'Phenomenal' support of members highlighted as Scottish courses hope to reopen

Clubs in and around Edinburgh set to be close to 100 capacity

Turnhouse Golf Club is operating two nine-hole loops when the course reopens to give as many members as possible the chance to get a first game in more than two months due to being closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic
Turnhouse Golf Club is operating two nine-hole loops when the course reopens to give as many members as possible the chance to get a first game in more than two months due to being closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic

Golf courses hoping to reopen in Edinburgh and the Lothians tomorrow are set to be at 100 per cent capacity as the sport swings back into action.

Tee times at clubs were snapped up in a flash by members as online booking systems went live over the last few days.

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All that is needed now is for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to give the green light for lockdown restrictions to be eased in today's latest official review of measures that have been in place since 23 March due to the coronavirus crisis.

Scottish Golf has drawn up guidelines for the sport to return in its birthplace in two-balls, which can consist of people from different households.

Any bigger groups are at the discretion of clubs and, again, they can only be made up of individuals from two separate households.

The limited numbers mean that some members have suffered disappointment in trying to secure a tee time for the reopening day, but clubs are doing their best to try and keep as many people possible happy.

That is being achieved at Turnhouse, for example, by the club deciding to restart with two loops of nine holes.

"Every day is pretty much full on both nines," reported general manager David Gemmell. "We are fortunate to have two loops of nine holes, which has allowed us to spread things out and give everyone the opportunity to get a game.

"Our tee sheet runs eight days in advance, so, when we opened it up on Sunday, the members had eight choices - four days with two nines per day. It has really helped and we have had no one complain that they couldn't get a game."

Courses in Scotland have been closed since 23 March, leaving golfers kicking their heels at home as people have been out walking the fairways taking their daily exercise.

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"We are predominately a members' club and rely heavily on the support of our members," added Gemmell. "They have been nothing short of phenomenal during this crisis period.

"They have stayed away from the club to help protect the staff, have supported the club financially, have been appreciative of the way we have handled the situation and are looking forward to coming back to their second home."

The buzz is also starting to build in other "second homes" in and around the city as golfers prepare to get their first game in more than two months.

"The tee sheet is full from 7.30am to 8.00pm Friday to Sunday," reported pro Michael Kanev of the demand at Kingsknowe. "A few members have joined, too, which is a bonus!"

That is also the case at Craigmillar Park, where lots of people have appreciated and enjoyed walking on the course in recent weeks, including radio broadcaster Grant Stott.

"One of the big positives of lockdown has been the ability to walk daily across this stunning city greenscape," he posted along with a photograph of Craigmillar Park on Twitter. "As a non-golfer, I've never had the chance to explore it before. I'll be back - if only to visit the 19th hole!"

At Gullane, one of the biggest clubs in the country with around 900 members, all three courses are fully booked.

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"We will over 200 golfers per day from Friday onwards," said secretary Gordon Simpson. "This will be reviewed on a regular basis and I am sure we will increase the usage as things settle down."

Murrayfield members were also quick to snap up tee times when the system went live at the city club earlier in the week.

"It all booked up really quickly!" said pro Jonnie Cliff. "I switched on the online booking at 11.59 on Tuesday. By 12.01, almost every time on Friday and Saturday from 0800 to 1900 was booked.

"We limited the initial booking to one time in the first few days, but we are increasing the ability to book more day by day.

"Also, any free time on any day can be booked by members regardless of how many rounds they have booked in advance.

"It means of our 900 playing members everyone got a fair chance to get a game in the first week and also no tee time will go free if someone wants to play. All the members seem delighted with the process."

At Musselburgh, where just under 200 players are set to head out on Friday, pro Norman Huguet said there has been a "significant intake in new members" ahead of the reopening.

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"The fact that there is no other way to play golf right now other than to be a member has certainly added value to being a member!" he said.

At the other end of the capital, there has also been an "upsurge" in membership enquiries over the past few days.

"That can only put down to the realisation that daily fee golf is going to be hard to find for a while - and potentially more expensive than it has been in recent years," said treasurer Bill Mackintosh.

"It’s our job to make sure any new members are looked after and don’t drift away once we get back to something approaching normality."

Clubs have been issued guidelines from Scottish Golf in the bid to deliver "safe golf" as courses reopen, with Swanston club manager and secretary Mike Robson joining the queue at B&Q earlier in the week to buy sanitiser dispensers for the club.

"I’ve also been busy ordering and ensuring we have the likes of disposable gloves, paper rolls, spray to sanitise the buggies and trolleys etc," he said.

"This week's work has also included preparing notices to be put at the entrances of the course and notices reminding everyone to continue to follow the social-distancing guidelines."

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The first players off at Swanston at 8am will hit shots to the sound of bagpipes being played by one of the juniors.

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