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An update from the CEO

Saturday 23, May 2020
Paul Vardy - GMA Chief Executive Officer

As COVID-19 State and Territory restrictions are easing, GMA members have been busy adjusting operations and communicating the changes.

The comment has been recently made that just because an announcement allows a club to do something doesn’t mean it necessarily should do it just yet and this is very true. We may want to ramp up operations as soon as possible but some changes will not be feasible to implement straight away for financial or safety reasons. GMs know they can't rush things as they need to get the systems right.

Members are not like the general public. They know each other and given half a chance will naturally reacquaint themselves with friends and may gather in groups beyond the current limit. If you can’t do it safely, don’t do it at all.

If there is confusion about latest advice when it comes to serving alcohol on-course, with take-away or in the outhouses or in the clubhouse, it’s safest to check your particular licence with your state’s liquor licence commission and even chat with your local police.

Golf club managers are demonstrating their capacity to manage their activities safely. There have been very few bad news stories from golf. When a Senior Compliance Officer of the Queensland Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation paid a visit to Wantima CC, GM Marcus Sullivan showed just how prepared he was. It prompted a response to come back.

“As discussed at time of inspection, I was extremely impressed at the controls Club management have implemented …. I was interested in what you had to say about the social importance of golf to many of your members mental well-being. It enforces the importance of the controls you have implemented.”

If ever there is a time to make a good first impression, this is it. Nice one Marcus.

If you’d like the full letter and some photos, click here

So, recognising the scale of adjustments faced over the past few months, hats of you GMA members for your outstanding efforts. All over the country, I find our members are great people doing great work under added pressure. I thank you for your contact, questions, stories and advice. GMA has a strong element of fraternity and may that always continue.    

Further to the theme of appreciation, it’s National Volunteer Week this week until Sunday.  It may be a chance to say to your club’s volunteers, a big thank you! I’d like to thank the GMA Board and Chair, Cathy Neagle, for the volunteer work done! These people give up their time to sit on the national board and their state executives.  Thanks to all on the state executives who are working and advising their GMA operations managers and keeping the GMA flame very much alive in each state from GMA members.

GMA Podcast

We all know wars trigger innovation and COVID-19 is a kind of war. Innovation in clubs is happening at a steady rate and we’ve heard about much of it in the GMA podcasts.

If you haven’t yet downloaded the MiClub app, please do so. The latest episode is also available on the GMA website.

Listen to the GMA Podcast

In episode seven, Chris Little from MiClub joins Rod Morri to tell us about the MiScore App, which also manages pace of play, Jeff Blunden talks about the findings on the recent GBAS COVID-19 impact survey and a discussion is held with Gavin Lawrence from Keperra Country GC about what this may all mean. Gavin talks about re-engaging with non-member players who haven’t had access for a while.  What will working from home mean for more people finding time for golf?  Will a Zoom Room, or many Zoom Rooms be a feature of clubs?

We hear from Jason Drew from SECOM Technologies, GMA’s IT services partner, about new affordable products that allow for monitoring of indoor space ratios and temperature monitoring of patrons.  As restrictions ease, we need to give confidence to people to return to clubs and to hold events.

Jason also talks about the COVIDSafe app and its benefit to all. When you consider the impact of an outbreak at your club or a more general second wave of infection over winter, I think the app is a very valuable business tool. For clubs opening up to visitors, I’d be interested to hear if anyone is making the app mandatory in order that a visitor plays golf or enters the clubhouse. As Club Car’s Kevin Gates recently suggested, nobody wants to be known as Coronavirus Country Club.

Our Elite partner Club Car as you know are experts in all things golf carts and maximising this amazing revenue stream. Currently conditions allow only one person per cart, but a plastic fitted sheet is in development which separates the driver and passenger. Approving an exemption on the social distancing rule will need some lobbying work with government but it can be very safe. Give Joel Monahan at InGolf & Utility a call, or email if you’d like to express interest in getting some fitted plastic sheets. They safely fit all cart makes, not just Club Car. They would pay for themselves after a few rides, particularly if a club has not been charging normal cart hire rates with the current restrictions.

On our next podcast, we’ll hear new perspectives from GMs plus look at pro shop redesign in two parts. Some GMs have used this time to bring forward works and doing up your golf shop may be one of the rare opportunities. Sonia Kirkman from Transform Golf Shop Specialists will talk about retailing strategies for your club’s golf shop in the next episode, and Ross Haron in a following episode about  the steps that follow, being design, planning and implementation of minor golf shop fit-out works or complete redesign and fit-out.

Too busy to listen to all the podcasts? Don’t forget, you can place the discussion on a 1.25 or even 1.5 speed (beyond this, it’s just chipmunks) to fit with your available time.


Three webinars have been produced by GA in collaboration with GMA:

  1. Course Maintenance
  2. Cash Flow Strategies for survival; and
  3. Marketing for membership renewal using digital platforms.

Upcoming webinars and past recordings

I’m looking forward to next week’s webinar on Thursday 28 May at 2.30 AEST with Dr David Shilbury on the topic of “Understanding the importance of trust in golf club leadership and good governance.” 

If you’ve ever scanned the pages of the Journal of Sport Management, you will soon realise that David Shilbury, along with Lesley Ferkins, has written more papers on sport governance than anyone on the planet. He also knows golf clubs and boards. GMA members can join in and may consider inviting board members to join in too. There will be Q&A at the end.

Trust, transparency, open and honest relationships between the GM and the chairperson were issues raised by managers in the GMA National Conference workshop session last year at the MCG. I should know, I cleared the butchers paper!  These issues and others were touched on by Peggy O’Neal AO in her presentation on the Richmond Football Club. It was quite brilliant last week to see Peggy O’Neal interviewed on the Barrie-Cassidy's One-Plus-One show which covered leadership and governance very well. Are the learnings transferrable to golf clubs – YES! Would this episode make for a good induction video for new board members – YES.

Physical and Mental Health

Most managers have supportive boards through this difficult period. No one needs reminding that governance gone bad can have a big impact on your health and wellbeing. If you know of any managers doing it tough at the moment, give them a call. I know of a few who’s chairperson has tried to take over and make decisions that are way out of their delegation from the board and out of their capabilities and experience. If things aren’t looking great on the tenure stakes, it won’t hurt to have a chat with GMA’s Honorary Solicitor too.

Acacia Connection is a free service for GMA members and covers a whole range of services. A video from the WA Professional Development Session earlier this year, brought to GMA by Bidfood, can now be viewed on the GMA website. The full range of services available to you, your family and your staff are located here.

National Professional Development Program   GMA Member Assistance Program

Resource Library

There are some very handy “Stand Up Talk” resources on the resource library with compliments of E-Par.  These are efficient tools to help training and record keeping.

Also added this week was a COVID-19 Workplaces Pack for Employers in the Hospitality Industry that you may like to look at as you re-engage your operations.

GMA Resource Library

MyGolf Relaunch

GA and the PGA have announced this week that MyGolf programs can recommence, effective immediately, except in Queensland (for the moment). This may be golf’s rare window to get the jump on other sports in the junior space.

Not surprisingly, coming out of the shut-downs, the MyGolf site is looking quiet at present with only a small percentage of facilities showing their programs. Clubs will need to activate their programs in order to appear on the site to the general public.

Naturally, programs must be run within specific State and Territory health guidelines. MyGolf coaching guidelines have been developed to comply.

A digital marketing campaign in support of programs started this week, so jump on board and register a program at

Golf promotion and being ready

As mentioned in my last EDM, via the AGIC, an industry promotion of golf is being developed.

It will target lapsed, casual and new golfers in a multi-channel campaign that promotes the diverse benefits of golf, encourages people to try it for the first time and/or re-engage with it via one of its many forms with a tag line “Get out and play”. More updates will be provided when known.

Now may be the time to step outside of the business and see your club form the customers perspective. Are you geared up to handle enquiries from people who may have been quietly courting your club for a while and who may have come across an industry promotion or your own marketing?

Is it time to do some inhouse testing and training of how your golf shop answers the phone or how your administration team handle membership enquiries? If the rules don’t allow the person enquiring to join, how do the staff deliver this news and provide positive alternatives to get involved without giving the impression the club is exclusive and elitist?

Many of us will remember Martin Grunstein, in his past presentations to GMA. He sent the wind up golf clubs for some of the ways they handle enquiries. His key point is that whatever you do, you have to protect the other person’s ego. Never belittle a customer or they will try and get you back ten-fold. The reverse can be true where news of great customer service can be spread freely around.

GMA Events

From a GMA position, we’d like to be able to start running some golf events as soon as September in some states. This may come down to venue availability and member availability to attend.  But things are certainly looking better than they were a few weeks ago. GMA members in their respective states will be informed of activities when they can be confirmed.  We would have finished BMI GM/CEO this week had it not been for COVID-19.  We’ll very much look forward to coordinating with Jason Koenigsfeld about coming out if possible and announcing new dates later in the year.

GMA Insights Survey

In June, you will receive a survey from GMA which will allow us to find out more about you and the skills you have that may be able to contribute to our associations collective knowledge.  In the industry we work in we just happen to have access to an amazing richness of members who are experts in various fields who may also be asked to speak at events and expand our knowledge.  Richard Commerford is a good example. I suspect at some stage we’ve all worked closely with someone on our boards or got to know members who are quite exceptional people.  We may have people who are the role model Presidents, Captains and board members who can educate us and our boards. When the survey arrives, please give it your time.

Due to COVID-19, I acknowledge there seems to have been quite a few surveys around lately from all manner of organisations.  With surveys, general questions from club members and questions buzzing around in our own heads it reminds me of Toy Story's Forky Asks a Question.  That’s life in a fast changing world.

And to finish - a clean beacon of hope

Just about every day, for the past couple of weeks, I have received emails from people who sell sanitisers and dispensers asking if  our members, may be in need of some supplies. I gather you may have access to supplies, but if you need any of this product, I’m not bragging when I say it, get in touch because I am currently well very connected.

In these unusual times, I have paused to think of the Statue of Liberty. The well known message goes… “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore” to which I would add…………... and I will direct you to people who supply hand sanitisers.

Best wishes and well done for the work you are doing in your clubs.