We all know that many golf clubs in this country are eking out a hand to mouth existence. In the current coronavirus crisis, not even great dollops of sanitiser and soap will prevent further ravages to already struggling facilities.

The appalling weather in recent weeks has been bad enough. The unrelenting march of Covid-19, however, has issued more red alerts than the Met Office ever could.

“This could have massive impacts on clubs,” said Simon Payne, the long-standing professional and secretary at Cowglen on Glasgow’s southside.

“I’ve been here for 30 years and the weather recently has been the worst I can remember in terms of getting out to play. But the addition of the coronavirus has made it a whole lot worse.

“Today (Friday) was quiet and the weather was decent. A normal day like this, with quite nice weather, should have been much busier.

“It’s a minefield. We don’t know how long it will be like this for. The Beast from the East a couple of years ago was the first time we had ever closed the place down entirely. Nobody was on site, it just shut.

“But this virus is a different kettle of fish. It’s the unknown. When the snow melted, you knew we would be back. But who knows with this?”


Across the globe, things have accelerated in the last day or so. On Thursday night, the British and International Golf Greenkeeping Association (BIGGA), the PGA and the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA), supported by the R&A, sent out a collaborative package of guidelines to help clubs weather the storm.

“That was very, very useful as it allowed us to sit down on Friday and work out some kind of battleplan,” said Payne.

“Up until then, I think people were maybe a bit blase about this but when you consider the wider ramifications, they are huge.

“There are knock on effects for green fees, subscriptions, bookings, our suppliers, from diesel for machinery to drink in the bar. If bar staff or catering staff are off, then takings are down. It’s everything.

“The worst-case scenario is if the green-keeping staff have to go into isolation, then the course doesn’t get maintained.

“The course is the No.1 thing for members. You can tell a volunteer how to lock the clubhouse but you can’t suddenly upskill someone to cut a green.

“We are coupling up with other clubs in the area with a kind of buddy system to help each other out just in case.

“Our course manager has a group of trusted friends at other courses so there will at least be a limited maintenance to keep things going should the worst happen.”

In these uncertain times, Payne is hoping the measures Cowglen have taken can limit the damage.

“You have to react and start thinking of everything,” he said of this hastily assembled rapid response unit. “People are handling pins, they are hand-ling ball washers and rakes in bunkers. We started going through potential risks and they just grow and grow.

“Like a lot of clubs, the over-65s are a relatively large element here. Their health and well-being on our premises is paramount.

“The older golfers may now be considering just staying away and it will be interesting to monitor numbers going forward.

“While everybody has to take responsibility, we’ve just tried to do as much as possible to at least give members the confidence that we can operate as best we can.

“Many clubs are living hand to mouth. The impact of this could be hard to take for some.”