How are golf club members responding to membership renewals during this chaotic Covid-19 situation? How are you responding? Here’s a very insightful opinion piece from Ian Cottle, GM of Burleigh Golf Club on this very topic:

The last six to eight weeks has seen incredible change both here in Australia, and around the globe, with an almost unified effort to combat Covid-19 with its alarming infection and death rates. In Australia we have been blessed with some of the lowest infection rates thanks to quick, decisive, but arguably uncomfortable actions taken to alter the usual behaviours of society.

In golf, we have also experienced significant change, with some clubs closing after receiving a questionable “recommendation” to close, only to reopen 48 hours later after clarifying the actual “requirements” of their State Government and Health Department. Unfortunately, not all clubs are open for golf, for the enjoyment of their members, and this varies state by state across Australia.

When reading the heading of this article, many of you would have imagined the historical footage of JFK giving his landmark 1961 inaugural address, with Kennedy’s characteristic voice and distinctive pauses through the speech. In sub-zero temperatures, Kennedy removed his overcoat and appeared youthful and energetic, as he implored his nation to “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country”.

Likewise golf, and many other aspects of our community, require their members or participants to not ask what’s in it for them during this time of Covid-19 restrictions, but rather ask, how can they help or what can they do differently to ensure all community organisations come through this period relatively unscathed.

The next most important period for golf clubs, tennis clubs and the like, will be membership renewals, and for a great many clubs their membership year ends on 30 June, with the six weeks of renewals leading into 30 June being vital.

Yes, I understand that a great many individuals and businesses are feeling financial pressure at the moment and support of your local club may not be your top priority, or even in the top 5, but it is important to ask ourselves what we consider important in our community. If for you this your golf club, with the course, cameraderie and friendship it provides; where you hope to watch your kids or grandkids play in the future, or spend your hard-earned retirement years,  then now is the time for you to ask what you can do for your golf club.

Rather than asking what discount or rebate you can get on your fees because of the interruptions to your usual golf activity, how about asking if your club has a Working Bee that you can assist with, or if the staff restrictions mean that the Pro Shop staff could use a little assistance each morning or evening.

If your golf club offers a monthly payment plan for your membership subscriptions, withholding your payment now simply places the financial burden on the members who pay their fees at the start of the year. Not very Australian.

Another wonderful phrase from JFK’s inauguration speech was “…civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate”. Perhaps your personal finances mean that you will not be able to maintain your existing level of membership for the next membership year. If so, now is a time to ask what membership options are open to you in preparation for the financial year ahead.

On the subject of civility, if you have a different opinion about whether or not your course should be operating, remember that “Opinions are like noses. Everyone’s got one, but they usually have a couple of holes in them”. Simply let other members enjoy their golf, even if you choose not to, and keep your opinion to yourself. Your opinion (nose) may be in need of a little plastic surgery.

Over my years in golf clubs I have written many Annual Reports and, imagine as I might, I am sure they do not make regular evening reading for club members. That said, most members will appreciate that the net profit derived by the Bar Department of your golf club will not be doing so at present, so it is not producing cash to operate this year, nor reserve funds for projects in coming years. Similarly, for the Catering and Functions Departments. Those courses that are still operating will be receiving match income and net profit from this area, though it will be reduced substantially. All of this makes your subscription income vital to the ongoing financial performance of your club.

What else can you do for your club? Well, many strange and wonderful changes have been implemented over the last few weeks. For those of us who are lucky enough to be still playing golf, we have pool noodles in the cup, one person to a golf cart, playing in groups of two, no alcohol on the course, and a reduction in daily tee times of about one third. Some members are finding it very difficult to book a game of golf.

Please ensure you follow the rules of your club as if your very permission to play golf depends on it. Don’t be the golfer who thinks they know better (or can at least convince his golfing group that they do). Don’t be one who thinks they won’t be seen breaking the rules, or has been a member for 30 years so it doesn’t apply to them. The stereotypes of these members are so cliché as to be comical. Your club takes professional advice from Government and industry bodies and the changes have not been bought in on a whim. Please do your best to keep the game and your club going.

With Saturday golf times at a premium, if you are a midweek player who is also able to play on Saturday and you have already played a round or two each week, please choose of your own accord to make a Saturday tee time available to your fellow members who are not able to play on weekdays and have not been able to secure a booking on Saturday.

The front of the Rules of Golf used to state “Play the ball as it lies, play the course as you find it, and if you cannot do either, do what is fair. But to do what is fair, you need to know the Rules of Golf.”  Please ensure you do what is fair and in the best interest of our ability to continue playing golf, and the financial interest of your local golf club.

Thank you for reading what really is just another opinion, and to those of you still teeing it up, remember as The Shark said “happiness is a long walk with a putter”.

Ian Cottle

General Manager

Burleigh Golf Club

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