PGA Professional John Collins knows the important influence golf can have on people.
Desperate to find a way to ease the struggle on communities beset by drought in 2018, Collins packed up a ute sourced by the PGA of Australia, took Assistant Professional Chris Crooks along for the ride and gave nine remote Queensland communities access to a PGA Professional, if only for a day.
Like many, Collins’ regular workload as Head Professional at Brookwater Golf and Country Club near Brisbane has been impacted by the restrictions enforced amidst the coronavirus pandemic. The Brookwater driving range has been closed and the number of lessons he has been able to give limited but one day of teaching reminded Collins of the importance golf plays during such a stressful time.
The CEO of a private hospital needed the opportunity to think about something other than COVID-19; a 4-year-old unable to participate in junior clinics was desperate for a fix of his new obsession while another PGA Professional now devoid of tournaments to play in simply craved the benefits of some productive practice.
“It just hit me one day,” Collins says.
“For the CEO of the hospital, coming to see me was just as much a chance to clear his head as it was to improve his golf swing.
“He was being bombarded by all the coronavirus stuff at work so his lessons with me were a way to get his mind off that.
“The 4-year-old I had that day would normally be coming to the junior clinics which of course had to be stopped. His mum and dad decided that because he loves golf so much that a couple of one-on-one lessons would be not only be good for him but also give the parents a break for an hour or so.
“The third person I saw that day was another golf pro who would normally be playing for a living.
“The three lessons that I had in a row were so different but golf was the one common thing that they were all deriving some enjoyment from.
“Golf means quite a bit to many people but all in different ways.”
Collins too has had moments of realisation.
As many golf courses have struggled to keep up with the demand of people wanting to play first in groups of two and now four in most states, the driving range at Brookwater has for a number of weeks provided Collins with a vastly different work environment.
“The big difference for me has been the solitude at the driving range,” he explains.
“It’s only me and the person I’m giving the lesson to on the range so when I go and pick up all the balls it can be really quite eerie.
“Normally there would be a dozen, 15 people on the range and the noise that comes from them all hitting balls so for it to be completely empty has been really quite surreal at times.
“That’s when it hit me that this was a very different time.”
The steps that have been taken as a nation is allowing a sense of normalcy to return.
The staged relaxing of restrictions will allow for clubhouses to seat up to 20 guests in Step 2 with that number to grow to 100 in Step 3, the states left to determine when those steps will be taken exactly.
Golfers have become accustomed to playing with flagsticks in, tidying bunkers with their feet and skipping the post-round handshake and Collins believes it is difficult to predict what the ‘new normal’ will look like for Australian golf clubs.
“I can’t see how anything will change too much,” says Collins.
“What will be interesting is how quickly we will go back to shaking hands after a round with your playing partner.
“I wonder how quickly that will return.
“Also, will people continue to go straight from the 18th green to the car park or because they have been starved of it will they take the time to have a drink in the clubhouse when they’re finished?
“Perhaps they will value that a little more and do it more often.
“That could go either way.
“It appears that plenty of people have been able to play golf these past few months so hopefully clubs continue to be busy as things open up more and more.”