Former captain of Banchory Golf Club in Aberdeenshire Fergus Bisset gives an overview of what a committee does at a member-owned club
What Does A Golf Club Committee Do?
The roles and responsibilities of a golf club committee will differ depending on the management structure in place, but an overview is that it’s a group of volunteers elected to represent the interests of members as stakeholders in a club, with an overriding objective of maximising the value of members’ investment by delivering the best possible product, both on the course and within the club.
The committee should comprise representatives from as broad a spectrum of the membership as possible. Its size will vary by club, but it will likely meet in its entirety on a monthly basis.
Within the committee, a structure will exist with convenors and possibly sub-committees responsible for different areas of golf club life.
These will report back to the committee with senior committee members taking overarching responsibility.
A fundamental committee responsibility at a member-owned club, and the one most likely to keep committee members up at night, is ensuring ongoing financial solvency.
A member-owned club won’t aim to turn “Amazonesque” profits, but they must break even and have financial security and flexibility for inevitable capital projects.
Whether done by a finance convenor, sub-committee or club employee with committee oversight – income projections and the setting and checking of budgets and the careful ongoing monitoring of income and expenditure is absolutely crucial.
The figures will dictate membership subscription rates and influence everything from the price of roasted peanuts to employee salaries.
Another core responsibility of the committee is as an employer. The club will have a number of salaried employees on, and off course and the committee will provide a human resource role.
Appraisals, pay rises, bonuses, holidays, medical leave, hiring new staff, disciplinary action when necessary – the committee must be well versed.
Relevant committee members will liaise closely with staff members, or those contracted to work for the club, within bar and catering, administration, clubhouse maintenance, the professional shop and on course, providing guidance and support where necessary.
The principal reason golf clubs exist is for members, guests and visitors to enjoy playing the game. Therefore, a club committee will look to ensure the best possible playing experience for all.
From the perspective of the course itself, there will be a greens committee and/or convenor who will work closely with the course manager and greens team to set objectives, initiate and implement projects, monitor ongoing costs, discuss team development, equipment requirements and so on.
The committee member/s responsible for greens convey member expectations to the greens team in one direction and help to explain on-course maintenance requirements and challenges to the membership in the other.
Communication is a key overall function of the committee, and it must be clear and fluid both up and downstream.
The committee must have a good understanding of the desires and expectations of the membership, offering them multiple channels to express these. This will come through the Annual General Meeting, from member forums, member surveys, or just those on the committee being available and willing to listen to the thoughts of all members.
In the other direction, newsletters and other regular communication methods should be used to keep members fully abreast of current issues and future plans.
In addition, the club committee must focus on the future of the club by promoting junior and family golf. They must deliver a strong playing calendar, together with a mixed social calendar.
The senior committee members must act as ambassadors for the club at wider golfing, as well as club events. The committee must aim to maximise membership retention and to attract new members when needed.
They must also look to strike the right balance between maximising visitor income and meeting members expectation of course availability.
A big problem with golf club committees at member-owned clubs is turnover.
A captain, as I did, might serve two years. A committee member might serve a total of five or six years in various roles. That means it’s challenging for a club to maintain a consistent course.
The Club Secretary or Director of Golf will provide a stabilising influence, but a key objective of the modern golf club committee must be to develop long-term plans and objectives that are well communicated and established and that can be carried on by future committees.
This is a broad overview of what a golf club committee does at a member-owned club. There are myriad specifics that would take an age to cover, from selecting the correct soap dispensers to dealing with unruly members.
Overall though, the golf club committee strives to both manage and meet the expectations of the membership, to make the decisions and implement the processes and projects on course and off that will be for the greatest benefit of the club, both in the short term and into the future.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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