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An update from the CEO - there are reasons to stay positive

Saturday 18, Jul 2020
Paul Vardy (CEO, Golf Management Australia)

Things are good for now in golf, or at the very least they could be a lot worse. 

The impacts of COVID-19 are many and varied but golf has many advantages. The stay at home factor alone is massive for golf clubs. In 2018/19, Australians took 10 million overseas trips spending $65b as reported in the Financial Review. Visitors to Australia spend $45b, leaving $20b swishing around in Australia. Even of the visitor spend, only a tiny fraction would go to golf and that would be largely the very top tier of clubs.

When looking at major events, sports leagues, tourism, universities and the hospitality industry, we’re lucky we have club golf.

Spare a thought for Victoria at the moment. The state government had double bolted and chained the front door but forgot to snib the back door. Now there’s someone lurking about in the back room who wants to come through the house.  

The latest cases (428 Friday, 217 today) suggests more restrictions on ‘exercise’ may be coming – but when? The latest update from Golf Australia (GA) yesterday came following lots of effort to gain clarity with government. The advice of “should” not play competitions was changed to “must”. Whilst it’s not lost on GA that there is no difference at all in terms of safety and that competition fees are a big deal for many clubs, it’s not the normal times. It's also worth noting the DHHS wording that is currently provided about travel - watch this space.

** GA has advised today that single-use golf carts can be used under certain conditions in Victoria. Refer to GA's announcements for more details.

GA is doing everything it can to advocate for golf, but there is huge pressure on government at the moment.

GA's COVID-19 Resource Centre

NSW has new restrictions on clubs announced yesterday, and to take effect on 24th July. Let’s hope it can contain the outbreaks and doesn’t continue along the path of Victoria.

A regular listen to ABC's Coronacast podcast is a fascinating insight into what is still being understood about the highly contagious virus, particularly in terms of aerosol spread throughout rooms. Early on, it was all about the heavy droplets falling, hence the 1.5m distance rules.

Talking podcasts, in the latest edition of the GMA Podcast, released last week, we heard from GM Damon Lonnie, a past GMA President, about what’s happening in golf in Western Australia and in particular at Lake Karrinyup CC. Things are getting back to normal as well as anywhere in the country, but it’s been important to manage the morale of staff and the expectations of members.

Listen to Episode 8 of the GMA Podcast

David Gallichio, GM of Golf Development from GA, reports on news around the country including that GolfLink rounds had been up for the previous week, nationally, from 184,000 the same week a year earlier to almost 256,000 rounds. That’s 39%! This reveals the latent demand for golf. Keep in mind too that many rounds played would have been from new or returning golfers that would not have been recorded by GolfLink. A rising tide certainly lifts all ships and the courses with capacity to take more golfers have been the biggest winners out of the COVID-19 restrictions. The overwhelming majority of these are located in regional areas (1,105 regional v 205 metro) where clubs are typically much smaller.

We also hear from Sonia Kirkman from Transform Golf Shop Specialists.  This is a must listen if you’re thinking of using the boom in golf demand to update your golf shop look and feel. In talking with our corporate partners in the golf retail space, sales in some stocks have gone through the roof. Even more reason why now may be a good time to rethink your club’s golf shop retail. 

Hey, and why not have the staff look great in the process.  Click here for the chance for a GMA member to win $1,500 worth of Under Armour uniforms for their club.

That reminds me, we heard about the process and benefits of upgrading your golf shop from David Burton when he was asked to present at the BMI program in 2018 (and at a GMANSW meeting too). We’re going to miss David, who has done so much for GMA!  David finishes at NSW GC on 8th August.

Despite all the positives for golf, we know that the COVID-19 period has been one where each aspect of the business of the club has been highly scrutinised. Whilst members and some guests are filling out the tee times, club revenue streams can be mixed and varied.

The GM and management team are in a strong place to delve deeply into the finances and have a feel for what levers to pull and what levers not to pull. Mostly, it’s a story of not panicking. But, as we’ve seen, there is often a lot of pressure from within the board to do something as individuals feel the need to get into management decisions.

A typical example is an email sent by one board member CC'd to all on the board, that raises issues with operations, triggering a wildfire of comments and solutions. Managing this situation when the email cat is out of the bag requires some delicate GM strength and skill. It highlights the importance of the relationship between the GM and chairperson (President or Captain) so that the boundaries can be clearly understood. The GM has to be the expert on policy and the various strategies and board agreements already in place. Too often, these can be overlooked as panic sets in.

We’re keen to delve into this topic in greater detail in future as it impacts everyone in club management heavily.

Best wishes to all during these most challenging of times.