Zoom Meeting – Q&A Session Wednesday 20 May 2020

The meeting was chaired and introduced by Steve Myers, Chairman of the Management Committee, who described how the meeting would work and then  made the following announcement before questions were taken:

Before we proceed with the meeting proper, I want to issue a big thank you from the Management Committee for the manner in which members have conducted themselves since we were able to return to golf.   All rules have been observed and members have behaved impeccably.   Yes, some members in their enthusiasm to play may have booked more than the 3 rounds per week we requested; understandable, I think and I don’t believe that anyone has been denied a game.  This says a lot about our Club and about you, the members.   Our course is in superb condition and we have received a number of emails and other messages expressing pleasure.   Newbury & Crookham is a club that people will want to join and, indeed, recruitment over the past month or so has been very good.   There is always room for more members and the best form of advertising is word of mouth.   Please talk the club up positively and, if you are able to recruit a new member, there is a cash incentive to be deposited on your card.

Finally, I know that being a competitive lot, you will be aching to get some competitions played.   The Captain, Keith Watson is currently working on the rescheduling of our diary and we will play competitions as soon as it become practicable.   However, Golf England advice is to avoid competitions during the initial period and we will follow that advice. We will probably test the water with a trial in a few weeks’ time. You should realise that running a competition is manhours intensive and we have to ensure your ongoing safety, so it’s baby steps as far as the competitions go.

Our next step is to move to unlimited access for members and then to allowing guests.  This is under discussion.

Questions then followed.

Jason Burton  Why aren’t we using social media eg twitter and Facebook, to promote the Club?

The question was referred to Amanda, the Deputy Manager.  Without the use of Facebook and Twitter, we have had in excess of 21 new members so something is working.   Word of mouth is probably the best way to recruit but we can always look at new ways to promote the club.   Jason Burton then added that he uses Facebook and Twitter for his business and would add that updates need to be on Facebook and Twitter every two days to recruit new members.  He last saw N&C on Facebook/Twitter last April advertising New Members Open Day.  He has offered to help the marketing team if requested.  Action:   Referred to Neil Devery, Head of Marketing.

Ian – There appears to be no reason why Singles match play competitions cannot be held within the current R&A guidelines.  

The Chairman replied that the Ronaldshay, Elkington and Stokes will be considered.   Action:   General Manager

Graham Page  How is the development progressing and has it changed since the lockdown? Are we retaining cash and not spending it on Capital items?

This was referred by the Chairman to Nick Vanstone, Head of the Development Project.  We have not so much put it on hold but stopped expenditure.  We haven’t gone out and spent on development but we do have to bear in mind that the condition of the clubhouse is poor and that it will not repair itself.  We need to look forward positively and progress with the plans.  A letter has been sent to the developer for an update but obviously they are going to look at it in the current climate and I am currently waiting for a reply.   

Ivor Graham, the Treasurer then added: We have suspended all capital payments but in reality, we have spent as much as we need to – about 75% – so we are almost there, as far as we are aware, at the moment.

Graham Page   Is there any thought being given to reducing the cost on the new clubhouse?  With something like we have just experienced, we may need to retain a little bit more cash in the coffers.

Nick Vanstone   It’s all in the air at the moment as we don’t know what the market is doing.  We have to be thoughtful as to what we are going to do with the clubhouse and whether we have to have to redesign it and look at it terms of market value.  Regarding the retention of cash in the coffers; you have to bear in mind that this is an enabling project and is not about generating cash for the future.  The council will want to see the expenditure and that the development is not about making a profit, but about the Club’s survival. 

Mick Perry  Was concerned as to why we are unable to use the benches around the course but may do so in and around Newbury.

The question was referred to Hugh Turley, Head of the Course Committee. The recommendation for England Golf was that all benches should be removed from the course.   We have merely closed them off.  We will move forward on this in due course.

Dave Middlemass .  The booking system seems to work really well observing social distancing and 10 minute intervals.  Is there an appetite to keep the current booking system when 3 and 4 balls return?

Steve Myers  This is an ongoing discussion at N&C.  We believe one of the big attractions at N&C is that you can turn up and play whenever you want.  A booking system would change that.  A tee booking system has been discussed in the past and will be discussed in the future.  At the moment there are no plans to move to a booking system.

There was a further comment from Ivor Graham.   He admitted to not liking booking systems but now that we have got it, thinks it is works well and may change his thoughts.  Neil Devery also added to this – thinks booking is working well.  Shows a good usage of the course and 10 minute intervals is plenty for 2 balls.  If the course becomes busier then maybe reduce it to 8 minute intervals.  Steve Myers advised that the matter will probably be discussed by Management committee but at the moment there are other priorities.

Paul Lamb   If we can’t touch a flag, why can we touch a bench?

Steve Myers  We are following government guidelines which are constantly under review.  Phil Allen (H&S)  Advice was that all benches should be removed but this was difficult to do so it was decided to tape them up.

Paul Hawker.   Booking tee times will compromise the roll ups.

Steve Myers    This is probably true.  There are currently no plans to move to tee time bookings however, having heard what Ivor and Neil have said, it will doubtless be discussed at the next Management Committee meeting, whenever we are able to hold one.

Ian Dixon– On 6th tee my red tee peglanded next to an identical red tee peg, which had been discarded.

Steve Myers  At the time of session this question was not fully understood, but we have subsequently learned that it was intended to highlight the possible dangers of contamination from abandoned equipment.   Members should always pick up their tees etc and remove them from the course, if they can be found. 

Julian Scott   If you pay subs monthly a 6 or 7% fee is added.  What is happening this year, especially as some people might be having some financial challenges?

Ivor Graham, Treasurer  We have used Fairway Credit for some time and at the onset of this current situation we went back to them to negotiate a better deal, but they refused.  We continued to negotiate but their position has not changed.  Amanda has looked into alternative ways of collecting monthly subscriptions, but it is enormously complex and time consuming, which is why we have given the job to a third party.

Amanda added that she had used Fairway Credit for a number of years, then changed to a collection agency which had been an absolute nightmare.  We considered standing orders but some people then defaulted on their payments, and the administration became too much.  I do agree with Ivor that despite all our efforts, they really have not helped us this year.

Gerry  I have a collapsible rake – Can I use it in the bunkers as it is just me using it?

Phil Allen (H&S)   Yes if you are the sole user.

Dan Goodenough-Bailey  Have you considered using Klana for finance?

Amanda   Dan was asked to forward details to Amanda so that she can take a look, but unfortunately it won’t be for this year as we have already made a commitment.

 Sam Spencer-Ades   Several members have mentioned to him that, as they have been furloughed, they are currently having financial difficulties and may not be able to rejoin in the new financial year.  Is there anything we can do for them?

Ivor Graham  Yes, we have put out a few messages asking for any member experiencing financial difficulties due to the lockdown, let us know.  We do have some outline ideas as to how to help you.  We will be nosey and ask you about your finances.  Please do contact us and we will see what we can do to help but we do need you to contact us and discuss as one size does not fit all.  We are hoping to use some finances given by generous members to help others who are not so well off.  We will also have to look carefully at the Club’s finances at the beginning of the subscription year, when it becomes clear how many members we have lost.  Membership should be paid by the beginning of June, but a number will be late, they always are, so we will not know the true financial situation until the middle of June.  This is a challenging time financially as we have lost a sizeable chunk from societies, pay and play and the bar so we need to take care of the club more widely to ensure it stays viable.   That said, we are a community and we try and look out for each other, so we will try to help those who are struggling financially.  Please tell them to talk to me, Amanda or Gareth.

Simon Sharratt  Can the free vouchers extend over to next year?

Ivor Graham  Yes they can be extended beyond December.

Kevin Dunks  Can the Defibrillator be accessed whilst the clubhouse is closed?

Phil Allen  Yes, during club hours there is someone in the office and in an emergency you can attract their attention to use the defibrillator.  We do not have the access we would have in normal times but unfortunately, we are not in normal times. 

Jason Burton – Can we get a license for the half-way hut?

Steve Myers  Yes, it is not a license for the half way hut but a license for the person running the half-way hut.  Rebe and Jeff do have a license but Liz (ET catering) does not.  Currently being discussed.

Jason Burton The trolley store it is usually locked at 4pm.  Can it be left open until 9pm?

Amanda This will be referred to the House Manager.

Barry Newman The trolley store is open from 7am to 7pm.

Kevin Dunks.  Is the practise area open by the first hole?  Beyond the nets and over the first fairway?

Barry Newman   No.  The practise area by the 14th is open.

Steve Myers.  We are following advice from the Government, England Golf, the PGA and the Golf Club Managers Association.  Our chief aim is to be able to play golf safely.  We are having to respond to all kinds of instructions, sometimes mixed messages.  We will do our best to open areas as soon as we can, and improve opportunities for play as we can.   This includes getting 3 and 4 balls out, get non-members on the course, commencing competitions etc.

The course is in magnificent condition at the moment.  Can you please ask your fellow golfers to repair their pitch marks please.

The Club Professional, Barry Newman was asked to provide a summary of his current situation in the Professional’s Shop:

The new net by the practice area is for teaching sessions only.  Barry has set up Trackman and would prefer that the members use the practice net by the first.

Lessons are up and running with the trackman outside and Barry advised that he can do fittings, but may not have as many shafts available to try.  However, he and his team will do their best.  There is a problem in that manufacturers are not taking orders at the moment.

There is a click and collect system in place for purchases from the shop.   Members may also order from the car park or by phone before they arrive.   There is a raffle running to win golf balls, details at the Professional’s Shop.

Graham Page Northern Ireland are playing in 3 balls – can we?

Steve Myers  Not sure if this is legal but there are different rules in most countries.  We will continue to follow England Golf advice, which is 2 balls only.  We will relax this rule when we are allowed to do so. 

Steve Hill  Can we amend the car parking as I am concerned that my car may get scratched when people carry their trolley and bag from the back of the car to the front?  To have all cars facing the golf course is not practical.

Phil Allen  This was our initial idea to minimise the risk and enforce social distancing.  We initially thought the best way to achieve that was for all cars to be parked facing the course.  General awareness is better now so perhaps we could consider parking cars normally and just ask those arriving in the car park to show respect to social distancing as they leave their cars.  Action:   The Deputy Manager will send out an email advising that this rule is changed and that members may park normally.

Nick Vanstone wanted it to be noted that we must thank Gareth for the extra work he has put in over and above his daily workload.  Recruiting new members, getting the club where it should be over these extraordinary times and keeping everyone happy.  Please give a massive, massive thank you to the office staff for all of their work.  I sometimes think people do not appreciate how much is done.

Steve Myers  closed the meeting by thanking everyone for attending and especially thanking Julian Scott, who had set up the meeting and provided the technical back up.  He added that he believed the Q&A session had been worth it and another will be arranged.  Finally, to all members, if you have a question and you see a member of the Management Committee who may be able to help, don’t hesitate to approach them and ask.

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