The big challenge awaiting managers as golf reopens from lockdown

In a GCMA Hot Topics webinar, BIGGA chief executive Jim Croxton said only golf club managers could balance the ‘three-legged stool’ of play, maintenance and expectation in the coming weeks The levels of play produced by golfers flocking to courses after coronavirus lockdown eases may present a “fairly major challenge” for club managers and greenkeepers. In a GCMA Hot Topics webinar, Jim Croxton, chief executive of the British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association, told viewers those levels were likely to be “significantly ahead” of where they would normally be in April – as players make up for lost time when three months of closure come to an end in England on March 29. Golf resumed in Wales last week, as fourballs returned in Scotland, and Irish clubs are hoping to open the doors next month. Croxton said the number of rounds played per month in the early spring averaged out at around a couple of thousand per course over the last five years. But last May, when the first Covid shutdown was eased and golf clubs reopened, that figure nearly doubled as players rushed to courses and rose further through the summer. Pundits have widely predicted a similar wave of enthusiasm when the padlocks come off. “I assume that’s what is going to happen at club level over these next few weeks when the tee sheets are reopened,” Croxton said. “The levels of play are going to be significantly ahead of where they normally would be for March and April and that presents a fairly major challenge for all the GCMA members and our members.” Croxton used the analogy of a three-legged stool and a glass of water – representing the balance between the amount of play that's permitted and put through the golf course, the amount of maintenance that’s allowed to take place, and the expectation of golfers and the condition of the golf course they will find. “I think that’s a really tricky balancing act,” he added. “If any one of those legs get longer, or potentially shorter - in terms of, let’s say, maintenance isn’t maintained - then pretty soon that glass of water falls off and we’re in with a problem. “That’s a major challenge. I think that’s the biggest challenge facing your industry, and I guess our industry, over these next few months. “As I understand it, nearly every club has got more members. New members play more. There’s going to be a yield issue, I guess, in terms of whether or not there is actual tee availability on certain days when all these guys and girls want to play. Maintaining the three legs of that stool is the biggest challenge. "Certainly, from our aspect, in terms of what's going on: particularly on the back of a very wet winter in lots of places, reduced maintenance staff at lots of clubs - not every club, but reduced numbers. I think that's a really tricky balance." Croxton added he felt the only people who could...
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