The History of the Association

The first meeting of the Association was held at Cuddington Golf Club, Surrey on the 21st July 1933.  After a round of golf, in which the winner was J Murray Browne (Frinton) 73 – 2 = 71, at the dinner in the clubhouse afterwards the formation of the Golf Club Secretaries Association was agreed.

The first secretary was A R Lovelock (Bramley) and the committee consisted of Major Guy Bennett (Sandy Lodge), Major Lavarack (Secretary, English Golf Union), Major Collis-Browne (Royal Mid-Surrey), Bernard Drew (Royal Cinque Ports), A P Lloyd (South Herts), A W Greenshields (Hendon), Commander Campbell (Hadley Wood) and Captain H W Palmer (Cuddington).  The first meeting of the committee was held on the 2nd August the same year. Prior to this meeting a small band of secretaries had met at Cuddington on the 20th May and agreed to proceed to invite other secretaries to the meeting on the 21st July to formally propose forming the Association.  The first AGM and dinner was held at the Midland Grand Hotel, St Pancras on the 16th January 1934, in the chair was our first President – Bernard Darwin.  At this meeting C K Cotton (Stoke Poges) was appointed Secretary and J W Greenshields became the first National Captain.  In 1983 we returned to Cuddington to celebrate our Golden Jubilee and in 2008 we again staged a special 75th celebratory golf and dinner event at the Club.

It is interesting to record that in those first years the secretaries played for trophies provided by various firms. But following a pronouncement by The R&A “that they viewed with concern the holding of trade competitions for amateur golfers organised for the purpose of advertisement” the Association, at a meeting at Beaconsfield in July 1934, complied by adjusting their rules.

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Although the Association was originally called Golf Club Secretaries Association, this name was changed in 1934 to The Association of Golf Club Secretaries.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939 the membership was just under 600 but although the Association managed to survive during the war years, in 1946 the membership had dropped to under 400.  Unfortunately no records are available for the period from 1933 – 51 as the minute books of the earlier period are assumed lost. Due to the services of the late Duncan Candlish a past Captain and stalwart member the Scottish region we obtained copies of the magazine called “Course and Club House” from December 1946 right through to the present. Duncan carefully kept all his magazines and back in 1990 with the help of Dudley Collier and Gilbert Dempster they are now in safe custody at HQ.

Prior to 1939 only the Scottish Region existed although matches appeared to be played in other districts. The Scottish Region would appear to have been formed around 1934 and mention is made of it having 58 members in December 1946. In March 1947 the annual report to members at the AGM referred to attempts would have to be made to arrange District Meetings and Matches. In the same year the competition for the Founders Cup was played at Ganton and mention was made of a meeting to be held prior to the golf of secretaries in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, Durham and Northumberland. Some 24 secretaries subsequently attended this meeting but no mention was made other than the golf.

It is also interesting to note that matches against both the Press G.S. and the Stewards go back to 1947.  These matches are still played today but played within the London & Home Counties region. The first match against the Malayans G.S. was first played at Royal Mid-Surrey on the 11th May 1960.  The first match against the Irish Secretaries was played at Portmarnock in 1974, whilst the first match between English and Welsh Secretaries was played at Southerndown on the 20th June 1991.

The first “international” between the Scottish and English secretaries took place at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club on the 22nd July 1955. In 2004 we celebrated the 50th occasion in style at the Woburn Club, where all past players were invited, and a most delightful evening in the company of BBC Commentator Alex Hay, was enjoyed by the 80 or so attendees.

At the Annual General Meeting on the 3rd April 1973 at Kings Norton the rules were changed to allow lady secretaries to become members.  A few years later Anthea Wilkinson was elected to the National Committee and became the Association’s first lady to be National Captain in 1989.  Prior to that Anthea had started the Southern region and acted as Regional Secretary for several years. Today we have more than 300 lady members.

Apart from the Scottish region, the formation of other regions started in 1955 with the North Eastern Section (known today as the Yorkshire Region). In the same year Guy Bigwood was trying to start up a Midlands Region which was duly formed in 1956 although regrettably it disbanded a few years later. The South West Region was formed in the same year with the inaugural meeting being held at Weston-super-Mare Golf Club on the 17th July.  In 1958 an attempt was made to get some of the London secretaries together to a meeting but no records exist if this was successful.  The National Secretary in 1959, John Bennett, attempted to call a meeting in East Anglia of secretaries but was thwarted by a General Election being held on the following day and as only two secretaries said they would attend the meeting was duly cancelled but the inaugural meeting was held at Aldeburgh on the 5th May 1959.

The forerunner of the North West Region was the Merseyside & District Secretaries who held regular meetings each quarter from about 1965 onwards and their name was changed to the North West at Woolton Golf Club in 1973.  The same year the South Wales Section appeared – previous to this date there had been a South Wales & Monmouthshire Secretaries Association in being since the early 1920’s.  The rest of the current regions were formed mainly in the late 70’s and early 80’s with the East Midlands being formed in 1993 and the Chilterns & Home Counties in 1995.  The Irish Association joined the National Association during the 1980’s but opted out in 1990. In 1996 the North West Region celebrated 30 years, and in 2005 the Yorkshire Region celebrates 50 years with a return to Moortown Golf Club where the Region’s inaugural meeting took place.  A new region was formed in the South of England in 1996 called the Wessex Region and this covers the county of Dorset and clubs that adjoin it in Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.  The secretaries in Northern Ireland formed a region in 1996.

Prior to 1960 the journal had been published by S Straker & Sons Ltd, forerunners of Harpers.  In 1960 the journal was published by Brigadier C W Morton who continued as editor and publisher until 1974 when the Association took over the publishing with Cecil Morton acting as publisher for us with J W Speight as Editor. There is little doubt that Cecil Morton made a great contribution to the Association during this time although it must be said he caused a few upsets in the committee with certain articles he published. Steve Roberts took over as Editor in June 1976 until August 1984 when, with ever increasing costs, the Association could no longer afford to publish the journal themselves. It was then published by N G Osman, Pressprint Publishing Ltd who carried on until they were succeeded by Harper Trade Journals Ltd in March/April 1988 with the late Steve Rankin as Publishing Manager and Stephen Straker as Consultant Editor. The original title of the journal was “Course and Clubhouse” but this was changed to “Golf Club Management” in April 1975, a title that has been maintained by our present day publishers, Union Press. In May 1993 a new section entitled “Secretary at Work” was introduced consisting of four pages in the centre of the journal. New sections and modifications are regular features nowadays, but the “Secretary at Work” pages remain and are regarded by many as a most useful source of advice and information.

The first conference was held at the Belfry in March 1979, very much through the efforts of the Captain at that time, Tony Acres and this was followed by further conferences at the same venue in 1982 and 85. In 1988 a move was made to Bournemouth and this was repeated in 1991. In 1994 the conference was held over the first weekend in May at Peterborough but it would appear from the lower attendance that members would prefer to hold mid-week and in April. The next conference was held at Birmingham on the 15th & 16th April 1997 and was attended by over 200 delegates. St Andrews University saw a Conference fit to mark the Millennium in June 2000. Delegates and speakers attended from around the world giving the conference a truly international flavour. The Market Bosworth Hall Hotel proved to be a popular venue for the 2003 Conference, where a relevant programme provided information on changes in Health & Safety Law, Disability Discrimination, and a most interesting open forum on the possible introduction of a Centralised Handicapping System.

In 2005, the venue switched location to the North West Region, at The Adelphi Hotel, Liverpool. Again, a worthwhile event ensued with a record number of exhibitors in attendance. In November 2007 we returned to The Belfry for the 11th National Conference.

Recent conferences have been held at the Hinckley Island Hotel in November 2009, 2011 and 2013, and these have proved to be some of the most successful yet. The venue is buzzing with activity throughout the three days with 22 workshop sessions, many outstanding speakers at the plenary sessions alongside the exhibition hall with 36 stands.

These conferences have provided a variety of subjects and speakers over the years, but probably most of all they provide the opportunity for secretaries to get together and discuss current issues and problems.

Up until 1982 the offices of the Association had been either at the National Secretary’s home, at his club or, in the case of Fergus Pearce, his garden shed.  At a meeting of the committee at Wentworth in May 1982 it was decided to move into our own office at Bakewell in Derbyshire and John Crowther, having started as the National Secretary the year before, opened up the first HQ. John also started training courses for new or potential secretaries and put the Association on course for its own offices and staff which exist today.

HQ moved to 7a Beaconsfield Road, Weston-super-Mare in 1990 when Ray Burniston took over from John.

In April of 1999 the Association purchased its offices at Weston and thus for the first time in our history became property owners. In February 2007 we purchased the remainder of the whole building and leased out the lower level.

A ballot to decide the proposal for the Association to change its name to Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) was approved at the Annual General Meeting in Cardiff on March 29, 2007.

September 2014 saw the sale of the offices, and a move to Bristol & Clifton Golf Club, where the Association is now based in offices above the clubhouse, overlooking the course.

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In recent years the Information Library has seen substantial expansion and now houses over 800 advisory documents. The Library continues to provide an excellent support service to the membership.

The number of Members within the GCMA remains around 1,700 and we continue to attract interest from many overseas colleagues. 

The continued direct involvement and liaison with all Home Unions, the LGU, the PGA, BIGGA and The R&A can only mean one thing; the profile of the GCMA will continue to rise.

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