Just a few months ago we were figuring out how to recover from one of the wettest winters on record. As the first welcome rays of sunshine started to beam down in March, the pandemic changed the world in an instant. Everyone’s still coming to terms with the disruption caused by the global crisis, but being able to return to the fairways has provided solace to many.
We reopened our doors on 15 May. Golf courses were among the first businesses allowed to start back up after lockdown and it felt like were going into battle, with military grade planning required to ensure our community of staff and customers are kept safe. I’m really proud of the joint effort from everyone that’s made our golf venues a safe place to visit, despite incredible levels of demand.
I thought the dust would start to settle by now, but the surge in demand for golf hasn’t relented. While this is great news for the sport, we’re keen to ensure that newcomers and those returning to golf have every reason to continue. Golf will soon go head to head with other activities keen to steal a share of our down time, so the time’s right to put our best foot forward.
There have been a lot of changes to the way we do things since we reopened, so I want to take this opportunity to bring you up to date:
Golf after lockdown. What are your thoughts?
Doc Brown would certainly warn Marty McFly to never travel to the year 2020. However, golf has returned and we’ve already seen some positive changes resulting from the measures we’ve put in place. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create a new and improved version of golf and we need your help.
Click here to complete our survey and do your bit to help shape the future of golf. As a thank you, you’ll be entered into a prize draw to win a month of free golf at the Glendale Golf centre of your choice. The survey closes Friday 17th July and the winner will be contacted by email.
Clubhouse reopening 9th July
We’ve put a huge effort into making your visit both safe and enjoyable, which has been acknowleged in the many positive comments we’ve received. Pubs, restaurants and other public places were permitted to reopen from 4th July – we’ve carefully reviewed these guidelines and reopened our clubhouse on Thursday 9th July.
In accordance with the new COVID-19 secure policies, please expect some changes to our service. We are restricting the number of people in the clubhouse at any one time, with a clear one-way system in place. A range of ‘grab & go’ snacks and drinks will be on offer and limited outdoor seating space will be available.
Please support us by coorperating with the measures we’ve put in place to protect you and our team. Our staff may need to remind you of these measures during your visit – please remember they are just doing their job. There may be some minor inconveniences, but remember that we’re really fortunate to be able to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of golf once again, so let’s work together to ensure we can continue to provide this.
When golf courses reopened in May, tee times were restricted to a maximum of two players. While this made the sport less social (which was the point), one of the positive side effects were much quicker rounds. Pace of play is golf’s inherent problem, especially at popular venues such as Richmond Park. We have always been keen to find ways around this, so when clubs were given the green light to go to fourballs we introduced a cap of three players per tee time. It’s early days, but this middle ground between enjoying a round with mates and keeping a decent pace of play seems to be working well. We’ve noticed a significant improvement to the time it takes to play 18 holes, compared to pre-lockdown data.
Richmond Park Golf Course welcomes huge numbers of golfers each year. Pre-lockdown, we used to pair-up golfers to ensure everyone has a fair chance to play. This approach also avoided single players being stuck in the middle of larger groups. COVID-19 measures have put a stop to pairing-up, so weekend golfers now must book a tee time for a minimum of two people.
We are regularly reviewing our booking data and customer feedback. If we have an opportunity to further improve your experience then we will continue to adapt our policies, while continuing to prioritise your safety.
Demand for golf has been on a scale never seen before, so like most clubs across the country we’ve introduced a ‘fair use’ policy. Members are permitted to book a maximum of 4 rounds per week. This suits most people, but those that are fortunate enough to play more than this will be pleased to hear that we be increasing this to 6 rounds per week from Monday 13th July.
Members may have also noticed that it’s now mandatory to add the names of all playing partners when making a tee booking, as part of our efforts to ensure all reservations are completed before arrival, which minimises the need to come into the clubhouse and speeds up the check-in process. Again, most clubs have now adopted this approach since reopening.
Thank you for being so understanding and supportive of these changes. We appreciate that the pandemic has caused some inconveniences, but we’re grateful that we’re able to welcome golfers back to the fairways.
New membership categories for younger golfers
We have always encouraged youngsters to participate in golf, including initiatives such as free green fees when playing with a Loyaltee member. To make golf even more accessible, we’re introducing a Loyaltee 1 Month plan for junior golfers. For just £10 per month, anyone under 18 years of age will have unlimited access to our courses and will be able to book tee times online. This new plan will replace our previous junior green fees and annual membership options.
Golfers aged between 18 and 24 years will now also benefit from a new membership plan. Loyaltee 1 Month Intermediate is £70 per month and offers the ultimate flexiblity. Why commit to a 12 month contract if you don’t want to play all year? Perfect for all you fairweather golfers out there! Pay monthly and cancel anytime.
We are introducing these plans later this month and new members can sign up online.
Junior Golf Camps
The summer holidays are here and our Junior Golf Camps have returned for July and August. Perfect for little rippers, the half-day camps are now in smaller groups of 5, in accordance with social distancing guidelines. The camps are super popular and we’ve only got a few more spaces remaining. Click here to find out more.
Golf course update
The unscheduled 6-week break handed out by the pandemic is probably the longest spell the courses have had without golfers since World War II. With a much-reduced team, we continued a programme of essential maintenance throughout lockdown. The greenkeeping team have done a brilliant job in handing back two golf courses that no doubt benefitted from the break, but in my opinion look the best they’ve ever been. The absence of golfers allowed us to review our cutting programme and we now have introduced swathes of native acid grassland rough, giving the courses a magnificent links-style appearance.
A personal thanks go to Josh Thorley and his team, who maintained a positive team spirit at all times, despite the challenges of reduced resources. With some limited greenkeeping skills, I became a part-time member of the team and helped out with maintenance duties during lockdown. This gave me an invaluable opportunity to see things from a different perspective, which made me appreciate the efforts of the team even more. Raking 58 bunkers is also quite a workout, even with the assistance of the ‘bunker bike’!
Josh has recently left our team to take on a new position as Head Greenkeeper at nearby Malden Golf Club. I’m sure you’ll join me in wishing him the very best in his new role. The recruitment process for a replacement is underway, so I’m looking forward to introducing you to our new Head Greenkeeper when we confirm the appointment.
Thank you again for all your support since we reopened. Remember to complete our customer survey to be in with a chance of winning a month’s free golf.
Please get in touch if you have any suggestions, comments or feedback and I look forward to seeing you on the fairways soon.