I hope you're all enjoying this mini-heatwave. It was certainly very warm up in the boardroom on Tuesday, but very productive - the minutes can be found here.
Financially and membership wise, we are doing better than expected, thanks mainly to the support you provided at renewal time and since, and also the great response we've had for new memberships.
I'd like to take the time to openly welcome to Marlborough Golf Club all of our 53 and rising, new members. If you bump into someone you don't recognise, please take the time to introduce yourself and get to know a little about them - you may have found a new member or two for your groups.
By the time we have the next board meeting, we will have our new General Manager, Steve Scott-Bowen, in place which will then free more of the board's time to focus on the club strategy. I will share that with you as soon as we have the framework in place, ready to start on the many initiatives we have in mind for marketing and developing the course, the clubhouse, and the way we operate and present Marlborough Golf Club.
Many of you will also be asking when will we open the clubhouse, particularly since the change of COVID guidelines. The simple and honest answer is that we will not open while the costs outweigh revenue and member satisfaction.
Put even more simply, if we re-opened completely on the 4th of July, we would lose money and not be able to provide a great experience for you in the process. However, as you all know, the government job retention scheme is due to end on the 31st October, but will start to be less beneficial from the end of August, so there will come a time between now and the end of October when we have to fully take the plunge and re-open.
We are working on a transition plan to do this, but we aren't there yet - as soon as we have, I'll let you all know.
In terms of the "Parallel Dimension or World" that is Intelligent Golf (IG) competition entry - we have taken on board the general feelings that trying to book into competitions at 7:00am is much more difficult to do than booking a general tee time.
With that in mind, we have asked IG to look into the option of providing a one-click solution to move you from a tee booking to the same spot in the competition. I'll keep you updated on that, but in the meantime, if you're an early riser to book tee times, use the general tee booking to secure your desired time. I'll provide a step by step guide to moving your game to the competition during the coming days.
Just one final point - the course as a whole is playing really well and the greens are playing as well as they have for years, so can I ask two things of you that will help maintain everyone's enjoyment:
- Take time to repair your own pitch marks - and any others you see.
- Take care when walking on the greens - there are some very bad spike marks at times.
The countdown is now on - 2 weeks from Monday, Steve will be here and Kevin and I can return to the ranks of the semi-retired...
In the meantime, enjoy the weather and the course and play well and keep safe.
Update 11th June
We have had yet another great week at Marlborough - the clouds have finally delivered some much needed rain, the weekend weather is looking good and the bacon rolls have been flowing freely - keep it up Darryl 👍
We continue to see a steady rise in new members, so please make sure you welcome them all. Our latest new member played a round today as a member guest and duly joined straight after the round - that speaks volumes for the work that the team are putting in on the course.
It's no secret I want Marlborough to be the best golf club it can be, in every aspect - so when Ben Amor comes back from visiting one of the better courses in the area (I won't say where..) and tells me our greens are in better condition, that should give us all great hope we're heading in the right direction.
Please also make sure you give a big thank you to Sue and Rachael in the office - they are taking on lots of additional work processing these new members and handling lots of transactions created by the halfway house sales that would normally be handled at the bar.
You'll know that in order to keep that momentum, we've been looking for a new General Manager since Les decided to retire. While I'm pleased to tell you that Les has been making full use of his new free time and has been playing regularly, I'm even more pleased to tell you that the Board has appointed a new General Manager who will start on the 13th July.
Our new GM is Steve Scott-Bowen who joins us from Cardiff Golf Club. As I mentioned previously, we had 26 applications for the role and the Board was unanimous in assessing Steve's CV as number one and was also unanimous that he was the right fit for Marlborough Golf Club. To say I am delighted and excited to have him on board, would be a massive understatement !!
Steve is a member of the PGA and GCMA and has previously worked for England Golf and the Golf Foundation. He has been in golf management for more than 28 years and has most recently been GM at Bristol then Cardiff, where his contributions have been outstanding.
Steve will bring a different set of skills to the role, with a strong focus on marketing, social media, customer and member satisfaction - all delivered on a platform of teamwork and customer excellence. His experience and knowledge of what we need to focus on to achieve our growth strategy is outstanding and his personal energy is really contagious. Some of you may have already met him during a walk around the course earlier in the week.
Steve has two young children and a wife, Sarah, who's family lives in the Calne area. As their children get older, they have been looking to move closer to family support and Marlborough was the right opportunity at the right time, so Steve and Sarah will be re-locating to the area over the next few weeks.
We have already taken up references and the overwhelming sentiment was one of sadness to be losing such a popular and accomplished GM, but also recognition that for Steve & Sarah, family must comes first.
As soon as Steve is on board, please make sure you introduce yourself to him. I would like to think we will treat him with the same warmth and esteem that Cardiff GC has over the last few years. I'm certain he will be a great asset to Marlborough Golf Club.
In the meantime your interim General Managers (Kevin & I) will be doing all we can with the teams to ensure Steve starts with a clean slate next month.
Enjoy your golf and above all stay safe and play well.
Update 5th June
Another very exciting week which saw the re-introduction of 4 balls and competitions, as well as significant progress towards a replacement General Manager.
The board met on Tuesday and the minutes can be found here. You'll see that we have also introduced member guests and visitors in a very limited way, but even in that limited way we have been very successful at filling in where we had capacity on the course. This will help secure our financial position going forward.
We have decided that restrictions on member guests will now be removed, allowing members to play with their guests at any times.
Also when booking competitions, we have decided to allow entrants to book their playing partners in at the same time, if they have already agreed to enter the competition.
Unfortunately we had a break-in at the green keepers complex, with several thousand pounds worth of portable power tools being stolen. We will be increasing the security measures to help prevent this happening in the future. You may have also noticed a new face among the green keepers - if you get the chance, say hello to Darryl Smith who joined us a week or so ago.
As a board, we have been evaluating all of the applicants for the General Manager vacancy and hopefully we will be in a position with the next week or two to make an offer. Once we have secured a replacement, we will provide an overview and background on the successful person.
In the meantime, enjoy your golf and stay safe and well.
Update 21st May
Apologies that the update this week is a little delayed - this was to allow time to confirm the return of competitive golf.
I won't dwell on Tuesday's board meeting further than pointing you to the minutes, which are available to view online now. You will notice that we now feel comfortable moving the frequency from weekly to fortnightly, therefore my updates will align too.
The first competition will be a Ladies Stableford on the 2nd June, followed by a Men's midweek Medal on the 3rd June.
As we will still need to practice social distancing and prevent gatherings, you will need to enter these competitions online, in the same way that you book a tee time. If anything changes in terms of group sizes, the tee booking rules will be amended.
The competition entry times will be available at the same time as the corresponding general tee booking times, ie, they will open at 7am, 7 days beforehand. You will still reserve a tee time in the normal way, but via the competition entry - click on the picture on your Home Page (see below).
You will need to pay at the Pro Shop when checking in as normal, but you will not need to sign an entry book.
Scorecards will be completed by the player and entered by the player on the Touchscreen as normal, with no signatures from other players required. Please wipe down the Touchscreen and wash your hands after entry.
Just one note of clarification, as there are no bunker rakes, the local rule is preferred lies in the bunkers - ie, place the ball within 6 inches, no nearer the hole.
Knockouts: Only two ball knockouts will be played for all sections. If the government relaxes further such that four ball games may be played, we will review at that time. As the draw for these knockouts will take place on the 1st June, please ensure you have signed up in the normal way beforehand via the notice board, with payment in the normal way in to the office.
Upcoming competitions for the next few months will be added to the diary over the next week.
Please continue to take care and observe all the guidelines so that we can get back to normal as quickly as possible.
Update 11th May
Following the expectation of some good news, we decided to bring the weekly board meeting forward to today.
While the PM was busy planning his 3.30pm speech, we were really busy planning to restart - mainly based on 1 ball games ☹️.
We had the highs of discussing a trial to provide hot food and refreshments at the halfway house, followed by the disappointment of not getting confirmation that we can get the contractor back to clean the toilets tomorrow, before hearing how outstanding the response has been to our FaceBook campaign - 29 enquiries for memberships.
Please just keep up the support by taking photos of what you like about our club, posting, commenting and keep sharing.
Then we get the really good news that we can get out and play 2 ball golf... No need to ask twice...
The course will re-open at 7am on Wednesday
- Tee Booking Sheets for a rolling 7 day period will be available from midday tomorrow
- 18 holes as normal, but 9 can be booked if you don't wish to play 18
- Start from 1st Tee only due to likely timing issues and crossing at the turn
- Groups as per government guidelines - 2 balls for members, or 2-4 balls for a single household with up to 4 members
- 1 balls are asked to try to avoid peak times and if possible, book on the day.
- Tee intervals will be 10 minutes
- 1 tee booking per day initially.
- Max 3 bookings per 7 days - under constant review to ensure reasonable use is available to every member.
- No member guests or visitors initially - but this will be under constant review based on enough capacity being available for members
Arrival & Playing
- Practice social distancing at all times and do not gather in the car parks
- Playing safe guidelines will be included on signs at the club and on the course and at time of booking
- Plan to arrive no earlier than 15 minutes before your start time
- Be ready and change your shoes in the car park
- Pro Shop is open and operating business as usual, but under government social distancing guidelines
- You must check in at the Pro Shop or Touchscreen before playing - one person per group only
- Make your way via the practice area to the first tee only when the game has left - do not start early
- Don't touch or remove the flags
- No rakes, so preferred lies in the bunkers
- Make your way to the car park when you’re finished via the practice net side.
- Practice range balls are only available from Pro Shop - all bays are in play
- Pitching and putting greens - only two players at any time, but social distancing at all times.
Please bear with us through the initial restart period and above all - observe all the guidelines, which are there for yours and our employees safety.
If you experience any issues booking tee times, let myself or the office know and we'll try to help.
I'm confident with due diligence, we can quickly move back to normality, but in the meantime I hope you have a good return to playing.
Take care, stay safe and play safe.
Update 5th May
It's been another busy and hectic week with lots of challenges... but at least I'm trying not to let the lockdown get to me...😉
The Serious Update....
Our Board meeting today - see minutes - was predominantly focused on preparations to re-start playing and while I can assure you we know no more than any of you, we have everything crossed in the hope that Boris will give us some light at the end of the tunnel on Sunday.
Replacement GM Progress
The advert was placed on the Golf Club Managers Association website last week and we have already received a number of applications.
This advert closes at the end of the month, so when we have reviewed all the applicants against a set of agreed criteria, we will conduct interviews and hopefully make an offer.
If we don't receive enough suitable candidates, we may either extend the period of the advert, or seek assistance from specialised golf management recruitment advisers. Clearly the latter has a cost impact, so we are hoping not to need this option.
In the meantime, Kevin Smith and myself will provide management support to the office from next week on an alternate daily basis.
We will complete 2 key documents this week in preparation for receiving final guidance from the government and golf's governing authorities:
1. Arrival to Departure Guide
This document will contain all the safety guidelines from arrival, through playing and finally to leaving. Once this document is complete, we will post it on the website, email a version to you, and include a link to it on the Tee Booking site. In addition, there will be laminated versions posted around the facility. It is vital that you comply with all of these guidelines in order to be able to "play safe - stay safe".
2. Tee Booking Policies
One of the biggest challenges will be to ensure we have a safe system for getting members onto the course in a safe and orderly way. We expect there will be a lot of demand during the first days of reopening and our ability to satisfy the demand will largely depend on what constraints are imposed on us, such as tee time intervals and group sizes. Our primary aim is to ensure members receive absolute priority, having access to tee times at least 7 days in advance.
Depending on how the initial period goes, competitive golf will be reviewed and provided it is not prohibited, we will phase it in over time. Visitor access will also be assessed over time, probably not being allowed at all initially, then gradually introduced during the afternoons and then maybe only for every other tee time.
One key point to bear in mind with respect to visitors, we need to treat every one of them as a potential member, so if and when they are able to play, we must ensure they have an outstanding experience.
Getting the Course Ready
We are hopeful that we will receive a reasonable amount of notice so that we can prepare the course for play. As Rick stated last week, we can't take the grass from current height to playing height in one go - it will create too much stress and be damaging in the long term.
Our expectation is that golf's governing bodies will have advised the government to allow for this preparation period. Assuming they do, we will getting the greens staff up to full strength one week prior to the restart. At this time we will be asking for local volunteers, for example to help clear grass from the bunkers and prepare them for play. Rick will follow up on this.
Marketing our Club & Course
We are about to launch our new social media campaign on Facebook, so when it's live, please visit the club's page, like and comment on the posts, but most importantly SHAREso that we can expand our marketing reach.
Finally, let's keep our fingers crossed for some good news. In the meantime, please stay safe and well.
Update 28th April
Resending initial email as some members didn't recognise a 'tongue-in-cheek' comment - ["but if they must, ask them to do it from the rough "]. Let me confirm we do not condone play of any sort on the course - as I pointed out last week.
We've just had our weekly Board meeting. As usual there's a lot happening behind the scenes, even if there's no golf yet, so I'd like to give you a short update. The actual minutes are here.
Firstly though, I'd like to start where I left off last week. While walking the course, I have noticed shots have been hit from the tee boxes and large divots have been taken, particularly on the 4th and 7th tees. This is really annoying as we have previously filled all the tee box divots and the repairs are taking well. If you see anyone walking the course with a club, will you ask them to refrain from hitting balls at all.
That's my moan over for the week - onto the update...😁
Business Interruption Insurance
Since last week we have made significant progress, with particular thanks to Mike Bowden who kindly reviewed our policy and found an action group had been formed from organisations having similar claims with Hiscox being denied. This is the Hiscox Action Group (HAG) and has over 200 members registered already.
There is no financial outlay or exposure for our Club, with the founding members funding the legal effort. The next step for us is to customise to our specific policy wording, an HAG template letter repudiating Hiscox initial denial of our claim. This will then be sent to Hiscox and we will await their response. It is however, unlikely to be as quick as their initial denial !!
We will keep you updated as this situation develops.
While we have lots of material all ready to go, we are awaiting formal guidance from the golfing authorities, such as England Golf, as to what the actual restrictions will be on us, before we publish specific guidelines and policies to our members.
One thing I am really pleased to be able to announce is that we will be bringing the greens staff back up to full strength by confirming the employment of a new, experienced green keeper. This will be timed to start with the return from furloughing of our existing two guys. We expect that to be around one week before the re-start of playing, in order to allow all the activities that weren't considered essential maintenance, to be done. It's no secret that becoming one of the best courses in Wiltshire is a key driver for me, so I am delighted the Board agreed we could afford to do this.
Replacement General Manager
We have now started advertising for the replacement General Manager and will be placing an advert on the Golf Course Managers Association website this week. Once it is live, I'll include a link in next week's update.
Getting Ready to Play
So that everyone gets back into playing safely, I have asked Simon to put together some information on what stretches and exercises we should be doing in order to be ready. It would be such a pity to have waited so long, only to go an pull a muscle on the first tee. [I did ask Simon to do a short video of the exercises in lycra, but he politely refused...]
In the meantime, take care.
Update 22nd April
During this Coronavirus crisis, we continue to have weekly Board Meeting on Tuesdays, so please see yesterday's minutes.
Before I give an overview of where we are, last week I promised you an update on the membership numbers, particularly regarding resignations (approx £61k). This was inflated by the inclusion of several members who had already confirmed they will rejoin, but their immediate financial situation precludes this.
The good news is the number of real resignations is now down to £54k.
Also, of the members who have not yet paid (£31.5k), those that have committed to rejoin once their situation improves, accounts for over £15k.
Looking forward, our focus remains on two main fronts - re-starting golf and transitioning to a new GM, so I'd like to give you an update on where we are.
Les's last day as GM will now be the 8th May, but he has kindly agreed to be available thereafter on an ad-hoc basis to assist with specific tasks such as financial re-planning. This is to ensure we de-risk such crucial tasks. From the 8th May until we have a replacement GM in place, myself and Kevin Smith will handle all day to day tasks usually done by Les.
As much as he won't want to, once the bar reopens, we will arrange a time to celebrate Les's time as GM.
We have started the process for identifying a replacement and I'll update you on that as we progress.
Rick Bodenham has now prepared a draft set of social distancing guidelines for us, but we can do nothing further than anticipate what the firm government and industry guidelines for golf might be.
We have also almost completed the set up ready for any temporary introduction of tee times and I'm pleased to say there are now hundreds of test tee bookings, including some dubious member guests such as "Ho Lin Wan" and "Shankin Stevens".
Please remember, the purpose of these tests is to ensure that if we are required by the authorities to reopen with tee times, we are prepared. Overall, the response has been that the booking of tee times is a simple process, but the week has not been altogether a breeze !!!
Tee Time Queries:
Below is a list of answers to the most common queries I've received:
- Is this a cynical attempt to get tee times introduced permanently by the back door ?
No - The board will use its authority to introduce them in response to any governing body guidance and rules, BUT tee times can only be implemented on a permanent basis if this change receives the approval of the majority of members at an AGM or EGM.
- I've forgotten my login details
Contact Rachael in the office, or myself and we'll get your details reset and sent to you within minutes.
- I don't have a computer or smartphone - how do I book a tee time ?
You can either get a friend to book your tee time, or the Pro Shop, or you can do it using the Touchscreen by the entrance to the Pro Shop. It is far simpler than entering a scorecard !!
- Can I change my Tee booking once I've made it ?
Originally No, but I have had a change made that allows you to now amend your booking without cancelling and starting again.
- Do I need to check-in before playing ?
Yes - this can be done at the Pro Shop, I believe using the Touchscreen, but if not, the Pro Shop can do it for you. This is to ensure bookings are being used and to ensure any member guests are paid for.
- I haven't received any emails confirming bookings I've made, or booking that I'm included in.
Email confirmations can be set by visiting the website Home Page>My Golf>Preferences - it is the last two check boxes on the page.
- Is the Smartphone App available on Android ?
Yes - if you visit the same page as the point above, there is a link and guidance to set up for both phone types.
- I've seen a couple of Roll-Up slots reserved - can we use Roll Ups ?
No - these were set up to see if the functionality would support the measures we believe will be imposed on us. This functionality would support roll ups as they've been always done, but wouldn't allow us to preclude gatherings at the start of the roll up.
I would still like to get feedback from you, particularly if you're having issues or encountering problems - we'll try to get them resolved quickly.
Finally, can I ask that if you like many of us walk the course as part of your exercise, you refrain from being tempted to hit a few balls - even on the practice areas - If the people of Marlborough see our Golf Club flouting either the exercise guidance or the social distancing and gatherings rules, it will create bad publicity for the club at best, but may lead to further sanctions against us, which we most definitely cannot afford to have happen.
Hopefully the lock down measures continue to deliver results, but as always, please take care and get ready to play again.