OTLEY Golf Club have been making the most of a troubled last 12 months, with the place in better shape than ever.

Secretary Peter Clarke said members were "absolutely delighted" to get back out on the course again last week, and they will soon get to see the full scale of the club's work.

Clarke enthused: "Everyone's been absolutely, maybe not desperate, but delighted to be back as it's been a long break, though at least it came in winter.

"We're delighted we've been able to welcome people back, in what have been largely great conditions.

"These first couple of weeks are members only but visitors can play the course from next week."

He added: "These enforced closures have allowed us to do all sorts of work on the course.

"Usually we have a working week in late summer, where we don't close the course, but we have to let people know there'll be intense ground work going on.

"It normally takes the course around four or five weeks to recover.

"But with the enforced closures, both last year and in these last few weeks, we've been able to do it then, just trying to use the opportunity that lockdown has inadvertently brought us.

"There's the clubhouse too. We had a major refurbishment of the lounge and dining areas just before the first lockdown, which means we've had a lovely clubhouse for a year that's not really been used.

"We've also taken the opportunity in the last six weeks to redecorate the locker rooms and bars, so it's gleaming for when all that can open in May."

As for what's coming up for the club's top golfers, Clarke added: "May is the beginning of the major golfing season really, running until September.

"There is still stuff in the winter though. We play a lot of team matches in different sections of the club too, and they'll be getting underway in a fortnight or so.

"Internally, there'll be a number of knockout competitions here at Otley for both the ladies and gents.

"Externally, we're part of the Harrogate Union, where every club plays in an inter-club league. That gets underway from the beginning of May.

"It will start off slightly differently initially, as matches are normally teams of 12, with a meal between the two sides afterwards.

"With the restrictions in place, we'll still be playing golf as a 12, but obviously we can't have that nice social event afterwards.

"Hopefully that will change soon. Like everyone, we're just taking things step by step at the moment, and enjoying getting a bit of normality as each stage of lockdown passes, ahead of us being able to fully reopen from May."

And Clarke could not let the return to golf pass without paying tribute to those who make the club so special.

He said: "The club has enjoyed fantastic support from members, despite the fact we've had several months over the last year where we've been closed.

"There was no thought from them of withholding subscriptions or anything like that, and their support has been vital to all of us here."