‘We’ll have lost at least £75,000 by the end of July’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 14, 2020 10:46

One golf club made staff redundant, which led to members quitting, one set up a crowdfunder that’s raised more than £20,000 and another has told members that refunds could lead to closure. Here, we look at the financial plight of three golf clubs who have all been badly hit by the Covid-19 lockdown, and how they have responded.

Craibstone Golf Club in Aberdeenshire said it has decided to plan for its long-term future, rather than make short-term changes, and this seemingly has meant that it made, according to the Press and Journal, staff redundant rather than furloughing them. However, that in turn, has led to members quitting.

In an online statement, club partner Charles Marshall said: “In light of this pandemic, I have already had to take some quite severe and difficult steps to ensure the long-term feasibility of Craibstone.

“Most businesses look at the short, very short-term and have reacted accordingly.

“However, I have, with all my businesses, invested for long-term success, and so it is with this premise in mind I have taken the measures I have.”

One club member said: “There’s been a feeling of absolute outrage among the members that understand what’s going on.

“Many of them are asking for their money back, asking to leave, or handing in notices.”

Aberdeen Donside MSP Mark McDonald said: “The furlough scheme was created to ensure workers across all sectors, many of whom are low paid, were able to retain some form of income during the lockdown. It seems that the staff at Craibstone have been treated quite appallingly, judging from the online comments.

At the same time, in Derbyshire, Cavendish Golf Club has set up a crowdfunder because it failed to receive a £25,000 grant from the government due to its rateable value, an issue many golf clubs believe is unfair.

The club, like most in the UK, kept on at least one greenkeeper to ensure basic maintenance was carried out, but with no golfers for nearly two months due to coronavirus, the club found itself in trouble.

Chairman Terry Hayward told the Buxton Advertiser that maintaining the course was vital and ‘if it falls to ruin it won’t be fit to play on’.

Hayward estimates the club will have lost at least £75,000 income by the end of July, according to the paper.

Cavendish was passed over by the government’s business rates relief scheme as it’s rateable value was too high – leaving the club with no help at all.

He said: “That would have been a lifeline to us but we’re not eligible so we need £25,000 working capital to see us through.

“We’re not going to be able to bring in visitors who aren’t members booking online and spending in the shop.

“But the members have been extremely generous and some have paid next year’s membership already.”

Though he admitted it would be ‘very hard over the course of the next three to six months’ he was adamant that the club would not close – with funding grants already in the pipeline from Sport England.

He said: “We’re a community club – one of the first things we did when we went into lockdown was to offer the course open as a place for daily exercise.

“People are seeing part of the town they’ve never seen before and in return they have been very generous.”

Cavendish has launched a funding appeal on website Crowdfunder to raise the £25,000 needed.

In return for a donation Cavendish Golf Club is offering discounts on rounds of golf and other benefits.And in Perthshire, The Blairgowrie Golf Club has told members that if they refund them for the lack of golf over the last two months, the clubs risks closing down.

Peter Inglis, club captain, revealed in The Courier that some members have put in writing a request for money back on their 2020 subscriptions as a result of being starved of golf for several weeks at what should have been the start of their season.

However, the committee has come to the unanimous conclusion that to do so would jeopardise the very existence of the club.

“Quite simply, refunding this year’s fees could lead to the closure of Blairgowrie Golf Club,” he pointed out.

“We have had a small number of members write to us and request refunds of their 2020 subscriptions, or inquiring about fees for this year.

“We are looking into ways to add value to your membership subscriptions but your committee is united in the belief that no refunds can be given.

“This decision has not been taken lightly, however, subscriptions and visitor income are the bedrock of the club’s finances. Quite simply, refunding this year’s fees could lead to the closure of Blairgowrie Golf Club.

“Given these unprecedented circumstances, we would, therefore, call on all members to embrace their responsibility as the owners, shareholders and custodians of their club – and support the measures being taken to ensure Blairgowrie Golf Club remains financially secure for the enjoyment of current and future generations of golfers.”

He added: “Lastly, we would like to take this opportunity to thank those members who have taken the time to contact us to show their support for your committee and staff in these most testing of times. There is extensive work going on behind the scenes and for this to be recognised is very much appreciated.

“We are all in this together and together we will get through this. Our priority remains to ensure members can get back to enjoying their golf at Blairgowrie Golf Club in a safe and healthy environment.”

This all comes as Wendy Chamberlain MP has written to the Scottish government asking for more clarity regarding financial assistance for golf clubs.

She wrote: “As the Member of Parliament representing St Andrews, the home of golf, I am keen to see all that golf courses get support where it is needed.

Wendy Chamberlain

“Like many businesses and organisations which are viable and thriving in normal circumstances, golf clubs and courses additional and tailored support at this time.

“Many clubs are concerned that when they reopen and un-furlough their staff, the economic support is halted before clubs have the ability to open their shops and clubhouses, leaving them in a financially precarious position with large overheads and reduced income.

“I hope the finance secretary and the sports minister will recognise the unique position golf clubs are in and consider implementing extra support and clearer guidance for golf clubs to assist them in these difficult times.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 14, 2020 10:46
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  1. Nelly May 15, 12:42

    All clubs will be losing income from opens and visitor green fees and reduced member subs. The reduction in rates will not in anyway make up the shortfall at a time when 2/3 greenkeepers are being paid and furloughed staff have their basic salaries topped up. All clubs will losing between £75-100k

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  2. Chris D May 15, 07:17

    Could UK Golf Clubs who are predominately financed through membership subscription potentially create more profit this year???

    – On average 40% of revenue is directed to staffing….but now clubs are only paying ‘essential staff’ and most clubs have staff furloughed at 80% salary for the foreseeable future.
    How much is this going to save the club over 4-6 months?

    – Only 1% of profit comes from F&B
    For many clubs offering F&B is actually a cost…..whether retaining a franchise caterer or in house catering team.

    – Reduced Business Rates
    – Refunded or reduced affiliation fees
    – Reduction on professional retainer….
    – Reduced general running costs for the clubhouse (water/electricity)
    – No team match expenses

    Does the lost visitor green fees, F&B, and sundry profits equate to the potential club savings in 2020?

    Most club members have renewed memberships and although they may expect some compensation for the past six weeks course closure and with no clubhouse access for the foreseeable future, what are the true costs for a club in 2020?

    Maybe the true costs will come through membership subscriptions in 2021 when a members connection to the ‘Club’ could be diminished through social distancing.

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  3. Gerraint May 15, 04:19

    Not sure about the new laws in England, but in Wales courses are legally allowed to accept pay and play customers. However it looks like most are member only for the moment, due to the paucity of tee times. If you have to have long gaps and only allow people in one balls, you gobble up probably on average say 3 times the tee times than you would normally to get the same number of people on the course.

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  4. Aaron May 15, 02:18

    Open it up as a pay and play?
    With sensible fees any golf club has to adapt to changes…

    Reply to this comment
  5. Peter May 14, 16:11

    No doubt this is a very tough environment for all businesses, including clubs ! Not only a virus pandemic but a serious financial crisis as well !! On a positive note, “the cost of money” has gone down, offering some hope to a few, Survival, especially in clubs means “all hands on deck’, I question how many have tapped into the wealth of leadership that exists on club rolls and in its primary market and community ! Past Presidents, Past Committee members, even former Managers and Pros all represent a gold mine of ideas, connections and strategies !!

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