What a troubled year we have all had, but here is hoping you are all in good health and keeping safe.
October 2019 with the start of our year, coaching programmes and budgets were all in, and by mid-February a considerable amount of coaching had taken place. With the lockdown in March we suspended all further coaching and by mid-April we decided to suspend all inter county matches and internal county competitions. This decision was not taken lightly and reflected our total support of the clubs and our members. That in a nutshell was our county season for 2020 at a close.
Before Christmas we as a county achieved the England Golf Safeguarding accreditation, which is something all clubs will need to have in place in the near future, at the time of writing there are five clubs in the county who have achieved such status with others working towards completion.
With Covid-19 restrictions, the launch of the Worldwide Handicapping System (WHS) and updating of course rating information, Rob and I have been full on, with no opportunities to enjoy others playing the game we all love.
The Royal & Ancient (R & A) gave money for special projects relating to improvements post Covid-19 and all clubs in the Country were entitled to submit application up to a value of £10,000 with strict conditions attached. Applications were initially assessed and marked by independent regions, then collated and assessed again by a panel of adjudicators. Somerset had four successful applicants. Subsequently England Golf provided further funds and two more of our clubs, whose applications had been unsuccessful first time, have now benefited.
The lead up to and launch of WHS has caused us many restless nights with an avalanche of questions and concerns from clubs and individual members alike. In my opinion, WHS was a far bigger IT exercise than EG ever envisaged and has caused many in Somerset and beyond to question EG’s handling of WHS. EG have worked hard following go live and many fixes have been achieved but by no means all. The system will take time to bed down and continued issues will come to light now that our courses have reopened, and live scores start to come in. In truth Covid-19 compressed launch preparations but deadlines had to be met. The ISV’s were slow to come on board compounding teething problems that any new system suffers.
All courses in Somerset have been rated and next year will see some coming up for re-rating or assessment whichever is applicable. Despite this England Golf are still pushing ahead with Independent Golfer, something I would be happy to discuss with you but in brief pressure has been exerted by the R & A for England Golf to provide handicaps and insurance for nomadic golfers. Please find attached my reply and concerns to Jez Tomlinson (CEO) at England Golf.
Speaking of Jez many of you will know him through his involvement with Wiltshire Golf over the years. Rob and I were fortunate to have a meeting with him at Burnham Golf Club where discussions were both open and frank. Our thanks to Graham Yates, President England Golf, for arranging this meeting. I have to say, Jez came into the position of CEO just before Covid-19 reared its ugly head and we both have utmost respect for him.
This report may seem like all doom and gloom and with lockdowns there have been gains and losses. The gains have been on membership where most clubs in Somerset have seen increases. However, although small in membership it looks increasingly likely that both Kingweston and Entry Hill will not remain as clubs. Millfield have withdrawn from providing the facility at the school and the council in Bath are looking to make Entry Hill a motocross facility. There is also concern about Orchardleigh where the present members have withdrawn from all county and league competitions and the membership subscription to the union has reduced drastically.
As a result of strict budgeting during the year the Executive has decided to make affiliation fee refunds to all clubs for the use of the members, this money has come from the difference between spend and budget for the past year and is based on each club’s individual male membership but does not include juniors. Hopefully, each club will display and circulate the SGU refund Certificate showing the amount and purpose of this refund.
We all hope that the season ahead we will get back to some sort of normality, and as soon as restrictions allow coaching will resume. The inter county 4 Counties Championship in April has been modified to avoid accommodation and will now be held over a single day. All other matches and competitions have been transferred across from 2020.
The 1st team will be led by a new captain, Mark Wait, who many of you know. Mark is already working with Russell Covey and preparing for the season. We have lost three of our squad from last year with Tom Sloman, Tom Plumb and Will Poole having joined the professional ranks. We are aware that we need to build on the younger players and very much see the county as going through a transition period.
The development squad was refocused at the end of 2019 to play young and upcoming golfers within the squad and the same policy will continue in 2021. A development team mini tournament like South West will also be held next August.
The senior section will be led by Paddy Maclennan who keeps reminding me that his seniors team remains undefeated! Paddy realises that some of our neighbouring counties are blessed with a pool of particularly good senior golfers and it will be an extremely difficult task to retain his 100% record going forward.
Junior Golf is the counties future, and I am pleased to say it is looking bright with good squads coming together at all age groups. We now play three competitive matches at U12 as our youngest of golfers begin to make their mark. Freddie Turnell (Burnham & Berrow) was recently selected by England for national coaching and who knows may one day become Somerset’s 3rd Walker Cup representative.
During the past twelve months we have all missed meeting up and as we are unable to hold our Past Presidents luncheon next January I would like to invite you to a lunch to be held on the Thursday of South West Week which as you will know is being held at Burnham and Berrow.
Finally, I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas and New Year, stay safe, keep well and hopefully we will all be able to meet up again soon.
SGU Clubs fully support the counties decision to cancel all events 2020 and lift this season to next year. Almost all 2021 fixtures and inter-county home matches fixed. Enmore and Worlebury still to confirm. Enmore will not be able to address until September as their manager remains furloughed until the end of August. Gloucestershire and Cornwall planning to run all Championships in 2021
Since July 4th almost every clubhouse has re-opened without major incident. Minehead are planning to re-open in August and unfortunately Kingsweston remains course closed as the Millfield staff remain off duty.
R & A grant applications. England Golf have now had 748 clubs register their interest in the Covid-19 Support Fund, with 122 applications received to date. The deadline for applications is 4:00 p.m. on Friday 31st July 2020
WHS is still planned to go live on the 2nd November 2021. EG are now beginning to print documentation that had been planned for distribution in April as their furloughed staff begin to return.
First4Golf mini’s have resumed with their first of 3 meetings played at Wells GC. 49 under 12’s attended. The event organiser Dave Owen worked closely with the SGU and the LGA in preparing safeguarding policies and procedures.
This years County Dinner has been cancelled due to Covid-19
EG Voting Member update; Voting Members to attend two meetings at Woodhall Spa one being the AGM and one other General Meeting. This will reduce the General Meetings to two rather three per year. This would need a 75% majority vote at the AGM in September 2020. If this is voted through, EG will replace the reduced meeting by the following: The Operational team at Woodhall Spa to attend one meeting in the regions plus a minimum of three Microsoft Teams Meetings updates per year.
Election of EG Board members starting from 2021. Notification will be made in November 2020 giving counties and associations ample opportunity to discuss vacancies/re-elections with their respective executives.
Course rating SGU have discussed course rating funding 2020/2021/2022 with Jeremy Tomlinson CEO. We Have highlighted the need for funding as all courses rated in 2015 and 2016 will require re-rating in 20201 and 2022. The SGU have received requests for further rating consideration from W-S-M Mendip Spring Brean Burnham Saltford Farrington Long Sutton Farrington Saltford and Minehead.
SafeGolf; EG are pressing ahead with their plans for all clubs to be SafeGolf accredited by the end of the year. Time to listen courses are few and far between and this will hold up clubs’ progress to accreditation. EG are aware of this and will extend beyond the end of the year up to March 2021.
Somerset Golf Union and the Somerset Ladies Golf Association have achieved SafeGolf accreditation
There have been a number of EG meetings online since I last wrote; 12th May 2020 This was the day after golf was given the go ahead again and Chief Exec Jeremy Tomlinson spoke about the collaboration of a number of golfing bodies in achieving the resumption and the lastminute agreement that the two balls could be players from different households. Amongst these he included the DCMS, the All-Party Parliamentary Group, the R&A, the PGA, BIGGA and GCMA.
He thanked the counties for the work they have undertaken in spreading the various communications. Golf now needed to act responsibly and do nothing to detract from the opportunity afforded to the game. Most Golf Clubs it appeared were positive and in a good position to resume playing activities. It is clearly a club’s responsibility to adhere to the guidelines and to employ the necessary social distancing requirements. Flouting of the guidance and rules could impact insurance cover. Clubs should maintain audit trails of information detailing the measures they have put in place as a means of protecting themselves.
It is up to individual clubs as to whether they accept visitors or not. The same applies to hours of play – the club’s decision. EG will not hesitate to become involved in breaches of the rules and guidance and the ultimate sanction is disaffiliation. At the time of this meeting EG had not received definitive advice on the use of driving ranges and shops. Further advice was though being sought. Any grey areas over and above the advice provided by EG should be addressed with local Environmental Health & Trading Standards offices.
The Play Safe, Stay Safe framework was being updated accordingly. 20th May 2020 CEO indicated there had been a lot of comment about the notice given in advance of resumption with many wishing there had been a longer period than the 3 days. Nevertheless, most appear to have coped well. The Government has clearly put the onus on individuals, clubs and organisations and accordingly the message remains stick to the guidelines and DO NOT step outside them.
Golfers have taken on the guidance and the changes imposed on them in the current climate. One unnamed club had permitted 3 and 4 balls (from multiple households) but were quickly brought back into line after county and EG intervention. Some Pro Shops were said to be trading as normal. We were reminded Pro- Shop retail is deemed non-essential and should remain closed with the exception of their use as a registration point for players and click and collect services. If clubs are non-compliant EG are happy to intervene and address the issue. Certainly, a PGA Professional whose shop was open and who was engaged in retail trading would be reported at the least to the PGA
These remain early days but there is optimism the country may move to another phase at the start of June when 3 & 4 balls may again be permitted but in the interim period the message remains the same – stick to the rules. It is the recommendation clubs do not stage competitive golf but there is nothing to prevent this providing the necessary social distancing measures are in place. EG view is we are in early stages and should be taking ‘baby steps’. Their stance has been to try and find the balance offering guidance and recommendations as opposed to edicts. However, it will be the club’s decision as to whether competitions take place.
Driving Ranges are seen as a potential “spike” area with balls and dispensing machines the main points of potential contamination. Again the guidelines have put the onus on individuals, clubs and organisations with the “remain within the guidelines and DO NOT step outside them warning. Social distancing is achievable dependent on the size and construction of the range but the effort to keep sanitation levels at their highest will in some cases outweigh the benefits of opening the range.
EG have received confirmation their funding from Sport England will be extended for a further 12 months. The Sport England Emergency fund is temporarily paused to new applications. The fund stands at £35m as another £15m has been added. Of 11K application some 8K have been assessed and 7K approved. 213 of these applications were from golf clubs who in total have to date been awarded some £468K. Most of the awards have been made to private members clubs. The R&A has announced a £7m package to support golf in dealing with the impact of Covid-19.
This was announced the previous day and EG have been invited to submit a plan on how their ‘considerable’ allocation is to be spent. £4m is to be awarded to the home nations and EG are one such. EG are debating the plan at present and more details will be released when this is formulated but spend of the award will only be to affiliated facilities who are in financial difficulty, have appropriate safeguarding facilities in place and have demonstrated a commitment to Women in Golf. The next EG online meeting will be on 3rd June and it is anticipated the plan will go live the following day. EG will provide and promote a Membership Programme nationally. To date there is evidence the resumption of golfing activity has brought about a swell of new membership applications to clubs and it is felt this is the right time to promote the benefits of club membership. Self-help packages will be available through CSOs and EG seek county support for the initiative.
The Treasury have indicated there will be no movement on the Rateable Value issue and the £51K threshold remains in place. EG have lobbied hard on this front and a county council discretionary fund option is still being pursued. EG is undertaking essential spend only but have altered their financial projections for the year based on the resumption of golf coming earlier than anticipated. At present EG still anticipate a £0.5m deficit.
The EG Board meets regularly to consider matters with additional meetings taking place. EG Championships & Performance Depts wish to be a light at the end of the tunnel and planning for events later in 2020 continue whilst ensuring the safest of decisions are made. For the EG County Finals 28 Men’s, 26 Ladies and 25 Seniors County Teams indicating participation in the proposed September/October events. However, restaurant and hotel opening will be a fundamental requirement for these to proceed.
Two software providers have still not signed up to the EG World Handicap Programme. They happen to be the two biggest providers of handicap software in the country. Talks are ongoing and there is optimism they will sign up. EG state they have a backup plan to avoid the disruption which would be caused by the two not engaging. The 2nd November date remains in place and EG want to start testing with ISVs in Early August. EG will continue to provide the online ‘briefings’ as long as they remain pertinent.
Chairman’s letter sent to all SGU Clubs 06.05.20 I hope you are all keeping well and safe, we are know well into the second phase of lockdown and there are many rumours about what might happen next.
Over the past days I have been on conference calls with England Golf and it is evident that pressure is been put on the Government to treat Golf as an exercise and that it should be one of the first activities to have some off the restrictions lifted . I would stress though we all need to still adhere to the present restrictions until such time as any changes are made.
Many of you have enquired about affiliation fees, these fees are paid by the individual golfer in support of the EG and SGU and are collected with Annual Club subscriptions. I appreciate these are difficult times for us all, the collection of fees is on an automated system and to change would incur a cost so please ignore the reminders but when you have collected fees can you forward. I have heard some wonderful jesters from clubs where members have paid there next year’s fees already showing the Great Spirit that exist in the golfing community.
I think when we initially come out of lockdown social golf within our own clubs will be important way of thanking those that have supported during these terrible times. Interesting in Denmark which is coming out of lockdown and golf is seen as an exercise membership applications are up
World Wide Handicapping it is still planned for this to come online in November 2020 and countries like New Zealand where it is already launched are experiencing very few teething problems.
Safeguarding is again something during the lockdown clubs can get in place as a County we are about to be signed off, all the information is on the EG website including online course that may be required for certain people.
At county level all competitions have been cancelled up until the end of July, depending on availability of venues and restrictions in place we will try and arrange all championships during August and September. In making this statement of intent it is the counties intention to put club and members before competition.
For those with a bar / restaurant, it would be worth being aware of some reliefs available for 'spoilt beer'. Further details can be found here https://www.pkf-francisclark.co.uk/coronavirus/changesto-spoilt-beer-excise-duty-relief/ It goes without saying during these difficult times the concerns of Clubs and Members and paramount in mine and Rob Davis thoughts at all times, there is never a day passes when we are not striving to resolve issue and preparing for the relaxation of restrictions.
Please take care and follow guidelines and I am confident Golf will come out of this for th
As Secretary of the Somerset Golf Union and on behalf of Tommy Tulk (Chairman) and the Executive Committee I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. The 2020 Season seems a long way off and with the current winds and rain golf may not necessarily be on your minds. The coming golfing year will as always be upon you sooner than you expect so get set for what will be a very challenging 12 months.
With the Introduction of the WHS planned for November and Slope Rating being applied our understanding of the changes may leave some slightly confused. In reality the changes will come and once in place will become clear and obvious I expect! The needs of the club golfer will be as they always have been, play enjoy and return some scores throughout the year to assist the hard working handicap committee in making sure your handicap reflects you’re playing ability. England Golf state that the more scores returned the better which seems to encourage golfers to play more golf! Sounds a good idea.
Safe Golf is the current buzzword within our sport and no one can argue that we all deserve to play within a safe and friendly envornment. Juniors and adults will benefit from the mandatory requirements that Clubs and Counties will support and provide.
England Golf are currently considering ways of bringing more people in to golf. Your ideas as club members on how to achieve this are welcome especially with the rise in numbers of those titled “The Independent Golfer” Our Club Support Officer changed, we are in the competent and capable hand s of Natalie McColl. The SGU have built up a positive working relationship with Natalie so I encourage your club to utilise her assistance in delivering some of the many benefits on offer from England Golf and your Union.
The SGU enjoyed much success during 2019. Our County was so very proud of the achievements of two young men who have progressed through our Junior Coaching Development programme and can now list Walker Cup on their CV’s. Tom Sloman and Tom Plumb have great futures ahead, we wish them every success.
The County 1st team reached the National Finals but came away empty handed, so close once again!. Our Juniors won the U16 and U14 South Western Counties Team Championship and U16 Channel League. Individuals have won South West Championships, Tom Plumb, Dylan Xanh and Freddie Turnell all worthy winners. Lets not forget the wonderful achievement of the Saltford Junior Team who went to Woodhall Spar as County Team Junior representitives and came away as National County Junior Team Champions! Another great success is the work of Dave Owens who runs the First4golf programme where our mini golfers are enjoying the game under his watchful eye.
The SGU continues to support “Special Projects” we have run numerous County Tournaments at all levels and turn out teams to represent our small but great County at U12’s, 14’s, 16’s, 18’s, Seniors Development and 1st Teams.
Our Chairman’s Charity Day saw 96 competitors from almost every affiliated club turn up to enjoy a highly successful day. It would be fantastic if every club entered a team in 2020.
The County Dinner was supported by 15 Clubs with numbers reaching 150. My thanks goes to Oake Manor who looked after the gathered so very well. Next year will require tickets paid in advance to assist administration.
So all that’s left to say is thank you to everyone who has made my first year as your County Secretary so enjoyable. I personally wish you all.
Somerset is a small County with just 30 affiliated golf clubs; however, we have enjoyed an unprecedented year of success so far. The spirit of co-operation that exists between the County, our Clubs and the Club Support Officer has produced outstanding results.
Competitions are run for golfers of all abilities, both individual championships and inter-club knockouts. These include scratch and handicap events to cater for the full spectrum of ability. We have for the second year and thanks to Dave Owen run a Mini Tour for U12 boys and girls who are without a club handicap, this should help them prepare for tournament play in the future.
Coaching and development has always had top priority within Somerset particularly at the junior level. We are immensely proud that the pathway that has been built allows us to identify new and emerging talent. We have two “Futures” squads of Under 12s. Testimony to this success is that all but one of the players who represented us in two previous County finals progressed through our development programme.
Our team ethos has helped promote and grow the game tremendously with constant reviews of how we can help our affiliated clubs with their plans. Through careful control of our budgets, we have created a fund that helps provide grants to clubs with special projects. Clubs are actively seeking to attract new junior members and to support this we have reduced our affiliation fees for the junior section. We were delighted to be chosen by England Golf to be one of four counties selected to participate in the project to get more juniors involved in golf and with the launch of this initiative the first 8 clubs have signed up.
The format for the Clubs’ Delegates Meeting has changed to that of a Business Seminar; we invited guest speakers from England Golf to highlight the changes that are being introduced. At this present time membership across the county is holding steady with a slight increase being shown..
Somerset is also supporting the “Get into Golf” programmes, notably for the Ladies at Burnham & Berrow, with Farrington Park and Tickenham assisting the Stroke Association in Bath & North-East Somerset.
Where possible, we look to support our clubs financially by staging County meetings which includes the Annual Dinner at their venues and naturally pay facility fees to the clubs who host our competitions.
We have invested considerably to improve all aspects of communication with our members, the website was re-launched, regular updates are forwarded to the clubs and the use of social media has been extended.
Course rating has been taking place across the county and our team of volunteers have two clubs left to complete all the clubs in the county, our thanks goes out to this team for all their hard work during the previous years completing this project.
There will be a meeting in October to update all clubs about the world Wide Handicapping System and the secretary will be writing to all clubs shortly inviting members to attend.
England Golf offer a wide range of support to golf clubs on a variety of subjects with workshops available on such subjects as recruitment and retention, governance and handicap issue. The SGU can and will arrange these for you so please contact our secretary Rob Davis email@example.com for further information.
Whilst mentioning the secretary he is the only paid member of the executive, all others are volunteers who give their time freely for the cause GOLF IN SOMERSET.
We are actively holding meetings with the Ladies executive looking at ways we can utilise resource and expertise for the benefit of both.
Success this year has occurred at all levels and the new mini tournament “First4Golf” run by Dave Owen seeing numbers above 40 at each event. Boys and Girls welcome
Saltford Juniors have just represented Somerset in the Junior Club Championship at Woodhall Spa and came away winning the event well done lads.
At South West Counties Level we are proud to have the Men’s Champion Tom Plumb the U18 Champion Dylan Xanh and U14 Champion Freddie Turnell. Somerset are also South West Champions at U16/U14 level and the Men were successful in winning the South West Title at Parkston in June., the result of this win means the team is off to Huddersfield in September to play in the English County Finals.
Tom Plumb and Tom Sloman have been members of England’s elite squad representing England with success all over the world. Both lads have made this years Walker Cup side and are Somerset’s first ever representatives in the prestigious match.
Personally I would like to thank all Members and Clubs for the support they have given the Executive and me personally over the past few years and especially those who took part in a very successful Chairman’s Day Weston-Super-Mare GC in July which raised around £1000 for Junior Golf.