What Is It Like Being A Golf Club Captain?

Two former club captains reveal what the prestigious role is really like

The R&A captain's drive in What Is It Like Being A Golf Club Captain?
George Macgregor is the new captain of the Royal & Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews

We speak to two former club captains who reveal what the prestigious role is really like

What Is It Like Being A Golf Club Captain?

Historically, the role of golf club captain has carried significant prestige.

Some members yearn for the honour, sitting on various committees for years hoping their turn will come; others show no desire, perhaps fearing the level of commitment required.

But what is it really like – a role to be savoured, or just one meeting or function after the other?

Related: The tradition behind the captain's drive-in

To find out, we spoke to recent captains at Royal Dornoch in the Highlands, a world-renowned links ranked that celebrated 400 years of golf in 2016, and Hartley Wintney, a friendly members’ club in Hampshire that recently passed the 125-year milestone…

Did you have any desire to be captain?

Jim Seatter: Yes, I think deep down you always think about it. I’ve spent a lot of time on the committee and I was elected vice-captain in 1993, but the oil industry went belly-up and I had to find something else to do. I went down south to work in golf club management and resigned as vice-captain. When I came back in 2007 I went back on the council and thought I might get another chance.

Tony Wise: This is my second stint. I was captain at Southwood, a local municipal course, in 2001, and I pretty much said to myself that I wouldn’t do it again. Not that I didn’t enjoy it, but it was quite intense. So when I got asked I did give it some serious thought.

What was the highlight of your captaincy?

JS: Our 400-year celebrations were in 2016 and we had a major dinner, attended by about 300 members, and also a quadruple-head match between Royal Dornoch, the Country Club of Carolina, the Donald Ross Society and the Athletic Club of Atlanta. We had four dinners on the trot from Wednesday to Saturday with each section hosting one. That was a very busy and enjoyable week.

TW: We had a whole week of celebrations to mark the club’s 125th anniversary, with a number of competitions across all sections and a big party in the clubhouse at the end of the week. That was a big highlight, as was my captain’s day. But the biggest thing for me was the massive support from the members, which suddenly comes out of nowhere.

What were the main challenges?

JS: With a members’ club you’re always going to have highs and lows and you have to manage them the best you can. One of the biggest problems I had was members complaining about lack of tee times, too many visitors etc. But when you look into it, you find that every member wants to play at nine o’clock!

TW: Working full-time while trying to juggle the captaincy was a challenge. I was fortunate because work gave me an extra week’s holiday as I’d been at the company for 25 years. When I took the role, I met up with the current captain and took my wife along and asked her to fire away if she had any questions, because I had to make sure she was on board.

Was it what you expected?

JS: It was. I expected it to be very busy and intense at times because you’ve got meetings here, there and everywhere. I knew there was going to be a lot of travelling and a lot of things to be done, but you accept that’s what you’re signing up for!

TW: It was probably more time-consuming than I imagined, but that didn’t detract from the role. I’m really pleased I did it. It’s a gem of a club.

What was your biggest achievement?

JS: Not losing my temper at an AGM! No, it was probably just moving things forward with the driving range and clubhouse projects. All you can do as a captain is keep the club moving forward rather than stagnating.

Did your golf suffer?

JS: My handicap stayed the same. Actually, I think I started at 5 and finished at 4. But I must admit, there are times when you’re playing a match and find yourself thinking, “I’ve got a speech to make tonight,” and you start to think about what you’re going to say.

TW: I started at 8 and finished on 9, but to be honest, 8 was the lowest I’d ever been. I was playing three or four times a week rather than once or twice, so there was a lot of golf. People had said my golf would take a nosedive but I don’t think mine did.

Did the members treat you the same?

JS: Yes. We’re a fairly grounded club and we don’t stand on ceremony. You get, “Good morning, Mr Captain,” which is nice, but my friends treated me the same.

TW: They did. I’ve got a lot of good friends at the club, but it was amazing how many people showed support. That’s Hartley Wintney – it’s a very friendly club.

Original article printed in 2018

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