Scottish golfers and golf clubs have been praised for their response to the enforced closure of courses across the country during lockdown.
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold, courses in Scotland were shut on 24 March and did not reopen until 29 May, later than those in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland.
Eleanor Cannon, the chair of governing body Scottish Golf, acknowledged the frustrations felt by golfers during the long lay-off but said their strict adherence to lockdown rules helped the sport’s return. Golf, tennis, bowls and fishing were the first sports to be given the green light to resume by Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister.
Speaking at the Scottish Golf agm, Cannon said: “Our clubs and members deserve enormous credit for the way they have responded to the restrictions forced upon us all by Covid-19. We recognise what an immensely frustrating and difficult period this has been, even as we begin to return to some semblance of normality.
“However, it is only because of the strict compliance and positive approach by clubs and members that we have been able to get back out playing again.”
The agm also heard that the long-term decline in club membership has slowed significantly, with 500 fewer adult members at Scottish golf clubs during 2019, compared with a reduction of more than 5,500 from 2017 to 2018.
Cannon also explained that, since courses reopened, clubs which allowed tee times to be held for club members only had reported a jump in new membership applications.
She said: “We are getting very positive feedback from lots of clubs which are dealing with membership applications on a scale they’ve not seen for years. We have heard of clubs that have had over 80 new membership applications in the past few weeks and that’s a very welcome trend we hope continues throughout the year.
“Many of those applications are from golfers who would otherwise play as visitors, but we also have reports of new applications from people who visited courses for the first time to walk and exercise during lockdown and have been encouraged to join by the friendly responses they received from existing members.”
Scottish Golf rebated £575,000 back to clubs to help them deal with the cashflow hit from green fees and clubhouse takings.
Cannon also highlighted the role of digital technology in the sport via Scottish Golf’s online booking, handicap and membership system.
She said: “Among a host of benefits, the new system allows for much simpler tee-time booking and eliminates the need for paper score cards for competitive play. The feedback from those clubs which have already adopted the Venue Management System (VMS) has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We believe our digital scorecard is the only one on the market in the UK that fully complies with competition rules allowing players to complete and submit their scores from their mobile phone.
“However, the VMS is not just important for coping with social distancing – it also drives value back to clubs by providing a fully integrated platform allowing clubs to promote their open competitions to a wider audience once Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, helping make our game more accessible to all. This is vitally important as we continue our efforts to promote our game and broaden the demographic of Scottish golfers, attracting more girls, boys and women to the sport and, in turn, making our courses more accessible to disabled players.”
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