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As a body The Association of Golf Club Secretaries was founded in 1933 but during the 2nd World war there is little knowledge of its activities nationally that would be relevant to this summary. During the (10 or so) years following the cessation of hostilities when golf continued to be the leisure activity of the “upper echelon” of society “Regions” were devolved where members of the Association could convene socially with fewer restrictions on travel and time.
In those relatively early days many Golf Clubs were managed/run by volunteers and the “Hon Sec” whilst being recognised as an important Officer of the Club was nevertheless elected on an annual basis from the membership. The “Professional Club Manager” (or whatever title pertains today) would have been far from being even a twinkle in many Clubs’ eyes.
In 1955 Regions were formed in the North East, Midlands, South West, London and Home Counties and Scotland. Regional Meetings were held on a semi business/social golfing basis by 1956. The following extract from the A.G.C.S. journal “Golf Course and Club House” of June 1956 has relevance to the North West:-
“It is regrettable that we cannot find anyone to organise a North Western Section (Lancashire, Cheshire, Cumberland and Westmorland). Considering the number of Clubs we should have a good representation. If any member on reading this feels like tackling the job will he please get in touch with me. I will give him all the help I can.”
There was no interest in the North West to form a regional body. For some time the Society of Liverpool Golf Captains had been in existence and as a consequence of that august body’s meetings there was a need for contact to be made between the Secretaries of the Clubs and thus on 14th December 1965 at Wallasey Golf Club the inaugural meeting of the Merseyside and District Conference of Secretaries was held. A further meeting at Formby Golf Club took place on 3rd May 1966:- “ to exchange ideas and information on the running of Golf Clubs in the area”
Represented were Secretaries from Royal Liverpool, West Lancashire, Wallasey, Prenton, Caldy, Childwall, Eaton, Hillside, Southport & Ainsdale, Bromborough, Woolton, Formby, Royal Birkdale and Leasowe. The “business meeting” ran from 10.30 a.m. to 1.00 p.m. and was followed by lunch.
Early topics covered Secretaries duties and hours of work, Salaries, Office Staff, Clubhouse catering – which was regarded as a service to members and provided the balance sheet showed an overall profit in the year there was little concern if there was an inestimable loss on catering – also the lack of support from members for luncheons. All present were in favour of closing the dining room one day a week. Prices varied but 8/6d to 11/6d for a 3 course lunch and a table charge for visitors was not uncommon. – Bar Stocktaking, Locker room thefts, Greenstaff, Green Fees some variances for guests of members, Subscriptions and Entry Fees and Professionals and their retainers.
During a meeting in the Winter of 1966/7 the size of the “Merseyside and District” area was discussed and whilst it was felt that all local Secretaries should be encouraged to attend extending the boundaries was thought likely to make meetings unwieldy. Other matters included the Association tie being of a better quality and orders given to staff by Captains and Chairmen of committees which by-passed the Secretary served to undermine his position and were to be deprecated but in the majority of Clubs all orders to staff were given by the Secretary who so became the Manager even if not designated as such.
At this time the Journal reported that certain Secretaries at some well-known Clubs in the South of England had started organising annual conferences led by “Pop” Rees of Burhill. These had an agenda and – “serious discussions round a long table in one of the Clubs concerned” – would begin at 10.00 a.m. and end at lunchtime.
Significantly this example was followed by the Merseyside District but went one better in being held quarterly.
By the Spring of 1967 the Journal used to publish the “Object of the Association” in each issue. The Object was considered to be very sound but it was – “generally agreed that this object was not being carried out by the H.Q. of the Association or by the various sections all of which appeared to be no more than golfing societies”....
“the only properly recorded meetings which were in pursuance of the objects of the A.G.C.S. were those at Burhill and Merseyside but the former were held infrequently”.
Thereafter quarterly meetings as far as possible on a Tuesday were held in the area and on 5 June 1973 at a meeting at Heswall Golf Club the title was changed to:- The A.G.C.S. North West Region. The first Secretary under its new name was Jim Fawcett. He served for many years and retired due to failing health and passing away in 1995. At that meeting – “it was hoped that one member will volunteer to take over as Hon. Editor to collect and prepare material for inclusion in the Journal”.
The first formal A.G.M. of the “new” region was held at Caldy Golf Club on 19 February 1976. At that time a subscription of £1 per annum was levied “to defray administration costs”.
28 Clubs were represented on the mailing list. In 1981 the annual subscription was increased to £3. 60 Clubs were then represented.
Matches against the Midlands Region commenced in 1976 at Trentham and against the North East (which later became the Yorkshire Region) the following year at Moortown. These events were supplemented in 1993 by an annual match against the Society of Liverpool Golf Captains (1991 year – and friends) and like the other long-standing fixtures no one can ever quite remember the full details of these events but always recall having thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Unfortunately and not without regret the matches against the 1991 S.L.G.C. have discontinued due to their dwindling numbers but matches are now arranged against the current year of Captains. There have been 9 Regional Secretaries since the Region was formed
A. G. Roriston 1968-1971,
J. Fawcett 1971-77,
P. Finch 1977-78,
J. Walls 1978-88,
P. Ray 1988-99
J. Parkinson 1999-2009
H. Williams 2009 to 2017
N. Annandale 2017 to 2022 and
H. Wiiliams 2022 to 2023
P Housley 2023 to Present
During the 1980’s the number of members increased steadily and the influx of the North Wales Clubs considerably added to the compliment. Meetings took place quarterly at first and then more often. Presentations by suppliers and several site/factory visits were arranged for the many interested Secretaries. Meetings took the form of a business discussion followed by lunch and afternoon golf. An annual “Invitation Day” at which Club Captains remain the usual guests continues to bring the Association as a body to the “Leaders” of the Clubs and thereby enhances the profile of the Association.
From a hard core of regular attendees each successive meeting saw the scope of the membership widened. Meetings were held in all parts of the Region radiating outwards from the Merseyside area. A major innovation was the Regional Annual Survey which provided comparative information amongst member Clubs. This has been found very useful over the years especially to newer Secretaries and continues to be of great help. Dave Morris took this over from Jim Walls and compiled the surveys for many years and more recently Vic Wood has continued the work.
When the survey started it only related to Professionals’ retainers (1972 - £500/£750), Head Greenkeepers wages (1966 average £16 p.w. some with accommodation, 1974 average £35 p.w. etc), Secretaries’ salaries (1965 £800 - £1230, 1971 recommended salaries £1800 p.a. or £1400 p.a. + accommodation) and cost of a measure of spirits (1975 Whisky 20p, Gin 19p).
So informative had this proved that around 2001 the National Committee introduced a National Survey along the lines of that current (since 1978) format of the North West Region. Despite the increasing membership numbers there had been a reluctance to take on the role of Captain of the Region and there was a period when several Captains held Office for 2 years. Nowadays a Vice Captain is elected each year. The Regional Captain holds Office over approximately 10 events during his term. As a mark of respect for Former Captains a Past Captains badge was introduced in 1999 and in keeping with other regions the Regional Captain now wears a badge of office during his year.
Competitive golf has been well supported over the years and 3 trophies are now played for during the season viz:- The Captain’s, The Invitation Day (played for since the inaugural event on 19 October 1979 at Grange Park and held by the winning Secretary and Guest) and The
Niblick Trophy. The latter was provided by but remains the property of the Hesketh Golf Club where George Mitchell was Secretary during his Chairmanship of the Region in 1974-6 and is loaned to the Region for the day each year when it is played for.
Business meetings continued to have very interesting topics discussed which were always relevant to the issues of the day arising at most Clubs. Secretaries have gleaned valuable information from meeting their peers/colleagues which has served them well and the regularity of meetings ensured that little was overlooked.
Everyone continues to have the opportunity to have items included on the agenda of meetings. From reading the reports of other Regions in the Journal it becomes increasingly apparent that the North West was a very business-like association of like fellows. On the basis of “what goes round comes around” many subjects have been aired several times over the passing years and even the early meetings of the Merseyside District had items under
discussion which remain pertinent today. Nevertheless the regularity of meetings has given the opportunity to air and reach conclusions on subjects which are followed up later by other Regions and to some extent the North West became something of a “market leader” although this was never the intended to be an aim.
The size of the Region has been discussed several times. It is important to note that those members with the furthest travelling distance from the far reaches of the Region have been the most regular attendees and whenever the matter has been raised for discussion there has been no willingness by them to want to divide the Region into smaller parts.
During the 1990’s membership of the Region further increased in number with meetings every 6 weeks or so throughout the year in addition to the 3 matches against golfing adversaries – Midlands, Yorkshire and the Society of Liverpool Captains. New Secretaries were welcomed into the Region and quickly integrated into Regional activities. There was an average attendance in access of 50 at each event and whilst bowing to popular demand and suggestion the style and type of competitions/social golf always created interest. Nowadays those wishing to play are randomly drawn both as partners and starting time in advance of the day and subject only to any previously stated requirements such as infirmity or travelling arrangements.
Reports appearing in the Journal during the 90’s whilst written in what some termed a “breezy chatty style” nevertheless covered all the business discussed at meetings and many Association members outside the Region indicated that - “having read the report it feels as though I was at the meeting”. They were circulated to all members of the Region and there was a regular “news sheet” issued with any mid-meeting topical items for members information.
Since the Millennium many stalwarts of the Region have retired or moved away and a newer breed of in many cases younger Secretary cum business/marketing manager has taken their place. This has continued with the changing needs of Clubs which themselves have altered their management direction. The effect this has had on Association activities has been a lowering of the attendance at meetings. Some newer secretaries find due to work pressures they are unable to attend meetings accept on those occasions where a specific current important topic is on the agenda for discussion. Retired members continue to play an active part in the Region’s affairs and their pool of combined experience is always there for reference.
Secretaries who are still finding their feet in the world of golf club management are able to avail themselves of it whenever they attend meetings.
The North West remains the largest region in geographic terms covering Cheshire, Lancashire, Cumbria and the Isle of Man. It also has the highest per capita percentage membership of secretaries of Clubs within its boundaries. It holds more business and golf meetings than any other Region and has maintained the highest attendance at Regional meetings for many years. Although recently (2010) the North Wales area was made part of the Wales Region as a whole we are still pleased to hold some of our events in North Wales and welcome many of our colleagues from the Principality who are good supporters of our meetings and have chosen to remain as North West members.
Over time the North West introduced Regional shirts, ties, sweaters and the A.G.C.S. blazer badge. It developed the lapel badge which has since been adopted nationally. These items although relatively minor in themselves have served to accentuate the A.G.C.S. as a body.
It has had an input to discussions taking place nationally on such varied subjects as handicapping, V.A.T. on members’ subscriptions, corporation tax on green fees, membership rules of the Association, rent reviews, rate demands, C.A.S.C. relief, the millennium bug, licensing hours, disability discrimination legislation, Ladies voting rights and child protection to mention just a few.
There are regular presentations to meetings from experts in their own fields which have had significance to topical issues.
The Region has every right to feel proud of its achievements on behalf of the Association of Golf Club Secretaries and to the maintenance and improvement of that body’s image in the world of golf. Member Secretaries have been hosts to major Amateur and Professional Golf
Tournaments and Championships not least of which is the Open Championship held on the 3 “Royal” courses in the region Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Liverpool and Royal Birkdale.
The involvement and assistance of the many regional and final qualifying courses in the North West is invaluable.
There are amongst our number Secretaries of major Championship courses and the Region includes a complete range of Secretaries from full time professional managers to honorary part-time secretaries not to say many regular attending retired secretaries who like to keep in touch with their former colleagues all of whom can freely contact each other and meet and play golf with their fellows under the common friendship the North West has created.
Long may this continue!!!
The North West has five Honorary Members of our Region - Peter Dromgoole, Eric Illingworth, Jim Walls, John Parkinson and Howard Wiiliams and have had four past National Captains:-
E. Illingworth 1982
V.F.C. Wood 1991
J. Parkinson 2004
H Wiiliams 2017
Moving on we are now in a very progressive era with a new title of Golf Club Managers Association and the Region had a significant input to get the Futures Committee to move away from a title of A.G.C.S.. to G.C.M.A.
In 2015 the Regional Secretary became the Regional Manager as a result of the GCMA incorporation and creation of a Board of Directors.