Secret Secretary: Equality for all, cheating and social media

Our anonymous secretary reveals what he really thinks about the state of the game in Britain...

What do you make of the current VAT system and are proprietary clubs at an unfair disadvantage? 

Of course the proprietary clubs are disadvantaged – the current system has been openly abused by member clubs for decades. While it may have been the done thing 40 years ago for a member to pay for guests at their own club, the majority of green fees are now paid by the guests themselves, yet they are not subjected to VAT. 

What impact has the equality act had on your club?

Pretty much none, we treat all members the same. The ladies and seniors pay the same fees and can tee off at any time. Why should it be any other way? 

What is the worst type of club member?

I don’t have a worst type of club member. If they are members then it is my job to make sure that they are happy and enjoying their membership so that they want to renew and stay with us. There are, of course, members who ‘know it all’ but this is just one of the many challenges that a club manager faces!

Have you encountered cheating at your club?

I once reported a player for cheating on a major business golf day as I saw him improving his lie several times. I made the player aware that I was reporting him and we finished the round in stony silence. I refused to sign the card and told the organisers.

Does a dress code have any place in the current climate?

Yes it does. The standard of dress code can vary from club to club, but you have to be clear what is acceptable.

What do you and your members think of your club’s dress code?

Our dress code is nicely balanced. We do not allow jeans, T-shirts and football shirts on the course, but we do allow jeans and trainers to be worn in the clubhouse. The only thing we ask is that if shoes have been worn on the course they are not worn in the clubhouse. 

How much interest do you get through social media and does your club use it well?

We use email newsletters, Facebook and a humorous blog on the website. We constantly monitor our website statistics to judge how effective a given newsletter or piece of social media marketing has been.

Flexible memberships can be a workable alternative but it is not a ‘be all and end all’ solution. How much should a golf club be involved with local schools?

Local schools can be a great source of new juniors, but it is a two-way process. You have to have a proactive school teaching staff who want to get involved as well as interest from the club, and that is not always as simple as it may seem.

What percentage of your members do you think get value for money from their fee?

They all do. We fully understand that members will vote with their feet. There is stacks of competition locally, which simply serves to inspire us to ensure that we are continuously at our best. 

Do you do anything different to attract new women members?

No. The deal is the same, but most importantly so is the opportunity. We have a lot of husband and wife members at the golf club, perhaps because the ladies tend to be more reserved and would prefer to join as a pair. 

Can you see a time when most clubs will have a flexible membership?

Flexible memberships can be a workable alternative but it is not a ‘be all and end all’ solution.  Twenty years ago, there were virtually no two-for-one schemes, yet now we have a situation where people are leaving clubs to play all their golf on such schemes. In the long run, this will result in clubs losing money. Flexible memberships can and will be used in the same way – eventually to the detriment of the clubs themselves.

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