There's no place like home for post-COVID recovery

St Andrews Aerial

The coronavirus lockdown on March 23 brought the golf industry in Scotland to its knees – but there is a route to recovery. And it starts at home.

Domestically, some golfers opted not to renew their memberships due to their course being closed in late March, presumably not realising that doing so could lead to their course being closed for good.

The overwhelming majority of members, however, opted to maintain their membership to support their club through unprecedented times.

The Government-issued restrictions also meant that, for a number of months, domestic visitor revenue was impossible. Compounding matters, the rapid global spread of COVID-19 also shut down international travel, slamming the door on the lucrative in-bound American market.

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For golf clubs across the country, the pandemic has impacted every one of their key revenue streams, pushing many of them towards a cliff edge.

But as with any crisis, there is a solution. And, in this instance, you don’t need to look far to find it.

An interview published in yesterday’s The Courier newspaper with PSP Media Group commercial director, Tom Lovering, shone a light on ways in which the industry can, and will, survive.

Asked how Scottish golf could come out the other side of COVID-19 in good health, Lovering said clubs had to start by “focusing on the short-term recovery and on the domestic market - we need to rebuild foundations over the coming months”.

What COVID-19 has done is to give the golf industry an opportunity to hit the reset switch. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Crail Golf Society, an established, popular venue that relies heavily on American visitor income, recently gave its members the opportunity to ‘Host A Guest (or three)’ as a way to recover some lost revenue. “We need the support of members at this time to help us through a difficult period,” said club captain Jim McArthur in an email to the membership. 

Put simply, members are a club’s foundations and their friends are the building blocks. In tough times, as Lovering says, it is the domestic market that will, undoubtedly, provide the best route to recovery.

“Over the next six months, we need to recognise that valuable market closer to home and not take it for granted,” says Lovering, who has a quarter-century of experience working in the golf industry in Scotland. “We must encourage these golfers to play more in Scotland and we must encourage golfing staycations.

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“September, October and November are traditionally months that golfers may want to visit other parts of the world to get their golf fix, namely Spain, Portugal and Turkey. These same golfers will be looking for somewhere to take their golf holidays and Scotland is the perfect destination for that.”

It’s a simple ask: play more golf at home and, together, we can rebuild the home of golf.

That, surely, is something is a message we can all rally behind.

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