopening. Also, clubs offering bar credit to those who pay up by their renewal date.

Coming up with solutions like that might make all the difference and mean the money is available to cover the many club outgoings that still exist.

Fundamentally, all of us, golfers and golfing facilities, want to be able to look forward to playing golf at the end of this crisis.

If, this time next year, we want a full season of golf, on a complete roster of British courses, then those who can do it need to contribute now and those worst affected need to be given the necessary support to stay in the club golf fold.

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Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He 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 history section of "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?