Many receive advice, only the wise profit from it

    The challenges facing golf clubs are constantly evolving and all successful clubs will evolve with them, argues Eddie Bullock.

    In my dealings with golf clubs I am actually seeing some positive signs. A good number of the more modest clubs understand that if they wish to grow then they need to ensure that those employed to lead the business are empowered to adapt to the modern methods of club life. These clubs that are making positive inroads and are addressing the challenges are delivering plans that will enable their respected clubs to benefit in the future.

    It is refreshing to observe the nature in which many of these new career-minded managers are embracing the shift of change that is currently affecting many club businesses. Those that are committed seem to share a desire and attitude, which is totally focusing on a more service- orientated delivery. This encouraging trend taking place within a number of golf clubs is gently seeing the days of the stereotypical image of the golf club secretary turning a positive corner, with a thrust of male and females who recognise the appeal in developing their long term careers towards ‘Professional Business Club Management’.

    Eddie-BullockThis has been accelerated during the last decade by a structured educational pathway. Recently a positive collaboration between three main professional bodies, The Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA), British & International Golf Greenkeepers Association (BIGGA) and the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) has seen a positive response of candidates for their initial courses. This, along with Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE), will influence the future development of the golf club management profession.

    Where do I see the main challenges for clubs in 2017? The job market is definitely changing at a rapid pace and the challenges for golf club business leaders and main club boards is to deliver plans that will enable them to benefit for their long-term futures. To achieve this, two key areas are in need of improvement.

    Firstly, ensuring the workforce has the right education and skills is vital. Past evidence has seen a lack of serious investment into developing the overall employees at many Golf Clubs. Historically I have observed occasions where education and training have been highlighted within the annual budgets under ‘miscellaneous’! The future skills required for golf club businesses are changing, with an increasing need for digital know-how, creativity, leadership and complex problem solving. There will definitely be an increasing need to keep pace with these competencies that are required to run the ongoing demands and operations of a successful Golf Club. Individuals must be equipped to adapt and learn additional skills that can be applied as their occupations shift and evolve.

    Employers and employees must think in terms of continuous education, keeping pace with ever changing technology and moving away from the idea of education ending after college. Therefore, if Golf Clubs are to prosper, the need to seriously invest into their staff is essential: there is a need to recognise the skills shortage that will impose serious constraints on their ability to grow. It is wise to remember the famous quote: ‘The man or woman who graduates today and stops learning tomorrow is uneducated the day after.’

    To make an impact that matters I personally feel Golf Clubs need to embrace a deeper understanding of emerging technologies and find a way to bring the ideas of younger generations into the Clubs boards and committees. I question whether Club Boards/Committees in their current form are really fit for purpose in what is a rapidly changing business and technology environment. Progressive clubs recognised that the Victorian committee structure that many clubs adopted over the years is generally no longer as productive or as effective within the current club lifestyle. With a more professional business outlook it has been a necessity for clubs to streamline their board and committees structure.

    Visiting many Golf Clubs I identify that many still have fixed conclusions and attitudes when it comes to their rules and regulations whereby they are not often re-examined or changed, even though there is plenty of good evidence that they are moving downhill with any growth patterns. So as we move forward does the solution for many clubs lie in bringing smart and ambitious 25 year olds into the boardrooms to inspire more innovative thinking? An issue is that they may not have the required competencies to articulate their plans or fully understand the vision and objectives of the business and clearly communicate to the members and board. However, other options should be considered such as a shadow board. Regardless, what is crystal clear is that diversity of knowledge is critical for success.

    Eddie Bullock speaks and consults on Leadership Development, Strategic Planning, Customer Service Strategy and Team Development, using proven, innovative and customs designed techniques. He is widely recognised as an authority on the emerging trends within the global golf club industry.