Golfers and golf courses in Scotland desperate for the game to resume

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 15, 2020 10:48

There are renewed warnings that some Scottish golf clubs are on the brink as new reports emerge of golfers threatening golf club staff in Scotland because they are still not allowed to play.

Most golf courses reopened in England on May 13, and most will reopen in Wales and the Republic of Ireland on May 18, but there is currently no word on when golf can resume in Scotland and Northern Ireland, following nearly two months of the coronavirus lockdown.

Earlier this week it was revealed that six golf clubs in South Lanarkshire are in danger of not reopening when golf in Scotland resumes as it is claimed that no greenkeepers have been working on them during the lockdown. 

Now, according to The Scotsman, representatives of the Scottish golf industry have been suggesting that several golf clubs are ‘could be on the edge of financial abyss’ due to Covid-19.

This follows a survey that found that 144 private members’ golf clubs in the UK and Ireland are now in a ‘critical financial position’.

In Argyll & Bute, home to some of the smallest clubs in the country, the opening of courses can’t come quick enough, reports the paper.

“None that have indicated so as yet,” said Scottish Golf’s Area secretary Graham Bolton, to being asked if he knew of any clubs in particular that might be really struggling at the moment. “But I think that will depend if lockdown restrictions are not lifted soon.”

Borders secretary Roy Thomson said: “We are aware of at least three clubs currently experiencing financial difficulties to varying degrees.”

“None of our member clubs has come forward to say they are struggling, but my guess is that quite a few could be on the edge,” said George Young, secretary of Scottish Golf’s North East District.

“We are still hopeful to run some tournaments, but the longer the lockdown continues the slimmer the chances of doing so.”

His North counterpart, Peter Abbot, added: “We have a number of clubs struggling at the moment and no income isn’t helping.”

The desperation to play the game has even resulted in a greenkeeper at Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club being “threatened” by a golfer, adds the paper.

The venue has seen frustrated golfers starting to turn up, mainly to practise, without permission.

“We have been advised this morning of an incident which has just occurred at the course,” Merchants club manager Melanie Dobie said in an email to members.

“A member of our green staff, while carrying out his duties, was threatened by a golfer.

“This individual, who claimed to be a member, was practising on the putting green at the first tee and our green staff told him the course and all practice facilities were closed and he should refrain from playing. Our staff member was then verbally abused and physically threatened by a club. This behaviour is totally unacceptable and no one should have to experience this when carrying out their duties.”

The incident came a few hours after the police were called to nearby Mortonhall Golf Club following a report of people playing there. Mortonhall club manager Alan Mackay said: “I have been in touch with police on a regular basis about the amount of ‘traffic’ on the golf course at times, which has been ridiculous.

“The police were called again last night as a member who was out walking took a picture of people golfing.

“By time they arrived, they had gone and were then called out to another incident.”
Mackay added: “80 per cent of people are very courteous in where they walk on the course.

“But there are some who have no disregard in how much hard work the green staff have put in to making the course look as good as it does.”
It is a different story in England where golf has resumed. There have been reports of a surge in membership enquiries, especially at clubs that are currently only allowing members to play, and one golf club manager told The Golf Business that his course, which allowed walkers to use it during the lockdown, has several times more footfall on it at the moment than then, due to the strong demand to play the game.

Bradford Golf Club in Yorkshire has been so busy that it has allowed golfers to tee off from both the 1st and 10th tees, to complete their rounds in two loops of nine holes.

A starter is sat at both holes to ensure a 10-minute gap between each player or pair of players.

“Given that we only had two days notice it was more rushed than it needed to be,” George Pye, the club’s marketing director, said.

“We are delighted to be back playing, everyone is happily observing the guidance and simply happy to be out on the course once again.”

“It’s good to be able to spend time with my dad… we have been seeing each other through a window for the past seven weeks,” one golfer told PA.

“Everyone is over the moon to be outdoors playing the sport they love.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 15, 2020 10:48
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  1. Bryan May 17, 09:00

    No reason why Scottish courses are not open for play. Unfortunately our FM is playing politics. Prof Leitch was quoted on radio last week saying the optics are questionable particularly when there are single parents in flats! Social engineering at its worst.

    Reply to this comment
  2. Peter May 15, 16:47

    Sad it comes to threats !! There are reasons courage is important to lead !! This is one !! Sometimes, we need to approach members and others with brutal honesty .Often with Board direction or support ! Threatening employees should never tolerated and should be cause for dismissal !! Great organizations are those that foster a culture of honesty and courage !! You will play when it is safe and there is no chance of further damage !! Leaders, managers, Board members all must be on the same page ! Granted more delicate in elite clubs but absent truth and courage, the organization will be weak in many ways !!

    Reply to this comment
    • Gordon May 16, 13:39

      So true and well put. It def takes courage and leadership when logic would suggest something different. Even harder when England is back playing. Be ready though, it will come and the public are supportive down here so have the solutions and plans in place and communicate that you are ready to open in a safe way. Some clubs took a week extra to open – bonkers! Others were ready, offering free range warm up balls , safety procedures and rules written, pin solution in place and course in great shape. Others thought about the day they were told!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Dave Snethers May 15, 11:23

    Just one of the side issues of opening up the game coupled with the problem that not all Clubs can still command joining fees.

    Quite rightly a lot of members see themselves as customers.

    However they no longer need to worry about being disciplined, being thrown out or losing their £1000 joining fee and therefore don’t care about the way they speak to staff or fellow members….

    They can always join elsewhere as some clubs are so desperate for members and revenue they don’t ask questions about their past golfing exploits


    Reply to this comment
  4. OpenTheScottishFairwaysNow May 15, 11:19

    Why are Scottish golf courses not open yet?
    All the way through this crisis I have taken my daily exercise at my club and local course which is by far the safest place to be! It’s not 1457 Nicola!!

    Reply to this comment
  5. Andy D May 15, 11:08

    People need to be more understanding of the lack of control businesses and organisations have. I can’t wait for a round of golf and the recent favourable weather doesn’t help with those frustrations, however happy to wait until it’s safe to do so and also will be fine with the odd poor lie until green keepers catch up. Can’t be helped.

    Sad to hear that so many are struggling though.

    Reply to this comment
    • Boaz May 19, 17:32

      Agree it’s all political now, Nicola and her cronies need to realise
      There’s more to life than independence.get the courses open.

      Reply to this comment
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