Excitement builds in Scotland as golf courses told they can reopen

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 28, 2020 13:05

Scottish golf clubs are prepared for a huge amount of traffic as confirmation comes that they can reopen tomorrow, with some calling for the introduction of a Covid-19 assurance scheme to prove to the world they are safe venues.

Earlier today the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, confirmed that Scottish golf clubs can reopen from tomorrow.

One club professional said most of the tee times available for the first two days back were snapped up within two minutes of the reopening of bookings, and some venues, such as Aberdour, will be allowing golf from as early 5.30am to accommodate the demand.

Largs Golf Club in Ayrshire says it has well over 300 members booked in to play from the Friday to the Sunday, while several other clubs are reporting huge demand as well.

Many clubs will be initially operating two loops of nine holes in order to cater for the demand.

“We’ve managed to use ten-minute intervals on the two loops, which equates to five-minute intervals on our booking system,” Stirling professional Kenny Monaghan has told The Scotsman. “It’s worked great and our members have fully supported it, as evidenced by the fact we are full from 7am until 8pm on Friday and Saturday. The demand is definitely there for getting back out this weekend.”

Turnhouse general manager David Gemmell added: “Our tee sheet runs eight days in advance, so, when we opened it up on Sunday, the members had eight choices – four days with two nines per day. It has really helped and we have had no one complain that they couldn’t get a game.”

“I switched on the online booking at 11.59 on Tuesday,” said Murrayfield pro Jonnie Cliff. “By 1201, almost every time on Friday and Saturday from 0800 to 1900 was booked.”

“Bookings for all three courses opened at 9am on Tuesday and to say we were inundated would be an understatement,” said Gullane secretary Gordon Simpson. “We have introduced two-ball only on all three courses with ten minute intervals and the weekend was virtually full within a couple of hours, so we will have over 200 golfers per day from Friday onwards. This will be reviewed on a regular basis and I am sure we will increase the usage as things settle down.”

“The restrictions we have adopted are to limit players to two games a week,” said David Orr, the pro at Whitecraigs in Glasgow. “We also have course marshals out over the next few weeks to monitor the players and their pace of play, which I think is vital just now, and also to make sure that all the government guidelines are adhered to.”

“It’s certainly created a buzz surrounding golf again and we are delighted to have had six new adult members join over the weekend, which is a welcome addition,”  said Daniel Wood, The Hirsel’s pro.

Alasdair MacDougall, Golspie’s treasurer cum secretary, said the club is “delighted” to be welcoming its members back and added: “We are going to try and attract new members, starting with local young people, male and female. Plenty young folk in Golspie play football but not golf – in my day it was both! We must attract these people, and there are good early signs with other sporting activities still restricted.”

“We’ve had an upsurge in membership enquiries,” added Uphall treasurer Bill Mackintosh, “which we can only put down to the realisation that daily fee golf is going to be hard to find for a while (and potentially more expensive than it has been in recent years). It’s our job to make sure any new members are looked after and don’t drift away once we get back to something approaching normality.”

Castle Stuart Golf Club general manager Stuart McColm has told the Inverness Courier: “We are delighted to be returning to some form of play.

“We will be commencing on a slightly reduced scale as we navigate through the first few days and will alter our operations according to demand.”

However, despite the positive news, a number of Scottish golf club managers have written to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to call for changes as they are ‘increasingly concerned about the economic impact of COVID 19’.

Figures including Ian Ferguson from Dundonald Links, Neil Hampton from Royal Dornoch, Stuart McColm from Castle Stuart, David Roy from Crail, David Scott from Dumbarnie Links, Gordon Simpson from Gullane and Colin Sinclair from Nairn are calling for the introduction of a Covid-19 quality assurance scheme to they can assure visitors, particularly tourists, that they will be safe.

‘The return of golf is welcome but does little or nothing for tourism – apart from further the growing frustration amongst both players and businesses.

‘If we are not able to operate profitably by the start of July then many of us will have no choice but to cease trading until next April, with sadly a number of businesses not even able to hold on until then,’ states the letter.

‘We understand the furlough scheme is not to be extended but many of us will have no income all summer and will not be in a position to survive the winter.

‘As far as business rates are convened, we would ask for a significant extension to rates relief, possibly up to five years for those in the market now.

‘The proposed two week quarantine period kills the global market dead. If imposed, we need a firm date when it will be lifted or told it is here until the end of the season to give our booked clients the chance to cancel thereby freeing space for local and domestic bookings on both the golf courses and in the hotels.

‘We would urge you to develop a post COVID 19 Quality Assurance Scheme which is consumer friendly and allows businesses in our sector to reassure their customers about the steps that have been taken to protect them. We note that this has already been done in the USA and the EU allowing businesses to open and rebuild after lockdown.’

The letter also calls for a permanent reduction in VAT for tourism businesses and for cuts to air passenger duty.

Meanwhile, Scottish Golf has issued guidance to support clubs in preparing their facilities.

‘We know that this confirmation [from Nicola Sturgeon that golf clubs can reopen on Friday] will be well received by all of our members and will have a positive impact on the physical and mental health of golfers across Scotland in the days and weeks ahead. We hope everyone enjoys returning to the fairways and would encourage all golfers to familiarise themselves with the current guidance to ensure we can all return to playing the game safely,’ it says in a statement.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 28, 2020 13:05
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1 Comment

  1. jimbo June 8, 16:35

    when can we expect random 4 ball games to resume

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