President’s Newsletter June 2021
President’s Newsletter June 2021
I write this just as we enter another period of uncertainty with the latest guidelines being implemented by NSW Health in response to the serious Covid outbreak in the Greater Sydney area. Our club and region have largely been unaffected by the many outbreaks that have been encountered in other municipalities, but this one does appear to be a significant concern to both the health of our members and the club.
A late as yesterday evening, our lives have changed considerably, with the direction by the State Premier, that all people in the state will now be required to wear masks indoors until at least July 10. This will cause us some inconvenience, but we have no choice in this matter and members and visitors will not be provided access to our clubhouse without wearing an approved mask.
Our GM, Jono Towns will be managing our compliance with the relevant health orders as they are published. At the time of writing, the rules around the playing of golf have not changed, but the limitations placed on us regarding the numbers of people allowable in the clubhouse have changed and this will certainly have the potential to affect the execution of our Friday draws and other events that may be in the planning stages. Jono will advise the membership on the details of any operational changes as they become necessary.
I need to reinforce, what has been written in my previous newsletters, regarding the expectation of our members and guests in complying with the relevant directions they are given.
Our members and visitors should be aware that our club has, and will continue to be, audited by SafeWork against our COVID Plan and it is all our responsibilities to comply with the requirements of it. If they find during one of their inspections, that the plan is not being adhered to, both the club and potentially the staff could be liable for financial penalties.
I must reinforce with our members and visitors that the most significant responsibility of the management and staff of WGC is to provide a safe and COVID free environment for the enjoyment of all. What this means is that the COVID Plan is in place, first and foremost, to keep everyone safe. The result of keeping everyone safe is that we can continue to operate.
Unfortunately, our Club Captain, Grahame Baker has tendered his resignation from both that role and from the Board. Grahame has decided that his growing family commitments were resulting in him not being able to perform the role in the way in which he believed it should be executed. Thank you to Grahame for his contagious enthusiasm in the role and his selfless decision to resign the role in the best interests of the club.
Our Vice-Captain, Greg Coughlan has accepted the role of Club Captain, and has jumped in boots and all. The Board has appointed director, Mike St Vincent to the Vice-Captain role. Hearty congratulations and thanks to Greg and Mike for accepting these positions and we wish them well.
Grahame’s resignation also created a casual vacancy on the Board and after receiving 6 applications from our membership to fill this casual vacancy, I am very pleased to announce the appointment of Stewart Knight to the Board.
Stewart has been a member of our club for nearly 25 years and has recently retired, which gives him the time to devote to the service of WGC.
Stewart comes onto the Board with outstanding credentials, having retired from the position of Deputy Managing Director of Fuchs Lubricants, Australia after serving on that Board for nearly 20 years. Stewart is a member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors, and we are very excited about having a director of his ability/experience to assist us in our goal of continuous improvement.
The Board is also nearing the completion of our draft Strategic Plan, which basically identifies where we wish to take the club to, over the period of the next 5 to 10 years. This document will provide the necessary rigour on the direction of financial decisions made by management and the Board. The theory is that every decision we make will take us one step closer to the goal, and not take us in a direction that will need undoing in the future.
My continued congratulations go out to Shaun Patrick and his outstanding greenkeeping team for the fantastic presentation of our course.
Many members do not understand the size of the budget that Shaun and his team must work within. Our club has been basically break-even financially for decades, and part of this equation results in how much we can afford to spend on the course up-keep.
We, at Board level, fully understand that some course conditions are not ideal, but I still challenge anyone to show me a course that is presented as well as WGC with the budget and manning that Shaun lives with.
Our financial position is very positive currently and that has allowed us to improve some of these contentious areas. Our bunkering has been the cause of many a complaint, but you will notice that many bunkers have now been refurbished and are looking much better.
The nursery green has now been fully grown in and looks excellent. The grass used in this green was a trial for our new green constructions and has provided us with fantastic guidelines for our selection.
Our greenkeeping team are also very impressed with the performance of the Zoysia turf laid around the nursery green as well as the back tee on the 18th hole. The turf on this tee hardly sees any sunlight and has performed very well. It appears that this turf will be used in the construction of our new holes as well.
We continue to investigate the most appropriate solutions to our reticulation issues. This is probably the most expensive piece of infrastructure installed on the course with a replacement cost in the order of $1.5 Million dollars, excluding any dam construction. This discussion will not be completed any time soon.
Pace of Play
The Match Committee has been continuing to monitor the Speed of Play for our Saturday competition.
I will let Greg Coughlin discuss this further in his Captains Newsletter, but in general, this initiative has provided us with the reduction in playing time that we were hoping to achieve. One of the highlights to me is the volume of talk from our members about their concern in getting an email from the captain. It is great that everyone is thinking about this every week.
As we approach the end of the Financial Year, I am very pleased to say that our financial results continue to be much stronger than we have achieved in recent years. We now have a considerable sum in the bank, and we have not had to draw on our line of credit as is normal at this time of year.
As much as I would like to say that this result is from the outstanding performance of the Board, the truth of the matter is that all golf clubs are prospering in these pandemic times. Our performance will be measured against how we can maintain these figures as the world returns to normal.
Membership surged during the pandemic, based largely on the government’s definition of golf as a recognised exercise. Most of these players joined as Social Golf members and this category has taken a big hit when those memberships lapsed in December. Our current membership stands at approximately 850, which we believe is a true indication of our post-pandemic levels. As stated, our challenge is now to maintain, and preferably grow, this member base over the next few years.
The change in membership cycle to April-Mar has worked well and has made the administration of our Golf Australia affiliation fees much more cost efficient.
The Board is currently reviewing a list of long overdue capital projects that can be financed using our healthy bank balance.
House Activities and Functions.
House activities remain limited in the winter months, and unfortunately the summer months were significantly hindered by COVID restrictions.
This results in our hospitality team having to rebuild the goodwill previously generated before the venue is booked regularly again.
Our draft Strategic Plan identifies the importance of our non-golfing income streams and what initiatives may be possible to grow this element of our business.
I will advise members on the status of these initiatives in future communications.
Many of you will have noticed that we have had a change in personnel in the pro-shop. Robbie Hogan left us to take up a position on the central coast. Robbie’s departure left a big hole in our ability to grow our clinics and lesson base.
After a short search for a suitable replacement, we hit the jackpot, and welcomed Jake Higginbottom to the WGC family in May. Jake has proven a hit with our members and clinic classes and is a fantastic addition to our pro-shop team.
I would like to acknowledge Adam Brown in our pro-shop, for his efforts in keeping everything moving efficiently on Saturday mornings, since we have started our Winter 2 tee start. Can I please ask everyone to get to the pro-shop at least 15 minutes before their tee time so that Adam can manage the efficient flows through the tees.
Development Proposals/Asset Sales for WGC
I advised the membership in my last newsletter that we had finalised terms with our Developer Partner and that was correct as per my knowledge at that time.
Unfortunately, more issues became necessary to resolve and those have yet to reach conclusion at this time.
These issues have largely involved the approval by the fund managers who control the financing of the rezoning and development application costs. The issues that had previously been agreed were now subject to change and these changes added some unacceptable risk that we were not willing to accept. These issues have been largely resolved between our 2 parties but sign off is required by the fund managers.
Our partners have completed their preliminary works required for the rezoning application and are just waiting for the contract execution before submitting them to council.
A meeting was convened of relevant members to assist us in preparing the design brief for our course architect to commence his design work. The invitees to this meeting included our A, B, and C grade Pennant Captains along with our Superintendent and Professional
This design brief has been presented to our architect and is now the basis for our future works. The Board has approved for initial designs to be detailed for the modifications to our current 2nd hole. These modifications result in this hole being converted from a Par 5 into a Par 3 to a new green followed by a Par 4 to the existing green. These changes were initially planned to occur after the first stage of housing sales, but the current status of our bank account will allow us to perform them prior to the sale of the units. This will shorten the period of disruption to our members during the major course changes. Our forecast schedule has this work commencing in December after our 100-year anniversary celebrations have been completed.
I am very pleased to announce that this project has now been completed and we have received the funds in our bank account a few months ago. It is fantastic to see the volume of cycle and pedestrian traffic on the path and the exposure we are receiving from that.
Finally, I must congratulate the following members and teams for their recent successes in both local and state competitions.
- A Grade Pennant Team – Runners up, after being washed out when leading, in the original final. A great result and hoping for one better next year.
- Ray Carlin and Leigh Brydsen – State Age Champions
- Masters Pennants – Have reached the knock-out stage and COVID permitting, a very strong chance of going all the way.
These are outstanding achievements and do not come around often. Thanks to those above and all the other players who have represented Waratah Golf Club with such honour over the last 12 months.
100 Year Anniversary
You will note that we are calling the event our 100-year anniversary, rather than our centenary. The club celebrated its centenary 20 years ago and we are actually 120 years old this year. Our celebration is for the anniversary of the opening of the club at Argenton on 3 December, 1921
A committee has been convened to investigate and prepare for these celebrations. This committee is chaired by Sue Oakey and supported by Lorraine Smith and Mike St Vincent. This committee would not be complete without the input from our Patrons, Col Johnston and Beryl Tobin as well as past member Ken Hughes.
One initiative that the Board has implemented in recognition of this fantastic achievement is a change in design of our club logo. You will notice the new logo at the top of this newsletter and the Board believes that this more modern design pays homage to our past but recognises our acceptance of the necessity of change to allow our club to continue to prosper.
The pro shop is commencing to stock merchandise with our new logo, so please think about being one of our first members to own some of this apparel. Anniversary clothing is currently on order and will be available for purchase from August
We are running a raffle for a 100-year anniversary golf bag over the next few months. This will be very much a collector item, so please buy a ticket when they go on sale. The bag should arrive in August, and we hope it will be the subject of much discussion.
Final details have yet to be confirmed, but the tentative plans are suggesting that an anniversary dinner will be held on Thursday night December 2, and the major celebrations will be held on the actual anniversary date of Friday 3 December, with an invitational event for members and notable visitors.
The ladies will be holding a special event on the Tuesday of that week and members will be playing for the Anniversary Medal in lieu of the normal monthly medal on the Saturday.
All of these plans will be confirmed in the coming months and members will be advised accordingly. This will be a great week to celebrate the history of our club and your part in it.
Many of you will have received an email from Sue, asking for any printable memorabilia, that may have occurred since our centenary booklets were produced 20 years ago. We would like to add something extra to document significant events of the past 20 years. These events could include the greens shed fire, the pasha bulker storm damage, plus anything else that you may have in your possession.
Till next time, stay safe, play well, and enjoy our wonderful game,