Sporting activities may have been disrupted across Australia due to Covid-19, but golf participation is booming. We catch up with Brad Constable from Bathurst Golf Club to find out how his club has not only overcome the challenges brought on by the global pandemic but also continues to thrive.
Bathurst Golf Club’s 18-hole championship course, which looks out to the Blue Mountains, is one of the fastest-growing golf clubs in New South Wales. It is one of more than 350 clubs in the state – and one of the oldest.
General Manager Mr Constable says in the months since NSW went into lockdown at the end of March last year, he has seen a surprising increase in the number of people playing golf.
Golf clubhouses across the country had to close their doors, but as one of the few sports where social distancing is easily enforced, New South Wales’ golf courses remained open.
“We went ballistic as soon as the heavy lockdowns happened with Covid,” Mr Constable says.
“A lot of sportspeople that may have just had a passing interest in golf a few times a year actually got into the game. It got them out of the house, and it gave them something to do.”
Golf was one of the few sports that could legally be played during lockdowns, and a lot of club members could not even get onto the golf course because the demand was so high, he says.
“At the beginning, we actually thought maybe we might be in a bit of trouble, and I think most people in the industry did as well.”
The clubhouse had to shut its doors for a few months, and its revenues took a heavy hit.
Many people were also uneasy about being out in public with Covid-19 prevalent and restrictions in place. But the club still managed to attract players.
Bathurst Golf Club has been using Pulse’s software for about 10 years to manage golf competitions, memberships and online bookings. One of the most helpful features last year proved to be the online booking system.
“Online booking was a really handy mechanism to have. It just prevented people turning up and congregating out the front because they knew they had to book.”
Players were able to log into the Pulse Golf Portal on the club’s website and book a specific time to tee off. The club already had the system set up to book for competitions but added a feature for social play bookings.
Being able to book online without queues helped reduce concerns around being able to maintain social distancing and as time went on, golfers gained confidence about going out in public to play the game.
“I think there’s a bit of surety with these wide-open spaces.”
The New South Wales government’s safety measures, including the requirement for clubs to set up hand-washing stations and the need for all players to sign in with the state’s official Covid Safe Check-in tracing app, also helped golfers feel secure.
The end of the last calendar year saw 76 new members join the club, and the country club’s revenue increased by about $100,000 on the year before. There was also a surge in social play, Mr Constable says.
Bathurst won Country Club of the Year 2018, and one of the reasons for the award was that over five years, the club averaged about 15% growth – one of only three clubs in NSW to have a growth period.
In 2020, Mr Constable says the club achieved nearly 15% growth in just one year, which was “quite a big jump”.
The closure of the clubhouse during the Covid-19 lockdown took away some of the social aspect of golf. But the boost in online bookings enabled by Pulse helped to offset the loss.
“People just got into the habit of coming and playing their golf then getting back in their cars and leaving straight away,” Mr Constable says.
“When everything went into lockdown, things become a bit crazy, and everyone was crossing their fingers that we got through this period relatively unscathed. It ended up being a boom for golf.”
Bathurst Golf Club is back into the swing of things. It boasts a full calendar of events for members and stages several prestigious annual open competitions, such as the Golf NSW Country Championships and Bathurst Open Vardon event for men.
“There were a number of negative effects from Covid-19, but they were probably outweighed by the positives in the golf industry.”