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Hartford help for NHS staff

A CHESHIRE golf facility is offering NHS workers a free 30-minute golf lesson, round of golf or basket of range balls to say thank you for all their hard work coping with the coronavirus pandemic.

The idea was the brainchild of Hartford Golf Club pro shop manager Paul Cunningham who explained: “We’re just trying to give something back. They are under massive pressure at the NHS and it’s just to show that we appreciate what they are doing.

“If any NHS worker does get a rare bit of down-time then golf is one of the few activities that’s still safe to do at the minute.

“A local doctor called within a few hours of seeing our tweet and booked a lesson for next week, which is great. Hopefully there will be many others that take us up on the offer.”

Despite most businesses showing a massive reduction in footfall in the past week, Paul is delighted that Hartford are currently bucking that trend.  “If anything, we’ve been a bit busier than usual out on the course in the last few days.

“It’s a mixture of the weather improving, there been no sport on TV, no pub to go to and more people not being at work that explains the spike,” added Paul.

“We’re seeing a different demographic too. Normally during the week, we see mainly the retired men and ladies, but in the last few days more of the 30-40 year olds have been here. It’s the people that have maybe been working from home in the morning but then have chance for a couple of hours of fresh air and exercise in the afternoon that are coming through the door.

“Yesterday our tee times were booked up from 8am until 2pm and there were still people playing after that too.

“The driving range is still busy as well. We’ve obviously had to take more care to follow Government procedures so there is hand sanitizer available by the baskets and we just ask people to wipe the basket before they put it back. All the bays are three metres apart and it’s all outdoors, so that’s all good.”

It’s not an entirely positive story though. “Obviously the function side has been a disaster. We were supposed to host 20 events over the last two weeks and we had just two! We had a big wedding cancel for today (March 21) and we’ve had other brides-to-be in tears, so that’s been hard. Everything will be cancelled in April and May from a function side.

“The clubhouse has been a lot quieter, but that just shows that people are being sensible and taking on board what they are being asked to do.”

The Northwich-based club has recently had a shop refurbishment for the first time since 2005. “It was well overdue,” said Paul. “Every other part of the clubhouse was really modern except the shop so it’s great that it’s been done.

“We’ve slat-walled the whole shop which has meant we’ve been able to put all the hardware around the perimeter. Previously all the hardware was stacked in the centre and it made the shop look quite crowded. Now the shop floor is quite open and you can see all parts of the room.

“The feedback has been all positive and people are all saying how much bigger it now looks.

“I am obviously biased, but it has to now be one of the best golf shops in Cheshire.

“We’re still doing lots of selling and the shop is open as usual. It’s just about being extremely clean. Every hour I’ve been cleaning the shop door handle and the card payment machine. We’re still accepting cash but have noticed most people are wanting to pay on their card.

“It’s just a case of trying to make the business tick over as well as possible despite the pandemic.

“We’re running our Par 3 Masters tournament as usual on April 8, which is the day The Masters should have been holding their famous Par 3 event.

“Competitors will play nine par three holes on a specially-designed course here at Hartford. The greenkeepers will cut out some new tees and we’ll use the existing greens. Our first hole, for example, is normally a par five but there will be a tee created about 180 yards short of the green alongside the pond.

“It’s open to members and non-members and you don’t even have to have a handicap as there will be a separate prize for the best Stableford score from someone without a handicap.

“We ran it last year for the first time and had more than 100 people take part. We’re already more than half full this time and are hoping to get at least 100 again.”

Tee times are available from 2-7pm. It’s just £5 for members and £10 for non-members. Call the shop on 01606 871162 to book your place.

The Hartford course looking lovely yesterday morning and the car park still relatively busy late into the afternoon.