With no shortage of bad news at the moment, Rob McGarr picks out five things every golfer can look forward to in this time of crisis.
1. The greatest Ryder Cup ever
Yes, there is a chance that this year’s Ryder Cup will be postponed or cancelled. And, clearly, if playing it poses any health and safety risk, that should and will be the case. But, if the situation is such that it can safely go ahead, either in its original September slot or later in the year, one thing is certain: it will be the biggest and best Ryder Cup the world has ever seen.
The Ryder Cup has become golf’s crown jewel in recent years. It is now the biggest competition in golf and the third biggest sporting event on the planet (behind the Olympics and the World Cup).
With the majority of the 2020 golf season decimated by the Coronavirus, the Ryder Cup would be a more than fitting return and would send golf-starved fans into raptures. “Certain events would be an amazing torch for a turn in how the world is getting on, and the Ryder Cup would be one of them that is like a shining light at the end of the tunnel,” says one of Europe’s 2018 Ryder Cup heroes, Tommy Fleetwood.
“In many ways, it would be perfect if the Ryder Cup was the first tournament back,” says current European captain Padraig Harrington. “Just 12 guys from Europe and 12 from America, with no prize money at stake, competing just for glory... Wouldn’t that be a nice way for sport to start back?”
What event could possibly serve as a better curtain-raiser for golf than the Ryder Cup?
A team event that brings people together in pursuit of a common goal couldn’t be a more fitting way to return. The appetite for the Ryder Cup, after months without golf, would be astronomical, and could be used to raise vast amounts of money for charity.
“The Ryder Cup is an event people dream about,” says Fleetwood. This year, people are dreaming about it more than ever.
2. Better member-club support
Such an unprecedented situation has caused golf clubs and their members to support each other like never before.
Clubs have needed the loyal support of members, asking them to pay membership renewals despite the club being closed and no one knowing when it is likely to reopen. While members have needed their club to communicate with them, openly and honestly.
A few clubs have failed to rise to that challenge, but most have managed to create a tighter bond between club and members than ever before.
This will stand them in good stead to overcome the financial challenges that are likely to persist for some time as a result of lost revenue due to the Coronavirus, and to self-police any social distancing measures and precautions that may be necessary when golf resumes.
“Now more than ever, members need to stick by their club,” said Ross Duncan, past captain at Peebles Golf Club and former Development Director at Scottish Golf, speaking to The Herald. “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. We’ll 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.”
Clubs that come through this time of adversity successfully will likely have done so via increased unity with members, the benefits of which will last a lifetime.
Memberships at Royal North Devon, England’s oldest club, normally expire at New Year. The club drew huge plaudits – and no shortage of long-term affinity – by extending current memberships to the end of March 2021.
3. Courses in good condition
Greenkeepers will tell you that having 100-150 golfers on the course each day, all taking divots, making pitchmarks, wheeling trolleys, and walking across your carefully manicured greens, takes a heavy toll on the course. The only time the course normally gets a break from that is when it has to be closed due to frozen or flooded ground, which hardly does it any favours either.
An extended period without any traffic, with decent weather to boot, is providing golf courses with a unique opportunity to recover. Most clubs have been able to keep greenkeepers working during the lockdown, so it shouldn’t take long to get your course in the best condition it has been in for years when the lockdown is lifted.
“We have two staff looking after the course to ensure that it is in the best condition possible when we return,” says Neal Milton, General Manager at Sheringham GC.
As a result, your golf course will likely look better than ever when you eventually get to play it again, and not just because absence makes the heart grow fonder.
4. Newfound appreciation for golf
Whether the course is better than ever or not, most of us will enjoy golf more than ever after an imposed hiatus. Golf is a sport we all love but too often take for granted. You wait all week for your Saturday round, then spend four hours trudging miserably round the course because you’re slicing your driver and chunking your irons. But, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t a bad day on the golf course better than a good day in lockdown?
It may not last forever, but expect all golfers to appreciate how lucky they are to be out there playing when we are free to do so again. Being stuck behind a slow fourball or posting a score that results in a handicap increase won’t seem like the end of the world after having no golf at all for so long.
“I never thought I’d miss golf as much as I do,” says Shane Lowry. “I knew I’d miss competing, but I even just miss the peace and tranquillity of an evening nine holes with friends. Fingers crossed this is all over soon.”
5. Seize the day
Such a life-changing event has caused people across the globe to reflect on what’s important. Most will never look at things quite the same way again.
When we’re free from the clutches of Covid-19, why not go and play the course that’s always been top of your bucket list? If you’ve always wanted to get custom fitted clubs, get them.
Whether it’s going to watch the Masters, taking the golf trip of a lifetime, or just a round with a family member you don’t see often enough, we hope the last few months will encourage you to make hay while the sun shines and the course is open.