Matter of Opinion: The return of golf

As clubs reopen after lockdown, a trio of managers consider what the next few months have in store Golf in England returns on Monday. It's back in Wales and it’s on the way in Ireland too. As clubs wake up from their coronavirus-induced slumber, yet still under various restrictions until the summer, we asked a trio of managers to assess how the next few months will look. Gareth Anthony, general manager at Druids Heath, in Walsall; Chris White, secretary at Hunstanton, in Norfolk; and Alistair Cook, club manager at Sand Moor, in Leeds, consider how the sport will emerge from the pandemic... Golf clubs have reopened but restrictions remain in place. What are the opportunities and challenges now for your clubs? What does the next couple of months look like? Gareth Anthony: Membership is the key aspect for us because our renewals are due on April 1. We sent them out and the response has been pretty good. We’ve been getting quite a few applying for membership and that’s been really productive. It’s all based around the membership for us. We won't really be taking visitors for the foreseeable future. We'll have to see what impact of play on the course is, capacity-wise, before we decide about visitors. But there’s a great opportunity in terms of really driving the membership side. We’re not quite full yet. We’ve got around another 50 to go before we get there and, hopefully, we can recruit those before the end of April or early May. We’ll look at it, see financially where we stand, and how we can go about trading in the future. Chris White: The biggest immediate challenge is capacity. Our membership is completely full. We've got 50-odd people on our waiting list. That’s pretty unprecedented. We haven't had that since the beginning of the 1990s. There’s going to be a lot of people wanting to get out and play. Our membership is full but it’s quite diverse. We’ve got a lot of people who live away and a couple of hundred who are London way, which is two to three hours from us. In Covid times, people who maybe had second homes in this part of the world decided they wanted to make this their primary residence. They’d rather be locked down by the seaside than in a city centre and the [case] rates have been lower here generally throughout. We’ve got our own roadmap of what members can expect. They've got exclusive access to the golf course for at least the first two weeks. After that, they will have another period of four weeks where they might be able to bring a guest. From May 17 when, theoretically, the clubhouse reopens properly, we will be looking to take visitor income again. Visitors are a big part of our club and we absolutely welcome them, but It’s a fine balance because the members are the ones who've had to put up with the closure - more so than anyone who would...
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