‘The pandemic has created an opportunity for golf’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 14, 2021 07:29

A Hampshire golf club that has seen a sharp rise in new members in the last year due to the pandemic has said Covid-19 is providing an opportunity for venues after years of decline.

Waterlooville Golf Club manager and secretary Mark Wycherley says the industry should build on the huge demand to play golf and join clubs – even though most facilities in the UK are currently locked down.

He said some clubs can be in a position to be driven by servicing their members’ needs for the first time in years, as opposed to marketing for visitors.

Waterlooville, which had just over 600 members when England entered its first lockdown in March 2020, reports that it had over 700 as the country entered its third lockdown in early January 2021.

In recent years, as interest in the game began to drop, he told Portsmouth.co.uk that clubs had been competing against each other just in a bid to stay afloat and secure much-needed funding.

But 2020 was different, marking the return of a waiting list to join the club.

“Covid is going to change the way golf is in the future,” he said.

Waterlooville Golf Club. Image from Facebook

“I think for the proactive clubs there’s an opportunity to redefine themselves and ask questions of what we’ve been doing – is it what we’re going to do coming out of Covid or is it an opportunity to change what we do?

“I think for the past 10 or 15 years we’ve gone through a spell where there are too many clubs, not enough golfers, we’re all battling with 15 months for the price of 12 with no joining fee-type offers and fighting for the same business.

“Whereas actually now, the demand has increased and some clubs – not all clubs, because there’s a place in the market for all clubs – but it could be an opportunity to say, ‘well, we’re full, we rely on our members as a source of income so let’s give more to them, become more exclusive, less societies, less visitors, to give them a better experience to make it truly a members’ club again’.

“I think there’s opportunity to look at it and say, ‘what got us here might not get us out through Covid or might not be the right model to take us through to the future’.

“Whether it’s going back to how we were, or a variation of that or something new, there’s opportunity for change.

“What got us here might not be the right way to get us out – it could be, but it could be an opportunity to change.”

Wycherley also says re-opening currently closed courses could prevent overcrowding in public places during the lockdown.

“It’s early days but I thought golf and tennis were going to be immune to any future lockdowns, albeit with some restrictions, but that’s not the case,” he said.

“I believe there was a petition that got debated, but right towards the end of the last lockdown, so really what was the point?

“Whether it’ll have an impact or not I don’t know. I think we’ve got to try because all these people that want to go to golf courses but can’t will go to public spaces where all the rest of the population will be going.

“But by opening the golf courses you could actually deflect some of those people back to their golf course and keep the public spaces a little bit clearer, possibly, but it’s not very scientific.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir January 14, 2021 07:29
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