William Swan of Swan Golf Designs spoke to GCA about the firm’s projects amid the coronavirus pandemic, how he is spending his time during the UK lockdown and the future of the golf design industry once restrictions are lifted.
“It’s a mixed picture for us,” said Swan, on the status of the firm’s projects. “On-site work is severely limited by restrictions on travel and gathering, and it’s difficult to argue that golf course construction is essential. We were lucky that some renovation projects had been largely completed in time for the anticipated golf season, such as our renovation of the Karsten Lakes course at Ping-owned Thonock Park, and therefore ahead of the restrictions. However, others have had to be put on hold until the construction teams can get back on site safely. We’re trying to support clients and contractors to make sure everyone is ready to get back to work as soon as we can.”
Swan has been spending his time preparing for the restart – whenever that arrives – so he can help clients as soon as possible.
“We had a pretty full schedule of travel to existing and proposed projects throughout the spring but all of that has been put aside for now,” said Swan. “How easy it’ll be to reorganise is anyone’s guess, especially the overseas trips.
“The positive side is that we’ve been able to make a head start on planning for those jobs that are yet to reach site. That means more time to work on drawings, research specifications and alike. As most people are in a similar situation, we’ve been able to communicate extensively within project teams so that decisions are being made in advance, meaning it’ll be a simple process to get started. Of course, there are some things which cannot be overcome, such as delays to permitting or the inability to source materials from suppliers that are currently closed.”
Despite delays to projects and lockdown measures that the British government has imposed, Swan is putting a positive spin on things. “The past month has allowed me to spend much more time with my family than I would have otherwise done,” he said. “It’s certainly frustrating to be limited to what work we can do, and the financial implications aren’t insignificant. However, this extra time at home is a blessing. It’s not productive in a strictly professional sense, but I know I won’t regret the seemingly endless penalty shoot-outs, hopscotch, chess and jigsaws with my children when I look back in later life.”
Speaking about the future of the industry, Swan said: “There’s a lot of uncertainty within the golfing sector, both within the UK and overseas, and that will affect how some projects progress. Even if golf restarts in the UK relatively soon, it’s bound to come with restrictions which will have further impact on revenue. However, nobody yet knows how much and for how long. That makes budgeting and planning very difficult for golf clubs and investors, which will most likely result in some projects will not go ahead this year as previously planned. Having said that, golf projects – new or renovation – are long-terms investments so I imagine the projects will be deferred rather than cancelled.”