At around 7.30am yesterday morning (Wednesday) members teed off from the first hole at Maidenhead Golf Club for the first time in nearly eight weeks.
Following the easing of the government’s lockdown restrictions clubs across the country have been given the green light to partially reopen, providing players abide by social distancing guidance from England Golf.
Speaking on Monday, Maidenhead chairman Paul Louden said he expected members to eagerly book up tee times having not been able to play on the course for more than seven weeks.
They will be able to play with members of their own household, or ‘one other member from outside their household’ providing social distancing measures are observed.
Members will be able to reclaim their kit and clubs from the locker room and use toilet facilities, but Paul doesn’t expect the club’s bar or restaurant to reopen until later in the summer at the earliest. Members also won’t have use of the clubhouse to relax in before and after their rounds.
However, despite the restrictions, for those who regularly use Maidenhead Golf Club this is a small but significant step back to normality and it’s one they’ll surely relish.
“It looks like from the advice we’re getting from England Golf that we’ll be able to play as two balls or four balls,” he said.
“We have a booking system in place which will require people to book their times rather than just rolling up in a casual manner.
“That’s because we’ll need to put extra time between the tee-off times. We’ll need to ensure that the twos, or threes or fours keep their social distance, and I hope everyone will act in a reasonable, adult manner. I’m sure they will because people will notice if they don’t. We’ll have a number of volunteers there to guide them as well.
“There will be limitations on the play, and limitations on what’s open and how closely they can get together. Hopefully they’ll follow it and be able to play a bit of golf, but we’ll have to restrict how much they play. They won’t be able to play just as much golf as they would have in the past.
“That said the membership will be very happy about this. That we’ve been given the chance to open back up. They’ll also be happy that they don’t just have to play in singles matches. The guidance does say ‘you can play with one other person from outside your household’. That will allow people to play as a two ball, or, if you have other members of your family who can play, as a three or a four ball.
“I’m going to play with one of my friends. We’ll join up and play together. It’s fine. We’ll be back on the course. I think that we’ve all had to become experts in online conferencing, but there’s no substitute for actually meeting up with people, it’s a great thing to do.”
He added: “At this time of year it will be very busy, as soon as they get the information from us saying they can play. We’ll have all of the time slots booked. We won’t be able to get as many people off as we usually do, because we’re giving more space to everyone. We’ll also reduce the number of times people can play in a week and take into account that some people have to work during the week, so they’ll perhaps get priority at the weekend.”
Most of the clubhouse and its facilities will remain out of bounds until restrictions are further eased. However, the chairman said toilets will be available for individual use.
Members won’t be able to return to the locker room once they have collected their equipment and taken it away, while on the course all bunker rakes have been removed.
The last couple of months have been difficult for the club, and, like any small business, Paul is concerned at what the financial landscape might look like for them in a year’s time.
Takings from the club bar and restaurant have completely dried up with many more weeks of inactivity predicted, while some members haven’t been able to renew subscriptions, in part due to the financial constraints placed upon them by coronavirus.
Most of the club’s staff have been furloughed through this period, however, they’ve kept on their six green-keepers as the course would have become overgrown through this verdant period.
“The bar and restaurant closed first,” said Paul. “They closed on the Saturday morning before the announcement on Monday that led to us closing down all together. We’ve missed out on the takings from the bar and restaurant and there are a number of staff who’ve been furloughed. We hope to reopen these facilities but, at the moment, it looks like that might be some way off in the future.
“Aside from that our money comes from the subscriptions of members. And we were renewing for the new year in March and April. Not everyone has been able to renew this year as people don’t have as much money right now and there’s lot of uncertainty around. It’s a tough time for people, our members, and the population in general and I’ve a great deal of sympathy for people who are struggling at the moment.
“We’ve said to the membership we’ll look again at the end of this financial year to see if we can allow some form of recompense for the people who’ve put money up front and then had seven weeks when they’ve not been able to play. But we’ll have to see where we are next year. Like all small businesses we’re very worried about what our financial situation will be like in a year’s time.
“We’ve kept on our green-keeping staff. All six of them have been working regularly because we knew we had to keep the course looking good. If we’d let everybody go then getting it back from overgrown would be very difficult.”
The chairman added that at some point in the future the club would like to recognise the contributions of NHS staff and key workers, perhaps by offering them a courtesy round.
“Without promising anything we’ll be looking to give some recognition to all the people who have been working so hard during this difficult period,” he said. “We want to make sure they get a courtesy round or something like that. We’d be very keen to offer that support because we’re very conscious of the great work they have done.”