Past, present, future blog – David Roy, Crail Golfing Society

The Past, Present and Future blog will look at what life was like before Coronvirus, during it and how people are preparing for its aftermath. It will consider what marketing and communication strategies are being deployed, how businesses have reacted to the current situation and what they plan to do after it. The Word Association, an established PR and marketing agency based close to St Andrews in Fife, interviews leading lights in golf, tourism and hospitality about these challenging times.

Our first interviewee is the experienced managing secretary of Crail Golfing Society David Roy who gives a frank assessment of the pandemic’s impact and how things are already starting to change as a result.

David Roy, Crail Golfing Society, 13/04/20, 2pm GMT


Past – If you could cast your mind back to before Coronvirus, what were your goals and strategies for 2020?

“Before everything changed, our biggest challenge was trying to accommodate the number of visitors while at the same time ensuring members got equitable access to their golf courses. We weren’t planning anything dramatic – it’s got to be evolution rather than revolution. We plod along slowly improving every year rather than changing things overnight. It was a case of more of the same while trying to find ways of improving the level of service, value and making the golf experience as smooth as possible. Our big challenge was smoothing out the competing interests and continuing to improve the member/visitor experience.”

Crail, 5+6


Present – How did the club react to the pandemic?

“I was one of the first in the club’s management to raise concerns, and while the club didn’t think I was over-reacting, the general response was more along the lines that we should wait for the government. There weren’t any early preparations. If there is a lesson in this, it is the earlier you start; the easier life becomes, and we could have started a week or so earlier. We could have made one or two decisions earlier and that would have made a difference. I could have bumped it up in the level of importance more forcefully than I did, and in future I will.”

Present – In practical terms, what happened next?

“When it kicked off and it became clear we had to change what we were doing significantly and rapidly, having really strong business relationships with contractors paid off considerably. For instance, we had been reviewing our software suppliers, principally our tee-reservation software, and I had said on a number of occasions that one of the things we should factor in was the customer support provided by the software suppliers. That massively came into its own when we needed things to be done quickly [during the outbreak] and the suppliers delivered. We also use a local company for our hardware support and they were able to source, at very short notice, three laptops and set us up so we could work remotely. Within four days, we had everything set up so the office could be vacated and we could work from home. That wouldn’t have been possible without these incredibly strong business connections.”

Present – How did the staff react?

“Dealing with the staff was extremely stressful, for obvious reasons. When you’re dealing with your ability to pay the bills, it becomes an incredibly stressful situation. So consequently, when the committee made a very clear and unambiguous statement that the staff were their number one priority and would top up furloughed staff’s wages, that made a massive difference. And that has again paid dividends because it means the staff have been easy to deal with which has massively reduced the level of anxiety. In the long term, you’re going to get that investment back.”

Present – And how are you dealing with your customers?

“We collectively took the decision that we would refund the tour operators and rebook at no cost because it wasn’t their fault they had to cancel. Extremely early on, we made the decision to retain the green fees for 2021 at the same rate as this year. It has become apparent that not all golf facilities have done that. We made those decisions very early on and I can tell you anecdotally, that has paid back. The more we can do to lower stress levels; the easier the path forward will be for all of us.”



Future – How are you preparing for what happens next?

“Just as the closedown was started, I got on to our washroom suppliers and ordered as much sanitary gear as they had, which included germ-resistant door handles. I’m anticipating that we won’t be going straight back to normal – there will be a soft opening with restrictions. That being the case, there will be the same level of anxiety about passing on the virus as there is now. Consequently, to have hand-sanitisers, germ-resistant door handles, air purification units and things like that will make a difference in lowering the levels of stress and make people feel safer.”

Future – What role will communication play?

“From day one, I had an eye on what would happen when the new kind of normal returns. I was extremely keen to put together a communication strategy that would keep the club in contact with as many members as possible so that come December, when we send out the subscription renewals, people will be willing to pay despite the number of weeks or months without a game of golf. For example, the captain is calling every member on their birthday. It’s between four and 10 members a day who are based all over the world. I send him a list of birthdays and a line about that member – a little bit of intel. Jim lifts the phone and wishes them a happy birthday which gives him an excuse to ask them how they’re coping and get to know the membership better.”

Future – That’s a fantastic initiative that could have a number of benefits.

The captain usually deals with a very vocal minority in the club. Now on a daily basis he is talking to members who talk about the club in glowing terms. He’s getting huge levels of positivity about what a great place it is. We always knew we should be doing stuff like this but constantly made the excuse that there were other more pressing matters. If something good comes out of this, it will be that we will be do the right thing when it needs to be done rather than making an excuse not to do it. I hope that is a permanent change.”

Future – And how about general communication?

“Another thing we’ve done is dig out the archives. Because our members have some time at the moment and are perhaps a little bit bored at home, we’re providing them with things to read about their club. One of the things I retrieved was some old DVDs which included the bicentenary pro-am in 1986 with a very young Sandy Jones officiating at the prize giving.”

Future – Are these sent out via email?

“Jim’s doing a weekly captain’s update which is a bit of a mix of how we are coping and interesting click-throughs. And you’ll like this; we have roughly 1,200 active email addresses and normally about 800 read the emails. It’s now about 1,100, which is good. We use Facebook, Twitter and emails to keep in touch with our members, but we’re also thinking about what we can do to generate a bit of trade when we get going again, but that’s where working with Links with History can be very useful.”

– Ends –


Crail Golfing Society is the seventh oldest golf club in the world and the second oldest in Fife after the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. It is also a member of a unique collection of leading Scottish golf clubs known as Links With History.

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