THE pandemic certainly changed the golfing environment in New South Wales.
And while it has confined most golfers in Sydney to playing in their own local government area, it actually has had some benefits, of a different kind, for some clubs.
Take Bayview Golf Club on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, for instance, and their general manager Sandra Calabretta.
A keen golfer for more than 20 years and a member at Bayview for about 11 of those years, Calabretta had spent many years in the international hospitality industry and in more recent years found she was travelling and away a lot.
While that may not have helped her golf, the onset of COVID enabled her to re-assess her desire to travel and focus more on family and work.
“I guess it was the old adage of a work/life balance,” she said.
“During my many years in hotels I had also operated resort hotels with golf courses, so when Bayview was looking for a general manager, I thought this was the opportunity to apply my skills in the field of the golf industry.”
With some major changes to the course in the past couple of years, Bayview, which owns all its land and resources and is unencumbered financially, is on track to eventually become a fully-private club.
That, in part, is because the course has improved a lot, thanks to the course works by champion golfer/course designer Craig Parry.
Calabretta says members are loving their new-look course.
“In the last few years our president at the time, Marten Touw, became the driver of our focus being directed towards ‘course first’ and this has led to very positive changes on and improvements to the layout,” she said.
“Visitors are pleasantly surprised with the changes, which are exceeding their expectations and reports are they are enjoying the course.
“We have also seen many social players increasing their number of games and also pursuing membership of the club.”
Calabretta said Bayview had now streamlined many of their membership categories so that it was clearer and more tailored to the needs of the business and their golfing demographic.
“Our membership has grown substantially in recent years and continues to grow, moving towards optimum numbers in each membership category,” she said.
“Our emphasis is on constantly improving the look and playing conditions of the course and keeping a smooth flow of players around the course in an acceptable time.
“The clubhouse is being refurbished to provide the best-possible service and environment for our members and visitors.
“I also believe in succession planning, so I will be, over this time, also looking at plans for my successor to seamlessly maintain our aims and objectives.”
Calabretta is rightly proud of one of the Northern Beaches busier clubs.
“We have a spectacular setting with a modern clubhouse,” she says.
“We are the only club on the Northern Beaches that has an under-cover carpark, in addition to other ample parking.
“And we also have our in-house training centre Trackman room, which has been set up for members’ practice and for our pro to use and give lessons.”
So, what is it about Bayview that attracted Calabretta in the first place and keeps her heading back there every day to keep the good vibe going?
“I have a great team working for me together with the generosity and sincerity of the members themselves,” she said.
“We have a great camaraderie here and a friendly, approachable culture within the club.
“This extends across all grades and ages and we have always treated men and women members with equality of opportunity.
“I have had many examples of members who have, over the years, moved to other clubs for various reasons and now return as they miss our friendly culture and environment.”
Bayview has been one of the luckier clubs during the pandemic as 90 per cent of their membership resides within their LGA and they have enjoyed full fields of members in groups of two every day of the week.
“Our social player time slots have been very limited during this time,” she said.
“While we have made approaches to other clubs about reciprocal playing arrangements, it is very difficult as we are all suffering from Government-imposed COVID restrictions.
“Yet we have still managed to share some tee spots with Roseville Golf Club during this time.”
While lockdown has been a challenge for every club, Calabretta says Bayview has been able to enjoy a high standard of take-away meals for its members – and offered a coffee cart and nibbles to the members during that time as well.
“It has not been a huge challenge,” she said.
“Naturally, we would love to have the clubhouse back up and open as soon as possible.
“This not only allows us to run the operation positively again, but it is important to our members for their social interactions.”