England Golf chief executive Jeremy Tomlinson believes the rapid increase in golf memberships during the coronavirus lockdown proves becoming a member of a golf club "remains relevant and affordable."
Golf courses up and down the country have seen a surge in memberships and levels of participation since being given a green light to reopen during the lockdown, and Tomlinson now believes the sport has the best possible chance to start afresh.
"For me, it’s been heartening to see a value once again being placed on membership and the visitor golfer experience since we all pulled together to re-open courses and facilities on 13 May," Tomlinson said in a statement.
"England Golf exists to promote the amateur and club game and I am proud to bang the drum on our game’s behalf.
"But we should not make the mistake of undervaluing our game. Too often our sport has sold itself short.
"It may have been largely accidental, but the spike in recruitment over last few weeks has proved two key things – golf club membership remains relevant and affordable
"Golf has been forced to hit the reset button, but the reboot gives everyone a chance to start afresh and carry this momentum forward.
"Each time I’ve been to my home club at Marlborough, visited Bassett Down or spoken to my pals at Broome Manor, I’ve felt the energy for myself, and, of course, through the national golfing network, I know this story has been repeated up and down the country."
While two-balls have helped increase the pace of play, much to the delight of golfers around the country, Tomlinson considers the re-introduction of fourballs this month as a welcome one.
"There’s no doubt that the return of fourball play from 1 June has been a game-changer for golf clubs,” he said.
"Fourball play has helped reduce the pressure on tee-times. Although, as with many things, I’m well aware of the healthy, ongoing debate on the merits of more players per tee-time.
"It felt harsh to turn away golfers or ration slots to golfers already deprived of their sporting fix after months of enforced closure.
"Fourballs have allowed clubs to get more members on the course, re-introduce guests and accept visitor bookings.
"Of course, there are golfers who enjoyed the freedom of two-ball golf again. I get that.
"Slow play is a curse in a fast-moving society and a sub three-hour round is a joy.
"For many of our older golfers, there are sound health reasons why two-ball play and limiting social contact remains a wise choice with coronavirus still a threat.
"I’ve been pleased to discover so many clubs listening to members and setting aside times for two-balls while also re-introducing the fourball format.
"A ‘best of both worlds’ policy seems to be sensible and right."
Tomlinson has made it clear, however, that while memberships are increasing all the time during lockdown, the state of golf in England is far from a bed of roses as it stands.
"Not everything in the garden is rosy," he said.
"Clubhouses remain closed, cash is tight and I’m not naïve to the prospect that the toughest times might yet lie ahead for many of our clubs.
"Re-forecasting, re-evaluating, re-planning and, in some cases, re-inventing are all potentially the order of the day as we look to maximise opportunities and stabilise finances while coming out of this crisis."