At the end of March, we were greeted with a significant temperature increase, which we hope is a sign of a warm summer ahead.
With April kick starting our summer of golf, we are excited to have a number of member events, the first being the Annual General Meeting this evening, followed by the Captain and Lady Captain’s Drive In tomorrow and Sunday. The documentation for the Annual General Meeting was posted on Friday 1st April and our collective thanks must go the team of volunteers who kindly give up their time to assist with preparing the envelopes. The Dress Code for this evening is Jacket & Tie.
In readiness for this up and coming period, I would like to take this opportunity to provide members with the latest club update.
Membership Working Group
Over the past eight months, the Membership Working Group have been working behind the scenes. The methodology for the group has been to review the data available through the membership software’s currently in operation at the club (namely BRS and Intelligent Golf).
Within this period, there have been key findings which have led to several core decisions being made, which we hope will help reduce the stress on the tee sheet and indeed have a positive impact on the member experience. I must stress that all information will be continuously reviewed in order to see if improvements are made particularly as there may be a significant period before such changes are observed.
Visitor Income and Open Competitions
When looking at course access, it was of course vital that the impact of visitors was taken into consideration. Since 2015, visitors have contributed just 2.47% of used tee times. One area that the team and I are keen to improve on is the average green fee rate per head.
Members will be aware that the decision was made to hold/retain the 2021 green fee rates for the 2022 season. The main rationale behind this was to give ourselves the opportunity to increase the average green fee rate per head, something which I am pleased with the progress we have made to date.
To quantify this, since 2015 (excluding 2020), the club has on average received 1458 visitors per year bringing in an average green fee of £50.83 per person. The forecast for this year is that we will generate more income with fewer visitors, with an average green fee rate in the region of £80. Again, I must stress that throughout the season this figure will fluctuate and further information below will dictate the number of visitors we see visiting the club.
Open Competitions are a key source of income for the club. However, the level of such events must be managed to ensure the number doesn’t create significant disruption to members. With this in mind, for the 2022 season, the decision was made to increase the price per head by circa 20%. The result of this has meant that we are running fewer Open Competitions this year, whilst seeing an increase in revenue due to the rise in entry fees.
The working group has also been looking into a review of the membership quotas. Like all items discussed, there was a financial impact that needed to be considered. The first stage of this was to look at the various categories, the benefit to members of such categories, and the current number held within each.
With this in mind, the decision has been taken to limit the number of Temporary Members admitted to membership this financial year. This will be just 50% of the available quota filled. Also, it has been agreed to fill the vacant Intermediate positions. Keen to use the data available, we are aware that the impact of this membership category on the most in-demand tee times is minimal.
Such intakes will be reviewed regularly in line with the overall financial position of the club.
The Golf Course
The Course Manager recently updated his blog which I hope members found informative, particularly in relation to the on-going challenges presented by the weather. Picking up on the rich information provided by Joe and the team, I wanted to expand further on the recent investment in course machinery.
Control is a trigger word which is regularly used during discussions. The more control we have, the better and more efficiently we can operate, taking advantage of windows of weather (whether wet or dry) in order gain the absolute maximum from our agronomy practices. As a working example, we have recently financed a Wiedenmann Aeration GXI8HD. This machine will give us full control over essential practices such as verti-draining, which if when reflecting back to the end of October, took place during a course closure. This was simply unavoidable as we were dictated to by contractor availability.
Moving forwards, we have now removed the contractor spend from the budget in order to facilitate gaining control over the timing of when such works can be done by carrying it out in-house at more specific and desirable times. We feel that this will be hugely beneficial moving forwards, especially for targeting areas such as the 13th and 14th holes.
Work to the Practice Ground commenced on Wednesday 6th April. We expect that this work will be completed today, with the facility re-opening to members over the weekend.
It is envisaged that this work will set future foundations for continual improvements to the area, and it would have been financially irresponsible of us to purely return the netting and stanchions to their previous state and then spend more member funds at a future time.
We are very much looking forward to getting this facility back open for members after what can only be described as a tedious process brought about by the poor weather and challenges faced with the insurance claim.
We have continued to receive many excellent comments regarding the conditioning of the golf course. The decision to retain preferred lies for the time being was made as we are mindful that aeration and seeding continues. Such rules can continue to be in place until the end of April and we anticipate that these will cease from Monday 1st May, although a separate circular will confirm such details.
We were overwhelmed with the number of members who kindly put themselves forward to assist with divotting. I am sure it goes without saying what an important impact this has on maintaining the course in the very best condition.
On this front, please can we reiterate the message of general course upkeep, emphasising the importance of our collective efforts in repairing pitch marks, replacing divots and raking bunkers.
FOOD AND BEVERAGE
Prior to my arrival at the club and the beginning of Paul’s tenure of F&B Director, a major restructure took place which looked at improving the economies of Food and Beverage Department. It goes without saying that a restructure of this magnitude can impact on staff morale considerably, particularly whilst coming out of lockdown.
However, throughout this last year, the team have continued to work together, getting through some particularly challenging periods, overcoming issues predominantly in relation to staff shortages, which remain an issue across the whole hospitality industry. It is widely recognised that staffing costs within the industry have increased upwards of 20% and despite the shortages in staffing levels and the increased cost of salaries, we are pleased to report that our wage to turnover ratio has dropped from 78% to 70% in the last membership year. Whilst the yearly figures only show an 8% reduction, we must be mindful of the impact of the pandemic, whether that be government restrictions (such as outdoor hospitality and tables of six only) or cancelled bookings over the Christmas period and in addition redundancy costs. Within the first four months of the year we operated with a wage to turnover ratio of 131% due to the impact of such issues.
If we were to exclude these months, our yearly operating costs would have been circa 65%, showing a significant increase in operational efficiency.
In addition to unbudgeted costs such as redundancy payments, we have also had to invest in some major infrastructure back of house, most notable a new dumb waiter and ice machine. Earlier in the year, both pieces of machinery broke down and the cost of repairing them was not economically beneficial. With this in mind, the Committee made the decision to replace both machines and consequently their efficiency improved significantly following their replacements.
We recently launched the new menu, and whilst the feedback has been exceptionally positive in relation to the quality of the food, we believe there are still gains to be made. With this in mind, the team has reviewed it and will make adjustments to the menu, which will be effective from Monday 2nd May 2022. The updated menu can be viewed below:
One thing we are keen to express is that the full retail price shown on the menu is not what members pay after their discount, and the above example shows the differentials between member prices and the full retail price.
You may note that there have been some wholesale changes within certain items, and our focus has been on creating the very best quality for members, within affordable prices and we have made changes where required on this front.
Unfortunately, we were informed by our Brewery that the cost of wet goods was increasing, a cost increase that the club could not absorb and this has led to an increase in prices. Frustratingly, the increase occurred at the time when we experienced significant staff shortages due to covid-19 and this means that some anomalies within the pricing are evident, but this is something we are working to correct as I write.
In order to manage the cost increase to members, we are also in negotiations with our brewery, Marston’s, with the objective of switching to a best barrel rate, rather than the previous contract in place. The prices increased incurred thus far, are those reflective of a best barrel rate so that members are not experiencing an increase on the higher rate.
CLUBHOUSE AND SURROUNDS
Snooker Tables | Patio Area | Roof
As the warmer weather quickly approaches, our Handyman, Nigel Wilkinson, has been hard at work readying the patio area for members to once again enjoy the summer climates.
In the coming week or two, members will see the addition of two new signs at either end advising that golf equipment is not to be taken across or left within this area. Prior to this, please can I take this opportunity to advise members that this policy should be adhered to at all times.
As we begin to ready our move downstairs, members will be aware that we experienced a leak in the roof of the upstairs members lounge. The external corrective works has been completed, but we have held off any interior works until members are enjoying the downstairs bar facilities once again, in turn creating less disruption. Once the move downstairs has taken place, this area will have the plaster cut out, replaced and will be decorated to complete the remedial works.
In addition to this leak, we also experienced a leak in one of the valleys on the roof and this saw water ingress not too far from the snooker tables. A small temporary repair has been carried out, but we must unfortunately look to have the lead in this area replaced completely. This will take place in the coming weeks, but no disruption to members should be experienced due to its location.
Snooker Tables – it has been wonderful to see an extended period where members can enjoy this facility uninterrupted. Sadly, I must advise that as identified in the February Board meeting, we are approaching a period which will see the tables down for around 11-weeks. The tables are due to be dismantled on Thursday 5th May and will remain down until week commencing the 11th July.
Behind the scenes, we are exploring the location of the tables, but are not in a position to advise further on this. Discussions have ensued regarding the tables being temporarily located in the Pheasant End, but there is doubt as to whether the structure is strong enough to hold the weight of a table. It would of course be too big of a risk to take.
I would stress to members that we are exceptionally conscious of such disruptions and these decisions are not taken lightly.
An update from your Head Professional and his Team…
As the golfing season starts, the Head Professional and his team wanted to reflect back on what has been a challenging couple of years while looking at the memories made along the way.
Last year, Keiron and I were fortunate to enjoy the company of many members, and their gratitude goes to those members who took the time to participate in the Captain/Pro matches. With your support we were able to raise £220 for Brian House. Over the season, each match was played with friendly banter but containing a competitive edge. The eventual winners were Peter McCaffery & Mike Heritage, who were untouchable on the day.
Finally from a playing point of view, the winners of the gent’s order of merit Mark Lane, Simon Long & Mike Hartley joined me in the Royal Lytham Pro-Am. Our team finished outside the top ten, but the opportunity to play golf on a Open Championship golf course was very much appreciated by all.
Frustratingly, the past three years have presented many challenges and we read in the press on a regular basis the issues being experienced in many supply chains. Unfortunately, golf manufacturers are no different with supply chains slowing, raw materials being depleted and shipping costs soaring.
However, there is light on the horizon and we are now beginning to receive products and the service levels are improving. We have taken delivery of Glenmuir clothing for ladies and gents, with ladies Tail clothing due in early May. Marbas & Oscar Jacobsen clothing has just landed. For those of you unfamiliar with Marbas, I wanted to take this opportunity to present this brand to you. Since launching its golf line in 2001, the Italian manufacturer has been creating the finest-quality polo shirts and knitwear that ticks all the boxes for sports performance and fashion. By exclusively using the finest Egyptian Mako cotton, Marbas has developed a reputation for high-end clothing that stands the test of time.
Callaway & Ping hardware is being delivered in dribs & drabs, although Mizuno is still being held back.
With the Practice ground on the verge of being reopened, we can get back to Driver, fairway wood and hybrid fitting, so if anybody is interested in guidance on what specification is best for them, we are only too happy to assist. In addition, we have set up some member events throughout the summer which we hope will benefit our games.
Callaway are doing a club fitting day where you can try anything from putters to drivers once we’ve booked you in. The fitter will be here on Wednesday 1st June from 12.00am until 4.00pm. The day is simply a demo day & he is there to advise, not sell.
Footjoy, Ecco & Duca del Cosma shoes are now in stock. As a new stockist of Duca del Cosma, we are able to take advantage of a deal whereby members can trade in a pair of old golf shoes and in return will receive a credit of £25 against a new pair of Duca del Cosma shoes.
Ecco have kindly sponsored our Wednesday Stableford scheduled for the 22nd June & the lucky winner will take home a pair of Ecco shoes & get the opportunity to play golf with Thomas Bjorn. The event has no extra charge other than your entry for the club competition, so it’s well worth considering.
In the coming week or so, we are expecting delivery of new range balls. These will be kept back until the aforementioned Wednesday Stableford meaning our members will get first use of them.
As a club, we have a wonderful summer of golf ahead, particularly with both the Fairhaven Trophies and Regional Open Qualifying once again taking to our course.
The Fairhaven Trophies was hugely oversubscribed this year with well over 200 entrants for just 144 places. The ballot for this years tournament fell at -1.4, with the lowest competitor in the field being Rachel Gourley who holds a Handicap Index of -5.6.
With an incredible standard of golf being available to view, members can get close to the action and volunteer positions are still available as per my email dated 13th April 2022. Should any member be interested in volunteering their time, please email me directly.
Ever mindful that tournament golf may not be for everyone, I would like to reaffirm to members that we do have the ‘Passport Scheme’ available. This is a significant member benefit, allowing reciprocal arrangements of the participating clubs to play a round of golf at member’s guest rates, rather than the normal visitors' green fee.
We are extremely fortunate to have an exceptional group of courses, both of quality and standing. Those clubs that participate in our passport scheme are listed below:
Beau Desert GC, Brocton Hall GC, Carlisle GC, Clearwater GC (Hong Kong), Conwy GC, Coxmoor GC, Elea Estate GC (Cyprus), Ilkley GC, Lancaster GC (April to September only), Little Aston GC, Llanymynech GC, Mission Hills G&CC (China), Moor Allerton GC, Moortown GC, Orchid GC (Singapore), Ormskirk, Prestbury GC, Royal St.David’s GC, Sandiway GC, Sherwood Forest GC, Shifnal GC, The Wilmslow GC, Ulverston GC, Vale of Llangollen GC and The West Lancashire GC
Note: it is often the case that restrictions around the number of visiting golfers apply to the passport scheme and this is regulated on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Should any member wish to book a round at a reciprocal course, they can do so by contacting the Club Office via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to the above scheme, we also have access to the James Braid Scheme which has over 140 participating courses in England. Further information on this and how bookings can be made can be found by clicking here.
Although it is preferred not to use this forum for such items, I believe it would be remiss of me not to do so. Throughout the past 12-months, since the easing of lockdown restrictions, the hospitality industry has seen significant shortages in personnel and unfortunately, our club is no different on this front. Mindful that we are approaching a period where colleges and universities finish for the summer, should anyone have family members looking for employment for the season, please do point them in the club’s direction. Unlike many hospitality settings, we are fortunate to have good, flexible, social working hours.
Should any member know of anyone who would like to discuss potential employment for the summer, please do not hesitate to speak with myself, Todd or Hannah.