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  • Alistair Tait

How will golf clubs survive Coronavirus?

You don’t need to be a Mensa member to figure out golf clubs are probably going to struggle in the upcoming weeks, perhaps months, because of the coronavirus.

It might turn out to be the 15th club in the bag for many clubs after one of the worst winters in recent memory.

The focus so far in our closeted world of golf has been on the professional tours shutting down. The Players Championship came to a grinding halt, the Masters was cancelled, the European Tour and LPGA Tour cancelled upcoming events but at least golf fans could get out to play.

But for how much longer?

Following months of rain, storms in Dennis, Ciara and Jorge, golf clubs need the coronavirus like golfers need the yips. That’s especially true if the government’s much-touted plan to ask over 70 year olds to self-isolate for as much as four months comes into effect.

That edict could see some golf clubs go to the wall.

The British & International Golf Greenkeeper's Association, the Professionals Golfers’ Association and the Golf Club Management Association with support from the R&A has issued guidelines to clubs on how to deal with the coronavirus. There is much good advice, including a “disaster management plan.” What stood out for me was this phrase.

“It has been estimated that 25% of small businesses don’t reopen after a serious emergency and we don’t want golf clubs to be on that list.”

Much of the golf played at clubs during the week is played by people in their 70s. Many clubs would look like ghost towns without them. I’m thankfully a long way from that age, but I play in some groups at Woburn with guys in their 70s.

On Radio 4 this morning, UK government minister Grant Shapps said self-isolation probably didn’t mean older people wouldn’t be able to walk their dogs. Hopefully they’ll be able to walk golf courses. Surely a game of golf is the perfect example of social distancing? However, elderly golfers may not be able to enter clubhouses. Ditto for younger members since asking sporting clubs to close down has also been mooted.

Locked clubhouses mean lost income from members. It could mean staff layoffs too. Ultimately, it could mean clubs going to the wall.

The Woburn lady captain made the wise decision to cancel the Lady Captain’s dinner this previous Friday. There had already been several dropouts and, with several elderly past lady captains signed up to attend, it was just common sense to call time out.

How many other clubs have cancelled functions recently? How many clubs are rethinking upcoming gatherings like Mothering Sunday or Easter Sunday lunch?

It’s obviously not just the loss of members’ expenditure that will hurt clubs. We’re approaching the corporate and society season. How many corporate groups or societies are going to cancel outings because of the coronavirus?

The golf travel industry is going to be hit hard like the rest of the travel industry. Job layoffs could be likely in that industry too, and some companies could disappear.

Like most sports, golf is insignificant considering what’s happening in the world. It could be even more insignificant once the coronavirus spores clear.

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