Is your Club going to stay afloat?


By: Chris Duffy CMDip - Board Member, CMAE May 7, 2020


Your Club is currently sailing on the COVID-19 (coronavirus) seas, but does it sink or stay afloat, and who is now steering the ship, what speed is it going and which direction is it heading?

The current COVID-19 crisis is leading many Clubs’ across the UK to review their position.

A couple of weeks ago I became an unintended casualty of COVID-19, with my Club Board deciding it was essential to ‘cut costs to ensure the clubs survival’.

After only 17 months as the first General Manager in its 129-year history, the GM position was to be made redundant and I walked the plank.

Action figure COVID-19

The Board offered feedback it was purely financial and that my performance was exemplary having only a month earlier completed my first annual appraisal.

So, what changed – the COVID-19 unknown, and a lack of trust?

Trust is key in any relationship, whether personal or professional and trust is something that we all know is earned through time. I reflect back on the past 17 months and maybe I just hadn’t earned enough points in the trust bank.

Putting aside the larger clubs who have the financial capability to ride out the crisis, many small and medium-sized UK clubs operate with a volunteer Board/Committee, which often includes business leaders of the local industry.

Some Clubs are now taking the progressive step to appoint a full time educated and qualified General Manager/Club Manager for the very first time.

The Manager, who you have chosen to lead and manage the club on a daily basis are often certified through recognized Club Management bodies (CMAE / GCMA), have a proven track record in Club and Hospitality Management and a resource pool that will allow them to bring facts and data to the discussion rather than thoughts and opinions.

They have a Club Manager network to reach into for guidance or advice and in general have their finger on the pulse of what is ‘really’ going on at the club, with your members and within the industry as a whole.

Cash machine old COVID-19

Let the Manager guide the Board – and trust them!

Now is the time to let your Manager guide the Board. This is why you pay them the big bucks!! We are all waiting to see when UK clubs will be allowed to reopen and watch as many nearby countries now begin to reopen albeit with severe restrictions.

‘Club Life’ as we have known for the past 100 years will take a long time to recover and this is where your Manager will be able to guide the Club Board through their experience and knowledge.

Many Clubs are currently thinking short term – reopening and lost revenues. Most Clubs have already covered the removal or limitation of touchpoints (rakes, flags, cups, etc) for reopening, created and shared new SOP’s with the Board for approval and staff for training.

Many are well on the way to being ready to reopen when the government gives the go-ahead.

It’s likely it will start with course-only access, so how will your club find creative solutions to allow the social interactions which the membership will be craving?

How will you manage the membership expectations all of whom will want to play on the first days of opening and communicate this through to the membership?

Members may have found other activities to socialize and exercise during the lockdown leading them away from the club (Cycling, Walking, Gardening).

Maybe they renewed their membership this year before the crisis but will question your club’s handling of the situation and not renew next year.

Members may lose their jobs in the coming months and what will be one of the first things to be cut – club memberships.

What can you do as a Club to help them and retain them as members?

extra-mile COVID-19

The Social Cost – How does your Club calculate the key ingredient to a Club Membership?

Club Members come to the club to play golf, but they stay members at the club for the people. The Club is often your members’ social club, it’s not just about playing golf or tennis, but about spending time together with family and friends in a relaxed, safe, and social environment.

Has your Club planned for losing this key ingredient or looked at ways to create a substitute in the short term?

Food and Beverage operations in mid-level UK Clubs account for on average £4,000 profit a year (CCL Survey 2019) but the actual cost of members not being able to socialize together will likely be much higher.

Habits usually take thirty days to form, so over the past 48 days of lockdown I know I have created some new habits, the family Friday evening zoom quiz, The Wine Hour with friends on a Saturday from 8-9pm, three long walks a day with my best furry friend – Scooby.

  • How is your club planning to break these new habits?
  • How are you going to entice and engage with members in the next 3-6 months to create events with limited access to the clubhouse facilities?
  • How will you redeploy your F&B team, or will you be forced to lay them off?
  • How will the redundancies of key staff be perceived by the membership and what is the best way to communicate these decisions?
Fixing the problems after COVID-19

Final thought

The Club Board is guiding the direction of the ship, and the speed to which it sails. The Club Manager is employed to make sure it stays afloat, the correct procedures and systems are in place and it operates to its full potential.

They work together to ensure that all the passengers aboard have the best journey possible, even through the rough waters which we are now sailing.

Don’t send your manager overboard in the coming weeks and months ahead…..or your Club may just start taking on water…. Trust them to do the right thing at the right time and let them help in guiding the club into calmer waters.

I would be delighted to share my thoughts on some of the questions raised above and help your club stay afloat.