It wasn’t that long ago that health experts were championing golf as a soothing, morale-boosting haven away from the ravaging rigours of the coronavirus.

Things move quickly amid this wretched situation we find ourselves in, though. The inevitable Government announcement of more stringent social distancing measures the other night shuddered round the golfing community like the appalling judder that rattles up the shaft after a violent shank.

The shutters are coming down everywhere and for some already toiling clubs, they may never re-open again.

The rearguard action begins. With the kind of call to arms that should come with a finger-jabbing Kitchener poster, it’s a case of “your club needs you” as far as members are concerned.

Peebles Golf Club, like facilities throughout Scotland, is facing up to the harsh realities brought on by the coronavirus

“Now more than ever, members need to stick by their club,” said Ross Duncan, a past captain at Peebles and a former development director at Scottish Golf, as he echoed sentiments that will be ringing round the game’s cradle and beyond.

“A lot of clubs were clinging on to the idea that golf was this safe sport amid all this but that’s been brought to an abrupt halt and it’s back to the drawing board.

“It’s about emergency planning now and how clubs can survive. Here at Peebles, like most clubs presumably, we’re making a rallying call to members to keep paying their fees so that we still have a club to come back to when we get through this.

“There is no other income and large and small clubs will be severely hit. It’s a huge concern for everybody. The likes of Dornoch, for instance, well rely massively on overseas income.

“We will maybe get £60,000 from visitor income but that will mainly get wiped out now while we’ll have about £250,000 worth of membership income which we clearly need to keep ticking over.

“The latest guidelines allows greenkeepers to at least go and maintain the course. We won’t be needing greens running at 10 on the stimp but at least we can do basic maintenance.


“We can apply to the Government schemes and get 80 per cent of various wages paid to staff. Our pro is on a retainer but he’s self-employed too. We need to look after all our staff as best we can.

“We’ll also have to be creative about how we give members the best value for money when we do return. Hopefully it’s short term pain for long term gain.”

While golfers were encouraged to keep playing last week as long as they adhered to the social distancing measures, Duncan could see that the writing was on the wall.

“You could see a complete closure coming,” he said. “We had 100 people playing at the weekend in a stableford. I went up by myself for nine holes but you saw pockets of people playing but playing as they normally would. You started to get concerned.

“I have a friend who is a club manager in Spain and they all closed very quickly. It was coming."

Peebles Golf Club, like facilities throughout Scotland, is facing up to the harsh realities brought on by the coronavirus

Like most clubs, Peebles has its fair share of hardy perennials; those habitual creatures of great golfing routine and longevity.

The onset of enforced isolation is a concerning reality, not just for golfers, but for all walks of life.

“We have a group we call the TAMS, the Thursday AM Seniors, who play every week and they’ve been going for years,” said Duncan. “One is 93 and plays three or four times a week. There are a couple in that age group.

“They play nine holes, then have two or three coffees. That kind of business keeps clubs going. The social interaction with their peers is a big thing for them.

“They keep each other company. They will really miss that routine. That’s happening across great swathes of society.”

During his stint as club captain, Duncan was given plenty of food for thought. Nothing as seismic as this, though.

“We had catering issues and I seemed to spend two years interviewing caterers,” he recalled. “Now I think ‘christ, I thought I had a tough time then?’.

There will be plenty of tough times ahead.