MOTUEKA – A RESOUNDING SUCCESS
If you lift your membership by 23 percent in three years, increase your money in the bank from $52,000 to $288,000 in more or less the same time and make a conscious decision to be a welcoming and friendly place, there's a fair chance you'll be named New
Motueka GC, 2017 Club of the Year, may not be in a big city but are growing.
It doesn’t hurt that Sir Bob Charles has described your course, which has had a major irrigation and grooming upgrade in the last decade, as a “hidden gem.”
This is exactly what happened to the Motueka Golf Club at this years NZ Golf Awards.
Peter Johnson, who’s been the club president for nearly five years, says the accolade is no accident.
“We bill ourselves as the Friendliest Club in the Top of the South and it’s not just a saying. We really mean it.”
As their submission for the award put it: “None of the club’s success has been accidental. It’s come about as a result of careful and thoughtful planning over the long and intermediate term. This is an ongoing process.”
At the time of its entry, Motueka had 374 members. This was up from 304 in 2014.
The full membership fee is $680, an amount which has increased only $10 in the last four years. The strong financial position at the club has come about through a 75% increase in sponsorship and a 45% lift in green fees.
But numbers are all very well. A club, golf or otherwise, is its people. If they don’t have a good time there, if they don’t feel included, they’re more likely to leave.
That’s why the club, from the management down through all staff to the members, has made sure they stay committed to the concept of Motueka being a welcoming and inclusive golf club.
Key to this is their commitment to equity between men and women players. Club days on Saturday and Sunday afternoons are for both genders. Shuffle draws on three out of four Saturdays every month mean all members get to play with each other and there’s a minimum of cliques formed. Multi tee starts ensure that as many members as possible are in the clubhouse for prize giving and men’s and women’s prize giving is held at the same time.
While the club doesn’t have a resident professional any more, it does have the services of a pro from nearby Nelson who comes to the town regularly to visit all schools in the area.
The junior programme through the year is run by some experienced golfers at the club and there were 22 junior members from ages 6 to 17 at the time the entry was submitted.
The club has also made real use of the ‘She Loves Golf’ programme in recent years.
The New Zealand Golf initiative, which offers a free introduction to the game for women and girls, resulted in 8 new members at the end of its first summer in 201516. Five more joined the following summer.
While the She Loves Golf sessions, which are run by one of the club’s most experienced players, are free of charge, Motueka Golf Club offered all those taking part a temporary and introductory membership for just $50 which allowed them to use the practice facilities at any time, and the course itself after 4pm.
Last summer, 6 of the 21 women in the She Loves Golf programme took up the offer.
The club is proud of its strong relationship with the small local community. What’s more it wants to deepen that relationship through offering coaching in schools, the She Loves Golf programme and an ongoing connection with local business.
Sponsorship has grown from $10,350 in 2016 to more than $18,000. Twelve new local businesses became supporters in the last two years. The club’s principal sponsor, NBS - the country’s oldest building society – has increased its sponsorship contribution solely because of the support it had been receiving from club members.
But the welcoming atmosphere and financial stability are not going to happen if the golf course isn’t any fun to play.
Motueka, from this correspondent’s recollection of some years ago, is flat yet challenging with numerous dogleg holes. There was limited irrigation back then, but in the time since fairway watering has been installed and the lower foliage of trees has been lifted in order to increase the pace of play.
The healthy financial position of the club means it’s in a position to buy some new equipment and spend a decent sum on course development and nearly $40,000 has been earmarked for work on the course through till 2020, including a new green at the 12th hole.
Plus over $100,000 has been budgeted to buy both a new fairway mower and an updated surrounds mower, while the club will spend $20,000 sealing its outside match room from the elements.
The words of the submitted entry suggest that what’s happened at Motueka Golf Club has been well thought through, strategically planned - and executed.
Sure, the town is blessed with great golfing weather and the reality that many come from Christchurch and other places around the South Island to retire there - so there’s a small but willing new market for golfers.
But anybody who’s been a member of a golf club knows that if the course is poorly maintained and the club membership itself is hard to feel a part of, then it doesn’t take much before you’re looking elsewhere - or not playing at all.
What Motueka appear to have done – very successfully – is follow a logical and simple formula. They’ve been rewarded with the recognition from New Zealand Golf.
But there’s no reason why their success and ideas cannot be replicated at every golf club in New Zealand. It just takes ambition.