The future of many Australian golf clubs hangs precariously in the hands of government as the country inches closer to a full lockdown to counter the spread of Covid-19.
Australian Golf Course Superintendents Association chief executive Mark Unwin issued a dire warning Tuesday, telling the sport’s governing body Golf Australia the nation’s 1,500-plus courses will be subject to multi-billion dollar damage should maintenance staff be locked out of work because of Covid-19.
Unwin said his organisation was lobbying policy setters to include his staff as “essential” workers to minimise damage during – and expense after – the global pandemic.
“Specifically, we have expressed grave concern about the survival of many of our sporting facilities and golf courses should the country move to Alert Level 4 as (they have in) New Zealand, where there has been a complete lockout (of) maintenance operations,” Unwin told golf.org.au.
“This has major consequences for the industry. Should golf and sporting facilities not be maintained to at least a basic standard over a period, it is conservatively estimated that during such a lockdown, up to $5 billion worth of sporting assets Australia-wide will be at significant risk within a week.
“The task of repatriating turf to current conditions may not be achievable. nor affordable for the greater number of clubs and councils.
“We are appealing to government that in the event of a full lockdown, exemptions be provided to allow staff at turf facilities (golf courses and other facilities) to tend to the maintenance of the course and/or surfaces during the lockdown period.
“It is our position that it is vital that turf managers be provided this exemption as once greens and playing surface infrastructure have rapidly declined, due to the costs associated and time requirements to repatriate facilities, too many facilities, clubs and courses around the country could be forced to close their doors for good.”
Unwin said such advocacy had already worked in the United Kingdom.
“We completely understand that the federal and state governments are doing what they can to save lives and we have reassured the various ministers we are in discussions with, that we are doing all we can to play our part,” he said.
“We stand ready to work with Sport Australia, NSO’s (including Golf Australia), state sporting organisations and government authorities to ensure that all restrictions are in place, and should an exemption on turf maintenance activity be granted, we will do everything we can to ensure this is done in a controlled environment that is healthy and safe for sports turf managers and the community.”
Golf Australia golf development general manager David Gallichio said GA was fully supportive of the AGCSA position.
“In conjunction with the Australian Sports Turf Management Association, Golf NSW and Golf WA, we have begun to lobby both Federal and state governments,” Gallichio said.
“In the event of a further increase in restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we need to ensure course staff will be able to continue to access facilities so long-term damage and cost impact are minimised.”