Diss Golf Club's general manager understands shutdown of the sport
Despite the clamour for the sport’s return in lockdown growing, Diss Golf Club’s general manager Steven Peet understands the resistance.
Late last week a petition to allow golf courses to remain open during the restrictions passed 100,000 signatures – meaning the matter will now have to be debated in parliament.
The petition, which is supported by leading names such as Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell, argued: “The risk of Covid transmission is lower outdoors, so there is no reason for golf to be stopped. It provides important exercise for many people and has numerous mental health benefits. Don’t allow golf to be stopped.”
Peet can see the sentiment, but with case numbers, hospitalisations and deaths still high, he feels keeping the courses closed for the time being is for the best.
“It is disappointing for a lot of people – ourselves included – because we want to be able to provide golf for our members,” said Peet, who took over the running of the club in 2019.
“But morally, golf is not a matter of life or death. When you see more than 1,000 people are dying every day and I look out the window and it’s zero degrees and raining, doing what we can to save lives feels like the right thing to do.
“We increased the safety and have lots of procedures in place; I agree that it’s safe to play.
“But by opening up we’d be encouraging people to travel when they shouldn’t be and if we open up, then other sports will also argue they should be open and it gets out of hand.
“When it’s safe to do so I’m sure golf will be one of the first sports to re-open and we’ll be champing at the bit to get back out there.”
Last year’s lockdowns forced Peet to close the Stuston Common-based facility on two occasions, alongside implementing all of the necessary safety measures to ensure play could take place when permitted.
Nevertheless, the club still saw a surge of new members sign up.
A total of 224 new members came on board, which more than helped to cushion the blow of losing around 120 at renewal at the height of the first lockdown in April.
Peet said: “It has grown hugely and 62 per cent of the new members were under the age of 40, which shows we are reaching out to a new demographic.
“We have not been able to accept many visitors recently, but when we have, there has also been a lot of uptake from them.
“These sort of numbers are unheard of and that’s been great, especially after losing so many at the last renewal.
“At that point we were struggling and you start to wonder a little bit if it’s going to survive.
“We obviously benefited from golf being one of the first sports back. People couldn’t play football, cricket and things like that for a long while.
“But everyone at the club has also been working very hard to raise our profile. We have had a major recruitment drive and it seems to be working well.
“Hopefully we keep those new members interested and continue to build.”
One thing the lockdown is allowing the club to do is continue the recovery job after December’s flooding.
Large parts of the work have been completed but there are still some holes that require extra attention.
“It’s gone down a lot and is nowhere near as bad as it was,” added Peet.
“We did some work and were planning to open up 10 holes just before the lockdown happened.
“We’re pretty much there but holes four, five and six – the ones nearest the river – they still need some work doing.
“Obviously we’d rather have people out on the course playing, but lockdown allows us to get things done without having to close certain holes.”