An update from Alan Watt, Club Captain:
It is my sincere hope that all our members continue to stay safe and well during these difficult times.
You will probably be unaware that as we move closer to seeing some light at the end of the tunnel a lot of work is going on behind the scenes to ensure that you get back to golfing in a safe environment. Golf Club Managers, committees and professionals have been in regular dialogue with the R&A, Scottish Golf and the UK Government (as well as Scottish Government in our case, as this is the advice we adhere to), in recent weeks to discuss how to open golf courses for play. There are many considerations for Clubs to think about in order to do this safely and fairly, however it would appear that we are approaching the time when it may be possible to open our course. Early June seems like the date that is being aimed for.
From the information that we have been given, golf is likely to be one of the first sports to escape lockdown. And the message from the governing bodies is that they want to show Government(s) that the industry moves as one, so we must all act responsibly and with consistency. The transition to ‘normal’ circumstances is going to be a long one which will require patience from everyone. The Managing Secretary and Committee have to manage the opening process in a way that allows for a safe working environment for staff and a playing environment that does not put anyone at risk.
Not surprisingly, the advice from the PGA (which is based on international experience of clubs re-opening) is that we can expect that a significant number of members will seek to get out and golf as soon as the opportunity arises. This is not surprising, however this could present a logistical problems if 200-300 members seek to golf in the early days.
The Committee are now working on a plan for opening Auchterarder and will share that with members in the coming weeks. We are taking advice on whether we can play in any more than 2 balls; at what tee time intervals we have to consider; how many golfers we can get out in any given day; and how we will manage the flow of people on the course and the social distancing in and around the car park and 1st tee. For this reason, the booking system will be disabled for member bookings until 1st June or until we have ascertained the advisory booking parameters.
At this stage, we do not anticipate that the club house will open – bar and catering services will be closed until further notice. We have still to decide whether the toilets and the locker rooms can open safely. One certain piece of information we have received is clubs should not stage any competitions, so it will be social golf only until we get the go ahead for a more competitive environment.
Look out for further information on the plans in the next update email.
Impacts of Covid-19 on our finances
Almost every club in the UK is feeling the significant financial impact of lockdown. We are not immune to the financial impact that this could have on the club and we would ask members to think about this as I know that one or two members inquired about refunds.
Unlike Gleneagles, we are a private members club that is sustained by membership subscriptions and visitor fees :
Whilst we have most of our staff on furlough, which helps reduce costs, the loss of our visitor income (£100,000 per season) is going to have a significant impact on us. The full effects of this will not be known until later in the year, however it is looking extremely likely that visitor income could be a fraction of what it usually is.
I know that some members may be wondering about the possibility of a refund. All I can say to that is the club belongs to us all. We are all responsible for its wellbeing and upkeep. If times are good, we invest in the club and its facilities. When times are hard, clubs look to their own membership to help them through. Therefore, it would be counterproductive to consider a refund when our income is already going to fall quite a way short of break even. Like all clubs and societies, members need to take the good with the bad. There is no way to sugar-coat the current circumstances. It is highly likely that we will all need to provide financial assistance to the club, later in the year, in order for us to keep our head above water. The Committee will be exploring all funding options in the interim.
Further information will be available in due course.
In the meantime, we will continue to send regular updates such as this, through the website. We have over 500 members registered to use and receive these updates but if you know of any member who isn't currently registered, get them to register - it only takes five minutes (www.auchterardergolf.co.uk), and will give them access to the very latest information.
In the meantime - keep safe and healthy.
YoursAlan WattClub Captain