A Blueprint for Good Governance 

GCMA CEO Tom Brooke, governance expert Jerry Kilby and England Golf’s Matt Draper and Gavin Anderson were all involved in creating this new tool. They explain why clubs should be using it to ensure their club’s governance is in the right place 

This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.

The GCMA’s collaboration with England Golf has resulted in the publication of A Blueprint for Good Governance – offering golf clubs help, insight and guidance to build a successful future – all in an easily digested and manageable format, which GCMA members can download for free from the association’s Information Library.

It considers leadership frameworks within clubs, diversity, change management and culture – among many others – and is also supported by a range of self-review checklists, templates, research and in-depth guides.   

The guide, which is designed to encourage a direction of travel to help make structured improvements, breaking the key components into modular stages with a suggested order, dictated by the relative importance of each element. 

Kicking off the discussion, Brooke explained that one of the reasons the association was keen to collaborate on the project was to help the working environment for golf club managers, as well as the wider success of golf clubs. 

“We know governance very much underpins the culture of the golf club,” he said. “Good governance can underpin a great culture and a thriving golf club, and poor governance can do the absolute opposite. 

“It has such a fundamental impact on the professional and personal wellbeing of a golf club manager and the team of employees at a golf club.” 

England Golf club support manager Gavin Anderson agreed, explaining the catalyst of comprehensively updating a guide that has existed in one form or another for nearly a decade: “We see, day-to-day, lots of problems that are happening in golf clubs, and, in most cases, you can take them back to something not being quite right with their governance.” 

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Acknowledging that even though there was nothing wrong with the governance support available in the past, there was a recognition that there was a challenge in trying to get clubs to buy-in to upgrading their governance, to get them to see things slightly differently and that it’s not always a difficult and serious topic to tackle. 

Anderson explained how the new guide tries to help clubs on that journey: “What we’ve tried to do was maintain the depth and detail of content that we provided, but try to break that up into a more modular format and, in doing so, put it together in a suggested pathway, so that others can understand that there were some things that had to be done, and done right, before we then move on to making other tweaks.” 

While there are four headline areas to the toolkit, England Golf club, county and membership director Matt Draper explained how there are more than 250 further resources available once clubs start delving into the guide, which can help clubs take an evolutionary approach to updating their governance. 

“People we talk to, be it a manager, volunteer or board members, would look at it and think, ‘If we’re going to change our governance, are we talking about an 18 month or two-year process? Are we talking about a complete revolution?’ 

“It’s broken down into those four different stage areas so clubs can dig into the handbook, and think, ‘I now better understand this area, and I want to look into the resources to get more in-depth guidance’. 

Acknowledging that, in the past, tackling what could seem like an insurmountable task might have felt overwhelming for clubs, Draper hopes the easy-to-digest format should help clubs get moving: “Hopefully it’s a little bit more rewarding to work on because once you’ve ticked off all the sections of the stage, it might provide that encouragement to continue to improve.  

“Whereas in the past, maybe not knowing where to start or not knowing what order to do it in, made it hard to get going because it takes such a long time to feel that progress has been made.” 


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Brooke was keen to highlight the strengthening relationship between the GCMA and the other governing bodies. 

“We were delighted to have been invited by England Golf to take collaborate on the project, and it’s a great example of how the partnership is developing between ourselves and England Golf and the other home unions. We’re working a lot more closely.” 

Highlighting the importance of the document, governance expert Jerry Kilby explained the importance of creating strong foundations for a golf club. 

“Governance underpins every aspect of a successful club. Poor governance will not allow you to do the things you want to do, whether it’s growing your membership or improving your golf course or clubhouse facilities. 

“The things that you want to do to improve your club are made more difficult when the governance structure, or some would say the decision-making structure, at the club is poorly organised.” 

Kilby explained that the guide is perfect for long term projects, and clubs shouldn’t be daunted, and think everything must be implemented on day one. Describing a trait he’d identified in the most successful clubs he works with, he said: “I see those who are willing to just make small changes but on a regular basis, which moves them a little bit forward – one year to the next. 

“The golf club industry really doesn’t like wholesale revolution and I hope we can avoid that by gradual change and continual improvement. Even if you feel you don’t need to look at your articles, you aren’t incorporated and you are good at compliance – great! Okay, let’s have a look at a board evaluation.” 

Wearing two hats as both podcast host and a golf club manager, Leighton Walker identified what he saw as the core purpose of the guide. 

“I guess what this all leads to is a good culture in clubs. Good governance will lead to good culture, which will lead to happy members, and we know that happy members means happy golf club managers as well. So that’s probably what we’re all looking for here, aren’t we?” 

Tom Brooke also pointed out the genuinely collaborative nature of the creation of the guide, highlighting the input of serving golf club managers as well as the GCMA board of directors. 

“This hasn’t sat in my inbox and I’ve just said ‘Yes, let’s approve it’. This is a piece of work that a team of experienced, well-qualified golf club managers have been involved with.” 

What next for the rollout of the guide? Representatives from England Golf will be presenting at the GCMA 2023 Conference, before both organisations work to improve the communication between golf club managers, boards and committees, with a series of in-person events in 2024. 

“I think it’s going to be really valuable to get all of those stakeholders in the same room, actively talking and engaged on governance, this guide and how we can better support clubs and those stakeholders to work together to improve their structures,” Brooke concluded, “And, in turn, improve the culture of the club and the long-term sustainability and success of their golf clubs.” 

Listen to the GCMA Insights podcast 

The topic was discussed in a recent episode of our podcast on Golf Club Talk UK, 

You can listen to the whole episode by visiting gcma.org.uk/podcasts.

This article is part of GCMA Insights – topical content for golf industry professionals, discussing the things that matter to those who work in golf clubs.

Get involved in the debate. To join the GCMA, click here, or to organise a call with a member of the GCMA team, just complete this form and we’ll be in touch!


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