We hosted our Q&A sessions with Get Golfing CEO ed Richardson on the 31st July 2021, and thought it would be a good idea to give a brief summary in this newsletter for those who weren’t able to attend. Ed gave us the backstory on how Get Golfing began 3 years ago with the purchase of Redlibbets in Kent and how they have expanded to now run 8 clubs, of which Sherfield is of course one. Get golfing have recently sold the Bristol Golf Club and could not agree terms on the lease at Oak Park. Whilst Sherfield has been owned by GG for 13 months, Covid constraints meant they have only been trading for 8 of those. As the largest Get Golfing site, Sherfield consummately has the biggest development plans as Ed explained.
Below is a brief summary of some of the issues raised by the members and responses from Ed:
1 – Future Plans for the Course – Ed confirmed there are big plans to improve the course, the landscaping including re figuring some holes and introducing trees etc plus the drainage. GG have engaged with the environment agency to drill a bore hole at the top of the site, allowing us to move water around the site easier. Ross Cook and his team are clearing ditches and we will lose some of the dry ditches. Ed is aware that our course gets very wet over the winter, and work has already started in addressing this, it is not going to be a quick fix, but members will hopefully start to see improvements this winter.
Bunkers are on the schedule, but Ed cannot give a start date as the team are working on other GG sites. We can expect them to all be re-designed with changes to size and location and it remains, along with drainage, a priority.
It was suggested to Ed that GG give members a draft roadmap of when we can expect these changes to take place. Ed confirmed that these changes are based on income coming into to all the GG sites. Money is generated by pay and play golfers, golf societies and increasing membership subscriptions (and subsequent spending), all income is put back into the club so Ed is reluctant to give exact timescales but members can expect big improvements in the course when the funds allow works to start. Ed made a point of stressing that there are no shareholders or fat cats, so all support for the club will benefit the club and those who use it.
2 – The Patio, Driving Range and Changing Rooms – The works for the patio are due to start in October and should be completed early 2022. The driving range is an issue and Ed is possibly looking at a third party to partner GG, but no definite news yet. It is recognised that the mats are looking in poor condition and Ed will consider if anything can be done in the short term. The changing rooms are on the list and Ed appreciated they need updating. It is not on GG priority list as they believe the money is currently better spent on the course.
3 – Boards – A lot of discussions on this issue, Ed’s view is the golf course is for golfers and the clubhouse is for everybody, so he does not want the boards in the bar area. With 30+ years of experience, Ed explained that the inclusion of Members boards of the current nature would have a detrimental impact on non golf related revenues. This point has been proven to Ed many times and various sites. Members disagreed with Ed on this point but in summary I am going to look at other board options, possibly smaller clear boards that are more in keeping with the refurbishment and put a proposal with costs to Ed to discuss this point further. He was very open to discuss this issue further and explained that he does understand why this is an important point to the membership.
4 – Course Etiquette – This is an area of concern for members, slow play, guest’s behaviour and dress code. Ed’s view is the issue of slow play and behaviour on the course needs to be addressed by the starters and marshals on the course and members pointed out this is not the case and people are walking off the course due to slow play. Ed is going to discuss this with Luke and Andy our new general manager. Ed is quite relaxed about dress code both on the course so long as it is respectful and appropriate, but challenges anyone to draft a dress code that clearly delivers on its objectives. Get Golfing’s benchmark is respect to the property, staff and fellow members and visitors and on site management should focus more on the actual behaviour of patrons than what they are wearing.
5 – Sky Sports – Ed hopeful to have Sky in the clubhouse, but ideally would like sponsorship or contribution from a brewery. Sky at Sherfield would cost £8,000 a year and in order to break even on that investment, we would have to sell an additional 4,000 pints, so it comes with a commercial risk of losses before it becomes a profitable addition. Ed will keep us posted on progress.
6 – Matches – Again a big discussion point especially around complimentary practice rounds for visiting teams. Ed explained that he is flexible, but there is a balance and GG need to fully understand what they are agreeing to. It was eventually agreed to discuss and agree a way forward at the committee meeting in September.
7 – Car Park – GG are putting a planning application for housing on the site of the greenkeeper’s current location and that compound will move to the rear of the car park. Part of this application includes discussions with the landlord and the plan is to increase the size of the car park. More details to follow.
8 – Upstairs offices – Ed is looking to maximise revenue from the upstairs offices, and is flexible regarding how this is managed. It could be a gym or other fitness classes, and more details will follow. Should this occur, Get Golfing recognise that the refurbishment and allocation of space in the changing rooms will need doing at the same time.
9 – IG – GG are looking at new software system called Golfmanager and this is currently being trialed at their two new sites. If successful this could be integrated into all sites. More details to follow.
In summary a very productive meeting. Ed is honest and upfront about his plans for SOGC and the vision is to create a superb facility for all members and visitors alike. He came across as incredibly genuine and focused on our future and explained that as they don’t borrow money, they have to have the revenue available to enable them to progress through each stage of development. His closing comment was that members must understand that all the profits go back into the site, so if members could buy their golf equipment, apparel and consumables from the club’s Proshop website, they not only get their exclusive member’s discount, but they are furthering the progression of their club. He is looking forward to spending more time at our club when the next phase of development begins.