The global goodwill for Brora GC came from various figures across the golf community during this challenging year of COVID-19. The generosity of one, in particular, was notable. Gavyn Davies, owner of The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links on the Isle of Islay, was one of the individuals to take out Platinum Membership and help Brora return to a position of financial safety.
Davies, who enjoys living ‘two lives’ amid the hustle and bustle of south-west London to the amazing wilderness of Islay, was delighted to offer his assistance, among 130 new members that Brora have welcomed to the club in 2020.
We caught up with Gavyn for an exclusive Q&A to learn of his passion for our links…
Gavyn, thank you for your support this year. What brought you to invest in Brora and become a Platinum Member?
GD: “Love and respect for Brora. I’ve travelled all over Scotland playing links golf. I’m a mid-handicapper. I’m enormously obsessed with Scottish links, so I’ve played almost every one of them. Brora is hugely special and different I think from many other Scottish links. It’s got a sort of atmosphere and a magic to it.
“I think it’s a very fine golf course, as well. It’s got everything that one of the original Scottish links should have and I was really alarmed when the virus hit. I could see that many golf clubs reliant on international visitors were going to have a really tough time getting through the financial hit – I knew that very well from owning The Machrie. Then I saw Brora’s campaign…”
Does Brora have similar qualities to The Machrie?
GD: “I’ve played Brora, periodically. It’s not my home course, but a course I class as one of my favourites in Great Britain and Ireland. I thought ‘I love Brora, I think it’s super special and it sort of reminds me in a way of The Machrie’. It’s remote, it’s a natural links, they were both founded in 1891. I know Brora was 9 holes in 1891. I was pleased to be able to help and had always wanted to have an associational membership, so it all came together this year.”
Did Brora’s PR and social media campaign play a part in your decision to invest, with various membership categories?
GD: “I think it was an extremely well done campaign. It made people enthused about contributing to the future of Brora, which was fantastic. It’s an incredible number of new members, 130, this year.
“I was unclear how much financial problem the club had. I just wanted to help make a dent in the financial requirement and also get the ball rolling. I know from many experiences of raising money that the sooner you start getting money in the more will follow. I just thought it was a helpful thing to do.”
Golf has had to work hard this year to survive the pandemic. How positive is Brora’s story?
GD: “It’s one of the positives of 2020 and I’m relieved for all of the members of Brora, who must have been severely concerned. I know from The Machrie how much our members rely on access to our golf course, because we’re the only one on the island. I know there are lots of courses around Brora, but I’m sure the Brora membership would have been devastated, actually. It’s a big thing to go out of your life if you lose your golf club.”
And at The Machrie, what challenges have you had? How tough a year has it been, given you are also a remote venue?
GD: “We’ve been okay in terms of golf club members who have continued to pay dues and we’ve extended the horizon so that they haven’t been penalised when the course was closed. But, of course, while golf was completely banned for a sustained period, we had no revenue at all, either on the golf course or in the hotel.
“We were really helped enormously by the furlough scheme which picked up a lot of the staff costs. We had about 70 people employed at that stage. That kept us with our heads above water. We had a very good August, September, October, a lot of play on the course, very active competitions, so it was like back to normal. The course is still open, but, of course, the hotel isn’t functioning now, with no one able to visit from the main cities of Scotland. We’ve got through, but we don’t want another year like this one.”
The Machrie, re-designed by DJ Russell, has enjoyed rave reviews. How excited are you for the future?
GD: “Unlike Brora, we have actually redesigned significant parts of The Machrie. We’ve had extremely strong reviews from doing that and people are loving it. I think the word of mouth should be very strong going forward. I’m really looking forward to the next few years. It’s pretty much matured already, actually.”