From Luke Welham, Interim Golf Manager: Since joining the Sherfield Oaks team a month and half ago it has become apparent that many Members are unaware of Get Golfing’s charitable goals, its philosophy and its plans for Sherfield Oaks Golf Club.
Get Golfing CIO was set up in 2018 by former England amateur Edward Richardson to encourage greater participation in golf and deliver a positive impact on the physical and mental health of those who play.
It was also created to bring much-needed operational discipline to previously struggling clubs and so reverse the worrying trend of course closures. England Golf recorded a circa 30% decrease in custom on golf courses between the years 2009-2017.
While I am not yet wholly familiar with the local golf scene here, I understand that both Reading Golf Club and Basingstoke Golf Club are undergoing planning for housing development as a result of this trend. I do know that in the area around Get Golfing’s first club — Redlibbets Golf and Country Club in Kent — three golf clubs closed between the years 2015-2017 for development and one of them was an absolute delight to play.
It should hearten Members to know that Get Golfing’s charitable focus is not just to increase participation levels in the sport, which it does through FREE junior membership plus FREE group coaching sessions, but to operate proprietary golf clubs that are sustainable.
Redlibbets had just 350 active members in 2018 when Get Golfing took over, it now has around 850 active members as a result of massive improvements to the course and clubhouse and all achieved without increasing the fees.
Our proprietary status does mean we encourage visitors and Members at the golf club while we are building that sustainable operation but, it should be noted, once the membership has been expanded there are very few bookings made on weekend mornings by visitors at Redlibbets Golf and Country Club.
Currently, the mission is to ensure the eight individual golf clubs operated by Get Golfing are in a sustainable position in 12 months’ time. We have made operational changes to the way the club is run but over the winter months Members will see investment going to the clubhouse and then in early 2021 the course will receive a lot of attention in preparation for summer 2021.
If Members want further proof they should pay a visit to Redlibbets and ask the members any queries they may have.
Course marshalling: It is clear that the course has become significantly busier over the last few weekends, which may be because of the looming threat of Tier 2/3 COVID restrictions or just the change in seasons.
Whatever the reason, Members will be pleased to learn that we believe we have recruited an effective team of marshals to manage the course at busy periods. Andrew Chambers and Freddie Rokison join the Sherfield Oaks team to help improve the pace of play and reception on the golf course. Please make them feel as welcome as you made me when you see them next at the golf club.
Trafalgar course: Members have asked about the implementation of the Trafalgar golf course during the winter months and we would stress this will be completely weather dependent. We have prepared Trafalgar scorecards and an electronic tee sheet to ensure it is a smooth transition if required but any decision will be made only after full consultation with Courses Manager Ross Cook. Ross is trying to preserve the golf courses as best he can with ropes in and around delicate areas of the golf course. Please try to avoid entering the roped-off areas as much as possible.
The introduction of the three tier local alert system introduces certain additional restrictions on coming to the golf club and what can be done once you are at the Club.
We will keep the clubhouse open while we are in Tier 1 but we will have to close the clubhouse should Tier 2 occur.
The courses will stay open throughout and we are working on contingency plans that will enable us to provide food and drinks to Members and visitors both on and off the course.
It is the responsibility of Members, their guests and those playing in golf events to comply with the government regulations as befits their personal circumstances. We would urge all staff, Members and visitors to report any Covid 19 symptoms to the appropriate bodies.
We ask Members to respect the latest government guidance, which seems to be increasingly complex.
We recognise that these restrictions will have a negative impact on a number of events and those who might participate in them. This is deeply regretted, but we are obliged to follow the regulations and to adapt as they change.
From Ross Cook, Courses Manager: September is always hard to predict and it’s always all or nothing off something, last year it didn’t stop raining and this year we only had 41mm around 35mm below average. Great for golf but not so great for the 150 bags of seed we put into the fairways! The seed is starting to germinate now with the seed lines very visible, the process has just taken three weeks longer than I would have hoped.
October started with Storm Alex rolling in bringing a massive 108mm of rain in two days, the course has taken it very well due to the moisture deficit left from the summer but it has woken up the worms unfortunately.
The next four months are the most challenging from a course presentation point of view as the worm casts play havoc with the mowers by sticking to all the rollers and smearing mud everywhere we cut.
A lot of you will have noticed I have started to rope off around tees & greens, this has been put out a bit earlier than last year due to the amount of rainfall encouraging the worm activity.
By roping off green surrounds we direct trolleys & buggies away from greens to help prevent smearing of worm casts, which looks untidy and ultimately makes playing shots around the greens very difficult. The idea is that you walk your trolley around the ropes then duck under them with your club only to play your shot. If this process is adhered to we will significantly enhance the playability of these areas through winter and allow us to restore the surrounds much quicker in the spring.
We have started our winter works this week, first on the list is exposing all drainage outlets and clearing ditch bottoms where required. Along with this process we are removing scrub/bushes from ditch banks to allow water to move freely through the site and out into the river. The greens will be slit on a fortnightly basis too to allow deeper rooting and rainfall to penetrate the thatch layer. It won’t be long before leaves start to fall from the trees so over the next month the blowers will be out in force keeping all the main playing surfaces clear.
We have just held our first Society Masters event with 18 groups of four battling it out for the top prize, the course was presented very well with greens running at 9ft on the stimp meter. This is a great event that will give fantastic exposure to the golf club which in turn will allow the opportunity for future investment in the course.
I hope the weather is on our side this winter so we can crack on with all the course improvements we have planned and so that both courses can play very well and be enjoyed by everyone.
In recent competitions, there have been some excellent scores recorded despite the change in weather conditions. One score to note was Simon Hargrave’s gross 71 recorded off the whites tees on October 17th, good luck playing him off scratch at the moment!
Many were deterred from last Sunday’s stableford as the rain relentlessly fell on the course during Saturday night. Despite this, Mark Clapham recorded 39 points in an impressive battle against the weather.
Winter rates: Members should be aware that we put into effect a new points matrix on October 26th for the winter golf season to March 31st to reflect the new playing conditions in terms of light etc.
This will offer both Member guests and Flexible Members a much more economic rate when playing over the winter season. Details can be found here.
Membership migration: Some Members, who renewed just prior to the takeover, currently remain in their old chosen Crown category until their renewal next year. We appreciate, however, that Get Golfing’s new membership terms, including the booking window, are much more attractive than previous offers, so we can migrate a Member across to a newer category if they so want.
There are, however, some implications in doing this. Legally it is a new contract — so we cannot just migrate you over at the touch of a button. Also, because the previous owner’s rates included VAT that we cannot recover, there is a cost implication, which may affect your decision to change over. Please contact your General Manager to discuss ways in which we can tailor a solution most suited to your golfing needs.
We would also like to highlight the fact that we are committed to keeping your subscription flat in 2021, while at the same time continuing to invest significantly in delivering a high-quality course and great customer service.
Freedom Play Members: Those Members still operating under the old Freedom Play membership category should all have been contacted by the Golf Manager about our new better-value points system created in line with the wider Get Golfing group. If you are not in the process of moving across to this improved offer, please contact the office so you don’t miss out! See here for more details.
Join the Golf Passport: If you are an existing Member of a Get Golfing club, you can play UNLIMITED golf at our other venues for just £25 a month or £300 a year (with a 7-day lead time for booking your tee time). Why not organise a 4-ball with your friends and enjoy an away day at another course near you? Remember you can use your Club Card across all Get Golfing sites as well! Please note that flexible members have their points deducted based on the time and day of play. Please click here to learn more.
World Handicap System update: As a golf club, we are the data controller for any data stored in IntelligentGolf about the membership. Members may be interested to know that, as part of the WHS license agreement with England Golf, certain fields of your member data are requested to be uploaded to the WHS.
Members are able to set their privacy preference but please before doing that, within your Member log-in, go to My Golf and then Preferences and verify your email address and tick all the appropriate boxes that allow you to receive communications.
Only then go to My Golf, My Rounds and click on the WHS Privacy Link.
FYI: If you click on the link below you will be able to view the latest communication sent out from England Golf to help golfers understand the new WHS system which comes into action from November 2nd.
Please remember that Intelligent Golf and all golf support companies have no access to anyone’s handicaps or playing records until November 2nd so any discrepancies or problems with any uploads cannot be resolved until after this date. The last upload from England Golf to the WHS takes place at 8.00pm on the 1st of November so things are constantly changing on a daily basis until this time.
Moving into the winter months the team at Sherfield Oaks are keen to imbue the clubhouse with some Christmas spirit in spite of CV-19 etc. The chefs in the kitchen will be swapping their whites for baking hats in preparation for some festive treats. Please pay attention to the specials that are being advertised in the clubhouse.
Since beginning the group sessions, Van Phillips has experienced a good reception to these lessons however, we would love to get more Members involved, so please ensure you are enlisting your name on the sheet located by the check-in desk if you are interested.
We realised that communication about the FREE lessons could be improved so we have created a whatsapp group chat to make sure anybody who is interested is contacted on the day of the group lessons.
As noted above, Get Golfing is keen to increase the participation in golf, particularly via our FREE junior memberships, which we hope will benefit the whole sport in future years. We are, therefore, delighted to announce that Barney Whytchard will be joining the coaching team to focus mainly on coaching juniors and creating a vibrant junior hub at the golf club.
More news will be posted as to when the FREE group lesson for juniors will take place. In the meantime, Barney would love Members to donate any unused junior golf clubs to help Sherfield Oaks build a thriving junior section.