A golf club in Dunblane is busier than ever just weeks after planning how it could keep the lights on after having to close during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When Scotland went into lockdown in March Dunblane New Golf Club, like businesses across the country, was forced to close without knowing when it would be able to open its doors again.
As the economic reality of the pandemic hit there were concerns that membership income would dry up, and with the club still having to pay various overheads, the risk of there not being a club to reopen when restrictions eased was real.
However kind-hearted members continued to pay their fees despite not having a course to play on for nearly three months. And with additional help from a Scottish Government small business grant, the club was able to open again on May 23 whilst still adhering to government guidelines.
The staff at the club’s hard work and patience has now been rewarded as demand for tee times and memberships has never been greater with golfers eager to hit the fairways as lockdown eases.
Club manager, Christopher Spencer, said: “The big concern for clubs when we were closed was with so many members paying by direct debit, would they still want or be able to do that while they couldn’t play?
"We’re very grateful that members have been able to continue paying their direct debits, as a result the club is still here to reopen.
"When things get back to normal we’re looking at ways to reward that loyalty from members.
“We also had to work hard while we were closed to make sure the club survived. We’ve had help from the furlough scheme and we were able to access £25,000 through the Scottish Government’s small business grant scheme. That has made a significant impact and a combination of those factors has meant the club is still here and was ready to reopen when it was safe to do so.
“I was out on the first tee the first day we were back and the atmosphere was fantastic, people were so grateful to be back.
“The demand has been unbelievable from members wanting to get back out on the course and see friends they hadn’t seen for a while. Also, you do over 9,000 steps playing a round of golf so it’s a great form of exercise and a sport that’s easy to play while physical distancing.
"We had a big increase in membership enquiries when we were initially allowed to open again. Initially we were seeing 4 or 5 enquiries each day from people wanting to join the club.”
With several members working for the NHS and care industry in various roles, the club were keen to give something back and made sure those members were able to fit golf in to their working week.
Chris explained: “We’ve got several members of the club who work for the NHS. We made tee times available for them during the week so they didn’t have to scramble for a tee time.
"It was important for the club to be able to offer whatever we could to help members who are working to keep us all safe.”
The benefits of sport and physical activity for mental health are well known, at a time when the importance of looking after our mental health had never been greater not having that outlet was difficult.
It was something members at Dunblane New Golf Club found difficult too, and Christopher says the relief on the first day back at the course was palpable.
He added: “This pandemic has really highlighted the importance of mental health awareness. Being able to get out to enjoy the sunshine, socialise and get some exercise can really help with our mental health and golf is the perfect game to do that. Especially for people who have been forced to stay indoors and not had much contact with anyone, it has been a huge thing to get back out on the course. I’ve spoken to several members who have discussed that with me.
“It’s been great to be open again and see the impact the sport can have, socially, physically and from a mental health perspective as well at a time when a lot of people have found life more difficult.”
Chief Operating Officer for sportscotland, Forbes Dunlop, said: “This has clearly been an extremely difficult time for people across Scotland. It is heartening to see the great work being done in clubs across the country with so many people coming together to help others.
“As we continue to move through the Scottish Government’s route map through and out of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to work with our partners across the sporting system to support communities throughout Scotland and the phased return of sport at all levels.”
Karin Sharp, Scottish Golf COO, said: “It has been without a doubt a trying time for people over the last few months in lockdown. But we are delighted to see with the extension to exercise in Scotland that local golf clubs such as Dunblane New Golf Clubs are seeing a surge in new members.
“In recent weeks, we have seen so many positive stories from across the game of golf in Scotland. We would encourage everyone in our golfing community to continue playing their part to position the great game of golf in a positive light. By adhering to the latest government guidance, where public health remains the priority, it will ensure that we can continue to take advantage of the benefits golf has to offer.”