GOLF has a reputation for being resistant to change but Macclesfield club Marton Meadows reacted instantly to a Covid-19 related safety request.
One of their members was invited by a neighbour to play as a visitor at Astbury in Congleton – just over five miles away – where he was impressed by contactless flagsticks on the greens.
The pins act as mini elevators which allow golfers to retrieve their golf balls after they have putted without placing their hands in the hole or risking touching a flagstick.
They are fitted with two discs and golfers use a putter to latch on to the flagstick under the top disc and lift their ball by means of a sliding mechanism.
This causes the bottom disc to raise the ball from the bottom of the cup and release it sideways onto the putting surface.
Next day the Marton Meadows member, Congleton publicist Tim Taylor, asked his club manager Chad Parker if it would be possible to acquire contactless flagsticks.
Astbury are the first club in the Congleton area to buy the pins and Chad, with safety very much in mind during the pandemic, had no hesitation in saying yes to following their example and immediately placed an order.
Within 24 hours, the pins had been delivered by Bedfordshire based, British Manufacturing Solutions Ltd, and were in use on the nine-hole course at Marton Meadows.
A delighted Tim, a former national newspaper staff journalist, said: “Over the years, my job has taken me to various parts of the country.
“I have been a member of several golf clubs including a former European Tour venue in Northumberland, Slaley Hall, and the lovely Davenport, near Stockport, where I first played the sport decades ago.
“Chad told me he expected the pins to arrive at Marton Meadows the following week and I admit I thought to myself ‘yeah right, we’ll see’.
“My experience of golf club committees is that while most of them mainly do great volunteer work, sometimes they can become talking shops.
“I expected this to take weeks, even months. How wrong can you be? This was an incredible turnaround.
“The world is in crisis because of Covid-19 and in terms of crisis management Chad and BMS have proved themselves to be five star plus.
“Perhaps the fact we don’t have a committee at Marton Meadows is no bad thing!”
Astbury’s head greenkeeper, Andy Brougham, had been motivated by twitter to persuade his club to buy the pins.
He said: “I go on Facebook for family and friends social media, but for my job I exchange tweets only with people involved in the golf industry and I get a lot of inspiration from that.”
Andy also revealed that contactless flagsticks more than pay for themselves.
He said: “Taking everything into account, I am surprised every club is not using these flagsticks all the time irrespective of Covid-19.
“Our club’s board of directors decided to order them to keep golfers as safe as possible on our course during the pandemic.
“Then we discovered something unexpected. There is now a lot less damage around the edges of the holes and we need to cut new holes for our greens half as often as we used to.
“The new pins cost £1,800. I sat down and worked out that each year we shall save almost 190 man hours, more than £2,000, in terms of average greenkeeping labour costs.
“There used to be a vast amount of wear and tear caused by golfers retrieving their golf balls from the holes after their putts had dropped.
“Whether they realise or not, many players do not pick the ball out of the cup cleanly.
“Usually they scuff the edge of the hole and some golfers with bad backs claw the ball out with their putters.
“We used to have a right mess on our hands when we came to repair the greens but not any more. Now the greens stay pretty much as we cut them.
“This is giving us more time during the early morning period ahead of each day’s play to spend on bunkers, raking, weeding and edging.”
Photo caption: The contactless flagsticks. Photo courtesy of www.bobhowellphotography.co.uk