Cookham golf club 'full' as COVID rules ease

COOKHAM 133435-2

Left to right: Manager of Winter Hill Golf Club, Ian McMahon with members Kevin Ferriter and John Conway.Outdoor sports returned for the first time this week.

Golfers have been 'chomping at the bit' to get back playing their favourite outdoor sport this week, a Cookham golf club has said.

Coronavirus restrictions eased slightly on Monday to allow organised sport outdoors, including golf, tennis, basketball and bowls. Outdoor gyms have also reopened. 

There was a relaxation on social meet-ups, too, with the 'rule of six' returning to allow people to meet up in limited numbers at a social distance. 

This meant that venues like Winter Hill Golf Club, in Grange Lane, were able to welcome people back from yesterday with safety precautions in place - and the weather on their side. 

Sports clubs have been unable to host people for several months, with the UK entering lockdown back in early January and enduring tough tiered systems over the Christmas and New Year.

Ian McMahon, golf club manager at Winter Hill, was glad to see people out using the greens again this week. 

He added that golf is key for physical and mental health, particularly for older people who may have been isolated during lockdown and cannot play other high-energy outdoor sports.

The club has members from as young as seven, to 90 years old. 

"We are full, pretty much from the first tee time to the last," Ian said. "And it will continue to be full for a while yet.

"Everybody is in a relaxed environment, we have lots of [safety] systems in place. People are glad to be back, in the fresh air, playing some golf."

He added: "The first step is getting people back on the course. It was quite heart-breaking when you saw the course out there and no one was playing on it.

"We have done quite a lot of work on the course and around the clubhouse. 

"People have been chomping at the bit, they really have. They are giddy with excitement. You can feel the sense of relief, people are just so pleased."

Although other parts of the club, such as the clubhouse, are still out of bounds until restrictions ease again, Ian - who has been in post for two years - added that golf brings with it benefits to players' mental health. 

"Any outdoor sport is vital [for health]," he said. "We assume everybody is married or has kids, but there are people who are single, divorced or widowed. 

"You never know what is going on in people's lives, and golf is a respite for them."

Ian says that venues such as Winter Hill have been able to stay afloat due to the sheer number of memberships being created, with many golf clubs experiencing limited capacity during the recent summer, as well as now. 

He added that an increase in people working from home, being furloughed, and not travelling as much, are all reasons for them to get out of the house and give golf a try. 

"It looks like it is going to be a vibrant summer," Ian added. "There is a spring in the step."

In terms of staff, a handful of colleagues at the club were furloughed during the first lockdown last year, but due to Winter Hill being owned by John Lewis, some have completed shifts at Waitrose supermarkets to keep working during the pandemic. 

Nearby Maidenhead Golf Club, in Shoppenhangers Road, had club captain Les Andrew (pictured below with ladies' captain Eileen Clarke) kick off proceedings on Monday morning. 

More than 200 members enjoyed the greens on the first day the club reopened, general manager James Pugh said.

It is also a key year for Maidenhead Golf Club, as it prepares to celebrate its 125th anniversary in December. 

"It was a great atmosphere - plenty of smiling faces and just happy to be out there," he said. "A lot of work went into getting the club ready.

"It has been a long time coming, really. There has been a lot of talk about golf and why it was not allowed to be played because it is out in the open - but there are various views on that.

"We are thankful that we are part of this first stage of opening up to some kind of normality."

Another venue which has reopened to the public are outdoor gyms. 

The Marlow Club, based in Fieldhouse Lane, operates one of these and gives people the chance to train while socially-distancing outside. Other activities such as yoga are also on offer. 

The indoor gym here will not be able to open until Monday, April 12, and the restaurant; no earlier than Monday, May 17.

Like the golf club, managing director Jon Williams says that the support from members has helped The Marlow Club survive through a period when it has had to remain completely shut. 

"We have been quite fortunate with regards to our members - they do not want us to go anywhere," Jon said.

"Without their support, unfortunately the Government furlough scheme and grants would not have touched the sides."

On the return of members this week, Jon added: "It has been fantastic so far. The buzz has been great. People are absolutely loving it, to be able to get back to some normality."

The Marlow Club has created a fully COVID-secure outdoor gym (below) which is supervised to ensure social distancing, with a strict cleaning regime for equipment, which is wiped down and fog-cleaned. A maximum of ten people are allowed to use the facilities at this time. 

It is also the first gym in the UK to install a Hong Kong-made air filter system inside which helps dispel all harmful particles from the air, including human coronavirus.

This will be used to ensure the club can continue to operate when it is allowed to open up its indoor facilities in two weeks' time.

Jon says that more than 1,700 online classes have been completed during lockdown to ensure members are raring to go this week. 

"I would love to feel that the industry is not just seen as where you go and sweat and work out, as it has been seen for the last 20 or 30 years," he said. 

"It is a place where people come and they look after their social, physical and mental health. We love this area, we love this sector, and the members we have here rely on us."

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