Behind the golf scenes with our pro golfer Alister Tawse
Interested in the story of our pro golfer and teacher Alister Tawse? We spoke to him of his time teaching golf at Lanhydrock Hotel & Golf Club and the effect of the pandemic on interest in the sport.
Can you tell us a bit about your golf career, how you found your passion in golf and how you got to where you are today?
I have always been a keen sportsman throughout my life, from swimming at a national level to being part of the county rugby team. I started playing golf seriously after leaving school and was very lucky to spend two years in Zimbabwe working at Royal Harare Golf Club. This gave me a fantastic grounding in the sport and I returned to England as a 1 handicap golfer. After gaining my PGA qualifications at Puttenham Golf Club, I was appointed the Head Professional at West Surrey Golf Club where I spent 20 memorable years, the last three in the dual role of Golf Director and Head Professional.
Having been at School in Devon and a keen surfer I always wanted to live in the West Country and finally made the move in 2012. One of my ambitions was to work at a resort or golf complex and I jumped at the chance when Graham and Clare offered me the Head Professional role here at Lanhydrock Hotel and Golf Club.
When and how did you begin to start teaching golf at Lanhydrock Hotel & Golf Club?
When I started at Lanhydrock in 2014, I had already been a PGA Professional for 25 years, having gained lots of experience teaching all standards of golfers. One of the key roles of a PGA Professional is to help established players improve their game and also introduce new people into the sport. Nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing one of my beginners progress into a new member.
Lanhydrock Golf Club has an excellent driving range with a designated teaching studio – an ideal facility to develop my teaching programme. With over 300 members and lots of passing trade, there is plenty of demand for lessons which has kept me very busy over the past eight years.
How has the pandemic affected golf at Lanhydrock? Can you remember how you were feeling on entering the pandemic as opposed to how you feel now?
Like many people at the start of the first lockdown I was extremely worried what the future held for the golf and hospitality industry. I remember we had our membership renewals just after the first lockdown ended and I thought we would be struggling to achieve a 50% retention of members. Thankfully this was not the case and we hit the ground running from day one. Membership numbers have been very strong and unlike many other team sports, golf has been able to keep going, providing a vital escape from the pandemic for many people.
It has been a very busy period for me for which I’m very thankful for, and I’m feeling positive about the future.
Have you seen any increase in the interest in golf since the pandemic? Do you think there’s been a positive impact on the sport in terms of popularity?
There is no question that golf is currently experiencing a boom in popularity and participation compared to pre-covid numbers. With team sports suspended during this period, many people have come back into the sport as well as a large number of newcomers trying out the game for the first time. Golf memberships throughout the country are at record levels with more than two million new golfers coming into the game over the past two years.
From my point of view, it has been really encouraging to see the amount of new people taking up golf, both young and old, female and male. This is so positive for the future of the sport.
Have you noticed any changes in the interest in golf across various age ranges?
Definitely. Our membership age group profile pre-pandemic was predominantly retired and over 50. Since coming out of the pandemic we have seen a large growth in our intermediate section (ages 22-30), and across the board in all categories of membership we are seeing increased participation.
Are there any new golf developments or events that have happened recently or are upcoming at Lanhydrock?
Our owners Graham and Clare Bond are always investing into maintaining and improving the infrastructure at Lanhydrock. Our grounds and golf course team, lead by head green-keeper Simon Ashworth, has been working hard throughout the pandemic to maintain and keep the course in top condition. This spring also saw the new additions of 12 electric buggies.
We have a very busy golf calendar this summer with a combination of member and visitor bookings. It’s worth checking our website for information about available tee times and open competitions we are running.
Why is Lanhydrock such a great course – what makes it unique? What are its standout features?
For me, Lanhydrock has to be one of the most fun and interesting golf courses to play in the South West. At 6100 yards, it is modest in length compared to other modern courses, but still provides a challenge for all standards of golfers. The course is exceptionally well laid out with mature trees lining the fairways and some great water features. For the long hitters, there are opportunities to drive a number of the short par 4s, but a wayward drive will be punished with a lost ball. The par 3 holes are also a tough test with water and ditches protecting the 6th, 11th and 17th holes. The wonderful signature 6th hole is a 187 yard par 3 over water with out of bounds on the left.
It is not surprising that Lanhydrock Hotel and Golf Club is such a popular venue and a must play for any visiting golfers to Cornwall, and we are fortunate to welcome return guests year on year. We are really looking forward to a busy and positive summer.