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Thetford Golf Club suspends waiting list for new membership as unprecedented demand to play golf in Suffolk and Norfolk through pandemic continues




Hosting a perfect social-distancing sport, golf clubs have found themselves inundated with the demand to play their courses since the pandemic broke out.

But restriction measures coupled with bad weather and lockdown closures have provided managers at the area’s clubs with big headaches.

Over at Thetford Golf Club, unprecedented interest in joining a club famed for still being playable after heavy rainfallfirst led to a waiting list being formed and has now seen it suspended with 25 currently left on it.

Malcolm Grubb, general manager at Thetford Golf ClubPicture: Richard Marsham
Malcolm Grubb, general manager at Thetford Golf ClubPicture: Richard Marsham

Manager Malcolm Grubb explained: “We have had to suspend processing new applications until the course is open again and we will not be able to clear the list straight away.

“Our points-based Breckland membership is full and places will only be offered as vacancies arise if and when existing memberships are not renewed.

“Despite three lockdowns there has been a massive demand to play golf, it is a sport that fits in so well with any restrictions that apply.”

An aerial view of the snow covered Thetford Golf Club earlier this weekPicture: Richard Marsham www.rmg-photography.co.uk
An aerial view of the snow covered Thetford Golf Club earlier this weekPicture: Richard Marsham www.rmg-photography.co.uk

He said the membership at the Brandon Road site has increased by 100 over the last 12 months – now totalling around 800 across all the different categories.

But the big challenge now is trying to keep hold of those when their 12-month renewals, carried out on a rolling individual basis, comes up as well as not losing impatient current members.

With other income streams such as clubhouse bars and catering facilities, which Thetford now run themselves, and visitors playing, wiped out by the pandemic, the length of the current lockdown is a growing concern.

Grubb, who has been manager for the past six years, having come over from Woodbridge, said: “Social-distancing requirements meant we played in two-balls before the latest lockdown. That effectively halved the number of players on the course and meant it was members only – we could not accommodate guests or visitors.

Thetford Golf Club’s general manager Malcolm Grubb at the re-worked 16th green bunkerPicture: Richard Marsham
Thetford Golf Club’s general manager Malcolm Grubb at the re-worked 16th green bunkerPicture: Richard Marsham

“Clubs have had a big increase in memberships but without being able to have visitors, it has been a double-edged sword.”

The playing restrictions, coming in this time in the lowest period of daylight hours, led to a difficult decision to limit members to only one round per week in an unprecedented step.

Asked how their financial situation is looking, Grubb said: “Our members have been very supportive but it is all about how quickly we can get people back on the golf course.

Thetford Golf Club’s general manager Malcolm Grubb at the centenary signPicture: Richard Marsham
Thetford Golf Club’s general manager Malcolm Grubb at the centenary signPicture: Richard Marsham

“If we can do it in the early spring I think members and our treasurer will be happy. But if in two months’ time nothing changes it would a lot worse.”

What the club have been able to do while play has been halted is accelerate their winter maintenance programme. With all their green staff kept on, they have rejuvenated the club’s feature hole, the par-three 16th, by rebuilding the horseshoe bunker which encloses the green. Work on the first tee is also scheduled to transform the entrance to the club.

Meanwhile, hard work off the course, led by former Ladies’ captain Gill Welham, supported by PGA professional Stuart Smith, has just led to Thetford receiving England Golf’s SafeGolfMark award. It shows the club is a safe environment for juniors and vulnerable adults to play the game.

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