IT MIGHT seem like we’ve been ‘on the case’ of golf clubs a lot in recent times. Last year we asked, “Is your Board jeopardising your club’s future?” (June 2016) and earlier this year we drew attention to the affiliation fees contributed by Australia’s club members and how they are used (February 2017).
Both were perfectly valid investigations and the quality of the analysis was first-rate. Instead, I would like to point the finger at other, more day-to-day aspects of club play. As a member of eight different golf clubs in an unbroken run dating back to 1989, I’ve gathered my share of theories and observations.
Here are 10 suggestions to improve club golf:
1. Employ timesheet intervals of no less than eight minutes. And two-tee starts don’t work, because when the morning wave falls behind, the entire afternoon field does likewise by default. Two-tee starts also rob the field of those nice, mid-morning tee-times.
2. Reward frequent players by reducing competition fees if members play a select number of rounds annually. And overall, consider adopting a fee structure that lowers comp fees and raises annual subs slightly, which also rewards frequent play.
3. Stage themed nights, live music, trivia nights and other events regularly. Give members more reasons to want to be at their club, even if it is sans golf bag.
4. On that note, booking in to play should not be one of those reasons. Incredibly, some clubs still require members to be physically present to put their name down for weekend competitions. In 2017, that is positively archaic.
5. Mix up the course set-up for variety. Granted, Slope ratings preclude much movement in tees as the course needs to measure a certain length from the prescribed markers, however there is some leeway. Turn a short par 4 into a driveable one by using the forward-most tees occasionally (side note: I’m in favour of moving away from the term “ladies tees” as far more male golfers should be using them than already do). Make up the lost ground by playing a couple of holes from farther back. The Slope system allows it.
6. If your course rotates pin positions based on a set system, utilise a minimum of six different options. And make sure members playing on the same day each week aren’t seeing the same sequence of hole locations every time they play.
7. In the rangefinder age, why is at least one member of each foursome required to laser the distance to the flag on each par 3 when one person could do it once for the entire field? Arm the greens staff with a rangefinder each morning and have them measure the distance and write it in chalk on the divot-sand box beside the tee markers. (And if your club doesn’t use such boxes, implement them.)
8. Innovate best-ball events. I recently played at a club – I’ll name it because they deserve the pat on the back – Antill Park, south-west of Sydney. Their best-ball (two-ball/four-ball) competitions span all combinations of pairs within a group. So you are ‘alive’ with each of your playing partners in the best-ball event.
9. This one’s for the members themselves: if you ride in a cart, get back in as soon as you can after filling your divot. Carry your club with you and clean it down the fairway while your cart partner hits their shot. The group behind doesn’t need to wait for you to clean and replace your club as well as hit your shot.
10. Another one for members: don’t hate par events. Par is simply matchplay against the golf course. Sure, what would be a four-pointer in Stableford only gains you one in par, but your ‘wipes’ only cost one, too. Which do you card more often, four-pointers or wipes? I thought so…