As we start to enter the golfing season, we felt it important to reflect on the winter period identifying the challenges faced, the on-going remedial works and how we wish to strengthen the member opportunity moving forward.
MEMBERSHIP AND FINANCE
One of the main processes during the winter period is the subscription run. This takes place from the beginning of January running into the early parts of March. It is often this process which can dictate financial decisions moving into the remainder of the year.
On average, we see on annual basis around 18 – 24 members relinquish their playing membership. This year is no different with 17 full playing members taking the difficult decision to relinquish their membership completely. In addition to these we have seen 24 members move to social membership.
The changes in categories does come at a financial cost to the Club and after careful consideration, the decision has been made to operate for a period of time with a reduced membership. This will see 10 full gents vacancies filled, bringing us back to quota, but the remaining 12 temporary membership remain vacant at this time.
The belief is that whilst this will not eradicate the pressures on the tee sheet, it is a positive step forward. It is important to note that the current financial climate is expected to create strain on club finances and whilst we are not planning to fill the vacant temporary members at this time, should the need arise we would be in a position to do so.
The start of the year has already brought challenges which will see sizable investments through capital installations, both items I will now run through in further detail:
The Irrigation Tank
In the last few weeks, we have started to experience issues with the water tank which feeds the on-course irrigation system. Whilst not catastrophic to the functionality of the irrigation system, we are losing water which of course carries a cost. Having reviewed our options, the decision has been taken to upgrade the water tank entirely. The cost difference between repair and replacement was £8,000 but provided assurance in that all components, with the exception of the roof, will be renewed. If we were to repair the tank, we would experience significant outlay without the required assurances for such expenditure as other components would not carry any installation warranties.
These complications were unforeseen so we now make budgetary compromises to fund such an item of expenditure.
Solar Panel Installations
Electricity remains a core focus at this time, especially given the ever-fluctuating market. As a result, it has never been more important to try and facilitate as much control over our usage as possible. The Club have explored the feasibility of the installation of solar panels which would sit on the flat roof above the Professional Shop (as shown below). Based on current market rates, it is forecasted that the repayment term would be approximately 4-years. The area in question will generate around 12% of our annual consumption, but we are limited to this area due to the general condition of the main roof of the clubhouse. The current advice is to avoid installing solar panels on the main roof due to its condition. As a monetary value, this installation would see a £6,500 cash saving on an annual basis.
This item of expenditure again is not one that was budgeted for and as such will be funded by Club Reserves in the first instance. It is felt that the short repayment window that this scheme presents is one that should be capitalised on. Financing for the scheme is also available, however with a repayment window of nearly 10-years we wanted to ensure we attain maximum efficiency at the earliest opportunity and have therefore decided to proceed with a cash purchase.
Whilst the start of the membership year has presented challenges, we still forecast operating close to a breakeven point. It is felt that the decisions made above will help manage expenditure better in the future by mitigating and controlling such costs.
VISITING GOLFERS THROUGHOUT THE WINTER
Last year, we undertook extensive research to understand playing habits and in particular visitor revenue. This process created a stronger understanding of visitor golf and as a consequence enabled us to increase the average green fee rate by up to £20 per person and in turn saw less visitors for more revenue, a model any golf club would aspire too. This year, we again look to build on this improvement although accept that a sustained level would be acceptable within the current financial climate.
The next stage of reviewing the overall green fee revenue was to better understand winter golf and in particular the impact of visitors from November through to February. The team work hard to ensure the impact of visiting golf is limited, but the varying weather and reduced daylight make this difficult during the winter period. Having had the opportunity to review this over the winter, it was apparent we needed to change our approach. We must be clear that over time our budget has become reliant on income during the winter period and therefore removing it completely is not feasible at this time.
From November to the end of February, the course is on average open 92% of the time compared with March and October which have course availability up to 98%.
At the December Board meeting, a presentation was made pertaining to a shift in practice to minimise the impact of visiting golf in the winter. This will result in no more large groups during the period the 1st November to 28th February but will see the introduction of the two Open Competitions, one in March and one in October.
For contingency, we also allocated an April Open Competition and are pleased we did so. The recent snow, whilst picturesque as shown below, meant the March Open was unable to be staged.
Winter revenue will still be needed so we will be looking at alternative methods of generating income, for example winter tee time deals which will allow greater control and increased opportunity to maximise the average rate per person during the four month period. This option should result in less visitors but with greater income and ties in nicely with Food and Beverage enabling a reduction in wastage and further capitalisation on external revenue throughout the winter months.
We hope that this change in practice will see an improved member experience during the winter with greater access to tee times.
Food & Beverage and Greens Updates
Mindful of the length of this update, we decided that we would separate out the individual reports for Food and Beverage, and Greens. These reports can be viewed by clicking on the below links:
The Approaching Season
As we ready our games for the season ahead, we can look forward to many enjoyable occasions during the club calendar.
The Fairhaven Trophy is once again being staged in 2023, albeit at the earlier date of the 28th – 30th April owing to the King’s Coronation. Already, the Fairhaven Trophy presents an exciting prospect with over 10 European Counties being represented and the lowest handicapped entrant having a Handicap Index of +5.0.
We look forward to welcoming the world’s most elite juniors to the club and hope members enjoy watching these budding superstars take to our links.
Mindful that competition golf may not be for everyone, it seems a timely moment to remind members of the fantastic opportunities membership of our club provides. Members are able to take advantage of discounted green fees through both the reciprocal arrangements and also the James Braid Scheme. Further information on these member benefits can be found on the below links:
Recently, Members will be aware that we added Fulford Golf Club to the list of Passport Clubs and we are delighted to announce further strengthening of the list with the acquisition of Southerness Golf Club.
As the season nears, we feel it only right to remind members of the increased risk from exposure to UV rays during the warmer weather. Please ensure you are adequately prepared for the summer and have adequate protection in the form of skin care products (sun protection) and headwear.
We look forward to sharing many memorable stories from this golfing season and look forward to an enjoyable and successful summer of golf.
Mark Duncalf | General Manager | April 2023