They say hindsight is 20/20. Well, the year 2020 (thus far) is providing plenty of opportunity for hindsight, especially when we look at the golf industry. 

As I write this, Victoria has entered a second lockdown period, borders are shut and cases are rising.

However, while it seems all doom and gloom, we can all be encouraged by one aspect of COVID-19:

Golf, across the country, is BOOMING.

We’ve spoken to courses, clubs, manufacturers and retail outlets across Australia (see story here), and the overwhelming sentiment is that golf (being one of the only sports allowed) is undergoing a once-in-a-lifetime surge in popularity. Membership enquiries are up, tee sheets are full and gear/equipment orders and purchases are thriving.

Obviously, this varies from club to club and business to business. Those clubs/businesses that were, in hindsight, either well-prepared in advance, or those who were able to adjust quickly to capitalise on opportunities, have set themselves up to survive and thrive during these times.

As an example, I know of many clubs that used the first lockdown time to make changes/improvements to their courses (drainage, upgrades, construction, aeration, etc). Other clubs, when forced to close their clubhouse/restaurant, started cooking/offering club meals for take-home/delivery.  Still other businesses chose to take the opportunity to improve efficiencies in operations or maintenance, perform ultra-deep-cleans of member areas (that would, in normal circumstances, cause disruption in business), etc. The list goes on.

These initiatives not only provided much-needed funds for the club/business coffers, but also kept staff employed and morale high.  It also offered a service to members, which likely increased goodwill, and provided necessary support where needed.

Even the R&A—long considered “too Royal and too Ancient” to evolve—made a heap of revolutionary changes in response to COVID (flagsticks in, preferred lies in bunkers, scorecard/app allowances, etc). Some of these changes have improved playability (and pace of play) dramatically, with many in the industry now calling for some of these changes to become permanent.

Of course, these proactive clubs/businesses all had one thing in common: the ability and desire to evolve with the times (which, as you will know, has been something I have exhorted in this column for over 12 years.) COVID-19 simply accelerated the urgency, and may have been an unexpected catalyst to drive change sooner rather than later.

The clubs that were able to evolve were, in hindsight, the ones that had plans in place, and/or were able to get these plans implemented quickly via a cohesive and cooperative Board and GM.

Unfortunately, many others were caught out. Without a plan in place, some businesses were forced to shut down completely, or became stuck scrambling to find their way.

These businesses (along with most in the golf industry) immediately looked for leadership to help us navigate these treacherous waters. Golf Australia (operating without a CEO, in case you forgot) as well as the various state bodies, failed to provide the clear leadership that we desperately needed. Granted, they worked tirelessly to clarify the at-times confusing/conflicting directives from the government (not to mention that this was all uncharted territory in the first place), however it quickly became clear that there was no sort of general “BREAK GLASS IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” action plan in place.    

As the proverb states: failing to plan is planning to fail.

Now, as we move forward, it’s critical that all clubs and businesses look back at what happened over the last 8-12 months and (if you haven’t already done one) perform a SWOT Analysis: A) Identify what worked well, and then plan to amplify these Strengths, B) Identify what failed, and then make a plan shore up these Weaknesses, and C) Identify/predict any future Opportunities and Threats, and put plans in place to address these situations. Be sure to ask a lot of “What-if?” questions and go from there.

Armed with these plans, your club or business will be better prepared (like the ones mentioned above) to capitalise on whatever the future has in store for us.

And who knows, perhaps it will allow us to look back, in hindsight, and say “Thank goodness we had a plan for that!”.  

See you on the fairways (from 1.5 metres away) Richard

About Richard Fellner

Winner of multiple Australian Golf Media Awards, including Best Photojournalism and Best Column, Inside Golf Group Editor Richard Fellner is the quintessential Golf Tragic, having played the game for over 50 years (but has never gotten any better!) He has played and reviewed courses all over the world, and has interviewed many of the great players of the game (including Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson and Greg Norman). Richard is a member of both the Australian Golf Writers Association and the Golf Society of Australia, and he is a regular guest on many Australian "sports talk" radio shows and networks, including ABC Grandstand, SEN 1116, Melbourne Talk Radio 1377, 2GB and others. Follow Richard Fellner on Quora

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