We have now reached ten days since the Scottish Government’s lockdown review process decreed we should be allowed back on to our hallowed greens, tees and fairways. We are allowed back to enjoy this most challenging but most rewarding of sports and please note we play golf; we do not go golfing.
During the recent golf lockdown the media could not resist reporting on some of the very regrettable but isolated incidents of damage to courses by a few moronic degenerates. Encouragingly this news was balanced by the vast majority of clubs expressing gratitude for the genuine care and respect shown to courses by those members and non members using local courses for their daily allotted exercise. Most importantly a number of clubs are reporting numerous new member applications from local residents driven by their recent enjoyable experience of their neighbourhood course; a vital boost to club finances for what will easily be the most difficult season in recent memory.
Attracting new members and retaining all current ones has to be the top priorities for virtually all Scottish golf clubs. To ensure a successful financial base for the future we now need some detailed dates and plans for the safe re- opening and operation of our clubhouses and professional shops.
For all current members we have moved into a strange new world. My normal annual pre season routine involved some solitary practice and a couple of mid evening 6 – 9 holes late April into early May; ready for the May medal and full of high hope for the new competition programme.
Our 2020 season is going to be very different.
Not being a regular purchaser of concert/event tickets, the tension and frustration of trying to secure a tee-time through our online booking system has added a keen competitive element.
Great credit has to go to club officials and PGA pros having to implement all this, whilst ensuring Covid protocols are in place and attempting to ensure all members are treated as fairly as possible.
We all understand the thinking behind just-in-time arrival in club car parks in order to avoid crowding, but we do miss engaging with fellow members pre/post round. How many old school club secretaries must be turning in their graves at the site of members changing golf shoes outside of the clubhouse.
We all understand why social distancing matters and, as a result, why clubhouses and pro shops remain temporarily closed but we do miss the simple good natured chat of the locker room. We miss the time honoured ritual of a pre-round tour of the Pro shop. Inspection of all new stock of clubs, bags, shirts, sweaters and shoes followed by the purchase of a mars bar and new ball marker and the handing over of this month’s charity donation or as we like to refer to it The Medal Sweep.
Observing the 2m ruling , we have dispensed with introductory handshakes and instead we are occupied with our 1st tee anti-bacterial hand wash.
No rakes for bunkers. We can deal with this, especially if we actually play well and avoid hitting our ball into the aforementioned bunker.
No touching of flagsticks. Yes we can putt with the flagstick in. Yes we can remove our ball from the ( inverted ) cup but personally I miss going through the simple courtesy of removing/ replacing flagsticks. I miss the simple sporting gesture of conceding a putt and handing a ball back to a playing partner. What seemed like the most natural conduct is now replaced with a strict reference to the risk assessment documents.
The message is clear. We are heading in the right direction. We are back playing the game we love. If we all comply with regulations we will drive off the virus and move towards “ normal “ operations. Clubhouses will open, Pro shops will open. We will once again get to experience the full benefits of being a member of a local golf club and in the future we will fully appreciate it.