• The warning is real

    Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in winter
    Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club in winter

    Golf in South Africa should not be complacent if it is to save thousands of jobs that form part of this great game.

    Lockdown diaries: GolfRSA on reopening of golf

    A midweek public holiday often leads to a feeling that the next work day resembles a Monday – well, at least for me. And Mondays are a slog. Often things pile up and it takes a few days to have everything calm and restored again.

    While for golf in South Africa, this is a real Wednesday/Monday with the news that courses in the UK and Ireland are closing. The number stands at five so far.

    South Africans had to wait longer than any other country to return to the fairways and each week that passed heaped the financial pressure on to clubs. Without clubs open for play, thousands of caddies and casual workers would lost their income. These workers, so integral to the experience of local and international golf tourists, were aided to the tune of R1 million by GolfRSA. That was in addition to the crucial role played by tens if not hundreds of clubs in helping with food vouchers and meals during the lockdown.

    That initial amount GolfRSA injected has been exhausted as lockdown continued far longer than the initial three- and five-week period first proposed by government. But the body has added more and reallocated funds, with phase two involves an eye-catching and, hopefully, pocket-reaching raffle and auction.

    Speaking to Grant Hepburn, GolfRSA’s CEO, during the announcement that golf facilities would be reopened, it was clear the bigger picture was not of you and I enjoying exercise at our local club but rather fronting up to the daunting task of saving lives, clubs and jobs.

    Let’s assume clubs in the UK were 1) financially fit before the pandemic hit and 2) capable of dealing more robustly with the economic fallout. Yet, some of them are now shutting their doors permanently. Isn’t this the warning we – all golfers in South Africa – need to hear loud and clear right now and going forward?

    ‘The job is not yet done, there are still people out there who cannot put food on the table. We need to not forget that. This is not about celebrating,’ Hepburn told me last week.

    ‘It’s a step in the right direction [allowing play to recommence] but we must help those who are in need. We are going to start with the most vulnerable and keep doing as much as we can. We are sure that the golf community will assist us in doing just that.’

    Hepburn said it best: ‘The more golfers support the clubs, the more jobs we can save.’

    It’s going to take a monumental effort and the load must be shared.

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