More than 70% of Irish golf clubs have completed a survey the Golfing Union of Ireland hopes will make a persuasive case for economic aid for the sport when courses are allowed to reopen.
Golf courses on the island of Ireland have been closed since March 24 in the wake of both the Irish Government and the Northern Ireland Executive ramping up their restrictions on social distancing, travel, and gatherings, in their efforts to flatten the curve of Covid-19 coronavirus infections.
With such measures now extended until at least May 5, and coming on the back of a bad winter for playing conditions, the global pandemic has, like many other sectors of the Irish economy, had a serious impact on golf club revenues.
Two clubs in Kerry — Killorglin and Castleisland — have already announced they will not be reopening when the current restrictions are lifted, and there are genuine fears others could follow suit without financial support from state agencies.
The GUI and Irish Ladies Golf Union invited Ireland’s more than 400 clubs, north and south, to complete their joint survey and, before the holiday weekend, had received 300 completed forms back, ahead of today’s deadline.
Golf is worth €543m annually to the Republic of Ireland’s economy alone, and provides jobs for more than 9,000 people on the island, according to a 2017 report by Sheffield Hallam University, commissioned by industry umbrella group the Confederation of Golf in Ireland and The R&A.
Those findings and an analysis of the current survey will form parts of a submission to the governments and state agencies as part of the sector’s bid to establish recovery support measures.
“We’ve had an excellent response to our online survey. The next stage is to delve into the findings, write up a high-level paper and submit our case,” GUI communications manager Alan Kelly said.
“All we can do is prepare a really strong case, hit the governments on both sides of the border with the facts and hope that when all this is over there is a support structure or scheme there for clubs that need it.”
The GUI and ILGU are working on contingencies to resume their championship calendars once restrictions are lifted.
All competition has been suspended until May 31, with GUI postponing the West and East of Ireland Championships, and the AIG Irish Amateur Close Championship, while the ILGU cancelled the Irish Women’s Open Stroke Play Championship.
“It’s possible you could salvage something of a season if you can get back playing club golf in June, July, and maybe competitions in August, September, October,” the GUI’s Kelly said.