Monday, December 7

A Slightly Upbeat Tale About Irish Golf Courses in a Devastating Year

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By Michael Kilcourse

Guest contributor Michael Kilcourse is the club captain of Castlebar Golf Club in Co. Mayo, Ireland.

WHEN THE WORLD LOOKS BACK on 2020, very few will remember the affect it had on our sport of golf. Unless, of course, like me you are an avid golfer and spent several months of that year walking the course but not being allowed to actually play on it!

Covid-19 will rightly be remembered for the devastation it brought to the world. But allow me to tell a slightly more upbeat (albeit trivial in the grand scheme) tale of how many golf clubs around Ireland actually prospered.

Whilst a small number of clubs didn't survive and were forced to close their gates, our club, and many that I know of, experienced an influx of new members not seen for many years.

Ireland went into lockdown in March and restrictions were not lifted until mid-May when golf clubs reopened to a mass wave of fresh faces and badly wanted new income.

My own club of Castlebar said hello to over 150 new players thanks to a combination of several factors. Chiefly, most sports were still cancelled and thirty somethings who played ball sports had nothing to do as their sporting year had been wiped out entirely. Golf was a ready-made outlet. This invasion of players left clubs financially better off than they had been in years, despite a calendar which had the places closed for half their peak income window.

As I write this, Castlebar just opened our gates from the country's second lockdown of the year. The scramble for tee times is like nothing we have ever experienced. Add to that the shortage of daylight and there are simply not enough hours in the day to get everyone on the golf course. Something not thought possible even twelve months ago.

The challenge now for the clubs is to keep their new-found friends. Life will eventually get back to normal and other options in the sporting world will be available. The inevitable drop in numbers must be kept to a minimum. Castlebar offered 18-month membership specials to new players after the first lockdown in the hope that after 18 months we will have them for keeps. Many clubs did similar.

Having just been installed as our club captain for 2021, I wonder what my term will bring:

Will we see another lockdown?
Will the vaccine get here in time for the busy summer schedule?
Could it just be a "normal year"?

Unlikely "normal," but I, like so many more, will enjoy Christmas in the hope that January will bring a fresh start and fresh confidence that our clubs will plan a year and be able to execute that schedule of events without interruption.

Sometimes when the big things are so much bigger than us, it's the little things that give us the most!

Merry Christmas!

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