Greenore Golf Club was a solemn spectacle last week after its Covid-19-enforced closure.
Local golf clubs are facing an uncertain future following their enforced closures amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Government and Golfing Union of Ireland directives saw the courses in Dundalk, Greenore, Ballymascanlon, Ardee and Mannan Castle shut their gates until the provisional April 19 date, which is expected to be extended.
“We took our directive from the GUI,” Linda Clarke, Greenore’s Office Administrator, Sales & Marketing chief, told The Democrat.
“We were hoping to maybe keep the course open for members only, because most of our groups had cancelled or deferred, but once the directive came from the GUI to shut down we complied with it.”
“We were trying to maintain our safe distancing and we were doing everything, I would say, pretty well,” Dundalk Golf Club’s manager John O’Sullivan added. “But we were expecting the call to close, I think that was imminent.
“We’re closing until April 19 - that’s what the guideline is at the moment, though we’d anticipate it will be for longer.”
Meanwhile, prior to their lockdown, Mannan Castle had already adopted strict safety measures, including removing ball washers and bins, flags from holes and cups turned upside down, while social distancing of two metres was demanded.
On their closure, they said in a statement: “These are necessary measures to keep our members, our families and communities safe. We hope these measures are successful and we are all back on the golf course in the not too distant future.”
However, Greenore and Dundalk are planning to have a limited number of greenkeepers on course throughout the pandemic, in order to keep their facilities in prime condition for when action is once again permitted.
“Our course staff, there are four out there at the moment, they’re doing some maintenance work and after that they’ll just be staggered coming in, keeping the greens in order, so that when our golfers return the fairways are as they should be,” said Clarke. “You’ve 106 acres and you just can’t let it grow over.”
O’Sullivan added: “The greenkeepers aren’t affected and they’re maintaining the course as normal, and it actually gives them a chance to do more than they normally would because there’s no golfers out there - work that they wouldn’t ordinarily be able to do at this time of year.
“Between seasonal and full-time we’d have about 17 staff and it’s hard to know just yet (the effect the closure will have on them). The part-time bar staff have been laid off and some part-time admin staff, but generally it’s just hard to tell.”
Greenore are ruing the loss of several weekend parties, while their catering industry - and the local, family-run firm which provides the service - has been put on hold.
“It’s a loss for us, but everyone’s in the same boat. We will avail of all the help we can get from the government, in terms of wage subsidies, and we’ll try the best we can to look after our staff and keep our course in the best condition we can under the present, surreal circumstances.”
Dundalk, meanwhile, are confident that their membership levels will remain high and the club can get back to normal.
“The club and the membership is fairly strong and we’ll do everything we can to ensure the club can go on in the same manner. One of the key things of Dundalk over the years was their ability to hold on to members - there were very few golf clubs during the recession that managed to hold on to 1,100 or 1,200 members, which Dundalk have.”