Golf's Covid-19 bonus?
Could the coronavirus provide a silver lining for golf? Are we going to see more people take to the fairways as a result of the pandemic?
Former European Tour player turned golf course architect Mike Clayton makes that very point on the Golf Australia website. Clayton’s theory that golf is booming like never before tallies with anecdotal evidence I’m receiving from people inside the game.
“The golf prophets of doom – and there have been far too many of them – are, along with everyone else, seeing golf boom like never before.
“Courses are full as so many find there isn’t much else to do in this weird world – not outdoors anyway. There are anecdotes aplenty evidencing a boom, not just here but in the United States and Britain as well.
“Woking, one of my favourite English courses, has had more than 80 membership applications since April. “That’s two years’ worth,” beamed club pro Carl Bianco. Fraserburgh, (extra points for anyone getting the Australian connection) the seventh oldest club in the world and the oldest north of St Andrews, has, the local paper reports, ‘seen a boom of 50 new members’.”
My club, Woburn, has been jammed since the lockdown ended. Ditto at The Berkshire. Paul Anderson, The Berkshire’s distinguished golf professional, says his lesson book has never been busier.
Is the rush to get out on courses just a natural reaction to being cooped up for three months without our favourite pastime? Or is it the start of a revival for golf clubs/courses across the world? Only time will tell, but those of us who love this game will hope it heralds the start of a boom period.
As Clayton also notes, the protocols governing a return to play has brought an unexpected positive bonus to golf in one part of the world.
“In the United States, a country with a golf culture of driving around courses in little carts, one benefit has been more golf played on foot. Imagine, such a quaint way to play the game.
“Companies making carry bags and selling what we know as “buggies” (push-carts in the US) are seeing unprecedented demand with sales 4-8 times what they were a year ago, one source revealed.”
We don’t have to worry about playing golf on foot in Great Britain & Ireland. We’ve been lucky to avoid the cart culture that invaded the US.
Maybe this desire to get back out on the fairways is a part of changing culture we’re seeing in the game, a change for the better. After all, we’ve got men and women playing together on select mini tours; women will tee it up at Royal St George’s this week in the Rose Ladies Series, a boon for women professionals in the south of England; while Paul Lawrie’s Tartan Tour will give Scottish professionals, female and male, a chance to get competitive play after a long lockdown; a formerly all-male Scottish golf club has just joined the 20th century and admitted women members for the first time.
“At a time when we all crave to get back to some normality, golf is a game able to create that new normality.
“Instead of talking it down, arguing it’s ‘too slow’, ‘too hard’, ‘too expensive’, ‘too stuffy’, ‘boring’ and a ‘game for old men’, we can hope people see it’s none of these things.
“Rather, it is a game for life, one played for fun, never mastered but where there is always someone worse than you and always someone better.”
A game for life. Music to our ears.