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

New Zealand Golf Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS PETER WIL­LIAMS

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.

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