Munster membership still falling

FALLING golf club membership is set to continue in Munster, the GUI Branch’s annual delegates meeting has been told.

While the Munster Branch’s accounts for the year showed a small surplus of €8,054, a drop from €40,025 the previous year due in the main to the refurbishment of the Branch head office in Mallow, and ongoing work on the phone and IT systems, delegates at Tuesday night’s gathering in Springfort Hall were also informed of a 4.75% reduction in golf club membership from 2010 with 1,700 affiliated golfers lost in the province.

“A lot of the clubs are struggling financially,” GUI Munster Branch executive officer Karen Walsh said. “They have lost club membership and in Munster that’s slightly above the national average of 4.65%. Because the figures are taken up to October 31, 2010, I’d say the loss would be a lot more given the continuing decline in the economy.”

Pertinently an item up for discussion at the meeting, proposed by Connacht’s Tuam GC, was: “In view of the efforts being made by Clubs to retain members by not increasing or reducing annual subscription, the GUI should assist by reducing the annual levy.”

Leinster’s Annual Delegate Meeting discussed the same motion and did not support but Walsh reported a different reaction from the meeting in Mallow for a reduction in the levy which in Munster is €19 per golf club member, €6 going to the Munster Branch and €13 going to head office.

“There was great support at the meeting for it. They want something done in some way if possible and I know there will probably be a freeze, which will go forward for discussion and for rubber stamping at the AGM in February 2012. Everything is a help and the Golfing Union is challenged with reducing membership throughout the country, which means reducing subscriptions that are coming in. At the same time they are in a position at the moment to do something, so it will be discussed at national finance level and executive level and at the AGM.

“Reducing the annual subscription of the members doesn’t actually benefit the struggling club itself. It benefits the members, as opposed to the club, so you’d want something that can be passed on for the survival of the club. A lot of clubs are barely surviving, they can barely afford to pay the greenkeeper.”

More encouraging however was the eight per cent increase in junior golfers, in part enabled by considerable grants to the golf clubs from the GUI through the Branch coaching initiative that will enter its third year in 2012. Presentations were made by Jim Long on handicapping procedures and appeals and by Tom Donnelly on local rules, with a study by the Branch indicating there is no consistency between clubs concerning local rules, which in some cases can cause confusion.

“A lot of them are not properly worded and the GUI is going to make a document available on the website to help the clubs on proper wording of local rules, because in some cases they contravene the Rules of Golf.”

The Branch will now publish suggested local rules in the hope that clubs will adopt the wording provided. Among the motions discussed, the Munster Branch was defeated in both the home province and in Leinster. GUI Munster Branch proposed that: “No player shall be eligible to compete in the Barton Shield or Senior Cup whose playing handicap was greater than 8.4 in the preceding calendar year.

“That was overwhelmingly defeated,” Walsh said.

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