Update - 24th March 2020
Unfortunately it is now clear that following the PM’s announcements last night and advice received this morning from England Golf, we must close the course. While this is not what any of us wanted to hear, it is the most sensible approach to ensuring health and safety for our members and employees, together with their extended families.
That is now a done deal, so what we need to focus on is the immediate future and preparing ourselves for when the country returns to normality. We have taken, or are in the process of taking, every option open to us to ensure our Club is prepared for the closure and equally important, prepared for re-opening whenever that is.
Since the closure of the first floor on Friday, staff have been busy cleaning, stocktaking and disposing of perishables where needed. However, now that our Club is closed for at least the next three weeks, we have taken advantage of the government’s Job Retention Scheme for employees and “Furloughed” all of the first floor staff. This means that HMRC will cover a large proportion of their salaries while they are unable to work. This is good news for all of us, as we will hopefully retain all of our loyal employees until we’re ready to get started again.
In terms of the course, we have furloughed half the greens staff, with the other half performing a reduced program of cutting of greens, tees and fairways. This is crucial to ensure our biggest asset, the course, is kept in the best possible condition for when we’re ready to start playing again.
The office staff will continue to respond to the abnormally high load of communications with members, suppliers and other organisations, but as that reduces, we will re-evaluate. We also have to deal with the renewal period during early April, but again, once that has peaked we will re-evaluate. We will continue as planned with Les’s retirement transition, but that is flexible depending on what work we have to be able to take full advantage of government initiatives.
I’m sure one of the key open questions for all of us is what is our approach regarding subscription fees paid and payable during this period of closure. The principle is simple - while the course is not available to members, you will accrue a directly proportional credit against next year's fees. I can confirm that all the Board members have recognised the need to support our Club and have decided to personally forego that credit, so that we don’t build up too big a liability for next year.
I know a lot of you have already paid, but there are also many that may be considering cancelling Direct Debits until the course reopens. I’d like to ask those in the latter category to consider the impact to our Club of that decision and balance it against the impact on you and your families. If you can afford to keep the payments going and wait for a credit, you will be helping our Club stay solvent. If on the other hand you are generally experiencing hardships as a result of Coronavirus, please talk to us - we’re in this together and we’ll try to find a workable solution for you.
The reason I’m asking this of you all is that we have a number of fixed costs that can’t be deferred, such as equipment leases and utilities. We also have a number of fixed costs that can be deferred, but they will need to be paid in the near future. Other clubs intend to penalise members who defer renewal, but I’m confident the vast majority of our membership will act responsibly and support our Club.
I am also mindful that following the AGM, I promised you a strategy overview before the end of March - one that was full of great ideas and plans for making our Club great again - that will unfortunately have to wait until the Coronavirus dust has settled, but I reiterate the promise to deliver it as soon as practically possible.
I hope you’ll all agree that the measures we’ve put in place are what’s required and I also hope you can see we need your continued support for our Club’s short term strategy of survival and being ready for reopening.
I wish you, your families and friends all the best during the shutdown - I’m sure you’re finding it better than I am. Stay safe and well and as always, please feel free to contact me any time.