In Golf Quarterly, published in mid March when many people were in denial about the risks, there was not a single mention of Covid-19. In just a few short weeks, however, the virus has closed most golf courses around the world, played havoc with the professional tour schedule (most notably forcing the cancellation of the 2020 Open at Royal St George’s in July), and sent club treasurers scurrying to revisit their budgets and estimate the size of the hole in their accounts left by vanishing visitor green-fee income, lost catering revenues and non-existent bar takings.
There have been, to be sure, some heart-warming silver linings along the way: the instinctive generosity of many golf club members during the crisis towards club staff and caddies; reports of golf equipment manufacturers which quickly adjusted their production lines to turn out protective gowns and masks; and the creation of numerous lively WhatsApp groups to share favourite video-clips, swap anecdotes, circulate impromptu quizzes and relive great golfing experiences (and triumphs!) from the past. Golf Quarterly’s online ‘postbag‘ has been bulging, too, helping fill six pages of the summer issue.
None of that eclipses the likely long-term economic damage to golf, particularly to those out-of-the-way clubs that were already struggling to stay afloat. There are grim predictions that many will have to close.
This prompts me to make a suggestion: over the next year, as we all relish a return to our familiar fairways (and rough), let’s also make a special effort to support the ‘hidden gems’ in golfing’s intensive care unit, perhaps by arranging our next golf tours and ‘away’ weekends at places that are not just on the group ‘wish list’ but are most in need of our moral and financial support. Who knows, it could just make a difference.