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Wales Golf shows support for clubs

WALES Golf is giving clubs a five-month holiday in affiliation fees to help them cope with the massive uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus crisis.

The move, which will cost golf’s governing body in Wales more than £250,000, comes as almost all golf clubs in Wales have re-opened – with the hard work in preparation paying off so far.

The COVID-19 lockdown has been estimated to have cost clubs across Wales more than £5.5 million in lost revenues during the stay-at-home period, with more than 550 staff furloughed, so these have been challenging times for golf.

“We would like to congratulate golf clubs in Wales who have re-opened safely and within the Welsh Government guidelines,” said Wales Golf chief executive Richard Dixon.

“Also we understand there is financial difficulty for clubs across Wales as a result of the course closures from the Coronavirus crisis. So, we have decided to waive five months of affiliation fees to Wales Golf.

“The support from club members helps us provide the best possible advice and support for those clubs and to develop our sport for the future.

“Crucially, though, we took the decision to keep most of our development staff working full-time through this period to support clubs with assistance in closing courses, maintaining facilities, applying for grants, furloughing staff and then preparing for re-opening.

“However our costs in some areas, such as performance and championships, have been lower and we have also chosen to dip into our reserves to help clubs at this time.

“It is a relatively small gesture to each club, but one we thought important to make to show everyone is in this together trying to ensure golf in Wales comes out of this period in the strongest possible state.

“We would also like to congratulate clubs which have re-opened efficiently in very different circumstances, there have been many examples of good and safe practice.

“Clubs must carry on applying Welsh Government and R&A guidance on safe play protocols as well as an appropriate distance of local travel.

“Clubs in Wales have been visited by the police and Health and Safety officials to ensure they are operating within the guidelines. I’m pleased to say all those visits have been constructive so far, but clubs need to remain vigilant.”

Wales Golf have furloughed staff from the championships and performance teams, while many remaining staff took a voluntary 20% pay cut including the whole senior management team.

The development team have had to find new ways of working, but have probably never been busier.

“Importantly, it was decided to trial the majority of the development team working full-time to maintain support to clubs at a critical time,” explained Wales Golf director of development Hannah McAllister.

“Therefore, Wales Golf staff were in contact with nearly all its 140 affiliated clubs on a weekly or fortnightly basis, which started two weeks prior-to the ‘stay at home’ messaging on 23 March.

“All clubs appreciated the support and club engagement went up to 95%, with many unengaged clubs working with the development team to build a stronger rapport. All clubs also received regular communication and updates.

“During the lockdown, all staff worked from home with meetings taking place either by conference call or video link, with senior staff and development staff meeting via video conference every morning.

“We received a number of positive messages from clubs, including via email and on social media. We also surveyed clubs on our support with our website homepage and development officer correspondence highlighted as among the most useful updates.”

Almost all clubs were eligible for at least one of the grant schemes. The following dedicated work took place:

  • A COVID-19 club survey developed to provide Wales-wide insight and targeted support to suit the needs of each club (86 clubs replied – a 61% return)
  • A COVID-19 hub set up on the Wales Golf website with all relevant up to date Government and industry information
  • A Mental Health and Wellbeing club webinar (27 April)
  • World Handicapping Seminars – throughout April (68 clubs represented)
  • Accessing and applying for relevant Government support schemes and grants (approximately 85% of Welsh clubs have received some grant support
  • Accessing the Sport Wales Emergency Resilience Fund – 70 applications from golf clubs (phase 1 has realised £52,000 in grants for clubs (13) and phase 2, £14,000 for clubs (3)
  • Sharing membership retention strategies
  • Hosting of committee meetings digitally
  • Q&A with Development Officers on social media

In mid-April the team moved to support clubs in planning what they needed to have in place for the return to golf in a safe manner.

The support has been well received by Welsh golf clubs. For example: “The support material issued by the respective ‘bodies’ has been excellent – especially Wales Golf. It is especially helpful during the current times of isolation,” said a spokesperson for Pyle and Kenfig Golf Club.

“Just a quick e-mail to say what an awesome risk assessment document you put together. You are all doing a great job. The communication, updates and help is second to none,” added a Langland Bay Golf Club official.

Wales Golf was involved in an industry-wide group working on the ‘Safe Re-Opening of Golf in the UK’. A letter to the UK Sports Minister was sent on 29 April along with an advocacy document on the safe re-opening, with similar letters sent to the Welsh Sports Minister.

“This was to show evidence that golf stood ready to deliver for golfers, the wider community and the economy of the UK when the ‘stay at home’ instruction could be lifted,” said McAllister.

“The sport outlined a plan to act as one in managing remaining social distancing measures and temporary rules were put in place to ensure the health, wellbeing, and safety of all is paramount.

“We will continue to work with Welsh Government on their lifting the lockdown strategy with regards to how golf fits into the next phases, if and when these are lifted. We will continue to keep clubs updated on this.”

It was formally announced on 12 May that clubs in Wales could re-open safely with a recommended start date of May 18. The announcement followed updated guidance from the Welsh Government that golf clubs could re-open in Wales.