10.15pm on Saturday May 1st – a deliberately instigated fire set by a single assailant ripped through the heart of Lutterworth Golf Club, causing a major incident in the area.
Although no-one was hurt, every building bar the greenkeepers shed was destroyed and over 100 years of physical club history went with it.
MG visited in early July and found a club, staff and members absolutely determined to fight back and turn tragedy into triumph.
We spoke to the Pro team of Head Professional Matt Ulyett and PGA Professional Dan Bailey who , alongside PGA Assistant Callum Relf, deliver the pro services and manage the golf operation at the club – Dan recalls that fateful night.
“I had an early start on Sunday for a big mixed comp. At 5.15 am when the alarm went off, there were 50 missed calls on my phone, numerous messages and voicemails. I remember the text I got from Callum who was local and was already onsite, and it just simply said “it’s all gone.”
Immediately the staff that arrived to the horrific sight were straight into action and setting the tone of what has followed since. Pulling together to save most of the vital greenkeeping equipment that morning enabled the greenkeepers to continue to maintain the course to its usual high standards, ready for when members could return
“It had been blazing all night and finally they had managed to get it under control just before it reached the GK’s shed, the breezeblock firewall luckily did its job and saved most of the kit. We were all there dragging equipment out into the open while everything was smouldering around it. Thankfully the fire crews and the police that were there allowed us to do it.”
Once the fire was finally out there was no time to waste as the club officials, directors and management, held an emergency meeting and plans were put in place to get the golf restarted.
Following an incredible effort from the management board and the Club Captain, the car park had been extended, essential facilities and a reception were in place and remarkably, the golf course was open for members to play a week after the fire!
As Matt confirmed, “We managed to open with a welfare suite for the members and a little reception room. Within a few more days we had a temporary ‘Pros reception’ (pictured here with Dan) to facilitate the daily running of the golf course and a marquee was set up alongside the reception area for some covered seating where refreshments were served.’’
MG have come across instances like these before, clubs in the need who are rescued by their membership and the tremendous skill mix that exists amongst them. Although Lutterworth are naturally insured for arson attacks, the speed in which their own people can fix things cannot be underestimated in its importance to the club.
“Exactly, the management board set up have been brilliant and the communication to the membership has been excellent. Some members have really stepped up and offered their knowledge, skills and time. The membership have been fantastic, remained positive and rallied round and continued to enjoy ‘their’ club.”
Lutterworth had a great set up in the pro shop, including their indoor studio and brand new putting lab too, although they’ll restore everything in time, the shock to the team’s system is immense.
‘’It’s been a testing few weeks to say the least. However, we are now relocated to our original position by the putting green which feels great! Our new Portacabin is insurable, allowing us to return to some retail which has been supported by our membership. The club have provided us with a marquee set up on the practice ground so we can teach in all weathers, so we are now able to deliver a service to our customers, despite the challenges.’’
The Pro team were also keen to mention Lutterworth’s debt of gratitude to local businesses, who have provided office space, neighbouring Leicestershire clubs who offered the members complimentary rounds immediately after the fire and also the county organisations and governing bodies too for their support.
Going forward the club have a longer term strategy to restore everything to where it was and improve on it even further.
“Phase 1 was just getting people golfing again safely. We are now in Phase 1A, with improved and extended temporary facilities for our members. Phase 2, which isn’t far away will see a much improved standard of semi-permanent type buildings of a larger size. Full catering and draught beers will be back too. It’s vital for us to provide our membership and guests this autumn/ winter with a facility that is warm and welcoming.”
“Phase 3 will be the design and build of the new permanent facility. A few options may be on the table and will go to a members vote later this year.”
Member support you hope you can count on, at Lutterworth it’s been above and beyond. Along with the help they’ve been donated, the loyalty has been heart warming too. Of over 150 new members gained during the pandemic since the spring of 2020, none have left since the fire and the longer term subscribers are no different. Member comps and Opens are full up and the visitors and societies have returned too. None of this could have been achievable if the golf course hadn’t been of the high standard it is in, it seems that adversity has only gone on to re-invigorate that part of the team too.
“The best thing about it all is the golf course, it’s never failed us. It has been consistently in great condition throughout this season and at the end of the day that’s what the people come for, our number one asset. Jon Barr (Head Green keeper) and his team have done wonders throughout the pandemic and now with this – it affected them as well of course but they’ve kept a tremendously high standard, the greens are amazing right now and we’re still hosting county events here.”
“Ultimately, we hope to have a brand new and completely modernised Lutterworth Golf clubhouse emerging from the ashes of May 1st 2021 but the proud history of the club and its golfers will take pride of place on the new walls.”
“We’ve lost all of the honour boards and the club records too, only during the last 10-20 years or so can we keep data, the other 90 years was on pen and paper and much has been lost. At some point we’ll be asking some of the old boys to fill in a few blanks I think!”
The history will be rewritten and the honours boards restored and rightful homage will be paid. The people of LGC, a little bruised and mentally scarred by what they’ve had to witness will continue the fightback to its conclusion in a couple of years and build something very special.
They won’t forget their combined efforts in adversity, and the help they continue to receive from local businesses, tradespeople and the Leicestershire Golf fraternity as a whole.
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