The secret secretary: Where does charity begin?

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 14, 2017 12:19 Updated

Sometimes golf club managers like to discuss controversial issues with their peers under the cloak of anonymity. Here, a ‘secret secretary’ explains that ‘charity’ can be used as an excuse to make golfers feel good about themselves – and why this can be costly for a golf club

There are a few areas where a golf club manager or owner is obliged to waste resources knowing it will lead to trouble and lost profits. Where we have little option but to tread a well-worn path because we haven’t the courage to say ‘no’.

For example, a member’s wife brought in a huge cake for his 80th birthday – negating the big buy-your-own buffet and waiters we had laid on. Then we paid the cleaner overtime for removing the sticky crumbs ground into the carpet.

This article is about ‘charity’ though. How many people end up playing your course for free for the ‘Longest Day Challenge’, how often have you given a golf group lower rates ‘because it’s for charity’ or found you couldn’t charge for one of your precious buggies because the charity organiser had turned up unexpected and wanted to drive around to thank the players? Then had to chase them for payment because they ‘couldn’t afford a deposit’?

For the same reason I don’t allow a captain’s ‘charity bunker’ or ‘pond’ as too often I have seen unknowing visitors challenged by members to ‘pay their fine’ to the amusement of those in the know.

All this of course is not usually about the charity at all. It is all to make someone feel good when they hold up a larger cheque for local paper photograph.

When fundraising is a major part of a golf competition it is important to stress to organisers the charitable giving must be voluntary. If part of the entry fee goes to charity each person must be given the option – without coercion – to opt out.

Structuring the captain’s day prizes with the committee one morning, the visiting charity organiser took time off from sellotaping balloons to my décor to refuse to extend the prize list because it ‘bit into her charity’. So suddenly someone from outside is dictating how you run your business. They can, effectively, pocket your hard-earned profits. As always, I caved in and said I would contribute the extra prizes.

Recently we closed the course and gave special rates to a charity group that enjoyed two meals and a round of golf for less than half a tank-full of fuel for their car. When four of them failed to turn up they refused to pay for the missing players.

What’s the answer? It helps to remind the organisers ‘this is your charity, not mine’ and to anticipate such situations and forestall them by explaining that we must make a profit and, although we will help wherever we can, any failings of the day must be borne by the group – not by the golf course.

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Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir July 14, 2017 12:19 Updated
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  1. pgapro July 20, 18:53

    Another drain on income are courtesy rounds for clubs play against each other or national external competitions. If a nominal £10 fee was charged it would inexpensive for the visitor and some revenue for the Golf club. Free golf has got out of hand!

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  2. the Pres July 20, 16:54

    Bah humbug. The Captains work really hard for their special charities and we should consider those less fortunate than ourselves. Give your officers every ounce of support.

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  3. Peter July 19, 19:41

    And it’s amazing how many golf society days are ‘charity’ days when making the initial enquiry on the phone. We use the ‘it’s your charity, not ours’ line. And whilst we are quite generous with our fourball vouchers, there is a limit on that too when the requests seem to come in almost daily……and then there’s still the demands of the captain’s charity too and all that the club is ‘expected’ to provide to help there.

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