CLUB MAN­AGE­MENT

Beryl Acres looks back on a chang­ing world

Golf Digest (South Africa) - - Contents 6/15 - The new GM of CMASA is Janyne Marais, who for­merly worked for the PGA of South Africa, and more re­cently was the mar­ket­ing manager at Glen­dower Golf Club.

Re­tir­ing CMASA gen­eral manager Beryl Acres re­flects on the in­dus­try.

Beryl Acres has re­tired af­ter 20 years as gen­eral manager of the Club Man­agers As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa (CMASA). She re­flects on the state of the in­dus­try to­day.

I WOULD LIKE TO THINK CLUB MAN­AGE­MENT HAS BE­COME MORE PRO­FES­SIONAL.

Dur­ing my time the fo­cus was on con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion, ei­ther through news­let­ters or for­mal cour­ses. We were the first coun­try out­side the United States to pro­duce the first in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised Cer­ti­fied Club Manager (CCM) des­ig­na­tions, based on a syl­labus pro­vided by the Club Man­agers As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­ica. Th­ese cour­ses are now avail­able in China, the UK, Europe, Colom­bia and soon Australia and New Zealand. Three of our man­agers, Steven Thielke, Michael Leemhuis and Ann Rob­bie, have gone on to top jobs in Asia, the US, and the UK re­spec­tively.

HIS­TOR­I­CALLY THE PO­SI­TION OF A CLUB MANAGER

or sec­re­tary was of­ten given to a re­tired club mem­ber who treated the job as a hobby rather than a ca­reer. CMASA has made huge in­roads into cre­at­ing ca­reers for in­di­vidu- als who en­tered the in­dus­try. Twenty years ago clubs still had wait­ing lists for membership and the fa­cil­i­ties of­fered to mem­bers were never as “grand” as they are to­day. Clubs did not com­pete for busi­ness as they do to­day and the job of a club manager did not re­quire the skills nec­es­sary in to­day’s cli­mate.

THERE IS STILL CA­MA­RADERIE BE­TWEEN CLUBS,

but like any­thing in life the ca­ma­raderie is dif­fer­ent. Here’s an ex­am­ple: “Have you heard that Club X is closing down?” In years gone by the re­sponse would have been “what can we do to help them in this dif­fi­cult time?” To­day, the re­sponse would be “how many of their mem­bers can we get?” I of­ten found it in­ter­est­ing when at­tend­ing a meet­ing of man­agers how ev­ery­one would say how well they were do­ing, but mean­while back at the ranch.

MAN­AGERS OF­TEN FEEL IN­SE­CURE ABOUT THEIR JOBS

as they serve at the be­hest of the membership and com­mit­tee. When times are good they are hailed as out­stand­ing em­ploy­ees, but that can change rapidly and they soon find them­selves updating their CV.

CLUB MAN­AGE­MENT IS A STRESS­FUL CA­REER

and the hours are ex­tremely unso­cia­ble, both in terms of friends and fam­ily. A club manager is re­quired to be a “jack of all trades.” Due to fi­nan­cial con­straints most clubs are un­able to em­ploy an as­sis­tant manager, which leaves the manager work­ing long hours and week­end work. My ex­pe­ri­ence in­di­cates that man­agers who have done their duty work­ing long hours are look­ing to move to a po­si­tion with regular hours and no week­end work. I do see this as a de­ter­rent to ob­tain­ing top can­di­dates. One has to strike a bal­ance in your life – the job can­not be to the detri­ment of fam­ily and health.

PGA CLUB PRO OF THE YEAR JEFF CLAUSE AT ST FRAN­CIS LINKS

is an ex­cep­tion to the rule of PGA pro- fes­sion­als go­ing into club man­age­ment. He is a great all­rounder and tal­ented mar­keter. Golf clubs are look­ing for busi­ness skills to run the multi-mil­lion rand busi­ness of which they are the cus­to­di­ans.

WE HAVE BEEN EX­PECT­ING CLO­SURES AMONG GOLF CLUBS

for at least the last seven years but al­most noth­ing so far. If in­ter­na­tional statis­tics are any­thing to go by, I do think some­thing has got to give in the cur­rent econ­omy. The golf in­dus­try is fac­ing chal­leng­ing times with elec­tric­ity, as­sess­ment rates, lease costs and wa­ter, to men­tion just a few. Mem­bers are feel­ing the pinch and have choices to make. Merg­ers and clo­sures will al­ways be a sen­si­tive and emo­tive de­ci­sion. Mem­bers have a pas­sion for their clubs and a sense of

be­long­ing no mat­ter whether it is a large or small club. Few mem­bers would wel­come change from their com­fort zone to some­thing new. It is just not the na­ture of the beast.

TO BE SUC­CESS­FUL AND PROF­ITABLE,

golf clubs need to look af­ter mem­bers and give them value-added benefits so they get the sense of be­long­ing. Clubs should be a haven for the membership in th­ese tur­bu­lent times. Clubs should of­fer some sort of fam­ily ac­tiv­i­ties. If not, the chil­dren will grow up not hav­ing a sense of the cul­ture of be­long­ing to a club. And where will the next gen­er­a­tion of mem­bers come from? Happy and mo­ti­vated staff will at­tract mem­bers who will want to spend more time at the club. What pre­scribed tonic works as well as ar­riv­ing at your club and be­ing greeted by a staff mem­ber with a smile and wel­come jibe?

THERE IS TALK in the

mar­ket that some clubs ob­tain more rev­enue from vis­i­tors than mem­bers and be­lieve this is the fu­ture. I am not sure this is the so­lu­tion, as a club is so much more than a sports field where you can par­tic­i­pate in your favourite sport. The cul­tures of the in­di­vid­u­als who are mem­bers are an in­te­gral part of the ex­pe­ri­ence.

I DON’T BE­LIEVE GOLF CLUBS TO­DAY ARE OVER­STAFFED COM­PARED TO YES­TER­DAY.

Clubs to­day have im­proved their of­fer­ings to their mem­bers and guests and there­fore may have em­ployed more staff. The in­dus­try is labour in­ten­sive and labour is not a cheap line item. Clubs are al­ways search­ing for cost sav­ings and this of­ten re­sults in job losses. Clubs need to be cau­tious in main­tain­ing good cor­po­rate gov­er­nance which in­cludes sep­a­ra­tion of du­ties. Of­ten in small clubs this dis­ap­pears, lead­ing to poor man­age­ment prac­tices and of­ten fraud or mis­man­age­ment or nepo­tism.

I DON’T BE­LIEVE YOU CAN DIF­FER­EN­TI­ATE THE OF­FER­INGS OF A “SMALL CLUB” VER­SUS A “LARGE CLUB.”

Is this dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion based on the num­ber of mem­bers, num­ber of rounds, money in the bank? Clubs need to de­cide who they are – a Mercedes Benz or a Fiat Uno – then pro­vide the best they are able to do within the re­sources they have, al­ways bear­ing in mind the needs and wants of their membership.

A GOLF CLUB MANAGER SHOULD HAVE A WORK­ING KNOWL­EDGE OF GOLF.

We in­clude a golf com­po­nent in the CCM course to as­sist with this. It is im­por­tant that a manager un­der­stands his cus­tomer’s mind­set, be­cause oth­er­wise it could be awk­ward for a golf club manager. Once again it is about bal­ance – play golf when­ever pos­si­ble or un­der­take the of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion? Most man­agers play lit­tle golf. I man­aged to bluff my way through – some­times not so well – as I have never played golf and know lit­tle about the in­tri­ca­cies of the game. Hav­ing said that, as CMASA rep­re­sents all types of clubs I would have had to take up some rather dif­fer­ent pas­times – skate­board­ing, motorcycling, cro­quet and deep sea div­ing.

I COULD WRITE A NOVEL ON THE CHAR­AC­TERS I HAVE EN­COUN­TERED IN THE IN­DUS­TRY

and suf­fice to say this com­ment would be the first line of the novel. The in­dus­try pro­vides ex­tra­or­di­nary in­di­vid­u­als in all shapes and forms and I of­ten per­ceive it as a mi­cro­cosm of the times we live in. As the say­ing goes, “what hap­pens in Ve­gas, stays in Ve­gas.”

“Golf clubs need to look af­ter mem­bers to be suc­cess­ful and prof­itable.”

Beryl Acres at CCJ Auck­land Park, home to CMASA’s of­fice.

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