Employee Engagement

This article continues a series of communications from GGA Partners to help leaders of private clubs address challenges arising from the COVID-19 coronavirus that are confronting their businesses and their employees. Today, Patrick DeLozier, a director of our firm, offers some ideas on keeping the team engaged.

Employee Engagement: It’s now more challenging, but also more important.

At the top of our priority list during these unsettling times is making sure our employees are not forgotten. They need to know that their clubs genuinely care for them and their well-being, and that you are mindful of the economic and social consequences that accompany this pandemic.

You also want to let employees know that they are valued members of a team that needs to stay connected during these tough times, so that they are ready to ramp up full-scale operations once it is safe to do so. Staying together even when you’re apart starts with communications, but also includes working effectively from remote locations and finding balance in a new work and home routine.

Social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation.

Leaders should make sure they are communicating with employees regularly and consistently. There are a number of ways to do this, some that take advantage of technology and others that rely on old-school practices.

You can write personalized notes to employees to keep them up to date on club news and plans. You can do this electronically, of course, which gives you an opportunity to add a video message. But this is also a good time for an old-fashioned handwritten note that arrives in the mail.

For those employees celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries, a phone call is a simple but effective way of showing that they’re a valued member of your team and further establishes you in their minds as an empathetic manager.

Make sure employees are included on any communication sent to club members. Keeping everyone informed at the same time builds trust and the sense that we’re all in this together.

Being comfortable – and productive – at home.

Most of your employees are probably not accustomed to working from home, which means they’re dealing with a new set of distractions—a dog barking, a child wanting attention – while trying to be productive in an unfamiliar workspace. Here are a few suggestions for working remotely:

Create a comfortable and separate workspace. Resist the temptation to pull out your laptop and plop down on the sofa, which makes it too easy to be distracted by other household activities.

Use one of the many video tools, including Zoom, WeChat, Skype and FaceTime to replicate the social interaction and brainstorming opportunities that a meeting at the club would provide.

It’s a balancing act.

Balance your day. Try not to fall into the trap of working too much. Instead, maybe watch an online concert, take an online yoga class or go for a walk with the dog. One of the best things you can do for your employees is to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.

Make time in your workday to speak with co-workers, friends and family about subjects not related to work. Share a funny story or compare notes on a favorite show or movie.

Now’s the time, carpe diem.

How many times have you thought, “If I only had more time, I would … .” Now you do, so take advantage of your down time to plan, dream and innovate. You might consider creating an idea think tank with your team and challenge them to submit ideas that support your member enhancement program. Have department heads dissect their business unit with the goal of improving efficiency, productivity and profitability.

John Quincy Adams said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” Now, more than ever, employees are looking to you for leadership. Those who feel their employers are communicating consistently, openly, honestly and with empathy will stay engaged and return to work feeling connected to a team and a mission.

Because sometimes we just need to laugh…

Sample Coronavirus Planning Framework

This week GGA Partners continues its series of communications to help leaders of private clubs address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees with three perspectives from the front lines of club management.

Today: Robert Sereci, GM/COO, Medinah Country Club, Medinah, Illinois.

A Comprehensive Project Plan for Responding to Rapidly Changing Circumstances Focuses Efforts and Assigns Responsibility

You can’t predict a crisis, but you can – and should – plan for one.

Having a plan for how to respond in times of crisis is essential to ensuring that all critical action elements are addressed. Equally important, a comprehensive plan helps your leadership team understand their individual responsibilities and the actions for which they will be held accountable. In addition, a timeline sets out clear deadlines and helps track progress toward your goals.

We developed a comprehensive COVID-19 project plan for our leadership group at Medinah and with the help of GGA Partners (with whom we recently collaborated on a strategic planning project), loaded the plan into the Smartsheet software tool to assign tasks, track project progress, manage calendars, and share documents. Below is the template we developed, which we’re happy to share with fellow club leaders.

To see a clean templated version that readers are free to use as a starting point, click here. Users can also download the corresponding Excel export that is editable and able to be imported directly to their instance of Smartsheet (click here to download).

From the planning template, we wrote a summary of the four key elements of the plan. In total, we viewed the actions under each section as a non-negotiable checklist for our leadership team.


  1. Assemble a COVID communication/response team – Should include members of the management team and the board.
  2. Member Communication – Focus on awareness, early measures and key dates, including club closure, locker and club storage pick up, etc.
  3. Staff Communication – Determine potential payroll taxes relief and other payroll aid tools available and seek legal advice. Identify the work-from-home capabilities and obstacles for team members.
  4. Board Communications – Brief the board and seek approval on immediate priority policy changes required.
  5. Committee Communication – Work with committee chairs to reschedule future meetings and determine conference call solutions.
  6. Other Stakeholder Communication – Plan for reaching out to vendors, prospective members, group reservations and other relevant stakeholders.


  1. Member Offerings/Venues – Separate into short-term versus long-term. Key checklist items include F&B menu/offering, vendor relationships, golf course opening plan and member access to pick up property.
  2. Cleaning Action Steps – Update the cleaning checklist with added preventative measures and assign personnel.
  3. Facilities – Define the future usage of each core facility at the Club (clubhouse, pro shop, F&B, admin offices) and any policy or function changes required.
  4. Other Operations – Define the operational plan for other areas of the business, including turf maintenance/engineering facilities, prospective member programs and non-member business- related income such as existing bookings for banquets and tournaments.
  5. Staff policy/scheduling and pay scenarios – short-term and long-term policy, and expected costs for salaries of full-time, part-time and seasonal employees (full shutdown vs. partial shutdown).

Financial Impact Planning

  1. Scenario Planning – Identify the most likely shutdown scenarios and model assumptions that have the greatest impact on the financial model (i.e. change in dues, wages, etc.).
  2. Preserving Cash Plan – Review all capital projects, loan schedules, outside revenue contracts to identify ways to conserve cash. Adjust assumptions for new member forecasts and resignation forecasts.
  3. Cost Cutting Plan – Based on the new assumptions for revenue and cash, determine the most prudent areas for cut-backs to payroll, operating expenses, contracts, events, etc.
  4. Revenue Generation Plan – Identify any new offerings the club can provide to support revenue generation, such as meal replacement, to-go orders, limited golf, event catering, etc.

Contingency Plans

  1. Determine a plan for shelter in place – Determine the trigger that would lead to no staff or members on property (i.e. order from city officials) and the time-sensitive steps to be taken in that event.
  2. Determine trigger and plan to close club completely – How does the plan change if shelter in place orders are extended or if a member or employee is diagnosed with the virus?
  3. Determine trigger and plan to reopen club completely – Leadership team develops a back-to- work protocol and a ramp-up plan.
  4. Club Events/Golf Tournament Status – Determine how each scenario above affects the status of scheduled club events that have not been postponed.

A note about Smartsheet: there are several different project planning tools out there, but I am quite fond of Smartsheet (www.smartsheet.com). I use the software extensively for project planning and highly recommend it. From a strategic planning perspective, it has been a great tool for us to keep track of progress on our strategic action plan and to keep our leadership group aligned on performance against our goals.

Because sometimes we just need to laugh …

Putting Planning First

This week GGA Partners continues its series of communications to help leaders of private clubs address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees with three perspectives from the front lines of club management.

Today: Jan Bloemraad, CEO, The Glencoe Club and The Glencoe Golf & Country Club, Alberta, Canada.

In times like these, the impulse is to act. To take decisive action in response to the enormous challenges the coronavirus has placed at our feet.

But before you do – before you rally your team and charge into battle – my advice is to step back and make sure you have an effective plan in place. That’s what we did at our club, and the decision is paying dividends.

As the pace at which the coronavirus pandemic has picked up speed, it has become increasingly more challenging for business leaders to devote precious time on constructing and reconstructing a response plan. But in our experience, whatever time is lost while planning is more than compensated for in making sure your actions are the right ones.

In our planning process, we have identified three key elements that can have the greatest positive impact on focusing your team, making swift decisions and maintaining the trust of staff and members.

3 Critical Elements to Planning in Times of Crisis

1. Objective Setting.

There is never a more important time for setting objectives and goals than when planning a crisis response. Goals should be focused on immediate-term, short-term and longer-term time horizons.

Our team has organized our goals during this pandemic around five key pillars: communications, which must be open and honest; administration, operations, human resources and innovation.

2. Response Teams.

In times of crisis, an effective approach to organizing involves the creation of special response teams to ensure there is accountability, focus and resources assigned to every primary action required.

It is important to remember that in times of crisis a new layer of organizational structure is required, one that goes above and beyond your normal operating structure.

Our leadership team’s approach has been to assign a champion to each major goal and to form a team under each champion to ensure their work stays true to the goals we’ve set. Each response team ultimately reports to and takes direction from the Senior Leadership team.

3. Decision Criteria.

When circumstances are evolving rapidly and emotions are running high, data and facts are important allies. One of the more time-consuming aspects of planning in times of crisis is the design and development of critical decision criteria.

Having established decision-making criteria tied to objective data and facts sourced from experts are incredibly powerful resources in supporting swift action and building trust.

Our team set out to develop decision-making criteria and critical triggers for every major decision we knew we would face. These triggers, underpinned by data and facts, have guided all major decisions, reduced stress and empowered our team to meet this enormous challenge head-on.

As leaders, our first reaction to crisis is to run into the fire and toward the crisis. But the most important job of leadership, in my opinion, is first to point our teams in the right direction. A plan that embeds these three elements is a good way to focus everyone on the big picture and then on the tasks at hand, so everyone is working toward the same goals.

Because sometimes we just need to laugh …

What we’re going through is obviously no laughing matter. But according to Psychology Today, humor can be a great mechanism for dealing with stress. Jokes and witty conversation even in a time like this can make you feel closer to the people around you. Have you heard the one about

In Times of Crisis, Customized Communication Is Key

This week GGA Partners continues its series of communications to help leaders of private clubs address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees with three perspectives from the front lines of club management.

Today: Trevor Noonan, COO, Toronto Club, Toronto, Ontario and president of the Canadian Society of Club Managers.

It’s easy to say and it’s been said so often that it should be hard for any leader to forget: In times of crisis, communication is key.

Three weeks ago, when it was apparent the coronavirus was headed to Canada, I drafted the first of many memos to our members and our team of employees.

Based on what we knew (or thought we knew) at the time, I did my best to answer the most obvious questions: What is coronavirus/COVID-19? How is it contracted? What are its symptoms? What should you do if you think you’re infected? What personal protection measures should you take?

Then I tackled the personal side of the issue: How the club was responding to the threat, and how it was preparing for the possibility of a confirmed case amongst members or employees.

Not being an infectious disease specialist, I looked to outside resources for guidance, starting with WHO, the CDC and the Public Health Agency of Canada. I was also alert to information from other sources. The general manager of the Hong Kong Club was especially helpful in providing real-life experiences I could relate to. I even found relevant information from the property management company that manages my condominium building. Crediting these sources in my memos added credibility, trust and a level of comfort for our team members.

Since those first memos, I’ve written eight more, each customized to a specific group: members, employees and our management committee, plus two more as president of the Canadian Society of Club Managers. At the end of each memo, I said when each group could expect my next communication. This establishes a schedule and lets recipients know that I am going to continue to keep them informed.

I’ve also enlisted members of my management team as content contributors. Their participation promotes buy-in from all aspects of club management and helps them feel part of the solution. In addition, it was important to assure employees that wholesale layoffs were not imminent and that the club would be taking care of them. Early on we had meetings with employees where we asked for their suggestions on how the club should be responding. Some of their ideas were immediately implemented, making employees part of the solution and increasing pride in their club.

In meetings with employees, I do my best to be prepared with answers to the questions I can anticipate. But I quickly learned I cannot anticipate all of their questions, nor will I have all the answers. One phrase I’ve used a few times that’s helped with trust and credibility: “I don’t know all the answers; I’m still learning all the questions.” When you admit that you’re learning, and that you’ll do your best to find the best answers to their questions, it shows your commitment to informed decision-making and adds to their trust in you as a leader.

Of course, we should not overlook another important group in the communications process – family. Your family is going through this too. They’re worried about the virus and how it might affect family members. They’re also worried about club members, employees and their families. Now that I’m working from home (our club is closed), my family sees firsthand the challenges with which my fellow club managers and I are dealing.

You need to communicate openly about the coronavirus, but be sure to focus your discussions on other topics too. Don’t let the virus and its effects consume your entire time while home or your stress will be passed on to others around you.  Finally, don’t forget about taking care of yourself; in other words: practice what you preach.  Those who follow me on social media will have witnessed numerous #selfcare posts, and now with a community challenge to my colleagues and friends. The reaction to this challenge is heartwarming to say the least.

When it comes to guiding our clubs and our people through these challenging times, we’re all learning on the job. The first lesson, as I’ve been reminded, is to promote open, honest and clear communications.

Need something to lighten up your day? What could be better than a good, old-fashioned sitcom? How about 15 of them? Here’s a summary of some of your favorites and maybe a few you never got around to watching. Happy viewing.  

Leading in Challenging Times

The first in a series of communications to help leaders of private clubs address challenges confronting their businesses and their employees.  

For many club leaders, the coronavirus pandemic is a crisis unlike any other in recent times. When governing and managing through a crisis, speed, collaboration, and communication are key to responding effectively. 

In times of crisis, leaders confront issues and decisions whose urgency is matched only by their complexity. Although this pandemic puts us in uncharted waters, there are lessons we can draw from previous crises. Underpinning each of these lessons is the importance of trust among our stakeholders: members, guests, staff and communities.

Leaders’ success in building and maintaining trust, while guiding their clubs through difficult times, is directly related to three key areas: speed, collaboration and communication.

3 Keys for Leading Through Crisis

1. Speed. We’ve seen the speed with which this virus is spreading across the globe and its impact on lives and businesses. Leaders must do their best to keep pace with their decision-making or risk the consequences of health and safety issues as well as a perceived lack of urgency.

Leaders who act quickly and decisively to frame for their stakeholders how these dynamic circumstances affect their club – and the club’s plans to address each challenge – will build trust and distinguish themselves.

2. Collaboration. In a crisis, leaders’ most valuable allies are those who share their goals and have a vested interest in the same positive outcomes. Collaboration among directors, managers, staff, members and community leaders that leads to efficient decision-making is critical.

These diverse perspectives will help to ensure that key segments and their interests are informing a stable and representative decision-making process.

3. Communication. Effective communications – consistent, honest and transparent – help members, guests and staff remain calm and retain the sense of community that members hold dear. Clear, concise and compassionate communications help quell fears and foster positive contributions from all stakeholders. Just as the airlines have learned to keep passengers informed during long and frustrating delays, leaders should do the same in times of crisis.

Visualizing the Future to Guide the Present

We realize that how you perform and how people perceive your performance may seem a distant priority amidst more pressing needs. But visualizing the ultimate outcome – in this case, how and when you see the club returning to more normal conditions – will help you triage less urgent matters and frame your immediate approach to critical priorities.

Having a vision for what you want the outcome to be, even when it feels like you can’t see beyond today, let alone to the end of a crisis, is a proven strategy among the most successful leaders.

Leaders Distinguishing Themselves

We are currently witnessing incredibly swift, intelligent and impactful leadership across our industry:

  • Leaders are working with local, regional and national authorities to adjust or close their operations in line with specific recommendations or requirements.
  • Leaders are closing their indoor amenities and keeping outdoor activities available in ways that adhere to the social distancing recommendations or requirements, including to-go orders, walking-only golf access, and exaggerated tee time and court booking time intervals.
  • Leaders are adjusting their clubs’ rules and restrictions to compensate for the loss of indoor operations, especially for disadvantaged membership groups.
  • Leaders are closing their doors entirely and taking the member experience – the sense of community and culture – virtual by hosting online chat forums and conducting webinars to keep members and staff informed about ways the pandemic is affecting their club and its operations.
  • Leaders are assembling resource libraries for their stakeholders that provide factual, balanced and rationale perspective. In times like these, it is incredibly reassuring to know that as an industry, we are all working together to support one another.

We are incredibly proud of our professional association partners who are helping to lead the way as valuable sources of information. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources and lean on your friends, colleagues and industry partners. Like us, they want to help.

As an industry, we are fortunate to have such an incredible support network. Below are links to various Covid-19 resource centers:

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Resource Centers

United States



And because we can’t (and shouldn’t) worry about this crisis all the time, here’s one way to get away from it all: catch up on the 25 Netflix series that TechRadar says we all “need to watch right now.”

Stay safe and healthy and watch for another crisis leadership update next week.

GGA Partners

How to Elect (and Entrust) the People with Power

There’s an inherent quirk with how members view authority. Individuals elected for board service are often popular, though not necessarily qualified, and the qualified are not always popular.  Who’s to set the balance?

GGA Partners’ Henry DeLozier spells out the importance and role of the nominating committee; who they are, who they should nominate, and how to make sure they are a trusted agent of members at large.

In most private clubs, it is the nominating committee that sets the future of the club. The proverbial queen- or king-maker, the nominating committee profoundly impacts the tone and tenor of club governance.

In clubs using an uncontested election model (members voting for a selected slate of candidates) for board service, it is the nominating committee which selects the club’s future leaders. In clubs with a contested election model (multiple members run for open board seats and are selected by a popular vote of club members) the nominating committee either proves itself to be a trustworthy and balanced agent of the members or a group of members out of touch with the preferences and priorities of their fellow members.

In either case, nominating committee members should be well-known members of the club recognized for their integrity, character, and good judgement.

Whether your club is fortunate to possess a rich pool of individuals who meet this criterion or not, there should always be a charter in place to help guide the selection process and define the role of the committee once in post.

What other steps can you take to select and shape an effective nominating committee?

Define the limits to authority

The authority of the nominating committee should be defined within the club’s bylaws and/or Board Policies Manual, with the nominating committee charter aligning with these two governing documents.

Nominating committees should not be permanent. Clearly established guidelines must be a part of the charter for the term of service. Typical terms for a nominating committee should range from three to six years – dependent upon the term of service for board members.

On an as-needed basis, nominating committees may evaluate the board’s term limits and modify them if needed for board efficiency or to accommodate the changing size of the board.

Set the selection criteria

The charter should provide the committee guidance concerning the qualifications and/or capabilities required of future board members. For example, most clubs benefit from members with legal, banking / finance, insurance, and public accounting backgrounds.

It is desirable to nominate members whose interests differ to provide balanced and impartial governance. For example, a board made up of all avid golfers can be perceived to be out of balance by members with interests other than golf. Avoid nominating members who represent “constituencies” of like-minded members. Each board nominee should represent and seek to understand all members’ viewpoints.

Selection criteria should be definitive concerning conflicts of interest – whether real or perceived – and all other potential factors that could serve to undermine the credibility of the committee and its nominees.

Ensure candidates bring value to the table

A growing number of clubs have introduced specific requirements of board members, and this is something the nominating committee should focus on when defining methods of recruiting prospective board members. Where they are relevant and a potential source of value to your club, these should feature in the charter.

For instance, you can stipulate that a prospective board member has successfully recruited a member of the club, or you could set policies for the giving or fundraising expectations of board members. Specific, tangible value delivered back to the club which symbolizes a ‘lead from the front’ mentality, setting the tone and an example for members at large.

Not only will this help send the right message, it also ensures each member of the board is accountable, bringing something beyond their invaluable rich experience, guidance and ideas to the table.

The role and responsibilities of the nominating committee are profound and great care and transparency must be given to populating the committee with the club’s most respected members.

Conflict in the Boardroom

What happens when board members clash, causing conflict, disruption and moving the club backwards instead of forwards?

We outline the dangers of conflict, and advise on how to turn dispute into a positive, constructive outcome and ensure all board members are a true asset to the club.

Effective non-profit boards deliberate as many and govern as one. At least, that’s how it should work. Unfortunately, many club boardrooms up and down the country are more akin to a newsroom; rife with bickering, contempt, and dysfunction.

It’s understandable. Passions run high, these overtake rational, pragmatic logic and suddenly what is intended to be a progressive, forward-thinking environment becomes one paralyzed by indecision.

What should board leaders do in the face of these circumstances? Aside from preventing it from getting to this point, it’s imperative to restore levels of cooperation, deliberation and thoughtful leadership – quickly.

There are two ways of doing this: the first addresses the issues immediately and sets the standard both now and into the future; the second addresses the onboarding process, ensuring all board members are clear in what they are signing up for and what is expected (and not expected) of them at the outset.

The Boardroom Bible

The launch point for improving club governance and reducing boardroom conflict is a Board Policies Manual (“BPM”). Think of it as a boardroom bible, describing the sound principles and guidance for effective club governance.

Crucially, its guiding principles will mitigate any potential flare ups of conflict, and be the standards and expectations all board members sign up to. How? Just one example is the inclusion of specific, dispassionate requirements to support the decision-making process, based on data and insights, rather than allowing personal opinions and perspectives to creep in.

Its introduction will unite board members, clarify points of disagreement, and have everyone focused on what is truly in the best interests of the club, in any matter.

Setting the tone

Introducing new board members can inject a welcome sense of energy and perspective, providing you have the right people to do the job from the outset. There are three practical steps you can take to ensure this is the case:

1. Board Selection Criteria – Use an uncontested board election process. This requires a reliable Nominating Committee to recommend a slate of candidates in the same number as the number of board positions open.

Providing you have a highly respected and trusted Nominating Committee, known for their good judgement and integrity, you will recruit level-headed, pragmatic, forward-thinking individuals.

The key to a trustworthy election process is the trust and respect earned by those who serve in club leadership roles. Members’ respect of the individual members of the Nominating Committee will reflect in the overall trust of the committee’s work.

2. Board Code of Ethics – All board members should be provided with (and accept, in writing) the ethical requirements of board service. Such requirements typically include:

  • Confidentiality and Non-Disclosure – Ensure board members are accountable for protecting the privacy of the board and its deliberations. Board members must be trusted by their fellow board members for their capability to be discreet and impartial.
  • Conflict of Interest – Board members must avoid conflicts of interest and refrain from benefiting financially from the club’s contracting and procurement activities. Board members are expected to refrain from being a champion for self-interests in which the individual board member is a beneficiary, such as favorable tee times for certain categories of membership.

3. Business-like Governing Practices – Club members expect their board members to take a business-like approach to corporate governance. In fact, most reference points for governing practices tie directly to members’ experiences with boards of publicly traded companies, where board conduct and process is held to a high standard.

The same should apply here. Board disciplines such as the board’s function to speak as one unit and its authority to speak for the club are expected, as are financial reporting and disclosure standards.

And yet…

In contentious times, some board members cannot be dissuaded from causing conflict within the boardroom.

You can put in place the tools to mitigate conflict, but these are only tools. Tools which require genuine leadership and execution from the board president and fellow board members to be effective.

“Going rogue”, or in other words disrespecting the duty of sound governance, should result in fellow board members confronting the rogue board member firmly and fairly. While there is tremendous value in a board member who sees a different point of view, if these views carry no weight or evidence under scrutiny, they can and should be challenged.

You can never legislate or plan for human behavior, but you can (and should) put control measures in place to keep board members focused on what matters. That’s what will make them a true asset to the club.

Spread the Goodness of Golf

Hardy Greaves, the boy who learned about life through golf in the 2000 movie The Legend of Bagger Vance, had an early appreciation for the game.

“You really love this game, don’t you,” local golfing legend Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) asks Hardy.

“It’s the greatest game there is,” Hardy (J. Michael Moncrief) shoots back.

“You really think so?”

“Ask anybody. It’s fun. It’s hard and you stand out there on that green, green grass, and it’s just you and the ball and there ain’t nobody to beat up on but yourself,” Hardy says, adding for proof the example of a club member whose incurable golf swing has broken his toe three times, but who keeps coming back for more. “It’s the only game I know that you can call a penalty on yourself, if you’re honest, which most people are. There just ain’t no other game like it.”

Tens of millions of golfers have a similar love affair with a simple game. But not enough of us take the time to say so and explain to others why we feel as we do, how golf teaches valuable lessons, and why it’s important to our local communities and planet. And that’s a shame because the game and business to which so many devote so much of their time needs our voices and our support.

Beyond the dedicated work being performed by superintendents, golf professionals and managers, and beyond the enthusiastic embrace of the more than 24 million Americans, golfers need to remember that golf and golf courses add so much to lives which are great and small, influential and not, privileged and not. Golf courses serve as critically important open spaces and environmentally safe havens. They also provide water retention and flood-control solutions for many communities. And by employing so many people, they bring economic vitality.

Here are three ways to support golf and expand its impact for generations to come:

1. Promote the game and the virtues it brings to life.

Steadfastness. Work ethic. Capability for facing adversity. Jubilation shared with others. The game is a tireless teacher to those who will learn. It is often a superintendent or golf professional who wields the influence that encourages beginners and engages longtime golfers. Their job descriptions should include a role as storyteller, reliving great moments from their time around the game. Talk to your co-workers and staff members and make sure they know historical and environmental characteristics of your course and the wildlife that your golfers might spot during a round.

2. Make your course a learning laboratory.

Conduct field days when you and your staff provide seminars and discussion groups regarding best practices for irrigation, fertility, water consumption and arboreal care. Make your teaching efforts more than “how to repair a ball mark” and let golfers enjoy the wonders of course care and upkeep And don’t limit your time and knowledge to your adult golfers. Invite local youth to learn about the course and the efforts you’re making toward sustainability. Help them understand that the world would be a better place if more people were as diligent as superintendents in matters of pesticide use, water-taking practices and land conservation.

3. Take golf to heart.

Golf is a heartfelt endeavor. Those attracted to it share an uncommon devotion to the game itself. Golf is a healthy game, as well. Fresh air and a practically unmatched opportunity to get steps in for the day, not to mention beautiful landscapes, sunrises and sunsets, along with special moments with friends and family.

Edwin Roald, a member of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects, cites seven important health benefits of golf participation: heart health, brain stimulation, weight loss, stress reduction, increased longevity, low frequency of sport-induced injury, and a good night’s sleep.

The smart millennials at NextGenGolf call out five factors arising from golf participation: good for your body, good for your mind, helps to make new friends and business connections, ability to play the game into old age, and the opportunity to experience and protect nature.

There are so many reasons to make golf more a part of your life and to spread the good word. Young Hardy Greaves sure knew what he was talking about.

This article with authored by Henry DeLozier for Golf Course Industry magazine.  Henry also made his Beyond the Page debut to talk about the goodness — the greatness — of golf in a conversation with Golf Course Industry managing editor Matt LaWell. Listen to the podcast below and visit the GCI website to subscribe to the Beyond the Page podcast.


Dangers of Depersonalizing the Member Experience

As new innovations continue to help streamline club operations, GGA Partner Henry DeLozier cautions against replacing staff with technology and removing what can be priceless interactions for members and guests alike.

Most clubs today are facing the dual challenges of rising labor costs along with ever-greater member expectations.

In our modern digital age, the obvious solution for many has been to systematize and automate services wherever possible across their operation.

But while this may be cost efficient, clubs must beware…the result is often the depersonalization of member services.

Remember, clubs share an emotional – not transactional – relationship with members. And both research and experience have shown us that the best member services are strictly personal.

For a club, to depersonalize is to chip away at the very foundation of your business.

Here are five tactics for personalizing services at your club:

1) Reserved or Reserved for…?

Recognize reserved tables with a reserved placard that displays the name of the member for whom the table is reserved. It’s a small touch which underscores that “we have been anticipating your arrival”. These little efforts add more to the member experience than you might think.

2) Monitor Club Communications for Engagement

Most clubs blindly issue email communications to members with little-or-no tracking to understand if the message was even received – let alone opened, read, or acted upon.

Follow up your club’s emails with calls to individual members who are not opening or engaging with club communications. Ask if the messages are being received (although your analytics will have revealed this already). This is a chance to learn what topics interest your members…and which topics don’t.

3) Personalize Your Club’s Communications

As suggested above, develop a personal communications profile for each member.
As with Facebook or LinkedIn, you can enable members to populate their own profiles (though some members who are not computer natives will need help with this).

This allows you to learn what topics interest each member, in what media they prefer to received messages, what days and times they want the messages to be delivered, and from whom at the club they wish to receive important information.

In essence, stop issuing “Dear Member” communications.

4) Meet with Members

Whether one-to-one or in small (fewer than four people at a time) member groups, meet to discuss the club and its various priorities. Ask members for their feedback, learn their priorities, and ensure that they know and understand the board’s strategic priorities too. This will make them feel included, valued and empowered.

5) Facilitate Member-to-Member Introductions

Most members are truly acquainted with very few of their fellow members, but clubs are more fun when people know more people.

There are several ways you can help this along, such as hosting multiple welcoming events for new members, enlisting your board, committees, and staff to become the “connectors” between members, and creating a digital (online) member directory to help members learn more about one another.

Using the member profiles described above, you can personalize the effort by connecting people with similar backgrounds – such as universities attended, hometowns, or places of employment.

Keep in mind that private clubs are a platform for socialization. An undeniable characteristic of successful clubs is the sense that “everyone knows one another”. Help your members get to know one another and, in so doing, make your club ever more relevant to the members.

Ultimately, the key is to treat your members as the valuable resource that they are. Keeping your services personalized will help them know that they are recognized, respected, and valued, and provide the strongest possible foundation for your club going forward.