10 Things Golf Club Secretaries Are Talking About

From our frequent chats with golf club secretaries and managers, here are 10 topics of conversation within the profession at the moment

Golf Club Secretaries

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.

Golf Club Secretaries

Coronavirus has impacted heavily on the golf club secretary's workload

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 Club Secretaries

COVID and lockdowns continue to make it a very challenging year for golf club secretaries (Credit: Getty Images)

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.

Golf Club Secretaries

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.

Golf Club Secretaries

Golf clubhouses have been far from their usual bustling selves this year (Credit: Kevin Murray)

“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.

Golf Club Secretaries

Finding space on the course for all golf's new members will be a challenge this winter (Credit: Getty Images)

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.

Tee-booking systems

Many clubs introduced tee-booking systems for the first time on re-opening out of necessity to conform with guidelines.

Golf Club Secretaries

Regulations and pressure on tee-times have prompted many clubs to introduce tee booking systems (Credit: Getty Images)

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.

Virtual AGMs

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!

Golf Club Secretaries

AGMs by Zoom have been a challenge for some this year (Credit: Getty Images)

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?

Golf Club Secretaries

2020's latest challenge is the arrival of the new 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.

Jeremy Ellwood
Contributing Editor

Jeremy Ellwood has worked in the golf industry since 1993 and for Golf Monthly since 2002 when he started out as equipment editor. He is now a freelance journalist writing mainly for Golf Monthly. He is an expert on the Rules of Golf having qualified through an R&A course to become a golf referee. He is a senior panelist for Golf Monthly's Top 100 UK & Ireland Course Rankings and has played all of the Top 100 plus 91 of the Next 100, making him well-qualified when it comes to assessing and comparing our premier golf courses. He has now played 1,000 golf courses worldwide in 35 countries, from the humblest of nine-holers in the Scottish Highlands to the very grandest of international golf resorts. He reached the 1,000 mark on his 60th birthday in October 2023 on Vale do Lobo's Ocean course. Put him on a links course anywhere and he will be blissfully content.

Jezz can be contacted via Twitter - @JezzEllwoodGolf

Jeremy is currently playing...

Driver: Ping G425 LST 10.5˚ (draw setting), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 55 S shaft

3 wood: Ping G425 Max 15˚ (set to flat +1), Mitsubishi Tensei AV Orange 65 S shaft

Hybrid: Ping G425 17˚, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange 80 S shaft

Irons 3-PW: Ping i525, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Wedges: Ping Glide 4.0 50˚ and 54˚, 12˚ bounce, True Temper Dynamic Gold 105 R300 shafts

Putter: Ping Fetch 2021 model, 33in shaft (set flat 2)

Ball: Varies but mostly now TaylorMade Tour Response