At least 12 UK golf clubs that feared closing are now thriving

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 27, 2020 06:38

At least 12 golf clubs that feared their closure was imminent during the lockdown have stated their futures are now secure thanks to the recent membership surge.

All 12 golf clubs are located in Scotland – although several English clubs have also expressed delight and relief at the recent growth.

Six of the 12 are municipal venues in South Lanarkshire.

In May the manager of Hollandbush Golf Club, Mags Cathcart, said no greenkeeping work had been carried out at her venue, or any of the other five courses run by the local council (Biggar, Strathclyde Park, Larkhall, Torrance House and Langlands), in the two months since the coronavirus lockdown was imposed. She added that there were fears all six clubs would close down before the Scottish government gave the green light for venues to reopen.

Holland Bush Golf Club earlier this week. Image from Facebook

However, the boom in demand at the venues coincided with extensive greenkeeping work being carried out, and all six venues are now thriving.

“Golf has absolutely gone through the roof here and at the other five council courses,” she told the Carluke and Lanark Gazette.

“We have 41 new members this year and are still taking memberships, even now.

“A lot of people have said: ‘Will I play golf or will I get a season ticket to go to the football?’ but this year on Saturday afternoons they can’t go to the football.

“Being honest, I thought back in April that the courses could shut (without remedial work) because it might have been too expensive to do the work and get them back.

“I was very worried, not only for myself and my livelihood, but for the other people’s livelihoods who were connected with the clubs and also the membership who are passionate about their club.

“But now I’m greatly relieved. The future of golf in South Lanarkshire should be secure for the foreseeable future.”

Glencruitten Golf Club. Image from Facebook

Similarly, Glencruitten Golf Club has said its membership has risen from 170 to 425 in recent weeks.

In March the club said it was ‘doom and gloom’ and ‘it’s just about battening up the hatches and trying to just hold out’.

Moray Golf Club has attracted 320 new members. The club is also seeing the course become extremely popular with nearly double the number of people playing on it this August compared with a year earlier.

Derek Ramsay, PGA professional, said: “When the country went into lockdown, we predicted that we would be out of money by July. However, things are even better now than usual, and it’s been amazing to see such a significant improvement in memberships – especially with young people.

“We’re seeing many new members who had never even played, and certainly had never been members of any golf club before. We had to figure out a new method of scheduling tee times to make sure everyone got their time on the course.”

Brora Golf Club

Braes Golf Centre was 48 hours away from closing, Brora Golf Club feared it was about to go under and Dunblane New Golf Club feared for its future. All are now reporting financial security.

And North Inch Golf Course had its future ‘hanging in the balance’ in 2014, but the turnaround in its fortunes has been enhanced by a post-lockdown boost, and it hopes to finish a year it started with 175 members, with more than 400 members.

In Ireland Maine Valley Members Golf Club was set up after members from two golf clubs that closed permanently during the lockdown created a new club, which opened for play in May.

“We’ve reopened now and we’re going from strength to strength,” said the new club’s founding chairman, Dermot Kelly. “We’re up and running, we’ve now more than 350 members, we’ve had societies play and we’re going from strength to strength.”

In England, there is also a lot of positivity.

Tandridge Golf Club

Tandridge Golf Club in Surrey has said membership numbers are now at a level that club officials were forecasting to reach in 2024.

Under the leadership of new general manager Luke Edgcumbe, Tandridge has experienced a major increase in applications across all its membership categories, with the number received in the last three months more than it would normally expect to receive for a whole year.

In addition to receiving 30 full membership applications, the private members’ club has taken on 16 new junior members and added another 10 players to its academy membership programme.

Edgcumbe, who left Royal Mid-Surrey to take up his new position this summer, said: “After everything that has happened this year, golf has provided one of the few beacons of light, and I’m thrilled that so many people are interested in joining this fantastic, forward-thinking, private members’ club.

“The most encouraging thing about the number of membership enquries that we have received is that a lot have come from younger people who are relatively new to golf, which bodes well for the long-term future of both the club and the game.”

Tandridge Golf Club

And North Oxford Golf Club has seen an increase in membership of about 12 percent since lockdown was eased.

Philip Morley, the club’s general manager, said: “I’ve been in golf all my life and I haven’t seen a spike like this at all in 50 years.

Philip Morley

“It’s been such a quick increase.

“In the last 20 years there has been a steady decline and erosion of the sport.

“People have drifted off to other things, so this is really good to see.

“The key is to keep people enjoying it.”

North Oxford Golf Club

Hinksey Heights Golf Club in Oxfordshire has seen the club’s membership jump by 20 percent and the deficits from the seven-week closure have now been made up.

Director David Milne said: “It was very dark in March and April and most clubs were thinking ‘can we survive?’

“We’re finding that people are coming back and bringing their friends with them.”

Many clubs have still suffered major financial hits from coronavirus that even the membership surge has not been able to offset.

Burford Golf Club also in Oxfordshire already had a full membership and has taken a hit over the loss of society bookings.

General manager Andrew Lawrence said: “A lot of members for quite a long time were working from home or on furlough, so we were in peak demand.

“We were full from 7am to 7pm most days.

“We have taken some societies back now, but it’s quite low-key.

“That’s impacted us quite hard because of the restrictions on catering.

“We are being cautious because we’re not out of the woods yet.

“We’re not looking at it as everything’s perfect.

“We are probably not going to be back to normal until next April.”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir August 27, 2020 06:38
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  1. Rundle September 8, 11:12

    keep golf going and support it anyway you can

    Reply to this comment
  2. Edwards August 28, 09:33

    Great to hear!
    I do fear however It’s the next full membership year and maybe the next we have to sustain to retain those same members who have joined as many were accepting great deals for the remainder of 2020

    Reply to this comment
  3. Allison August 28, 07:56

    Members bounce

    Reply to this comment
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