Participation surge has led to some Edinburgh clubs fearing for their futures

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 16, 2021 06:59

The surge in participation in golf has, paradoxically, led to some golf clubs in Edinburgh fearing they may close down, due to changes it has led to.

Edinburgh Leisure, which runs six historic golf clubs, has changed the process for allocating tee times on public courses due to a 65 percent increase in usage of them in the last year.

This has meant officials at Braid Hills, Wee Braids and Silverknowes golf courses have lost pre-booked tee times, while some club members at Carrick Knowe, Craigentinny and Portobello golf courses are said to be unhappy, with the claim that the clubs now have ‘nothing to offer new members’, according to The Scotsman.

An Edinburgh Leisure spokesperson explained: “Due to the pandemic, we changed our booking procedure for all activities to an online booking system. This means for Edinburgh Leisure golf members can book eight days in advance, and non-members seven days.”

Neil Porter, former secretary of the Braid Hills Association, said: “Without pre-booked times, guest rates or any other incentives from Edinburgh Leisure that we used to have in droves and have gradually been watered down over the years, the clubs have nothing to offer new members.

“Previously, we would have allocated club times and we could hand back any unused in advance, allowing us to easily organise competitions and groups.

“Now we end up playing with random people, or groups are split and you end up with random one-balls or two-balls on a Saturday morning in between four-balls playing competitions.

“Edinburgh Leisure’s argument is they want all times to be filled to maximise income. You could make the same argument for a tennis court booked by two people, why can’t you force them to play doubles?

“Yet Edinburgh Leisure is happy for starters to split a four-ball to maximise their income and play in two tee times with five-minute intervals, effectively inventing an extra tee time.

“With pre-booked times we can all be in the club at the same time, which keeps the clubs going and makes them more attractive. For similar reasons, you can’t attract new members because you can’t guarantee them a game with other club members,

“Some members have already left because, for a combined ticket price with club membership, they can join a private club, which gives them perks such as £15 guest fees. No one brings guests to Edinburgh Leisure courses as the price is prohibitive.

“Clubs are more than happy to hand back unused times in advance. Most of our golfers pre-pandemic used to sign up for the competition two weeks before the date.

“We have even offered to always play in fourballs if it’s that busy, but we don’t feel it is since other sports started reopening post-lockdown. Saturday afternoons and Sundays are pretty quiet at all the courses outside of the traditional club times.

“The clubs are the long-term support to Edinburgh Leisure by attracting season-ticket holders. We have asked Edinburgh Leisure for the breakdown of members who are members of clubs, but they have not shared it despite asking the clubs individually for this information three months ago. We estimate clubs contribute £300-500,000 in fees annually, not to mention fees for matches and so on.”

Golfer Dr Sanjoy Das added: “This kind of club represents something which is unique about Scottish golf, that is the artisan golf club, where people from all backgrounds can get together and compete every Saturday, in a game that they love,” he said. “There are members from all walks of life here.

“There is a huge feeling of inclusion in this golf club and I, for one, would not have found the true joy of golf without it. My membership is around £50 per year.

“The value of the course is to a large extent the history of the course, and that is really the history of the clubs that played upon it.

“For many decades times were set aside for the four clubs and, of course, a club needs to play together to be viable.

“Edinburgh Leisure has taken away that allocation and, if the club times do not return, the clubs will slowly die. The club members will lose something, the course will lose its identity, and the citizens of Edinburgh will lose a unique historical asset.”

“It’s caused us a lot of problems,” said golfer Kala Renton. “It would be a huge blow to golfers in our areas if the clubs based at Edinburgh Leisure-run courses die, but I’m afraid that’s what will happen if Edinburgh Leisure doesn’t give us some times back.”

David Atkinson, golf and grounds maintenance manager at Edinburgh Leisure said: “Whilst restrictions during lockdown required most sports to close, golf was in the fortunate position of being able to remain open.

“This has been very positive for Edinburgh Leisure with many new customers buying a golf membership, wishing to take advantage of the variety of courses that Edinburgh Leisure has across the city and the value for money it offers.

“As a charity, it has also been very beneficial in allowing us to continue providing our services, as well as maintaining the running of our venues, even though the majority had to remain closed.

 

“As a result of Covid-19, and to keep our customers and staff safe, customers have had to adapt with the requirement to pre-book activities, pay in advance and self-serve. The current arrangements ensure that tee-times, particularly at peak times, are fully used and means all Edinburgh Leisure golf members have the same booking privileges.

“We have more than 3,100 golf members, with only approximately 20 percent of them having an affiliated club membership.

“The current systems are working well, giving an equal opportunity to all Edinburgh Leisure golf members and maximising the use of tee times at peak times.

“We will therefore continue with the systems we put in place during Covid-19 and will not give preferential weekly advanced booking times to golf clubs who use Edinburgh Leisure facilities. And while we realise that our booking system is not perfect, we are awaiting improvements in the software that will support all customers with their booking process in the future.

“Ultimately, we see Edinburgh Leisure’s golf courses as being for everyone and not a private members’ club. Whilst we realise this will be disappointing for the affiliated clubs that use our courses, it does ensure that we are not giving preferential treatment to the clubs over other Edinburgh Leisure golf members.”

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir June 16, 2021 06:59
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1 Comment

  1. GAH June 17, 10:53

    Sounds very unfair that the clubs who have been the mainstay for Edinburgh Leisure for a long period are now being disadvantaged for purely commercial reasons!

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