On January 19th I published a piece on Golf Union Affiliation Fees – not something that will excite many but as a volunteer treasurer of a small golf club in the Northumberland hills, a subject dear to my heart. All of my posts generate an automatic Tweet which I then used to target some influential individuals in the local and golfing press. Within a week this had been picked up by the Newcastle Journal and this story was published on January 24th – Protests over a ‘tax’ too far.
This morning, 1st February, I was delighted to see this piece published by Al Dunsmuir of Golf Club Management – Cut Smaller Clubs’ Affiliation Fees. In addition, I now understand that our local paper, the Hexham Courant, is also running the story this week. The jury is still out on how successful this campaign might be but as an example of how quickly and effectively the lone voice in the wilderness can be broadcast to the world in short timescale, it takes some beating.
My only concern is that we might all be talking to an empty room – are the people we are trying to reach even in the same building. All this puts me in mind of the story related to our 15th Hole – Perdition:
Perdition, a state of eternal punishment and damnation into which a sinful and impenitent person passes after death. Get this hole wrong and you can experience the after-life, first hand. There is a story of a recently deceased golfer who finds himself on the most beautiful course imaginable. At the clubhouse there are rows and rows of shining irons and dazzling woods to choose from. He happily surmises that a fortuitous mistake has been made by the recording angel and that he must be in heaven after all. Then a caddie appears as if from nowhere. A slight figure with narrow red eyes and an unfortunate body odour, he shuffles to the golfer’s side and whispers in his ear – “welcome to Perdition, there are no balls”.
Many thanks to David Coulter (Hexham Courant), Al Dunsmuir (Golf Club Management) and Tim Taylor (thewritestuff) for helping to get the message ‘out there’.
The snow has finally arrived in earnest and whilst Allendale Golf Club never closes it would take a braver man than me to be tempted onto its glorious fairways on a day such as this. A snapshot of the current weather can be seen here – Allendale webcam – but this is the better view from behind the clubhouse, looking down the first fairway with the Allen Valley as a majestic backdrop. There is no finer setting for golf.
This photograph is a few years old, the obvious omission being the wind turbine that now stands up the hill to the left of the clubhouse; this recent innovation not only reduces our energy consumption by about 40% but also provides valuable additional money from FIT payments i.e. the electricity we sell back to the National Grid. This relatively small additional income stream makes a significant difference to our balance sheet – as Honorary Treasurer for over ten years, these things are dear to my heart.
I am also responsible for the club’s website and chair the greens committee which accounts for anything between 10 and 15 hours voluntary time per week throughout the year – there is always something to be done. I am not alone in this. We have just one employee, the greenkeeper, ably assisted by a full time volunteer for nine months of the year who also happens to run the bar and clubhouse. Our chairman is also the club secretary whilst others put enormous efforts into promotion and enhancement of the juniors and ladies sections. It is a labour of love for us all – if we didn’t make this effort we would not be able to play golf in this wonderful landscape.
This is the week that Rory McIlroy was unveiled as Nike’s new brand ambassador in a deal that has been reported to be worth around $100m (£62m) to $125m (£77m) over five years. Rory seems a fine young lad and an admirable role model for a new generation of golfers but these sums only serve to emphasise the vast chasm between the upper and lower echelons of the sport.
Around this time of year I have the unwelcome task of calculating our annual Golf Union affiliation fees, a ‘tax’ imposed by England Golf and the Northumberland Union of Golf Clubs based on the number of members from the previous year. This is a significant sum, particularly for a small club such as ours. It represents a 3% surcharge on annual income or put another way, 50% of all the money we generate from the wind turbine is trousered by the men in blazers for no obvious return. Nor is there any reduction for our youngsters – we intentionally keep junior membership low at £40 to make it affordable and encourage local children to take up the sport – more than 25% of this membership fee is grabbed by the golf unions.
A few years back we registered with HM Revenue & Customs as a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC) which provides the club with several financial benefits, not least an 80% reduction in Council Tax. If those skinflints at HMRC have the grace and intelligence to recognise and reward community based amateur sports club why not England Golf.
So here is the proposition – from 2014, any CASC registered golf club will be entitled to an 80% reduction in golf union fees consistent with the HMRC scheme. Wentworth, Royal Birkdale and Sunningdale we are not and it is time this vital distinction was recognised by those responsible for administering our sport.
I trust we are not alone.