GOLF: Out Of The Rough
In Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Lysander complains that “the course of true love never did run smooth.” Roger Hyder, director of Beauport Park Golf Club since September 2018, could be forgiven for transposing the saying: his love of a true course hasn’t been running too smoothly either.
A little over a year ago we reviewed his new regime at Beauport. Senior assistant pro here in his early 20s (more than 30 years ago), he had arrived back following the financial collapse and abrupt departure of the previous management. He had re-grouped the green-keeping staff and, after a winter struggling with minimal income and major maintenance issues, was clearly winning the confidence of remaining members who had feared that neither the club nor the course itself might survive.
Tenth tee at Beauport Park
PICTURE: Dave Young
And what has happened since? A severe drought in the early months of last summer, a wretchedly wet winter that exposed long years of neglected drainage issues in parts of the course – then, just when the weather turned in mid-March, with the mix of dry winds and warm sunshine transforming the prospects for favourable summer conditions, the onrush of Covid-19.
As I wrote just over two months ago (Maximising Your Distance in HIP 148), golf might have been regarded as the perfect game for exercising in a lockdown, capable of being played either solo or at easily maintainable social distance and with no sharing of equipment. But Boris Johnson and his ‘scientist’ advisors didn’t see it that way. For seven weeks between 24th March and 13th May, the sun shone, the trees blossomed, the grass grew; but golfers were reduced to chipping in their back garden if they had one, or putting across the lounge carpet if they didn’t.
“After all the difficulties of winter, it was soul-destroying,” says Mr Hyder. “Usually the Masters held at Augusta comes round in early April, bringing four days of golf on prime TV. There’s an Easter weekend – of fine weather this year. And then the season gets under way.” Not this year.
It could have been worse financially. Mr Hyder is very grateful for the Chancellor’s £25,000 business grant – “it kept us solvent”. He has also taken advantage of the furlough system, which has enabled him to retain full staff – though, ironically, since the furlough must be booked in three-week blocks, the sudden permission given by the government for reopening has left his team short for the last fortnight.
For, since 13th May, the club has welcomed both members and casual visitors to play as twosomes, subject to social distancing. From yesterday (Monday 1st June) four-ball play has been given the go-ahead. The driving range, which is entered through the reception area and quit by a separate exit, so that there need be no proximity of participants, has also been available from mid-May with appropriate hygienic controls. Members’ competitions will start up again in July.
The take-up in recent days has been palpable. With both membership levies and pay-as-you-play green fees significantly lower than other clubs in the area, Mr Hyder says that 20% more members have joined this year; but he is also seeing much increased interest from ‘part-time’ golfers and those new to the game. And Beauport’s pitch-and-putt course over the road in front of the Bannatyne Hotel – spruced up after some years of poor maintenance – is also looking good, and attracting a younger family-oriented clientele. “I’ve always liked the idea of golf as a game to be played from the cradle to the grave,” he says.
Enough of graves. Beauport members seem to have come through the pandemic in good health thus far, Mr Hyder believes. And, while no one can be sure of viral immunity, those who play the main 18-hole course regularly, up hill and down dale without a buggy, are surely entitled to think they’re maximising their chances.
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