BY plenty of accounts, the surge of interest in golf during this most bothersome year has been broadly equivalent to the scenes you’d see in an Attenborough documentary about the mass migration of the wildebeest.

When the Royal & Ancient game was allowed to resume, as other pursuits, activities and pastimes remained in coronavirus-induced cold storage, there was a veritable stampede to courses here, there and everywhere as tee-times became as sought after as a global vaccine and memberships rocketed through the roof.

At Glencruitten, for instance, the home course of Oban’s European Tour winner, Robert MacIntyre, saw 150 new members join up after lockdown was eased while The Braes, a facility that emerged from the old Polmont Golf Club, had its membership treble during a rousing renaissance. There are countless tales of resurgence and salvation across the land.

When the lockdown kicked in back in March, and clubs feared the worst amid the doom and gloom, the outlook for many seemed to be as bleak as a weather forecast delivered by the chilling, foreboding voice of Vincent Price.

The clouds, though, would have silver linings. When those at Brora Golf Club announced to the wider world that their cherished, James Braid-designed jewel was facing oblivion, it was a rallying cry that should have been accompanied by a Kitchener poster.

The response has been well documented in recent months, with various membership packages being gobbled up and donations flooding in. A call to arms from five-time Open champion Tom Watson, himself an honorary member, aided the war effort for a club which relies heavily on visitor income.

Here in the depths of winter, the remote Highland club’s general manager, Tony Gill, can look happily on the bright side. “If I’m honest, I’m not a great worrier although our club president may have said something different at the start of lockdown,” reflected Gill, who has taken on more than 135 new members at the club which will celebrate its 130th anniversary in 2021. “I try to take the approach that if you are going to worry about something, then stop worrying and do something about it. We acted quickly back at the start of the pandemic and generated a substantial amount of cash in a short time. We are still getting people joining and we have a button on our website which allows people to make donations. We still get people giving 50 quid here and there.

“Throughout this period those of us at the club have been genuinely gobsmacked by the generosity shown to us. We got quite emotional to tell you the truth.

“For me to sit doing this job and to discover that there is that amount of warmth to the club I am managing is quite overwhelming.”

Coronavirus, and all its perils and pitfalls, is not something than can be negotiated with a strokesaver and a wizened, experienced caddie and Gill, like managers and secretaries at clubs everywhere, is keeping the fingers crossed for better times ahead.

“We are in a position where as long as we get the equivalent domestic business as we got for the three months of this summer we’ll be fine next year,” he said. “We could do a bit worse than that and still be ok. But we possibly couldn’t drag on for too much longer with more hard restrictions beyond 2021. We are all hoping for a return to something approaching what it used to be.”

In these times when physical distancing is par for the course, golf has been one of the sporting success stories in what has been a turbulent year. “People couldn’t get enough of golf,” said Gill of the sudden swell in participation.

“We don’t have a huge local membership and at a Saturday medal we’d usually get maybe 15 to 20 playing. Suddenly we had 30 or 40 and that kind of jump was happening at clubs everywhere.

“We have people who are now very committed to playing golf because they couldn’t do any other sports due to the restrictions. Hopefully that commitment continues.”