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An update from the CEO - 2021, Kaboom, off with a bang!

Friday 19, Feb 2021
Paul Vardy - CEO, Golf Management Australia

2021 - Kaboom - off with a bang

2021 has started of, for many, the way 2020 ended – with a kaboom. The demand for golf continues unabated except for forced lockdowns of course. Competition rounds nationally were up 20.5% in December and 32.7% in January compared to the previous years.

Competition rounds in 2020 nationally were up by 3.1%. This is nothing to sneeze at considering April was down almost 47% and Victoria masked and PPE’d the overall numbers by enduring two extended lockdowns. If Victoria was removed and quarantined from national numbers, competition rounds grew 8.8%.

The number of players recording handicapped rounds increased by 4.4%. Perhaps due to the latent demand for golf lying idle, the rise in competition players came from males. There were 345,741 people out there putting in scores for handicap and probably plenty of others who would like to.

Beyond these numbers is the strain of non-competition rounds which spread rapidly too. This was more your health and wellbeing type rounds in 2020 which could have risen significantly faster than competition rounds. These days, all clubs should be recording these rounds with a degree of accuracy. It’s the missing piece of the puzzle in the full picture of golf played and it would be useful if the collective golf industry can find a way to capture this from clubs and facilities in order to share back to the industry.

Thanks to Matt Chesterman at Golf Australia for the regular competition rounds updates.

A big question approaching clubs now concerns how we’ll manage the demand for tee times when the days get shorter and the turf growth slows down.

Quite a few big announcements

In recent months, we’ve seen many managers leave their jobs and start new roles in and outside of club management. In almost all cases, it has been to get a better work and life balance and in some cases, it has been to remove themselves from the unrelenting demands of the role or some individuals hell bent on micromanaging. Whatever reason, we wish these GMA members the very best and we hope they find the balance they need. We also hope to see them back in the GMA fold at some stage in the future.

It’s probably unfair not to mention all the changes in this EDM paragraph – we’ll attempt to cover all moves in the upcoming Autumn edition of the GMA Journal. But a couple of big ones are Paul Hinton moving on from Royal Queensland and Warwick Hill-Rennie deciding to return back to Royal Auckland after five years with Royal Melbourne to be closer to family – and what a big five years it was. Best wishes chaps. We’ll attempt to mention all the GMA members starting in new clubs in our Journal next month, of which there are quite a few.

Talking of the Journal, if you’d like to contribute something, or have a suggestion for something to appear, feel free to drop me a line, or even better, 1000 words! We expect to publish in late mid-late March.

GMA Journal

High demand and COVID shortages

It’s fascinating to see the flow on impacts of COVID-19 on supply chains across industries. There’s even been a run on used cars as people choose to drive rather than use public transport and people don’t want to wait for the delays in new model arrivals. Your old rust bucket just had a Benjamin Button year.

Many clubs report a shortage of tee times and available memberships to offer. Could you have imagined this a year ago? Stocks of golf carts and components and golf equipment are in short supply. Procrastinating on making a decision to upgrade a fleet or many other forms of purchases may come with an unexpected surprise – you’re going to have to wait.

The one area that may have most impact on GMA members is the shortage of qualified staff in hospitality and on the ground staff. We hear stories of job advertisements where few, if any, people apply for certain roles.

There's a shortage of overseas VISA holders in the hospitality industry and more locally, there’s a feeling that there’s been a shift in the amount of work that many people want to do. Whether it’s the cushion of JobKeeper or a rethink on working regular hours, the desire to earn money has abated for some staff. One employer said to me recently, when JobKeeper is removed, employers will have long memories.

Responding to this problem may lie in either improving work culture and conditions, or by simply paying more. Whilst there’s lots of studies suggesting the first of these two approaches is likely to be more successful than the other, when it comes to qualified greenkeepers on low award rates, some cold hard cash may be required.

I agree with John Stamp when he suggests that course staff in general are paid less than they are worth to the club. Some suggest the industry needs to be more proactive before the market mechanisms of demand and supply kicks into a higher gear and there’s a gaping hole in vacancies and it’s much harder to fill it. If you contributed to the 2019 GMA Salary Survey, you would have been issued with a report on the pay rates.  It’s a good basis to ponder the staffing conundrum.

GMA News in general

All GMA states have recently signed an extension to the GMA Service Agreements for six months.  This will take the timings into alignment with the financial year and sets a terrific platform for the next service agreement and what GMA and State Executives see as most important for the next two years.

Underpinning GMA’s program of professional development and golf events are our amazing corporate partners. We’re rolling out announcements as agreements are renewed and new ones established.  Schweppes, via Asahi Lifestyle Beverages is our major partner and we were delighted to announce the new agreement to our members and stakeholders recently. If you took in the wisdom of the December podcast on lifestyle beverage sales from the golf shop, you hopefully would have seen significant growth in sales over the summer. It’s not too late to spend 20 minutes tuning in and setting up some drinks promotions.

GMA Podcast

In the meantime, more announcements will come soon. As we like to remind members, please see fit to engage with our partners who are experts in their fields and who can provide mutual benefits in better understanding products, services and their opportunities.

GMA Industry News

GMA Program of Events

Each state has a range of events to lock into calendars in 2021. Allocating time to attend these events allows a chance to rub shoulders with people who are in the same boat – ie. trying to understand what the hell is going on in these strange times! Whilst we’d have liked to have a national consistency with professional development events, we recognise that national roadshows are to be avoided – with all our trigger happy Premiers and their border closures. With a roll out of the vaccine, let’s hope Premiers can get on with what they do best, …… (chose your own end to this line).

GMA Calendar of Events

BMI Program in 2021

The BMI page on the website is updated when there is news.

It remains our intention to run BMI Club Management (repeat of 2018 event) in May. Ideally we’d have everyone joined in one room without the threat of trigger happy Premiers shutting borders or requiring isolation. So, best guess at this stage is that we’ll run the successful hub method whereby we stay in our states. We’ll aim to share some dates soon.

In the second half of the year, we’ll run BMI Food & Beverage Management, and this will definitely be on location, face to face, 3D and nothing cyber or virtual about it. Food (Bidfood) and wine (DeBortoli) will be consumed and kitchens toured. It should be great fun and great learning.

State Mini Conferences

Keep in touch with your State Operations Managers and State Executives for details on your mini-conferences this year. We’ll avoid clashes with BMIs and hope to have fantastic mini-injections of learning and enthusiasm for club management with some great speakers and networking.

CMAA Conference – 8th to 12th March

GMA will not have a party of conference people flying to America this year but the CMAA World Conference is still going ahead – virtual. The conference costs are far less and the time and cost allocated to travel is, of course, gone. The obvious barrier is timezone, but when looking at the format, its actually not too bad. One could rise at 4:00am (AEDT) and go through to 10:00am or miss the first sessions, tune in at 6:00am and do a four hour block. If you’re in WA, a 1am start may be testing the eye lids.

GMA members get the Allied Association Members rate US$750 which is the same as a CMAA member.

CMAA registrations

If ever you wondered whether the US Chautauqua riders are a well balanced crew, the answer may be revealed in the fact a bunch of them (Gregg Patterson included) are flying to Florida to do a ride, even though the conference is virtual. These people crave "the buzz" like no-one else.

Vision 2025 & Grants

GMA continues to support the principles of Vision 2025 where the industry is encouraging more women and girls into golf in all aspects from learning the game to working in the industry or sitting on boards.

A number of funding opportunities and grants are currently available. For more information, click on the following:

Club Culture Killers

One of the important tasks of a golf club President or Captain is to lead the board in such a way that board work can get done. Part of this important work is to foster a culture of trust and progress in the club. Club culture is a delicate thing. Most people are not cut out for leading a club and its many stakeholders, and many people in leadership roles are completely out of their depth.

In recent months, there have been repeated examples in clubs where an individual or two on the board have been able to destroy a club’s board workings. This has ended the GM's tenure and damaged the club’s culture. 

There’s a familiar tale of the individual seizing powers that the board itself had never delegated to them, bullied the GM and staff into submission and then watched as several board members resigned in protest as the GM goes out the door. Vacant board spots are filled with allies on the assumption that the club can reset and get back to normal and that applicants far and wide will want to apply for the GM job.

The fact they killed the culture only occurs to them when they find the club’s members express their displeasure with the club’s leaders whether it be through an election or less formal means.

It's why clubs should select carefully those it sees fit to sit on the club board and who is capable to rise to the top as Chair. At best, we tend to put an emphasis on skills that people bring to the board that make them ideal candidates but, far more important than technical skills, is the ability to work with other people and to have an element of “clubbiness” about them rather than representing their own smaller tribe and their predetermined agenda of change.

From a GM's point of view, it’s not an easy situation to manage. 

1) The GM has to get their own knowledge of governance up to speed so that they can engage in the governance processes on a firm footing with the knowledge of best practice or at least good practice;

2) the GM has to somehow bridge the gap between what is witnessed first-hand versus what is good practice and be able to guide improvement; and

3) the GM has to be careful not to bruise too many powerful egos in the process – not fight every fight – as one former GM put it, to “tip toe through the tulips”. 

This is no easy feat when in the boiler room and trying to get some clear headspace to work it all out. It's easier done from afar. 

For this reason, talking it through with an independent mentor (possibly a fellow GMA member) is worth a try. It’s also why GMs should make the most of a good Chair to work together to embed good practices so they can continue into the future and be more difficult to dismantle.

One quick area of awareness is on the role that policy can have in clarifying the roles and accountabilities of all. John Carver said it best when he said that too often the CEO is judged against a criteria that the board itself has never set. Typically, it’s an individual with no concept of governance, let alone culture, that determines that things are not up to scratch – according to his criteria. Good governance would suggest what an individual thinks is irrelevant and what a board has actually set in policy is the only thing relevant – but try telling that to the individual.

Perhaps a topic for another day.