Kingsbarns’ 20th birthday celebrations on hold as they prepare for the worst

Fife club planning for a ‘zero revenue’ year because of coronavirus shutdown

Kingsbarns Golf Club was opened in July 2000 but the coronavirus outbreak has put paid to their 20th birthday celebrations. Picture: Stephen Mansfield

Kingsbarns Golf Links, one of the most popular venues in Scotland for visitors from around the world, has put its 20th birthday celebrations on hold as the golfing world effectively lies in cold storage due to the coronavirus.

The Fife venue, which co-hosts the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship with St Andrews and Carnoustie, was officially opened in July 2000, since when it has become one of the top courses for visitors to the home of golf after the Open Championship venues.

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Around 2,000 golfers had been due to visit this month, rising to between 3,000-4,000 every month thereafter before its traditional shutdown for the winter at the end of October. “It is mind boggling,” Alan Hogg, the chief executive, told The Scotsman of the potential loss of income at the venue this year, when the regular green fee at the height of the season is set to be just over £300.

Due to its unbridled success over the past two decades, Kingsbarns doesn’t face the same financial worries of some of Scotland’s smaller and lesser known clubs as courses lie empty at a time of the year when the new season is starting to generate excitement among golfers around the country.

However, it hasn’t been immune from staff being furloughed due to the Covid-19 crisis and, along with everyone else in the golf business, Hogg, pictured inset, is having to wait patiently to find out what, if anything, might be left of the 2020 season once the lockdown guidelines are eventually lifted.

“We are preparing ourselves for the worst-case scenario while hoping for the best,” he said. “We have gone with a best-case scenario of being able to start up again in July, though that, of course, is dependent on world travel being up and running again. Then we have worked on saying what it would then look like in August, September and so forth.

“Before you know it, we could be looking at a scenario where all Kingsbarns have this year are costs because we’ve had no income coming in at all. In our business model [all the revenue comes from visitors], where we’ve had all the advantages over the previous years profiting in the boom of tourism to Scotland, you are now looking at us possibly taking the complete hit.

“We are preparing ourselves for a complete loss of the 2020 season and, for us, it could be a zero revenue year. With the success we’ve had, that amounts to a hell of a lot of money going missing in the coffers.

“Fortunately, we have been a successful organisation. We have been stable over the last 20 years and, in our ownership structure, with just one guy, our owner Art Dunkley, at the helm, he has been extremely
reassuring to us, saying: 
‘look guys, we can get through this, even in the worst-case scenario’.

“That gives the core team confidence and reassurance, although two thirds of our core team have been furloughed. As you could imagine, our people who work food and beverage, meet and greet, the golf shop etc are not needed at the moment due to the closure. We have a team of four working on essential maintenance, but that means two thirds are furloughed.

“It is kind of doom and gloom at the moment, really, and, from our perspective, we can’t bear to think about the supply chain. The tour operators, for example, the taxi drivers in and around St Andrews, the caddies. It does not bear thinking about how many people and families this whole thing is affecting.”

Due to the enjoyable challenge of the golf course crafted by Kyle Phillips and Mark Parsinnen, coupled with the warm and friendly welcome afforded to visitors, Kingsbarns is sure to be back buzzing again when it reopens and that big birthday will still be celebrated accordingly.

“We had a number of things planned, from first tee giveaways to other little things for customers,” said Hogg, an Edinburgh man who took up his current post ten years ago after a spell working in Germany. “We are going to put that on hold and celebrate our 20th next year, it just so happens it will be 2021. The party is not being cancelled; it is just being put on hold.”