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An update from the CEO - hats off to everyone who navigated 2020

Thursday 17, Dec 2020
Paul Vardy - GMA CEO

Hats off to all the GMA members who have navigated the demands of the job in a year like no other. 

When I come across golf club annual reports, I’m fascinated to read the various details within. It’s a reminder of the complexity of the golf club operation. It’s useful to remind ourselves that while parts of Australian entered the year with low rainfall and a serious access to water issue, huge areas along the east coast including Sydney and Canberra were clouded in months of smoke from the outrageously big bushfires. Sydney was then hit with extreme rain that did lots of damage to courses.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic was extraordinary on a scale never seen in our lifetime. When the pandemic impact hit locally it was natural for caution to set in. The GBAS survey of managers in April found clubs were battening down the hatches and putting capital works on hold. With so much daily and weekly change, it was a constant burden to work out what should and shouldn’t be done to operate the clubs as safely and as prudently as possible. But soon we were hearing of JobKeeper, grants, etc., and it was about maximising opportunities within a limited COVID-19 safe environment.

Fast forward, past Melbourne’s horror drawn-out lock downs, and a few other state blips, and the year is panning out way better than we imagined. Australia avoided the worst of the crisis in cases, hospitalisations and deaths. All the headline economic data turned out to be well short of the worst-case scenarios despite many hospitality venues being badly impacted along with tourism, education, the arts and sports. Household saving rates went through the roof as there were fewer ways to spend it. Golf found its groove as all travel was halted and most things were restricted. Concerns of club member losses were unfounded as members held on for the health and wellbeing, and a new wave of 20-49 year-old players picked up their clubs or purchased new stock. Now it’s all about retaining them.

It’s been one hell of a ride and I’m sure, quite exhausting for managers and staff. Let’s hope we can ride the demand for golf for a long time and turn it towards our advantage. With low interest rates and a strong confidence in golf, it may be a great time to invest in course and club improvements.

It’s always good to thank those around us who held up well when this was very much needed. I sometimes scribble down great lines when I hear something good and this is one from the book of scribbles, un-numbered page 10, paragraph 1.

Mercedes F1 Team Manager, Toto Wolff, “For me there are 1,600 superstars in Mercedes but the strength of the team is in every single individual. I cannot drive the car, I am not able to design an aerodynamic surface, but I try to understand everything around the guy who can and I try to provide a framework for these individuals to perform at their best.”

I’m sure every GM can relate to Toto Wolff. The people around us are vital to our success. Adversity happens regularly in clubs, as it does in F1. A week or so ago, Mercedes blew a race by fitting two of the wrong tyres in a pit stop – eeesh! But as we see all the time, the best teams and clubs have a great capacity to overcome setbacks, review and get on with it. Great teams have support and trust and get better through challenges like this. In settled times, it’s the best time to lay the groundwork for handling setbacks and shocks that will arise.

I’d like to thank Cathy Neagle, GMA Chair, and the GMA board for their support, our operations managers and staff, the state executives and you, our members, for being supportive and doing as much as you can in a tough year of restrictions. We also thank our many corporate partners who are rock solid behind GMA and are looking at enhancing long term relationships with GMA members. With golf days, high quality professional development days, BMIs and mini-conferences, we look forward to seeing you all in person in a more normal 2021.

GMA Journal (Summer 2020)