Golf club owner calls for courses to remain open if there’s a second wave

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2020 19:11

The owner of a golf club that nearly closed down for good because of the coronavirus lockdown has asked England Golf to help ensure golf courses remain open if there is a second wave of infections.

Epping Golf Club in Essex was hit so hard by the lockdown that it nearly closed down permanently, and was granted a share of £650,000 of Sport England funding, secured by Active Essex, for grassroots community sport clubs to help keep it afloat.

The club says it is now in a strong position, but its owner, Neil Sjoberg, has written to the Essex Golf Union, asking it to make a representation to England Golf to ensure that golf courses can remain open if there is a second wave that leads to a local or national lockdown.

In Leicester, which is currently in the midst of a local lockdown due to a rise in infection rates, golf clubs have been affected with, for example, The Leicestershire Golf Club stating on its website that it cannot accept visitors for the time being.

“Like many golf clubs I was very cross that England Golf felt it was their place to order us to close,” wrote Neil.

“They have the right to suggest, in their opinion, that we should close, but no more than that.

“Like most clubs we were all set up to offer the community a very safe means of exercise. We all had to close while unregulated parks and forests stayed open. We should have been allowed to help people safely exercise, not hide under the table and let walkers and cyclists take over our courses.

“Thus we missed a golden opportunity to change our image for the good and offer something positive instead of, yet again, appearing to be an elite sport unavailable for the masses.

“I think a second spike is likely. If that is the case please can England Golf support us in safely staying open rather than forcing us to close?”

Epping Golf Club’s manager, Ellie Sjoberg, has told the Epping Forest Guardian how important the funding has been.

She said: “The onset of Covid-19 and subsequent lockdown could not have come at a worse time for the golf industry, having just suffered an extremely long and wet winter and just beginning to look towards the start of a new season.

“Our membership renewals were due on April 1 and we were closed, facing a substantial shortfall in expected renewals, no opening date in sight and continuing maintenance costs over the 90-acre site.

“The Community Emergency Fund has been a lifeline during a time of great uncertainty and Epping Golf Club is now in a strong position to continue to bring the numerous benefits of golf to all, at a time when the nation needs it most.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 15, 2020 19:11
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  1. Peter July 15, 11:02

    And there is the problem….In times of crisis, we don’t make these type decisions on our own, with our gut or because of a belief or feeling !! We must consult with our experts in the area, rely on data and stats and coordinate efforts with those in our communities ! Especially city and community officials !! Decision making is tough enough, tougher when people’s health and lives are on the line !!

    Reply to this comment
    • Neil Sjoberg July 17, 00:13

      Unfortunately Peter it seems EG did make their decision on their own from their experience of Private members clubs I assume. Government guidance had most sensible clubs (like Epping) offering uniquely safe exercise for their communities. Clubhouses (rightly) were closed. EG should have supported us in this.Had they visited a few operating clubs who were acting sensibly and rising to the challenge totally withing government guidelines.
      Instead they were the only lead body ordering their sport to close down.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Wardy July 12, 09:35

    I agree, people’s health and wellbeing must come before profit. However, careful controls can be out in place to allow golf in a second wave and preserve health and wellbeing. Golf England still take fees fron golf clubs do have preserved their income whilst furloughing mist if their staff. What I find unacceptable is Sport England giving a handout to a private profit making business and not to a members club who do not have owners or shareholders and simply exist to provide sport to their members and the community.

    Reply to this comment
    • Neil Sjoberg July 16, 23:59

      Sadly,Wardy,in my long golfing career I have seen private members clubs veer away from providing purely golf:and increasingly spending on big clubhouses and expensive lounges (where infection is more likely). Facilities where golf is the main focus with very modest clubhouses (like Epping) provide the safest exercise in these tricky times. Money spent on such venues goes to sport not to hungry clubhouses.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Stuart H July 11, 12:20

    Decisions such as opening and closing courses should be made purely on the grounds of public safety and not putting money in the Proprietors pocket. Having said that golf is better placed than most with the exception of the clubhouse. This is the only way we are going to beat this virus.

    Reply to this comment
    • Neil Sjoberg July 17, 00:07

      You are so right Stuart. Golf must be one of the safest forms of exercise in these tough times. However any use of a clubhouse would negate such benefits.So many golf clubs ,with ageing membership have long ago spent too much on bigger clubhouse facilities and that has become an essential part of their golf experience.
      Why else then would EG have demanded “Golf Must close” -the only lead body to do so. They ,like too many private members clubs, see the clubhouse as “an essential income stream” inseparable from the provison of golf. They forget about the many tens of thousands of facilities where golf takes centre stage and the clubhouse is modest and hardly used in comparison.

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