Members are the lifeblood of private golf clubs. Even the strongest clubs would wither on the vine without them. But there are a few, just a few, who can bring down the mood of a club.
“Most golf club members – 95 per cent of them – are fantastic,” says David Allen, a recently retired, 33-year veteran of golf management. “The other five per cent take a lot of looking after.”
Allen has helped us cobble together this gentle ribbing of golf club members and the shenanigans some have sparked in the past. If you recognise yourself here, there’s no need to see your therapist: a long, hard look in the locker-room mirror should suffice.
Allen believes members usually fall into one, sometimes more than one, of the following categories.
Wants to volunteer for anything that can help the club. Spends a day on the golf course weeding or cutting back branches (mainly the ones his golf ball has hit in the past). Mans the scoreboard or carpark at club events. Turns up at 7am to help start a competition field. Jumps behind the bar or picks up glasses if he sees some help is needed. Certainly not the worst member in the club.
It doesn’t matter what the issue is, they have a solution for it. Usually can’t back it up with any detail beyond the original thought. Gives the impression he knows the price and psychology of everything. Not ideal to run into in the locker room after you have double-bogeyed the last four holes.
Is infamous for dragging back the speed of play. Eating a sandwich or fussing through his bag when it’s his turn to play. Cleans his club after every shot. Wanders off to feed the birds. Rarely ready to play his shot. One to avoid on the timesheet.
The Slow Payer
(Not to be confused with the Snail) waits until the absolute last moment each year to pay his fees. Knows the system and sees it as a waste of money to pay sooner than absolutely necessary. Has been threatened with being deemed ‘non-financial’ but it never happens because he knows the system.
The Bar Supporter
Knows his place at the bar and you can usually set your watch by when he will be there. Sees it as his way of supporting the club by drinking there almost every day and is usually on one or two warnings for misbehaviour.
Looks to find fault with everything – someone has their shirt out; there is no sand in the sand bins; that guy isn’t carrying a sand bucket; my chips were cold; “Why has he got a bigger piece of steak than me?” Is almost eagle-eyed when looking for fault.
Boasts how much he supports the club, yet buys a cola drink from the bar and goes to his locker to top it up with his own choice of scotch or rum. Knows when there might be some free food available and is willing to take home any unsold pies, sausage rolls sandwiches or newspapers at day’s end. Also usually raids the cheese and biscuits that have been put out as a snack for members, and isn’t beyond asking for a paper bag to take his plentiful supply home.
Walks around the lounge with great bonhomie and loudly orders his food and drink as though money is no object. Then makes a sneaky appointment with the GM to ask if he can stretch the time for payment of his annual fees due to some personal financial hardship issues.
The Budding Committee Member
Is very keen to join club committees because he has some major plans he would like to introduce. Trouble is he is not highly regarded by the bulk of the membership due to some past behavioural issues and is usually doomed to a life of not being elected when he nominates.
The ‘Perfect’ Member
Pays his fees on time every year and nobody knows him because he never attends the club.
The Ideal Member
Friendly, supportive, helpful, compliant, prompt – and, fortunately, 95 per cent of golf club members fall into this category.
Tales Tall And True
‘Club land’ has spawned countless weird and wonderful stories through the years.
Here are a few:
‘New’ committee ‘pooled’ ideas
A club had a group of members who thought they could run the show better than the incumbent committee. So the committee decided that on one Saturday per year, the group could take over the running of the club for the day. All clubhouse staff were told to take the day off. The ‘new’ committee decided there would be a big barbecue, free food and drinks, raffles and bookmakers on the par-3 holes. All money raised would be used to pay the bills for the day and the plan was to have enough left over to buy something for the club.
In the first few years, the annual days were fun and well supported by members. The group would buy items such as seats for the par-3s, new pull buggies and other useful items. Then, one year, the group decided the clubhouse needed a pool table. Come the Saturday morning when the manager arrived, he was greeted by the happy group proudly displaying the new pool table in the middle of the club’s lounge. The manager made a quick phone call to the president to let him know the news. The president instructed the manager to grab all the cues and balls and lock them in his office. By 10am, the president had arrived at the club and by midday, the pool table had been sold to another member and removed.
Holler for a marshal
One club was running a major tournament. The event was so big that a member was volunteered to be chief marshal. His job started early as he was required to be in attendance first to make sure all the volunteer members acting as marshals and score carriers were allocated their jobs, were correctly dressed and that good order was achieved. By about midday each day, his work was done and he could then retire to the members’ lounge for lunch and quite a few afternoon drinks. At the end of the day, he carefully drove home and promptly fell asleep on his couch.
He later woke, looked at his watch, saw it was 6:30 and panicked as he was supposed to be at the club by 6 o’clock to set up for the day. A quick shower, shave and a bowl of cereal later, he jumped into his car and scooted to the club hoping that chaos hadn’t kicked in during his absence.
When he drove in the front gate, security men were in position but he noticed there weren’t many other cars and there certainly weren’t members milling around waiting for his instructions. It was 7:15pm and he was nearly 11 hours early for his shift. Red-faced, he drove sheepishly out of the carpark and back home.
Over the top
Golf clubs are traditionally closed only one day each year, Christmas Day, and possibly also on Good Friday. And ‘closed’ means everything is closed: the course, the clubhouse… everything. Many golf clubs these days have fully fenced boundaries and it is also common for lockable front gates to be shut each night. These are days of respect, peace and goodwill to all men. Yet does it prevent members from trying to play golf? Usually… But at one club a member was spotted at the front gates, throwing his clubs over the top of the fence and climbing over after them to have his much-needed game of golf. A solid suspension of membership followed.
Taking a spell
Members have been suspended for a number of astonishing things over the years. This includes: cheating on the golf course (shoe wedges, ‘magic’ pencils and worse), abusing staff, taking a friend to a reciprocal club and having that friend impersonate another club member, making insulting remarks to members of the committee at an interclub event, consistent drunken behaviour, stealing from locker rooms and constantly hitting balls in the wrong direction on the practice fairway.