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  • Alistair Tait

No tee times available!

Who’d have thought it would be hard to get a tee time on a Wednesday morning in December? Not me, but that’s the case next Wednesday, December 2nd, as golf courses open post lockdown number 2.

Guess Stephen Smith is correct: golf really can make us happy. There are going to be a lot of happy hackers at courses across England next week. They know full well the 10 reasons Smith highlights on how this game can be good for our wellbeing.

Woburn’s three courses were full pretty much from the moment the booking system opened at 6am this morning. I didn’t try for a tee time since I knew the system would be overloaded. However, from the email streams I’ve seen from the different swindles I play in, it sounds as if it was a bit of a bunfight. I have images of golfers queuing up outside the Woburn gates like shoppers lined around the corner in Knightsbridge waiting for Harrods to open its doors for the Boxing Day sale.

Indeed, I’m guessing there might’ve a long queue outside the clubhouse if online bookings weren’t possible. Golfers camping out to get a tee time like concert ticket seekers? Maybe not, but there were a lot of alarms set for 5:45am this morning.

All the morning tee times are filled for the three courses next week. First available tee times are 12:41pm Marquess, 13:21pm Duchess and 13:37 Dukes. With a sunset time of approximately 15:50, anyone who books a later time is going to need a head torch to get 18 in. Hmmmm, I’ve got one in my hill walking backpack…...

As I’ve said previously, golf has actually benefitted from this coronavirus pandemic. The surge for tee times is evidence of that. The jump in participation levels is further proof. For example, as Golf Business News reports, the Playgolf Group saw a dramatic increase in numbers despite the previous lockdown. It reports:

“The Leatherhead Club has seen a 40% year-on-year increase in new members, while Playgolf Colchester has seen a 50% year-on-year increase in visitor footfall.
“Playgolf company director Ali Saud said: “All of our courses have seen a surge in membership and visitor footfall. It has given us the financial freedom to invest heavily in each, improving them over the winter, to make playing golf on every hole even more enjoyable. In the short term, the group is focused solely on growing golf participation.”

That gels with anecdotal evidence I’m hearing from friends in the business. One local club is investing in parking lot, driving range and clubhouse refurbishments as result of increased demand over the summer. Teaching pro friends have never been busier.

Demand for golf has gone up not just in the British Isles, but across the Atlantic too.

The National Golf Foundation in the United States recently realised figures for September rounds. It found:

“The September numbers are in and Golf Datatech is reporting almost a 26% jump in rounds played versus a year ago. Percentage-wise, this is the largest YOY increase so far this year and represents about 12 million incremental rounds.
“Once again, every state in the continental U.S. saw increases in play of at least 2% over last year. That makes it three straight months now.
“As of September 30th, year-to-date rounds are up 8.7% nationally.”

The challenge for those who run the game is to capitalise on this incredible surge in interest. If we can maintain and even improve on the increased number of people taking to the fairways then we really can grow this beautiful game.

#JustSaying: “I believe playing golf can bring you happiness.” Harvey Penick

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