Amateur golf enjoying a membership boom as lockdown rules ease

Continuing our series in which student journalists unearth stories, Alex Armitstead has just completed a three-year journalism course at Leeds Beckett University. Here he looks at how golf clubs in Leeds are responding to the pandemic.

On May 13, golfers retruned to their clubs today for the first time since the UK Lockdown after the governments announcement to ease restrictions This was the scene at Headingley Golf Club, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

It has been just over three weeks since the UK’s lockdown restrictions were relaxed, meaning that courses could open again, with golf clubs ain Yorkshire thriving under the new regulations.

Interest in golf has skyrocketed since its return. John Hall is the course manager at Headingley Golf Club and believes that new players are great for the game.

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“There has been a massive resurgence of interest in golf in the last three weeks,” he said.

Pictured Charlie Dunn, of Leeds, tees off at hole 4 of Headingley Golf Club, Leeds. (Picture: James Hardisty)

“Participation has been declining over the last ten years and despite efforts from governing bodies, we have not managed to get many people interested in golf.

“Since the lockdown rules have been relaxed, golf was the first sport people could play and this has led to massive amounts of interest in memberships. We had 15 new members join in the first three weeks, but some clubs have seen huge rises with 40 to 50 new members.”

More than 600,000 people are members at golf courses across the UK, and clubs naturally catered to their own members first, with many courses not allowing visitors in the opening weeks.

“The phone doesn’t stop ringing at the moment with people enquiring about playing, so we opened the course to visitors on June 8 and we are looking forward to seeing regulars come back as well as some new faces.”

Golfers at Headingley GC (Picture: James Hardisty)

The UK lockdown has been a difficult time for many, golfers included.

Eugene Reddington is Chairman of the Greens Committee at Alwoodley Golf Club and believes that the return of golf is bringing massive benefits.

“Some people’s lives are built around the game and when that’s taken away it’s pretty difficult, so we’re really happy to have been able to open the course again and it’s being well used.”

Course staff are vital to the survival of golf, and Alwoodley Golf Club has made keeping its staff on a priority.

“We didn’t furlough anybody when the UK went into lockdown, so we’ve been able to maintain the course and the greens are looking excellent.”

Courses have had to adapt to fit social distancing, and new rules have been put in place, changing how the game works.

Alwoodley Golf Club has been no exception and has adapted how their course is run.

“We have a lot of set restrictions in place, but so far they have been really well received,” continued Reddington.

“People are really enjoying playing and have managed to adhere to the rules and keep their distance from each other. We all have to be a bit more careful, especially when it comes to the common practices of golf.”

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