‘We’ve received more than 100 tee time bookings in the last 24 hours’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 12, 2020 08:45

Some English golf clubs are reporting that they have experienced the busiest period for tee time bookings in their history in the aftermath of the confirmation that golf courses can reopen.

On May 10, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that sports in England could be played from Wednesday, May 13. Shortly afterwards it was confirmed that this meant golf courses in England could reopen, and the government confirmed the following day that golfers could play with one other person they don’t live with, as well as up to a fourball with members of their own households.

The Telegraph has spoken to Tim Barnes, the owner and director of golf at Hartford Golf Club in Cheshire, who has been working as a greenkeeper at the club for the last few weeks as staff have been furloughed, who said more than 100 tee times were booked for the Wednesday in the first few hours that followed the confirmation.

He added that half the bookings have come by phone and the other half online, and that the news about the Wednesday reopening was unexpected as he had anticipated that clubs wouldn’t reopen until the end of May.

Hartford Golf Club. Image from Facebook

He also said this Wednesday will see the golf course about three times busier than normal for a Wednesday in mid-May, and that while the vast majority of bookings have been from members, he has been able to accommodate some green fee payers as well.

“The busiest day we’ve ever had here but also one of the most exciting as well,” he said.

“The phone has been ringing all day. We have booked about 100 tee times when we are allowed to reopen on Wednesday, with our members desperate to get back on the course.

“Yes there has been a bit of confusion, as first we were limited to one-balls, unless you played with a member of your household, but then the news suddenly changed in the afternoon so you can play two-balls with a player from a different household. And everybody started phoning again to change their bookings. It has been mental, but fun.”

Barnes, along with his brother, founded the golf complex on the family farm in the 1980s, first as a driving range, and then adding the nine-hole course a decade or so later. It’s been so successful that the duo have since purchased the award-winning 18-holer of Pryors Hayes Golf Club in nearby Chester, writes The Telegraph. Both venues are also popular with weddings.

“The wedding side has obviously had to stop and will do for a while, I guess,” Tim said.

Hartford Golf Club’s signage to golfers. Image from Facebook

“The golf side has been shut down for two months and after the wettest winter on record, these happened to be our key two months, with members renewing their subscriptions, visitors taking advantage of the better weather and the pro shop being packed with all the new equipment models, that are traditionally unveiled in March. That is why we were anticipating Boris Johnson’s speech on Sunday so expectantly.

“We were expecting that we could reopen in the last week of May and England Golf sort of said ‘don’t worry, you’ll have two weeks to get everything in order’. “We had furloughed our greenkeeping staff and had been doing the mowing ourselves. But we got the head greenkeeper back in and knew we were in for a busy one this morning. We have a system that people can book online or they can phone us up. It is about 50-50, I suppose.

“Our first tee-time on Wednesday is at 6am and the last at 7.24pm, and it is packed, so it is going to be hectic, with groups going off every eight minutes. A normal Wednesday would be about a third of that. We have about 350 members who have had priority, but we are getting plenty of visitors out there, as well. Maybe 20 per cent of Wednesday tee-times will be pay as you play.

“We are confident that it will all go to plan with social distancing, with no bunkers, rakes, and the other social-distancing guidelines from England Golf. For us, income will be down because of the absence of bar and restaurant takings, but we’ll get through. We are just thrilled to be back and playing again.”

Other clubs reported similar levels of demand.

“I was in the shop taking bookings and the phone didn’t leave my ear from 07.30 to 16.00,” Stephen Grouwstra, PGA professional and director of golf at Cottesmore Hotel, Golf and Country Club in West Sussex said.

“In the 10 years I have been at the club, I have never experienced a day like yesterday.”

While Ogbourne Downs Golf Club in Wiltshire said seven people joined the club as flexible members in a little over a morning.

One golf club in Sussex even had to delay its reopening by 24 hours because its software could not cope with the demand for tee times.

The managing director of Mannings Heath Golf Club said his venue will be very busy on Thursday.

“I think we are going to be absolutely inundated,” Barry Anderson said.

Cleobury Mortimer Golf Club in Shropshire’s co-owner Graham Pain, has also welcomed the resumption of golf.

“We’re very happy,” he said. “We’re using an online booking system so we can monitor every member that is arriving and we know who is coming and with any visitors it may generate more income.

“Members can see their mates again and it feels like common sense has prevailed.”

David Stiles, marketing director at nearby Lilleshall Hall Golf Club, added: “People will keep their distance and as a club we’ll make sure they do. We’ll have marshals out ensuring it takes place but I’m pretty confident that people will stick to the rules – it doesn’t make sense not to. If people can play tennis together then it’s only right that they can play golf together.”

Several clubs took to social media to detail how they are preparing for their reopening of their courses.

Some need more time to prepare and will not be opening immediately, others have been erecting signs to notify walkers that golf will be resuming imminently.

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir May 12, 2020 08:45
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9 Comments

  1. Ben L May 15, 12:07

    Great news let’s hope that we catch up some of the losses.. onwards and upwards

    Reply to this comment
  2. Tony R May 14, 09:45

    I took the day off yesterday to play. After 9 weeks of isolation it was needed for my mental health !
    I was like a kid at christmas.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Warner May 13, 12:13

    Not unexpected-good luck to all .Its great news.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Nick May 13, 09:53

    I wish Scottish courses would reopen.

    Reply to this comment
  5. Peter May 12, 16:22

    I hope and pray this is a good thing !!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Tim K May 12, 12:48

    Two right , three days booked within 30 minutes . Members only 2 balls every 10 minutes

    Reply to this comment
  7. Ian R May 12, 12:04

    Crazy times mark ! Let’s see 200 in the garden centres but how dare you think 100 acres of Greenland is safe !!!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Mark B May 12, 11:22

    Meanwhile in Wales, the sound of tumbleweed is heard over the sound of our union trying to implement common sense over here…….

    Reply to this comment
  9. Alexander D May 12, 11:11

    Scottish golf still on hold. Why,?. We are not adult enough and Nicola did not know what Alert meant.

    Reply to this comment
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