From our frequent chats with golf club secretaries and managers, here are 10 topics of conversation within the profession at the moment
10 Things Golf Club Secretaries Are Talking About
Golf club secretaries and managers face a challenging role at the best of times, working with committees, boards or owners, and trying to keep hundreds of members and paying customers happy.
COVID has added a whole new dimension to the mix in 2020. As a result, golf club secretaries and managers everywhere have faced a fresh set of challenges to add to the usual ones.
Throw the switchover to the World Handicap System into the equation, and there is much to talk about in golf club management circles right now, as we’ve discovered from our many recent conversations with golf club secretaries…
Possible second lockdown or similar
Rules and regulations are changing on a frequent basis; new tier systems are impacting on many clubs, so managing a route through the second COVID wave is the top talking point right now.
Golf clubs in Wales and Ireland have re-closed for two and six weeks respectively. Will England and Scotland be next? “I’ve become a full-time COVID compliance officer,” one secretary told us. “My workload has tripled with everything you have to keep on top of.”
COVID and winter
Golf came through the initial lockdown and re-opening pretty well. Golf club secretaries are praying that whatever happens with the virus in the coming months, it won’t undo all the good work in terms of new members.
Reduced or non-existent clubhouse facilities
Courses may have been busy, but it’s a different story in clubhouses. They’ve become shadows of their former bustling selves with all the social-distancing measures, one-way systems and restricted capacity.
Some clubhouse services have never really got back up and running, especially if franchised. Others are struggling with viability. The terraces and outside seating areas that have helped save the day so far won’t be practical for much longer as winter looms.
“For many clubs, closing the clubhouse is actually beneficial as it tends to lose money,” one secretary told us anonymously. “But it does impact on staffing and sadly redundancies will happen.”
Getting all the new members on the course
Many clubs have scores of new members – up to 300+ in some extreme cases. This was great news in the summer, helping to fill the financial void of the initial lockdown.
But the big question now is how to get them all on the golf course over winter with fewer daylight hours? It remains to be seen how many of the game’s new members turn out to be hardy, year-round golfers.
Many clubs introduced tee-booking systems for the first time on re-opening out of necessity to conform with guidelines.
Some golf club secretaries told us they were pleased that this had effectively helped to break the power of certain roll-ups, who tended to rule the roost at certain times. Others have told us tee bookings will now be staying most or all of the time.
How to retain all the new members
Golf’s membership boom has created a new opportunity for clubs at a time when membership decline has been a big topic of conversation.
Many clubs have been working hard on ways to make sure they stay beyond the first year. Some have even been able to re-introduce or increase joining fees to effectively ‘buy’ greater loyalty. The great unknown is the full impact COVID will end up having on golfers’ finances and livelihoods.
We all had fun getting to grips with Zoom meetings over the spring and summer. So spare a thought for those clubs who either considered or actually carried out AGMs virtually. They can be demanding enough at the best of times, although at least Zoom has an effective mute button!
World Handicap System (WHS)
With everything that’s happened this year, did secretaries and managers really need the additional headache of the World Handicap System?
The only saving grace is that it has (cleverly?) been introduced at a time when competitive golf is winding down at most clubs. Perhaps all the teething troubles will be ironed out in time for the new golf season?
GDPR issues with WHS
Many golf club secretaries tell us they have been very dissatisfied with their national unions this year. Among the gripes are the GDPR implications of WHS. Some national unions are requesting certain member data that may not be the club’s to give under GDPR.
“It has caused real issues and fractured the golf industry even further, which is an absolute shame considering how good the WHS could and should be,” one manager told us.
Forward planning and budgeting
With so much uncertainty in the air, planning and budgeting accurately is proving almost impossible. Managers are having to project multiple budget scenarios based on all the possibilities regarding COVID, the weather and more.
“Many of us have multiple financial and diary scenarios that we are working through, which change weekly depending on what can and cannot be done,” one manager lamented to us.