Golf clubs expected to be back in full swing

Golfers throughout Northern Ireland are dusting down their clubs and booking their tee times for Thursday’s big return to golf.

Wednesday, 31st March 2021, 9:55 am
Course closed sign at Faughan Valley Golf Club will be taken down on Thursday.
Course closed sign at Faughan Valley Golf Club will be taken down on Thursday.

As one of the first sporting activities that isn’t classed as elite to return, golf courses in the North West are expected to be back in full swing this week.

Faughan Valley owner David Forbes admits excitement is mounting amongst his members to get back out on the fairways again.

Booking tee times at Faughan Valley went live online on Monday evening and Forbes knows this week is going to be ‘chock-a-block’. “We are all good to go,” he insisted, “We continued the work through the last few months to make sure that the course would be in good condition whenever we opened up and certainly all the members are really looking forward to getting back.

The pristine fairway at the 18th hole at Foyle Golf Club.

“Booking wise for tee-times we have an online booking system thankfully now and that went live on Monday night for the Thursday bookings and I would imagine within a minute or two all the tee-times will be filled up.

“The restrictions are in place and while you are allowed up to four people in a group, that can be from no more than two households, which will basically mean they’ll be less members being able to get out playing for these first 12 days.

“So yeah, it’s going to be pretty busy. Some members may not always get the tee-time they want, but hopefully over the opening few days things will calm down a bit and we have actually told members that if they do get a game on Saturday not to try and maybe book on the Sunday, so try and give other members an opportunity to play. It’s just a courtesy and hopefully most of them will do that.”

Forbes also conceded that a lot of work has happened during the latest lockdown and he believes the course is in fantastic condition.

City of Derry Golf Club will welcome back members this week.

“We have probably done more work these last three months on the course than what we would have done in a normal winter,” he explained.

“There’s less things to do in terms of changing the pins and stuff, so we are able to do other wee jobs that maybe we have always been trying to do but just didn’t always have the time. So the lockdown gave us a good chance and also there’s probably more time spent in the workshop on machinery, just to get everything extra maintained and the machines probably got a bit more extra time working on them this winter, because the time was there.

“We always wanted to keep ourselves busy and we have certainly spent our time wisely during the lockdown.”

As for City of Derry, Club Pro Sam Smallwoods, he admits, for the first time during his career at the Prehen club, which spans over a decade, there’s a waiting list for new members.

“As it’s members only everyone has been booking their tee-times via the booking app, so it has been handy enough for everyone,” admitted Smallwoods.

“For the first time probably ever we actually have a waiting list for people to become members at City of Derry. So if someone resigns their membership, who was a member last year, then we’ll go to our waiting list and to be honest the time-sheet is going to be under pressure at the weekend especially.

“I have been the professional here since 2008 and assistant prior to that for three years and we haven’t had a waiting list during that time, so yeah golf is that game that does lends itself to socially distancing, it’s outdoors, you use your own equipment, so everything is in golf’s favour.

“Our staff wasn’t furloughed, so they have basically been working throughout maintaining the course and you can’t down tools on a golf course because it would be detrimental when it becomes time to actually get it open, so yeah I’m looking forward to seeing members back on the course.”

Meanwhile, Foyle Golf club manager Robert Gallagher hopes members will help the club financially and rejoin for 2021. And the early signs are good as tee times are starting to book up as early as 7.30am on Monday.

“I know members are sitting with bated breath to get back out on the course and so are we as a club, as we gave all of our members five months off their membership this year, so we are sitting with bated breath in terms of memberships being renewed for financial reasons,” explained Gallagher.

“We were closed for March and April of last year and also closed January, February and March of this year, so anyone who was a member with us got five full months back, so we hope members rejoin this year.

“Our 18 hole course is members only until restrictions are eased, but our par 3 course is able to be open to the public, as well as our driving range and hopefully a mixture of everything will bring things around for us

“We went live with online bookings on Monday and our software provider told us that there was a booking made every second from 7.30am, so the time-sheet was filled out within minutes.”

Gallagher also believes that if another lockdown does happen again because of the coronavirus pandemic, then the government should not put a blanket ban on all sports.

“Four people out in the fresh air and the benefits to people’s mental health hugely outweigh any minute risks there could be for catching covid off each other and I just think the government have really made a mistake in closing down golf,” he added.

“If you are allowed to go out for a walk in a public park or even down the quay at the moment to see how busy it is, as you could very easily have 150 people on a golf course and they are massively, massively spread out.

“Look, it will be helping their mental wellbeing, so golf, fishing and some other activities I think should never ever have been closed. So if we ever got back to another lockdown I really think the government need to take a real hard look what their policy is.”