Editor’s note: The following letter was written by a very knowledgeable, successful General Manager, who is doing some great things at their club, courtesy of a strong passion and positive attitude (and a great staff and board). Their name is being withheld, by request, for obvious reasons.

As someone who works in the Golf Industry, I spend quite a lot of time reading industry-related articles and information from a number of media sources. There is a great deal of information, feedback and opinions published out there from industry associations (Golf Australia, PGA etc) and golf media, golf journalists, professional players, coaches, Club members, social players and others. However, a section of the industry that I believe is mostly sadly under-represented in published feedback and opinions is the one which includes those that spend 100% of their working time focused on making the experience of golf the best that it can be for those that play – this being Golf Club & Golf Course Staff. The size and stature of a Club will determine the breadth of staff which work at a Club, however, a “standard” Club/Course will generally have staff in Management/Administration, Course Maintenance, Pro Shop and Food & Beverage departments.

Whilst reading industry articles, I come across numerous opinions on “What is wrong with the sport and/or game” i.e. declining memberships & participation, slow play, Clubs’ financial woes, time-poor players, declining numbers of juniors and women…and on it goes. I suspect that if Golf Club/Golf Course staff were asked more often for their opinions on what is ailing the game and the industry they would add another major factor being… golfers!

Ok…so maybe not all golfers (or thankfully…not even the majority). Basically, I am referring to those golfers that espouse a certain type of attitude, approach and language about all things golf. Ones that seem to never have a positive or encouraging word to say about the game, their Club and/or Course or anything! I’m sure most staff (and many members) know the types I’m talking about. They can be seen huddled around their normal table each time they play, nodding to each other as they take turns waxing lyrical about all that is wrong with their Club and also the rest of the industry, state, country, world etc. These types generally join Clubs on their own but quickly find, befriend, play and socialise only with those of the same ilk (as people with a more realistic and positive view of the world quietly escape these playing group/s.) Occasionally these types fly together in their small flocks between Clubs every couple of years. Many have been members of a number of Clubs over their lives. Their explanation for numerous moves would be due to each Club vacated “not being good enough” or the quality of the Club/course declining below their “standards”. In reality, the reasons are more likely to be that the members, committee and/or management have had enough of their behaviour and found a way to successfully encourage them to move them on.

Generally, these groups are no larger than four (sensible people don’t want to be near them) but occasionally the flock can extend its negative wingspan across a table of eight (hopefully for the Club’s sake….no more than that). A General Manager colleague of mine calls a particular group at their Club the ToAK (Table of All Knowledge). Those that inhabit these types of tables think their “group view” of the world is the right one and the only one that matters. At my Club, we have two different such small groups (different people who play on different days but interestingly choose to sit at the same dark corner table!). I call it the ToDaG (Table of Doom and Gloom). They use words and phrases like “the greens are pathetic” and “the bunkers are an absolute disgrace”.

When I hear that sort of language, I immediately know that whoever’s mouth it has come out of doesn’t have or ever seek to have a balanced and educated view of what they are talking about. They are mostly just letting out their three-year-old toddler type tantrum behaviours after having a bad round, having two or more in a particular bunker or missing a few short putts. When challenged or asked to explain in detail or describe exactly why everything is “a disgrace” they become tongue-tied or change the subject. These types are Class-A bully (or bully-hanger-on) personalities and those normal people amongst the majority know that bullies on the inside are mostly actually gutless cowards who believe that, to make themselves feel good, they must put down others. Pathetic, really. These types never admit that their golfing woes may have something to do with their poor technique, poor mental approach and/or lack of ability. Their constant state of grey mood is always something or someone else’s fault.

Pro Shop staff have to cop this sort of language a lot. Given their role is to help and assist members and players with their every need to help them play and enjoy the game to their best (with a smile), the constant negativity that flows from these types does have an effect on their enjoyment of the role which most of them love and are extremely dedicated and passionate about. Pro Shop staff have also probably got up at 5am to get to the shop to open up and get clubs, carts, buggies etc ready rain, hail or shine.

The types that inhabit the ToAK/ToDaG tables are the ones who, when they do wish to share their complaints outside their inner circle, do so in sarcastic-tinged verbal barrages (never in writing…..as they cannot back up their arguments or make suggestions for productive solutions) at the General Manager or (even worse) the President/Captain or unsuspecting Board Member as they walk through the bar or just before they are about to hit off for their game!

A couple of articles in the Inside Golf September edition caught my attention and I’m going to reference them to support my argument.

Firstly, Richard Fellner’s editorial and comments in relation to the motivations for the modern golfers to participate in the game as being heavily slanted toward FUN/Enjoyment. I agree 100% and also believe that this extends to the entire Club environment as a whole.

Secondly, John Mossa’s Letter of the Month. I couldn’t agree with John’s comments more. He “hits the nail on the head” in a number of his comments including “I wonder if Australian golfers appreciate what we really have”. The answer is no, unfortunately a lot don’t. Especially those with the negative attitudes and outlook described above. In a reasonably short letter, John uses references to golfer complaints eight times. The attitudes John describes would come as no surprise to golf club staff all over Australia. Most of the complaints I hear, particularly about course conditions, are from those with unrealistic expectations, uneducated views and are basically just frivolous whinging which is mostly more related to their inflated egos and/or lack of skill rather than actual real problems with course conditioning. They are also showing no appreciation or respect for the course staff.

We are privileged in Australia to have a large number of well-educated, passionate, dedicated, hard-working and industrious course maintenance staff (working on much tighter budgets than those in the US and other countries) that produce course conditions each day that should be applauded, not criticised.

For those golfers that sit at the ToAK’s and ToDaG’s of our Golf Clubs (yes…you know who you are) I have a few challenges for you to change your attitude, approach and language next time you play and hopefully forever. Try all of these at least once. Who knows, you may even feel a change around you and your general aura?

  • For general attitude/approach to golf (and maybe life!) adjustment read Bob Rotella’s books “Golf is not a Game of Perfect” and/or “Life is not a Game of Perfect”. Also read Chris Helder’s short but influential and thought-provoking book “Useful Belief”.
  • Next time you see a course maintenance staff member on course at your Club, don’t pass him/her and gruffly remark “the greens are too bumpy” a few days after coring. How about saying “thanks for getting up at 5am and spending all your days preparing the course so that I can come here and play in my leisure-time – I really appreciate all that you do”. Better still, put your name down as a course maintenance volunteer to get a reality check of the work that actually goes on to prepare a golf course each day.
  • When you pass a Management/Admin, Pro Shop or F&B staffer and they smile and ask how your game was, don’t give them a sour-faced response detailing all that is negative in the world, how about smiling back (yes…..this is allowed and even appreciated) and say that, although you may not have played well that day, you enjoyed being outside breathing the fresh air, playing the game and the social contact that golf provides in spades.
  • After your game, as you take your place at your rightful seat at the ToAK/ToDaG etc, after others in the flock have gone through their normal negative rants…chastise them and ask them to each detail 10 positive things about the day (ok…. this is stretching reality but give it a try!)

I will conclude my 10 cents worth by reflecting back again on my observations from the September issue articles. I ask the question…if we are trying to attract new players to the game and new members to Clubs, and those potential members came into a Club and sat at a table next to the ToAK/ToDaG for half an hour, do you think they would still join? Would they think the game is (actually what most of us golfers really believe it is) a fun, enjoyable, social, healthy past-time? The golfers with the permanently negative attitudes and approaches as described above have to realise that they are actually a big part of the current problems with our game in attracting and retaining new players and Club members.

In closing, I’ll just repeat John Mossa’s final sentence as I can’t say it any better…”Maybe if we complain less we might enjoy the game more!”

“The Undercover GM”

 

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