GCMA North West

How I learnt to manage a golf club

6th March, 2012

It was with some trepidation that I stepped onto the train from Leeds one Sunday afternoon, heading for Weston-super-Mare and my first Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) training course.

What would the week be like? Would I learn anything? Would it help me with a career in golf club management? Was it worth the money we had invested and the time I was about to?

After leaving my previous career I was looking for a new challenge; why not golf club management? I was a board director at my golf club and enjoyed it, I was on the marketing committee and, together with our managing secretary and club professional, had been heavily involved in developing a new web site, introducing an online tee booking system and developing a Twitter account, which I host. And I am passionate about the game of golf.

Also – since reserving my place on the course, I had applied for, been offered and accepted the assistant secretary’s position at my home club, Garforth Golf Club.

Monday morning arrived with 15 rather nervous looking students sat around the table. We came from different walks of life but we all had the same goal. We did not need to worry. From the moment Keith Lloyd opened the course to closing it five days later there was not one moment when I questioned the value of the course, the subjects covered are everything any managing secretary would need to know.

On the first day we learnt about the golf club, the golf course, running an open competition, the rules of golf and local rules. I for one did not realise the complexities of grass. The question ‘where does grass grow’ seems an easy one; the answer is not what most of us thought. I will never look at a green or a fairway in the same way and I will never forget where grass grows – Dave Weston, our lecturer, made sure of that!

Day two started with three invaluable hours on food and beverage delivered impeccably by Steven Brown – what he does not know about food and beverage is not worth knowing! The afternoon brought equally informative and expertly delivered sessions on the law and applying for a job, and we finished with general golf club administration. In the evening we had a panel of experts at who we could throw questions: they were very honest in their replies and very inspirational.

Wednesday morning was taken up by Martyn Senior and Keith Wilcox with the day-to-day management of the accounts followed by preparing a budget. After a session on BRS online tee bookings it was off to Weston-super-Mare Golf Club for a practical on – yes you have guessed it – grass! We also carried out risk assessments on the course. The rest of the day and evening covered IT and the support the GCMA gives its members.

The GCMA has also developed its own safety management system (SMS) which we had a few hours to look at and learn about. Having seen a few SMS’ in my time I can honestly say this is one very impressive system and one which I will be making use of in my golf career. The week was rushing by; it was already Thursday so to help us we were introduced to time management! The rest of the day was taken up with the role of the county union, handicaps and marketing. The evening was dedicated to the course dinner which was very enjoyable – we were also joined by some of our lecturers and the staff from the GCMA, an absolutely ideal time to ask more questions and share our thoughts.

Friday arrived and for our final day we looked at employment law. We also had the opportunity to meet the managing secretary from Weston-super-Mare Golf Club and discussed the achievements and challenges of a ‘local’ secretary. One snippet that will stay with me for a long time was comparing the role of a secretary to that of a chief executive one minute and to a toilet attendant the next!

How can I best sum up the week? It was one of the most educational, enjoyable, informative, intense and inspirational courses I have ever been on and I have been on more than a few! I have had a career in sales, marketing and specialist finance, which will help in my quest for a suitable position as the managing secretary of a golf club. I have been a board member and now an assistant secretary, which will also help, however, I genuinely believe nothing will help more than this course – the course literature alone weighs nearly 5kg! Please do not ask me why I know that – what you can ask me is was it worth it? Absolutely and unequivocally yes, for anyone considering attendance, stop considering and attend.

Finally I would like to say a few thank yous. Firstly to Keith, Gill and their team from the GCMA for developing and delivering the course. To all the lecturers, a huge thank you for making our days enjoyable as well as educational. To all my fellow ‘students’ who I know enjoyed the week as much as I did, we will meet again, I made friends with likeminded people. Finally, to the hotel, you are solely and completely responsible for my new shape! The food was excellent.

For more about these five-day GCMA courses,

Kevin Fretwell is the assistant secretary at Garforth Golf Club. Tweet him @kfamf

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