'Return of golf huge for people's physical and mental health' – Marsden Park Golf Club boss
The sound of that first golf ball being sweetly struck – or sliced – has been music to the ears of golfers up and down the country this week.
The sound of that first golf ball being sweetly struck – even sliced – has been music to the ears of golfers up and down the country this week.
Golf courses re-opened on Monday as one of the first steps in a four-part roadmap designed to lift lockdown.
Some 164 golfers teed up at Marsden Park Golf Club on a sun-drenched first day and Neil Reeves, who runs the course with wife Trudi, said "it's good to be back".
"It was great to see everybody back out on the course. It's been massively missed by so many people. To be back out, in the open air, meeting up with friends; it's a huge boost for a lot of people. Not just physically either, but mentally.
"The golf course is a sanctuary for a lot of people. It's a place where they can turn off their phones, forget about what's going on at work or in their life.
"Being able to offer this again to people, it's been a revelation for us."
Golf clubs have been forced to close on three separate occasion in the past year – for more than three months at the start of the pandemic, throughout November, and again at the beginning of this year.
Neil said that while it had been a frustrating year for the business, he's tried to focus on the positives, which has included an influx of new members keen to pick up the sport.
"During the pandemic, when we were open, I think a lot of people jumped on golf, maybe more than other sports, because of how safe it was. We definitely had a lot of people taking it up last year. That was good to see.
"Even when we were closed though, the course was still being used, which was great. Walkers were using it, people were out sledging over Christmas; I'm glad it was here for people's heath and recreation.
"Obviously, now we're back playing golf we've taken to social media just to ask walkers to stay to the paths. We don't want any injuries."
Back in 2017, Neil and Trudi stepped in at the 11th hour to save the club from closure with a goal of breathing new life into a course renowned for its breathtaking views and friendly atmosphere.
Since then, the club has gone from strength to strength, and with Government support helping to sustain the business throughout the pandemic, Neil and his team are now champing at the bit to make further improvements.
"The Government support has been invaluable for us, like it has for many businesses, and we are proud of the way our members have been behind us over the last four years.
"Thankfully, in the that time we have doubled our membership, we're employing more staff, and we're a lot more secure. That's also meant that we have been able to offer out other parts of the business in order to help other companies.
"So the catering side of things is now being looked after by MoffalTops, and we've also just announced that Paul McEvoy, from Elite Performance Centres, has joined the club and will be looking after the pro shop and offering coaching. He's also working on building a new swing studio, which is going to be incredible."
Neil is now extremely confident that with Covid measures in place around the club, and the vaccine rollout in full swing, there will be no more closures.
"I definitely would have liked the Government to have kept golf clubs open last year, but at the end of the day, when you are in the middle of a pandemic, and people are dying, golf is pretty small fry in comparison.
"I think with all the measures we have in place now, people know they can come and play golf safely, and I don't see any reason whatsoever now why we would have to close again.
"Let's just hope for plenty of sun."