A year unlike any other

As we look forward to a light at the end of the tunnel and a gradual return to some sort of normality, we also look ahead to a new season at Hopeman Golf Club.

We may consider ourselves fortunate to have been ‘granted permission’ to play golf (under the caveat of physical exercise) throughout the most recent lockdown, at this moment in time, we still remain bereft of the use of the facilities that bring us together.  The clubhouse creates friendships and memories, the food, the beer the banter and the interactions with golf mates and staff. Hopefully restrictions will change soon.

Membership matters

Although the golf club is a member’s club and belongs to the members it is essential that we operate on a business footing. Budgets for the year are based on income. The main sources of income are Membership fees, visitors’ green fees and income generated from within the clubhouse, in addition to valued sponsorship. In these unprecedented times membership fees have been the only certainty and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for renewing your membership and welcome any new members to the club. The timely payment of fees enables the council to plan the year ahead. For members that were unaware, membership is annual and as such starts on 1st January every year, irrespective of when you pay your renewal, and runs until December 31st. It is written in the club constitution 3.2.

Furthermore, in light of recent posts on social media, I would also like to bring to the attention to the members of 3.10

 “If the conduct of any member, either in or out of the clubhouse, or elsewhere is such that it appears to the Council to impair the character or good standing of the Club, the Council shall be bound to consider the event in terms of the disciplinary procedure of the Club. “

Any complaints by members should be submitted in writing to the secretary and they would be addressed in the correct manner. It’s our club collectively, we don’t always get things right but we strive to achieve the best we can. If you really want to make a difference, get on the club Council.

Investing for the future

Although facilities have not been available, the Club still has the responsibility to maintain them and pay utility bills and last year we committed expenditure to refurbishing the clubhouse.  Furthermore, financial spending is required to pay wages, maintain and improve the course to make it an attraction to members and visitors.  We have recently bought a rough cutter at the expense of £15000 plus VAT. The rough cutter replacement was delayed due to the uncertainty of the effects of the pandemic, further major purchases are being planned also.  Our commitment to the Mackenzie plan continues each winter, amongst other improvements, the new bunkers have transformed the 9th and 10th holes, providing the better golfer to think more about the placement of the tee shot.  Next year we hope to increase the length of 13 and 18 to over 400 yards at relatively little expense. The approach to the 7th will be flattened to enable a fairer shot to the green and other work will take place in preparation for the following year. I would like to thank Stevie and his hard-working team for the work undertaken thus far.  If any member is in doubt of the effect these improvements have on the outside world, I urge them to read Sam Coopers report on Hopeman at https://sdcoopergolf.com/   Sam is on the panel of the UK’s top golf courses and I had the pleasure of hosting him last November.    It is THIS progression that makes Hopeman stand out from our contemporaries and will put us in good stead for the future regarding visitor income.

Another area we have invested in is our new golf software operating system, intelligent golf. We tried to persevere with the SGU platform to reduce costs. However, we were losing more man hours rectifying issues than was necessary. The new intelligent golf (ig) system encompasses the levy card, the booking system and we aim in the near future to be able to provide access to the locker rooms using your card. Furthermore, it may be possible to order from the bar using app on the phone, but let’s walk before we can run.

The people who keep the club working

The clubhouse staff have, apart from essential duties and training, been on furlough. In fact, every member of staff at some point has been furloughed and on reduced income. On behalf of all the members, I would like to thank them for their forbearance and for the Clubhouse staff in particular as they continue to be affected as we enter the start to the new season.

Congratulations too to Amy who gave birth to a baby boy in December. We look forward to his membership application.

High priority improvements

The future of the club relies on the course and its quality. We have two issues. During the summer we are deprived of water as the farmer on the high ground diverts the water for his land, forcing us to use mains water. The other concern is the aged irrigation system struggles to cope and is no longer fit for purpose. Replacing the system is of the highest priority to maintain the high standards of the golf course. This will cost in excess of £150,000 and our aim is to start replacement at the end of the season. We will only undertake this if we have enough reserves to enable us to continue without borrowing further and avoid any substantial increase in membership fees. This is why, irrespective of facilities not being available, membership fees are imperative to enable the club to survive and improve.

I know clubs in the area that during the pandemic have asked their members for 5-year memberships up front and other donations. We have deliberately not done this. Moreover, I am certain that with our prudency and planning we should never have to.

Season beginnings

So to the season start, following the popular gorse clearing and hole redesigns, the area on the left of the first fairway and to the right of the 5th will be in play, there will however be a local rule for relief if your ball is impeded by whin bush roots. Other areas will be marked as GUR and there will be drop zones where necessary. There will be some tree felling and aesthetically, we have ordered new signs and distance markers for the teeing area. We cannot put out rakes or ball cleaners yet but we will do as soon as possible. There was a great turn out from the members to divot the fairways in preparation. Thank you to all who contributed. Next time we hope to provide refreshments.

Trevor has rescheduled opens and the Annual match v Forres Golf Club to later on in the year in the hope that we can be unrestricted. It’s worth mentioning that a well attended open scramble with all our facilities available brings welcome revenue to the club and we hope these times are not too far away.

Here’s to 2021

Although we start the season with restrictions, we are hopeful that as the year progresses, 2021 could be a good year.

After a very difficult last 12 months, I hope ALL of our members have good spirit in their hearts and look forward to better times on the golf course and off it. As Walter Hagen was quoted as saying, “Don’t hurry don’t worry and be sure to smell the flowers”

Keith Rushton

Club President