Byron Bay Golf Club is a challenging 18-hole, par 72 championship course set out on 120 acres of coastal habitat.
Byron Bay Golf Club is a challenging 18-hole, par 72 championship course set out on 120 acres of coastal habitat.

Local golf courses forced to close due to COVID-19

THERE'LL be no cries of 'fore' this weekend as golf courses across the Northern Rivers have been forced to shut due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The move comes after Golf Australia said the sport could no longer continue as it was not an essential exercise under the new COVID-19 measures.

The closure will see clubs pushed into hard times with many facing significant financial losses as a result of this action.

"In terms of revenue, 45 per cent of our rounds of golf are social games with people from southeast Queensland who come down and play … all of that revenue is gone, so 45 per cent of our revenue base from golfing activities is non-existent and our members aren't playing any golfing activities so we are down to zero revenue," Byron Bay Golf Club president Chris Brato said.

"We've got sufficient cash reserves for three months but for any business to not actually have any revenue for three months … it's a significant change to our business," Mr Brato said.

Northern Rivers clubs had been hoping to keep the fairways in use by playing golf in groups of two but now they must return to the drawing board.

"We had been playing golf up until yesterday in strict groups of two and our members had been adhering to strict social distancing guidelines … we were hopeful that we might be able to keep golf, in groups of two, but unfortunately that hasn't happened," Ballina Golf Club general manager Mark Whiting said.

With a lack of funds, clubs now face the task of maintaining their greens and fairways to ensure there is a golf club to return to after the pandemic.

"We still have to try an maintain the course, we have an asset in the community … there's costs involved, people think you can just let the grass grow but it doesn't actually work like that," Mr Whiting said.

"We cannot go to level four and stop maintaining a golf course, our superintendent green keeper says if no one works on the course for a month we would lose six months to one year of catch up, that's how rigorous the maintenance schedule is," Mr Brato said.

"With JobKeeper and the other employment arrangements we're able to continue with our course maintenance staff but we're down to one or two, the bare minimum of our course maintenance," Mr Brato said.