A season of two halves

Simon Olver reflects on a challenging 2020 season and looks ahead to 2021

The ongoing high demand for golf has delivered a much-needed financial boost to the golf industry. Membership numbers have grown and bookings from visiting golfers remain high at clubs across the country, bringing in funds which could secure the future of many clubs. If membership renewals are strong in 2021, clubs should be in a very strong position heading into the season – though we must remain grounded and plan based on the situation we find ourselves in right now.

The initial lockdown saw club members lose part of their golfing year. Since the restart of golf in May, it has been important for clubs to try and give them back as much as possible. At Whitley Bay, our approach to maintenance work has been amended and reduced to allow members to enjoy summer playing conditions well into October. Future maintenance may need to be increased in certain areas during 2021 to compensate, but it was important to provide as many high-quality playing opportunities as possible in 2020.

Ongoing restrictions regarding course furniture, bins and rakes have allowed greenkeepers’ work patterns to be adjusted and focus on core areas on the golf course. Although it has sometimes been hard to accept that routine standards have not been achievable, particularly in the bunkers, new rules from England Golf have ensured competitive golf has taken place and the vast majority of golfers have embraced the situation we find ourselves in.

As we move towards the colder months, teams will begin to switch focus towards winter tasks. Finances may still be limited as clubs move cautiously and staff begin to recover from a stressful summer season, which may result in minimal project work in favour of maintaining what is currently in place. I can say from my own experience, and from conversations with friends in the industry, it has been a tough season for greenkeepers. We’ve gone from having the season taken away from us, to maintaining empty golf courses, to working around an incredibly busy schedule of golf. I’m sure we’re all looking forward to recuperating ready for what is sure to be another busy, and incredibly rewarding, season in 2021. 

Let’s hope by the time we’re watching the 2021 Masters that Covid-19 is behind us. Until then, continue to enjoy getting out for a game and remember to remain safe.