‘It’s just a case of keeping the contacts going with people who have had no option but to cancel’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 1, 2020 12:12

Some golf club managers are reporting that 2020 will be a disastrous year for them due to coronavirus – but many golfers who have asked for green fee refunds have said they will be back in 2021.

For example, Matt Sands, the general manager of Cork Golf Club in Ireland, said to the Irish Examiner: “We’re hoping it won’t last too long and we’ll pick up the pieces when it reopens.

“The clubhouse is closed, the course staff are working away and I’m working remotely from home, the same as most golf clubs. We need to keep the show on the road as best we can.

“An awful lot of the emails I’m dealing with are cancellations.

“I’m dealing with a fella right now in North Carolina who was due to come, but he said he’ll be back next year so at least we can reschedule stuff and it’s just a case of keeping the contacts going with people who have had no option but to cancel. It’s going to be a nightmare year, but lost green fees are nothing compared to someone’s health.

“We’ll just try and be ready to hit the ground running when it does end.”

Cork Golf Club. Image from Facebook

Maurice O’’Meara, former general manager of Killarney Golf & Fishing Club, added: “The uncertainty is the big issue for everybody. A lot of bookings have been cancelled, but in fairness to people, they’ve been quite understanding.

“Operators have been offering a deferred date or a raincheck for when things settle and we can rearrange everything and there seems to be a sense of unity so the clubs, hotels, and all the other companies involved are singing off the same hymn sheet.

“People can be resilient, and if they are smart I think one of the big focuses for the clubs is going to have to be membership.

“Middle-of-the-road clubs without a lot of green fee revenue are going to have to be a little bit more inventive when this is all over.

“They’re also going to have to have a common sense approach between now and then.

“The home market for the rest of the 2020 season is going to be the key revenue stream, so maybe we need to run more events that are socially inclined for the membership and visitors. Golf clubs will need to be a little bit more flexible.

“They are normally quite stringent in the way they enforce membership rules, but they have to have a flexible approach because some people just won’t be able to afford to pay the membership.

“You don’t want to castigate them and drive them away forever. You want to retain them and hopefully attract new members.

“When all this is over, everyone is going to have cabin fever and they’ll want to get out and play golf, so let’s create events that can give that an outlet.

“And don’t panic. Don’t take the kneejerk reaction to get rid of key people or make decisions under pressure.

“That longer-term view has to be seen, despite the current uncertainty.”

In an interview with The Scotsman, Bob MacIntyre, last season’s European Tour Rookie of the Year, whose father, Dougie, is a greenkeeper at Glencruitten Golf Club, stated: “It’s looking doom and gloom just now. Dad’s not working, it’s all shut down, just folk out walking dogs and stuff, which is sad to see when it’s such a good wee golf course.

“We’re such a small community and, with so many different sports, the golf course isn’t there to make money, it’s there just to survive.

“That was through functions and all the visitors. Now this has happened it’s knocked it on the head and there’s no functions at all, anywhere. That was our main income at the club, so now it’s just about battening up the hatches and trying to just hold out.”

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 1, 2020 12:12
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  1. christopher S April 6, 11:04

    Now more than ever should see the national bodies to the fore giving whatever support they can, be it motivational, business or financial. Once again Scottish Golf are failing in this matter, simply reisssuing advice from govt and some golf sixes social media for the kids. Their Regional Business Managers are gone, thus killing all the good work they have done and could do for the future. Their lack of relationship with the Clubs and Counties is nothing new, despite new directors. It feels like an embedded culture that cannot be changed. I believe they has no one in management there who has ever been a Club Manager, and so dont understand what is required at our level. This lack of inaction and communication will only fuel the fire of mistrust and Scottish Golf only have themsleves to blame.

    As for golf clubs in the future, I have yet to see a financial model that works better than the one we have of member subscriptions, bar and catering income and visitors. Some have suggested a gym style membership, but that I don not believe would cover the huge costs of maintaining over 125 acres of land (fine if you have 5,000sqft gym. Perhaps a smaller set fee and pay as you go thereafter.

    Reply to this comment
    • Chris B April 8, 13:33

      And meanwhile south of the border England Golf have sent an ill timed, unhelpful, heavy handed letter through County Secretaries demanding affiliation fees MUST be paid as EG & counties have expenditure too.
      Interestingly EG are finally furloughing some staff with effect from Thursday 9 April.
      Other national governing bodies such as England Squash have stated they will assess situation when this awful situation is over and affiliation fees will be charged pro rata.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Kenneth April 2, 10:52

    Golfers need to pay their fees if they are able, the courses need to be maintained and made ready for play as soon as the restrictions are lifted……….

    Reply to this comment
    • vicl April 13, 14:52

      true but you must learn to recognize a lost cause ,and some people cannot afford to throw money into a pot and get nothing out ,which is what is happening at the moment ,and NOBODY knows how long this will carry on

      Reply to this comment
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