Secret Secretary: Joining fees and dealing with complaining members

Our anonymous secretary on the state of golf heading into the future, the best time to ask for subs and dealing with members who complain

What is the best time of year to ask for subs?
The best time would have to be April or May. The weather is improving, the Masters is on TV and people might just be considering picking up their clubs again after the winter. Unfortunately, our subs year starts in January, so persuading members to part with £1,000 at that point is a bit trickier.

What is the worst type of club member?
The ones who sit loudly moaning to their friends in the bar but never come and ask why the club does certain things, so I can give them the facts about those so-called ‘problems’.

Does a joining fee have any place in the current climate?
In an ideal world, joining fees are fantastic as they ensure loyalty to the club. Members aren’t going to leave after a year if they have paid a joining fee. In reality, apart from an elite few clubs who have a waiting list, they are now a barrier to membership, and golf needs all the club members it can attract.

What do you think of your club’s dress code?
On the course, we require ‘proper’ golfing attire, which is in my opinion, totally correct. We have different dress codes for different areas of the clubhouse, which still causes issues at times. Personally, I don’t see any issue with jeans etc anywhere in a clubhouse – provided they are smart.

Do you use social media?
We really don’t use social media much at all.

How much should a club be involved with local schools?
Juniors are the future adult members of the club, so having a thriving junior section is definitely important long-term. Going into schools is an excellent way of taking the game to kids.
When was the last time your club had a waiting list?
A long time ago!

What is the strangest request you have ever had from a member?
One of the seniors walked into my office and announced he was having a heart attack (which was unfortunately true) and having to deal with that was certainly a different way to spend a morning!

What part of your job do members not understand?
That I have to make the books balance!

Does golf take too long?
Probably in most cases yes, but players copy the tour pros and so slow rounds happen all too regularly. Speeding slow players up is, extremely difficult to do – as most of the time they don’t believe they are actually slow.

How healthy is the future of club golf?
In general, I think it is pretty healthy. There are probably still a few too many courses in some areas, so it is inevitable that some will eventually go bust. People in general like being part of a club, so providing the clubs don’t get too greedy or make themselves too elitist, a good proportion of golfers will always want to be a club member.

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