If you thought the distance debate was polarising, prepare for the storm over the coming wave of ‘no jab-no play’ policies at Australian golf clubs.
Royal Melbourne were first to announce two weeks ago that unvaccinated golfers wouldn’t be welcome at their facilities and several clubs in both Victoria and NSW have since followed suit, including Commonwealth Golf Club in Melbourne and New South Wales Golf Club in Sydney.
It’s an interesting time for the game because while Covid has been a disaster in almost every conceivable way for society, for the golf business it has been a huge boost.
Outside Victoria – where the game has been prohibited for lengthy periods over the past 18 months – demand for golf in Australia has been higher than at any time in living memory.
But more than one analyst has wondered aloud whether the game would be able to retain a decent percentage of these new and returning golfers and vaccination policies might be the first significant test.
"The clubs that have made their position public to this point are private entities and initial reaction to their announcements will be seen as an important gauge." - Rod Morri.
The vaccination issue won’t be confined to golf, of course, and over the coming months businesses big and small will have to decide their position regarding vaccinated customers and workers.
And in the absence of government intervention, they will be watching carefully what happens in the golf space.
The clubs that have made their position public to this point are private entities and initial reaction to their announcements will be seen as an important gauge.
“We have a number of older and more vulnerable people who are Members of the Club, and as a membership we owe it to one another to ensure the safety of all of our Members. The best way we can do that is to be vaccinated,” the communication from New South Wales to its members stated.
To date, there has been little reported resistance from within the organisations themselves though, as expected, no shortage of critics from the outside.
For some, the decision to get vaccinated will be influenced by their potential to access golf and that is an important behavioural indicator for businesses beyond the game.
It will also be watched carefully by governments looking to shape policy in an area where they are likely to come under increasing pressure to legislate.
As a small business owner myself, I am observing with great interest how things unfold ahead of the planned ‘opening up’ in a few weeks’ time.
My particular enterprise relies in part on being able to have people physically on site, a tricky proposition in a world divided by vaccines.
Unless there is legislation making access clear, I will soon be in the unenviable position of having to set – and explain to those who don’t like it – a policy one way or another on vaccination and attendance.
Like most who are in business – golf clubs included – I am anxious for the world to start returning to normal as soon as possible.
But to think that path back is going to be all plain sailing is naïve at best and we are about to encounter the first hurdle.