‘It’s difficult to find a reason to get up in the morning’: The forgotten faces of golf in the pandemic

Golf club staff have lived a strange existence in recent months. One manager reveals how he and his staff have been coping with life on furlough Aneil Chauhan considers himself lucky. He can fill his days – delivering a mental health project he’s hoping to launch with England Golf – but time goes quickly and keeping productive is a challenge. As operations manager at Stonebridge Golf Centre, Aneil was tasked with telling staff last March and November they were going on furlough. When lockdown shut the doors of the Coventry club for the third time at the start of January, he found himself staying at home with them. You might find this surprising, but the clock can race away from you when you're on furlough. It’s easy, if you’re not careful, to waste weeks. “In terms of actually finding a reason to get up in the morning, I’ve been finding it quite difficult,” Aneil admits. “Keeping on top of time and keeping yourself productive is one thing that all the staff have said they have struggled with. I think that goes for everyone.” Club staff have become the forgotten faces of golf during the coronavirus pandemic. We know all about the time members have lost on course, and we know about the effect padlocked gates are having on bottom lines. But, across England, Wales and Ireland, thousands of staff have lived a strange existence since our way of life so dramatically changed last spring. From week to week, they’ve wondered what the future holds as they’ve come on and off furlough when cases have risen and dipped. Some, of course, haven’t come back to work at all. For Aneil, the experience of seeing how that all worked, and the knowledge that everyone returned to Stonebridge before, helped soften the blow of sharing a similar fate this time. “I don’t think I had the shock that other people did in the first two – where they were unsure about the route back in and what would be needed. “Now we know the process of what’s going to happen when things do start to open up, and that there is an end to this, it made me feel OK. “But, at the same time, you feel quite bad for the members who are sitting at home, can’t do anything, and have paid their subs for January.” He adds: “We’ve done it before, the staff know that this is temporary and we’re going to do everything we can to keep them on, and [so] it’s different. “The first lockdown was hard. No one knew anything at all about how long it was going to be – originally it was going to be three weeks – and then everything changed from there.” As Aneil speaks, lockdown seems open ended. The mere whisper of a loosening was provoking cries whichever side of the debate people are on. What seems likely, though, is that clubhouses won’t be opening any time soon and, consequently, furlough won’t be over...
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