What about the rest of we mere golfing mortals, how strong is the game at our level?
There are some major problems affecting golf clubs at this time. Numbers playing the game have been falling slightly over the past few years but of most concern has been the drop off of club memberships and many clubs are currently struggling to stay afloat. In Auckland, Manukau has probably saved themselves by selling their current site and moving to a new area, not too far away. This move, if managed properly, should ensure their security as a club for many years. However, a number of other clubs have significant financial problems which may require either mergers or a solution like Manukau has found.
This problem has not happened overnight and has many causes, one of which is the one thing that we golfers have been proud of that we have more golf courses per head of capita than any other country. In short, we have, and have had for at least the last 10 years, too many golf courses. Mergers need to happen in some areas and if a clubs situation is so bad, it should be allowed to fail. Another obvious problem in the larger clubs has been the change from the committee structure to the board structure with the CEO, Director of Golf, and other administrative staff. Clubs used to pay a nominal amount to the Professional to do starting and other duties and I know of one Auckland club’s board who decided that the pro must be making too much money so took the starting duties off him, and the nominal amount they were paying him and then found they had to employ 3 people at about 10 times the cost to do the job that he was doing. This happened nearly 20 years ago and that club is one of the ones who have major problems today.
I can remember back to the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s when clubs had larger memberships, no computers to do all the work and they were run very efficiently with the Secretary Manager, maybe an assistant, and the golf pro. The cost of these employing these people was a significantly smaller percentage of the clubs outgoings that it is today, let alone the increase greens staff that clubs now have. How come, one of Auckland’s top clubs, in this era employed a Head Greenkeeper, 3 assistants and the occasional part-timer when now they have a full time staff of 8.
It has been a vicious circle where costs have blown out, subs have increased, membership has dwindled, subs have increased again to counter this, membership has dwindled further but very little attempt has been made to reduce costs. Some clubs are becoming more imaginative in their approach to this problem and are actually doing very well.
What of the future? This game will be with us long after Keeping Stock and I have gone to the great golf course in the sky. It has been around for at least 600 years and is too great to fail. It is the only game of a lifetime and it is also the only game that reflects life.
We can really relate to what Teletext is saying here. When we learned to play the game back in the early 1970's it was an era where golf club memberships were high in number. If you wanted a game on the weekend, you put your name up on the starting sheet a week ahead. These days, one can wander onto many course around the country on a Saturday or Sunday and be teeing off within half an hour. That was unheard of in those days.
Golf clubs are, of course, not unique in having these problems. As a society we are busier, and we are generally less committed to joining clubs and organisations. Golf clubs face some major challenges in retaining their existing memberships and attracting new members, and they have to be open to innovative styles of membership to counteract this.
Like Teletext, we love the great game of golf, and we concur with his assessment that it is "the only game of a lifetime and it is also the only game that reflects life". Long may Teletext and ourselves keep on teeing off!