An Open and Shut Case for Golf Courses Around the Globe
AS CALLS continue for an easing of restrictions for club golfers in this country and for golf to be classed as part of our daily exercise routine, it is instructive to look at what is happening at other parts of the world.
Most golf courses remain closed for business, although Denmark has opened its doors - and, perhaps, pointed the way towards what we might expect when the same thing happens here.
Denmark is hardly a country that you would regard as being a Mecca for the sport, but an increase in membership has already been reported and courses have been full from dawn until dusk.
The Scandinavian in Copenhagen sold 37 new memberships in the five weeks after March 1, including during a month-long period when the country was in partial lockdown and the majority of courses were closed. The club, which has more than 1,050 members and is the most expensive in Denmark, has had to introduce a waiting list and has steadfastly refused to reduce its prices.
Chief executive David Shepherd says existing members have upgraded family memberships, as well as new individual members applying. But he also believes the upsurge in interest is because people have suddenly become more appreciative of green spaces and being outdoors.
And, having been locked down for so long in the UK while the sun beats down, it is difficult to argue with Shepherd.
“People are recognising the value of being out in the fresh air and being out with close friends; the things existing golf players already know, but actually the people who didn’t commit to a membership are now starting to miss badly,” he said. "I think there is a huge opportunity right now for golf to capitalise on this. This is a huge opportunity to showcase everything that is great about golf.”
When The Scandinavian reopened, Shepherd and his team decided not to impose any booking restrictions. On the first day, the course was fully booked for the following 10 days, with many club members booking up to 10 tee times. Play has been restricted to two-balls.
In Italy, unsurprisingly all golf clubs are still closed. Although routine course maintenance continues. The hope is to reopen on May 4, but there will be restrictions, with no access to bars and locker rooms.
France remains in lockdown until May 11 and all courses remain shut, with no indication as to when that may change, and the same situation exists in Portugal, with the Algarve feeling the pinch. All public places in Portugal are closed, and it will be May 1 before that is reviewed. But don’t hold your breath.
Spain has been looking to ease some lockdown restrictions but all courses and practice facilities remain shot, and will not open before May 31 at the earliest.
There are exceptions. Most golf courses across Thailand will reopen on May 1, with others following suit on May 15.
The Thai Prime Minister has given authority to each province’s governor to make their own judgment. Chonburi, which includes Thailand's largest golf destination around the resort of Pattaya, will definitely be re-opening on May 1. And hotels, restaurants and spas will also open on that date. It should be pointed out that Thailand has only seen a small number of deaths caused by Covid-19.
Only a handful of courses are shut in Japan, although many have closed their clubhouses. The Japanese government considers golf to be one of the safer outside activities.
In South Korea, which has dealt with the virus more efficiently that just about any other country on earth, it is more or less business as normal, with no lockdowns or restrictions on golf courses, although, once again, clubhouses have been closed, and golfers have been told to turn up wearing their golf shoes and head straight to the first tee.
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