Golf Monthly regulars Jeremy Ellwood and Fergus Bisset debate whether or not the Golf Club Committee still has a place in the running of a modern-day golf club.

Is The Golf Club Committee An Outdated Institution?

Yes
says Jeremy Ellwood

I always worry when I turn up at a golf club to find almost as many car parking spaces reserved for various committee folk as there are available for members and visitors.

Don’t get me wrong – I’ve never served on a committee and appreciate that they’re often made up of well intentioned members who are very successful business people.

Yet from tales I hear, collectively, committees often fail to add up to the apparent sum of the parts and can even be counterproductive.

I meet a lot of secretaries and managers through my work, and while some tell me that they have good committees who are switched on and excellent to work with, many more lament feeling hamstrung and powerless, with committees man-marking or marginalising them to the extent that they are unable to do their job and manage the club effectively without undue interference.

Long gone are the days of golf clubs boasting a steady stream of too many people queuing up at the door, so what golf clubs don’t need right now is the worst of what committees bring to the table – short-termism, personal agendas, strong personalities and, dare I say, egos.

What they do need is excellent business management and leadership if they are to navigate their way successfully through golf’s maelstrom of oversupply, just as any business would at times when competition is at its fiercest.

To me, that means out with ever-changing committees where the newly elected are often looking to make their mark, and in with strong and experienced managers, five-year plans, longer-term decision-making and strong marketing policies that squeeze every possible last drop out of the free or low-cost marketing available via social media, while also spending appropriately on well-researched and well-targeted campaigns.

Is The Golf Club Committee An Outdated Institution?

No
says Fergus Bisset

There’s no question that in today’s highly competitive leisure market, golf clubs need to be more business-like to survive and thrive.

Good businesses have strong and effective management teams that are proactive and dynamic, able to adapt to changing circumstances.

Golf clubs require this, whether it’s through an individual director of golf / club manager or spread across a number or roles – secretary, professional, course manager for example.

But good businesses also have a board of directors to approve strategy and budgets and consider proposals from management with the best interests of owners or shareholders in mind.

This is the role the modern golf club committee should play – Its function should be to empower the management to ensure the club is run with the best interests of the members in mind.

Ideally the club committee will be comprised of individuals of both sexes, across the age range, representing as broad a spectrum of the membership as possible.

They should debate issues surrounding the club and make decisions to drive the club forward.

At any golf club, there will be a tremendous range of skills within the membership and it would be counter-intuitive not to make use of this.

Any good golf club manager will seek out the knowledge and experience of members with an understanding in different sectors, be it legal, financial, promotional or other.

The best way to tap in to this wealth of experience is through a committee.

If a committee functions correctly, it has an important role to play.

It will give the club management the authority and confidence to run the club positively and robustly, knowing they have the support of the membership.

The committee should question and challenge if appropriate but predominantly should provide support and guidance to allow staff to run the club in the most effective way possible.