The golfing industry and clubs, in particular, are pleading with government to relax restrictions for the sport to resume before possibly closing for good. Officials say almost 50% of golf clubs in South Africa are just weeks away from financial collapse.
The golf industry contributes close to R49 billion per annum to the South African economy and offers employment to approximately 60 000 people of which 85% come from the vulnerable sector.
The Royal Cape Golf Club is the oldest club in the country. It is normally a hive of activity with golfers, staff and caddies. It is almost desolate now and it has been like this since lockdown started two and a half months ago.
“It’s been tough for us from the loss of revenue. It’s been close to 3 months without any income. We not allowed to operate, it really puts a lot of pressure on all the golf clubs, if the lockdown continues – I don’t know how long clubs will survive and from a staffing perspective it influences 44 people who work for this club and that is just one club. It’s probably 40 000 people in the whole industry from tour operators. So the sooner it can open, we can secure those jobs going forward,” says the Cape Town GC General Manager, Cassie Viljoen.
While it has been tough for people running golf clubs, it is even tougher for staff whose livelihoods depend on golfers playing, paying, creating income and sustaining jobs. But players, both amateur and professional, are also taking a strain.
“Being out on the golf course every week twice a week at least one does miss that, one misses being out with your friends having a beer after the round and obviously everything else that goes with it,” says Rodney Richards, who is a golfer.
“As a professional golfer it’s very hard, we are used to spending everyday out here playing golf and chatting to members, being around people to not have that privilege its difficult, especially it being your job. We need to be out here working and grafting,” says Sunshine Tour Professional, Sean Bradley.
It’s the same for other golf clubs around the country. They have tried to negotiate with government. Now some say, with the High Court order that has declared some of the lockdown restrictions unconstitutional and invalid, they may have to resort to legal action to save the industry, the clubs and the thousands of staff whose livelihoods depend on it.
“It’s massive, it’s devastating. I have no doubt that there will be golf courses that will probably not survive this and another week or two is going to be a yard too far. I’m responsible here for a 1 000 members and about 60 or 70 permanent workers and about 45 caddies. It’s massive – their livelihoods have been turned upside down,” explains Don Ball, who is the King David Mowbray General Manager.