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Why Have Golf Courses Been Closing More This Winter

By: | Mon 08 Jan 2024

One of the things that emerged loud and clear from our recent membership survey is just how many of us have lost valuable playing time because so many courses have been closed as a result of flooding.

This used to be a pretty rare occurrence but there is little doubt that climate change has altered things forever. Unsurprisingly, one of your biggest bugbears was that your golf clubs refused to compensate you for times when you could not play.

On the face of it, it seems pretty unfair to expect somebody to pay a 12-month subscription for what may amount to only nine months of golf. Or, if you have been unlucky enough to have joined a low-lying course with a river running through the heart of it, perhaps not even nine months.

Social media has been awash with depressing images and statistics, but if you are a regular golfer then you will not need anybody to tell you that 2023 was wet. Very wet! On an almost daily basis!

Chorley Golf Club was just of many venues that has taken to X to record their annual rainfall averages since 2019.

2019 - 60.5"

2020 - 63.8"

2021 - 56.5"

2022 - 50.8"

2023 - 69.1"

In the final six months of the year they saw a quite staggering 47.6” of rain and had just 51 dry days out of 184.

The weather has seen golf courses that had never before suffered flooding problems pushed to the limit and beyond. 

Greenkeepers are having to deal with daily or weekly problems that not so long ago would have regarded as rare events. We have all experienced fairways, bunkers and greens under water, and there have even been clubhouses flooded. Staff face huge challenges to get courses dried out and playable.

And there are no easy answers. If we accept that climate change is here to stay (and we probably have to) then it stands to reason that many of us are going to have to live with ongoing course closures moving forward.

This is not just about improving drainage. If you have a river flowing through your course that floods on a regular basis you cannot simply hope that a few sandbags will solve the problem. The answer is proper flood defences and the question is: who pays the bill? The environment agency, the local authority, the river authority? 

Clearly, paying for proper flood defences is a massive financial undertaking that would probably be beyond the means of most golf clubs - and, if passed on to club members, would almost certainly lead to a mass exodus.

Bunker St Andrews

(Flooded Bunker in St Andrews)

So where do we go with this?

It has to be said that any club that is liable to regular flooding surely owes it to its members to provide some kind of refund to compensate for closures. Failing that, why not look at reciprocal agreements with other courses in the area that would allow access when a golfer’s home course is closed.

If you are somebody who plays golf all year round and are looking for a golf course, do your research. Ask the secretary and members if their course floods on a regular basis. And ask the secretary if you will receive a refund if you are unable to play the course.

You may also want to consider clubs that boasts two courses because they will almost always have some sort of composite course that is playable except in the most extreme of weather conditions.

If you want to be sure of playing golf 12 months of the year you might want consider joining either a links or a course that stands way above sea level.

And for those considering building new courses in the UK, please, please, please avoid doing so on flood plains or close to rivers that you know have a history of bursting their banks.

What do you think? post your thoughts and feedback on the Golfshake Forum: https://forum.golfshake.com/

Tags: GOLFERS Golf Courses Golf daily picks Courses Closures

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