As the return to playing our beloved game continues to gather momentum in sunshine and amid a spirit of competition, I hope everyone fortunate enough to get out onto a course is still enjoying their “good walk spoiled”.
For us golfers chasing a magic formula during our round, we can at least now find sanctuary again at the 19th hole after enduring the rollercoaster ride of the accomplished 18…
The freedom to reopen and revisit the bar is a comfort we welcome back. Throw in the opportunity of a sandwich or meal inside our clubhouses (since 4 July) and another glimpse of normality stares us in the face.
Golf is naturally a social game and great for our mental wellbeing.
The opportunity to meet our pals in a safe, convivial environment, to share the news, stories and laughs was something we all missed during lockdown.
For all golf clubs, clubhouses can provide vital income. As such I hope all is going well for those facilities who felt able to open their doors again as the easing of lockdown continues.
Not every golf club has been able to make a financially positive decision to open their bars and catering and, in fact, the split across the country is close to 50/50.
Many clubs – my own included – have opted to stay with the profitable halfway house for the moment and will take their time making a phased return to full operations.
There is no right and wrong way of doing this – clubs should and will rightfully act responsibly with the best interests of their members, moving when the time is right.
Safety must remain our priority.
In the coming weeks, I hope we can once again access locker rooms and – provided we keep doing the right things to ward off the dangers still posed by the Coronavirus – enjoy a further extension of freedoms in wider society.
The repercussions of the past few months are, of course, still being felt by all of us with much hard work still ahead.
Last week we proudly published details of how golf clubs can apply for financial assistance from the Covid-19 Support Fund we negotiated with The R&A.
For forward-thinking clubs eyeing up brighter times, accessing up to £10,000 in grants can be a game-changer and we welcome all applications with a true need and requirement.
So far, over 500 clubs in England have started the application process which runs until 31 July.
With regards to the new World Handicapping System, we distributed digital toolkits to golf clubs this week to help educate members on the changes to handicapping which will be brought about by the launch on 2 November this year.
It’s natural to be wary of change, but the key thing about WHS is that it alters how a handicap is calculated, NOT how we play and enjoy the game. From that perspective, I hope it’s a development we can all embrace.
From an operational standpoint we (England Golf) announced plans to reopen our office this week and will soon begin a staged return to our Woodhall Spa headquarters.
I am proud of the way our team worked tirelessly from home and also those staff who accepted furloughing as part of an appropriate protection of our members’ funds.
As our workload continues to grow, so does our support for the sport, whether at county, club or golfer level.
The game, though, is all about golfers and now clubs are back running competitions and opens in accordance with government regulations, I’m very much looking forward to a ‘celebration of golf’ when our own championships return.
Many of England’s gifted amateur golfers and the stars of tomorrow will be lining up – at an appropriate social distance, of course – at Woodhall Spa (pictured above) for the English Men’s and Women’s Amateur Championships from 28 July.
Our team will continue to work hard to bring this historic, joint staging of the championships to life.
This week we should all have been enjoying the build-up to the 149th Open Championship on a classic links course down at Royal St George’s in Kent.
These plans are necessarily on hold until 2021, but I’m glad that in the amateur game we have been able to keep our English ‘Majors’ on the schedule and offer another staging post on golf’s road to recovery.
To all our clubs, counties and golfers please continue to follow our ‘PlaySafe, StaySafe’ guidelines and enjoy everything our great sport has to offer.
Happy golfing and kind regards
CEO, England Golf