New Dumbarnie Links still ready to open despite big loss of overseas visitors

David Scott says new Fife course has contingency plans in place

Dumbarnie Links, built on part of the Balcarres Estate overlooking Largo Bay in Fife. Picture: Mark Alexander

Dumbarnie Links, the spectacular Clive Clark-designed golf course on the Fife coast overlooking the Firth of Forth, is set to take a big hit in bookings this year due to the coronavirus crisis.

Scheduled to open next weekend but unlikely to see that happen with no date set for golf being given the green light again in the UK, overseas bookings for Scotland’s newest golfing venue have already been decimated.

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“Around 80 per cent of bookings from overseas guests/tour operators have cancelled for this year, with many of them re-booking for 2021,” David Scott, the general manager, told The Scotsman.

“We have a strong diary of bookings from Fife and Scottish residents and so, although their green fee rates (£94 and £115 respectively) are significantly less than our standard green fee (£235), we are confident we will be quite busy through these two avenues.”

The tee sheet for the scheduled opening day at the course, which has been built on part of the historic Balcarres Estate overlooking Largo Bay, has not yet been scrapped despite courses throughout the UK being closed since 23 March due to the coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

“Indeed it is,” said Scott of the plan still being to open next Saturday, “but unlikely now due to [First Minister] Nicola Sturgeon stating that the lockdown parameters would be reviewed next Thursday.

“If we can’t open on the 16th, Plan B will be to hopefully open by early June. Plan C? I hear rumours there may be a travel restriction for everyone, and only allowing for example, travel within 20 miles of your home.

“If this were the case, then we would have to consider opening the course on specific days, and perhaps weekends only as we simply wouldn’t have the demand for golf seven days a week.

“Due to the work being stopped on our clubhouse some seven weeks ago due to Covid-19, we knew the clubhouse wouldn’t be ready for our opening day. As a result of this, our service offering will be greatly reduced and therefore we will not require a full workforce.

“We have made alternative plans and hired in portacabins and a food & beverage van with a barbecue and gazebo. Working from these temporary facilities, we will run with a skeleton of staff, with mainly management providing service to our guests. We had planned to have a team of around 25 in golf operations and food & beverage, but now will be reduced to five or six.”

The course between Lundin and Elie on the north shore of the Firth of Forth is being managed for Clark, a former Ryder Cup player, by American-based OB Sports Management.

“Exceptional,” said Scott of the support he has received from his bosses on the other side of the Atlantic during an unfortunate build up period to the course’s eagerly-awaited opening.

“OB Sports Management oversee our facility, and they report to our chairman, Clive Clark, and his board. I communicate with OB every day via email or ZOOM and discuss how the course and product offerings are taking shape and also the ever-changing climate we find ourselves in.”

While the R&A has submitted a plan for “safe golf” when courses reopen in the UK, it remains to be seen what restrictions will be announced by the government, with the possibility that the Scottish Government might be planning for lockdown to last longer than south of the Border.

“We hope that Nicola Sturgeon and her government consider not only the personal well-being and safe distancing that golf can offer, but also the massive economic benefits of getting the tills ticking over again in golf clubs up and down the country. This spending has so much benefit right down the food chain,” said Scott.

“I personally think it’s a very safe risk as all golf clubs have had information on ‘best practice’ to protect both staff and guests from coronavirus. Being out in the fresh air, and socially distancing from your fellow players is surely much safer than going to the supermarket or DIY shop.

“Playing as a single golfer or in family groups would, in my opinion, be a complete waste of time with very little uptake. Golf is a social game, and can be safely played keeping away from your playing partner for a few hours.

“Even if the government allows only two players, that would be a very good start. Arrive in separate cars, play a game and return home, I don’t see where the risk lies. Courses right now are very busy with dog walkers, families and kids on bikes.

“Remove them, and allow golfers back out on the fairways. It will help the health and well-being of the golfers, but equally as important, get the cash coming into the clubs again.

“If there are many more weeks or months of delay, I think we will see many clubs closing their doors for good,” added Scott.

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