Back to list

An update from the CEO

Friday 17, Apr 2020
Paul Vardy (CEO, Golf Management Australia)

Hands up who’s enjoying the Coronavirus?  Me neither, but we must get through it as best we can.

These are strange days indeed.  A satellite view of the nation’s golf courses would see a very different scene to normal. 

In most states, you'd see golfers marching two by two like they're queueing up to get on to Noah's Ark. As there's no great flood expected, perhaps a sausage factory is a better analogy. Golf in two-balls is pretty quick, around 2.5 hours, then back to the car.

In Tasmania, you'd see at most clubs a neat bunch of 18 pairs of golfers somehow spread across one pairing per hole - whether it be a par three, four or five. In South Australia, you'd see mostly twos, but some fours because fours are allowed.

In Victoria and the Northern Territory, you'd see no golfers at all. You may see a small crew of the most efficient ground staff that ever worked, free from normal interruptions of course preparation. It's hardly ideal given April is a great time to play and many clubs are asking their members for the next full year of subscriptions. This is putting undue pressure on managers who are feeling the frustration of members.

Listening to the Victorian Sports Minister, Martin Pakula, on the radio on Wednesday was interesting. Golf was mentioned in the same sentence along with boating, camping and fishing, twice! Golfers could argue there is a reason golf doesn't appear in the boating, camping and fishing jingle for the BCF chain. But the point was made; the government does not want people getting in cars to go to their golf destinations, potentially spreading the virus. Despite Golf Australia's constant contact with the Department of Premier and other government departments, the lifting of the ban is unlikely to be considered before 11th May - the date of the extension of Victoria's state of emergency.

Around the country, many clubs have availed themselves of the chance to serve members with take-home meals. As one GM said, it may not be making us money, but we're selling out each and every day because it's good quality, it's cheap and, oh, they have a house levy to use up! If anything, it's keeping the members engaged and the kitchen crew engaged.


GMA dodged a bullet by holding our biennial national conference in late 2019. It would be hard to plan a conference with any certainty in October this year.

It's amazing to think how much has changed. A few short months ago, we heard from Sarina Bratton AM, with her background in luxury cruise ships and expeditions. She, and we, had no idea what was around the corner for cruise ships. Imagine being the owner of a US$1billion+ cruise ship business now. 

We also heard from Swisse founder, Radek Sali, who made a mint selling his company, Swisse, to the Chinese. But in 2016, he invested heavily through Made Establishment, into his friend George Calombaris’ restaurant empire. Radek probably didn't know it at the time, but the years of the restaurants underpaying staff prior to his investment, were going to lead to a nose-dive in public opinion about Calombaris' restaurants. The business empire was beset by the 'Calomvirus' even before the Coronavirus. Made Establishment went into administration in February.

We get to see highly successful people present to us at conferences and it's been said that everything that is worthwhile is uphill. We're typically seeing them as the finished product, but their story will always say their success was built on the story of genuine struggle, learning from mistakes, teamwork and perseverance that leads to breakthroughs.

No doubt Radek Sali and Sarina Bratton will bounce back strongly.

So that's the message we should try and not forget - it's just the way life is.

Overseas perspective

Getting up at 5am to join a Zoom meeting with 35 Chautauquan riders and club managers from around the world was always going to be interesting. For a start, no one even mentioned Donald Trump and they were mostly Americans on the call.

Coming out of their winter closures, many northern hemisphere club GMs are wondering whether they will be open for summer at all. Facilitated by Gregg Patterson, not surprisingly, the discussion went to the personal touch of the clubs. Some thought the clubs would become more important than ever to get back to as members miss the great relationships within the clubs. Some thought that members may remain scarred by the threat of spreading disease and so become more distant in their club interactions. They all felt they had an important role to play to restart their clubs and rekindle the community feel. In many ways, we can all appreciate how good clubs truly are.

One interesting element was the impact on staff being furloughed. For some reason, I always think of horses when I hear furloughed, but in the UK it means stood down on 80% pay, government subsidised to a certain point.

One English GM, furloughed along with every other staff member, was in the dumps. As the committee took over the running of the club, he wasn't allowed to attend the club, even though he lived on the club's site.  He worried about his place in the club when he returned and the impact it would have on the balance between committee and staff. Will the committee remain hands-on and operational beyond the reopening?

It reminds us of the impact of our jobs and why we go to work. Peter Jackson, in last year’s GMA professional development roadshow sessions, suggested we really don't go to work for the money. We go for the recognition, the colleagues, personal satisfaction, skills and friendships. So, it may be a reminder to all who have had to stand down staff or reorganise shifts, to check in with staff as some may be grappling with the loss of the very work things that make them happy, that’s not the money.

One thought on this too is the taking over of roles. Some clubs, out of necessity, have stood down staff whilst others cover their jobs. It should not be underestimated the impact this may have on the staff off-site. Regular contact and reassurance of their importance to the club and your team may be required if this is the case.

Did you know that whilst GMA members can access the Member Assistance Program for a whole range of issues, a GM can also refer a staff member who needs assistance for up to three free sessions as well. This may be more relevant than ever.

Find out more on GMA's Member Assistance Program

GMA staying in Tune with Job Keeper Updates

Recent government updates on JobKeeper have made things clearer but there are still a lot of unknowns. Accountants are none the wiser on some of the aspects of the subsidies and that makes the job of managing people at clubs a challenge.

There is a lot of information out there.

We will keep the GMA website updated with news as it comes in. Visit the Human Resources section of the GMA Resource Library for important links such as to the ATO and Fair Work websites and selected webinar recordings.

Go to the GMA HR Resource Library

Safety from Coronavirus

You can find a range of resources on the Environmental Health & Safety section of the Resource Library on the GMA site. Work is underway on new resources such as a return to work checklist plan.

GMA Members Forum

Thanks to the members who are contributing to the GMA Member Forum and posting documents as well.  If there are any suggestions to add to the discussions, I am always happy to kick things off.

Visit the GMA Member Forum

Golf Australia's message to clubs - 16th April 2020

Clubs in Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory will have received a message from Golf Australia late yesterday about five initiatives to support clubs.

Read the Golf Australia message here

This includes an Immediate Assistance Program for Legal, IR, Financial, Business & Strategic Planning & Agronomy Support.

Golf Australia's Grant Writing Assistance Program remains available to all clubs across Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Northern Territory.

Messages will go out soon from Golf NSW and Golf WA on similar support measures.

ASTMA message

I talk with the CEOs of the various golfing bodies regularly. One message out of the Australian Sports Turf Managers Association is around expectations. As many ground staff crews have been reduced and budgets for chemicals and fertilisers reduced, there needs to be a level of acceptance that normal standards of course preparation are not to be expected at this time. It helps if GMs can support this message to members regularly.

Visit the ASTMA website

Hostplus Message

As our major corporate partner in Superannuation, please see the message from Hostplus CEO, David Elia.

View the Hostplus CEO message

Female Leadership

GMA will do our part for Vision 2025 to encourage more women and girls into golf.  This means getting more women into club roles and senior club roles as employees and boards and to encourage female staff to learn golf. 

GMA will promote opportunities for females to enter leadership programs where possible. In the pilot program, two Victorian females were selected by GMV for the BMI GM/CEO program, hopefully to be rescheduled later in the year.

News arrived yesterday that there are now scholarships of $1,000 to $5,000 currently available to women working in the sports sector to help support their participation in a range of online career building leadership development programs. The initiative is providing junior managers through to senior executive women with scholarships to support their growth and development via participation in one of three flagship courses. Participants will benefit from course content such as Elements of a Successful Team, Team Dynamics, Purpose Priorities and Professional Development, Empowering Teams and Evolving Strategic Change.    

Click here to find out more and register your interest by completing the Expression of Interest form prior to Friday, 15th May 2020.