‘Narcissistic directors are bad for business’

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 29, 2013 10:34

One of Britain’s leading golf club managers has said ‘whinging and negative’ committee members are threatening the futures of their own golf clubs.

Tom Duke, who has managed three golf clubs in Norfolk and one in Worcestershire, and sat on the Golf Club Managers’ Association’s national committee, said that clubs struggle to be forward-thinking when “self-important and narcissistic” people “whose only purpose is to whinge, criticise and disrupt” sit on their decision-making committees, undermining the club’s manager.

Several golf clubs have struggled through the economic downturn of the last few years, and some industry professionals believe as many as 50 private members’ golf clubs could go bust this spring.

“Having managed four major golf clubs, lack of support, criticism and negativity is something I have personally experienced, as I would suggest have most of my colleagues,” he said.

“Such attitude and behaviour by and large stems from self-important minority groups and narcissistic individuals who do nothing for the game of golf, or their clubs, and whose only purpose is to whinge, criticise, disrupt and make life a misery for those who give their time freely.

“They also see the manager of the club as being fair game in their efforts to undermine all that is good, even though he or she is the most experienced and best qualified to manage the golf club.

“When will those self-absorbed people realise that the manager of the club is the best qualified to carry out such tasks and be allowed to manage? They are not the experts they think they are or make out to be, they are for the most part unqualified and should therefore be instructed to refrain from making biased, derisory and unwelcome comments which do nothing for the good reputation of the club or its environment.

“Golf clubs are intricate businesses where the manager has to be a strong personality, an expert in staff management, employment law, health and safety, IT, the rules and administration of the game of golf, accountancy, budgeting, agronomy, food and beverage, procurement and in particular, people management, and have a willingness and ability to do that which the management committee dictate and much more.”

Mr Duke implied that these ‘negative’ committee members even block measures that managers need to introduce to move their clubs forward.

“The game of golf is currently not in the best of places – clubs are experiencing difficult times and will continue to do so as memberships and visitor green fees diminish. The manager in particular, and committees, will have to prove that they are more than up to the job while convincing those disapproving negative members that they must renounce their lack of support and that change is necessary if their club is to survive.

“We must offer flexible memberships and encourage new members, particularly young men, women and children into a welcoming environment, not a situation for complainers and moaners who have nothing better to do.

“If this means that we have to move with the times and become less formal in order to attract more custom in the bar and dining room areas, so be it, if it means that tee times are not always readily available for those older, retired members wishing to play at the same time, same day, 365 days a year, or, more particular, that beginners are given preference at certain times and made to feel at ease on the course and in the clubhouse, so be it.

“When will they learn that the club does not belong to them exclusively?”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir April 29, 2013 10:34
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  1. Reg Shreeve June 21, 14:21

    What a refreshing breath of fresh air is the great Tom Duke; I was, as ever, enriched by his views. Mr. Duke expounds his opinions on the management of members’ golf clubs in his usual modest, thoughtful and self-effacing way. As one has come to expect he has identified the problem, analysed it, distilled it and expounded the solution without self-doubt, arrogance or self-interest – all that and I had never before realised that he does it all without financial recompense. What a man.

    It is unforgiveable that there are people involved in the running of golf clubs who see themselves as having the entitlement to give instruction, criticism or direction to those whom they employ – who do they think they are? They must think they have some sort of mandate from the club members. Why indeed should the club manager not be the sole judge of “all that is good” and the absolute right of “management” without interference from or on behalf of the membership? Whose club is it anyway? His loss must be keenly felt by all those clubs who saw fit not to continue his employment in the face of his obvious brilliance – I know it is so as he told me so himself.

    It is good to see that Mr. Duke remains fully confident in his abilities to carry out the full gamut of management single-handed – and still find time to play a round with the Lady Captain. Such is the calibre of the man that he can even reconcile the logical dichotomy he identifies in the life of a Club Manager between “a willingness an ability to do that which the management committee dictate ( and much more )” and “ these negative committee members even block measures that managers need to introduce to move their clubs forward”.

    I applauded quietly to myself when I read the last line of your quotation, viz. – “when will they learn that the club does not belong to them exclusively?” – whatever can have given club members the impression that the club was theirs? Such a misapprehension is to be disabused and deprecated.

    I fully agree with Mr. Duke that all the problems faced by members’ golf clubs arise from the solipsism of members and their elected committees; as Mr. Duke always says, borrowing from JFK:- “ Ask not what you can do for your Club but what your Club can do for you”.

    And who could doubt him; he obviously was respected, admired and greatly loved ( as he tells me ) during his successful careers in his East Anglia clubs, tenures ruined only by those interfering nobodies who did not who did not know their place.

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  2. Paul Worster May 2, 21:58

    You missed out Marketing – both of the business and of “good ideas”. Otherwise completely agree.

    How many clubs have a PR policy?

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  3. John Tanner May 2, 18:55

    Also include those members who repeatedly say it’s MY club rather than OUR club.

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  4. David Prior May 2, 13:58

    I agree and feel the effect in a different sort of way. I run a business that supplies scorecards and other golf related print to a large number of clubs througout the UK. If left to the club secretary or manager things always run smoothly but, as soon as a committee or members get involved, things get held up and everyone seems to want the twopennyworth of suggestions and ideas. We go round in circles and then they complain that delivery might be late and we have to rush the printing through – at extra cost to us!.

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  5. Neil Porteus May 2, 12:20

    Wholeheartedly agree

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  6. Lou Sewale April 29, 17:30


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  7. Tony Stevens April 29, 11:11

    Agree with every word he says!

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