Club professionals in Scotland are suffering their toughest time at the till in the past 25 years due to courses being covered by a blanket of snow on more than one occasion this year and now being hit by flooding.
Very few clubs have escaped Mother Nature’s cold grip this time around and even the links courses that sometimes aren’t affected by winter weather have been just as badly hit as inland venues.
Carnoustie, which hosts this year’s Open Championship, has been closed on eight days since 1 January while Gullane was also turned into a winter wonderland by the “Beast from the East” as it prepares to host a Scottish Open double-header this summer.
The lack of footfall has been a massive blow for clubs, with the professional at one of the leading venues in the country revealing he’d taken less than £100 in his till in the first week of March compared to £4,000 last year.
“Yes, this has been a bad winter,” admitted Blairgowrie PGA pro Charles Dernie. “I’m in my 21st year here and up to now the worst winter was 2010, when we were off the courses for nearly 12 weeks. But the last time we were on full greens was 10 November, so that’s now about 16 weeks!
“It’s not normally so bad. Indeed, last year we played most of the winter. Business was okay up to Christmas but since then it’s been pretty grim – not that we are ever “busy” in winter. It is starting to hit hard now, though. In the first week of March last year, the shop brought in 4K – so far this month £97!
“We have under-cover teaching on our range which helps but, in the current weather, many of our members aren’t keen to travel. Obviously we are hoping this is nearly the end of it, but it was still snowing here yesterday.”
Sandy Smith, the professional at Ladybank, described the past four months as the “worst I’ve encountered in 25 years” while two Borders-based professionals agreed that the recent weather is proving a massive headache.
“The snow has been very frustrating this winter, particularly as it’s come so late in the season - it’s meant to be spring now!” said Craig Montgomerie, director of golf at The Roxburghe Golf Club, which is located between Kelso and Jedburgh.
“Lessons being cancelled, lack of footfall through shop, frustrated members etc. It’s also bad timing as we are trying to promote our membership throughout March. Our membership year runs from 1 April and the weather is not helping this. Also, current members have just received renewals and, with all this cold weather, hopefully it doesn’t create a feeling of doubt about renewing.
“Another worry is the new stock for the shop is starting to arrive and, with a golf course that’s currently unplayable, that creates a feeling of panic!”
Concurring, Daniel Wood, the professional at The Hirsel on the outskirts of Coldstream, added: “It is seriously tough at the moment, especially in a rural area that is already quiet in the winter.
“I lost 12 lessons last week and more this week. Although most are pre-paid, it means taking up more time further into the season. We’ve been working hard on Facebook and eBay to create shop sales.”
The weather, incidentally, has forced Carnoustie to be closed more so far this year than a similarly bad start to the year in 2010. The rainfall on the course in January was 61.6ml, another 20.2ml fell in February and head greenkeeper Craig Boath posted a picture on social media on Tuesday of the Barry Burn being close to bursting its banks after snow that had fallen on the course last week melted.