There was a piece in The Guardian a month ago excoriating President Trump. Now, a lot of people do this, frequently on apparently quite reasonable grounds. This article was in part about his golf. Again, there is much to criticise about his golf, not least his apparently limitless capacity for cheating at it. But in one detail, the journalist could not have been more wrong. “Seriously,” the story read, “what kind of genius invests heavily in a dying sport such as golf?”
It is probably true that Trump’s golf operation at Turnberry is costing him so much money that, very sotto voce, his accountant may dare to call him “a loser”. But no one could accurately describe golf as a dying sport.
England Golf reported last month that about 20,000 new members had joined golf clubs since the original lockdown restrictions were lifted in May. One London golf club reported acquiring more than 100 members and has had to impose a waiting list for the first time in aeons. The number of rounds played in Britain in August was up 60% on the equivalent period in 2019, this being largely attributed people having more time to play because they were either working from home or on furlough. To quote James Corrigan in the Daily Telegraph: “The Tiger Woods effect had nothing on coronavirus.”
Among those appreciating this upturn in the sport’s fortunes at a time when pretty much everything else is a downside are the equipment manufacturers. “Demand for clubs has been up significantly this year,” said Dave Fanning of Ping. “We think it’s in part because people are finding that they can’t go to football or go to rugby, and it’s been hard to arrange holidays, so they are turning or returning to golf.”
Of course, right now we cannot play golf. At the beginning of this month, Jeremy Tomlinson, CEO of England Golf, made a persuasive (in my view) argument as to why the government should not close golf courses in England (it’s a devolved matter) when the country locked down again on November 5, but the government was not persuaded to return to the situation that pertained in May and June. Or they simply couldn’t be bothered. But now, maybe belatedly, common sense has prevailed and from next week we will be allowed out to play again.
Going ahead, however this plays out in the short term, more people will surely continue to work from home. For many people, going into an office will become the exception rather than the norm. For the golfers among them, that will be good news indeed. I am not suggesting people will routinely skive off work to spend a few hours on the golf course. (Although equally I am also not suggesting that will never happen.) But time previously spent commuting will then able to be spent doing something infinitely more enjoyable. And unlike Mr Trump, we don’t have to worry about post-presidential overheads at Turnberry.
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