Local Club Association Conundrum

Hello fellow Nesticles and Refugees,

I was elected president of my clubs Men’s Association this week-- our club, like many in 2020, saw a record number of rounds played, but also saw lower turnout for club association events, both men’s and women’s 9-hole weekly events and club tournaments. I understand some of this may have been COVID related, but I’ve noticed over the last 5 years a steady decline in participation. In asking past presidents and staff, the reason for decline is a great mystery. I have my own opinions-- golf at our club is bland. Same events with very little change. Lower turnouts = less payout, and struggling incentive to play. Conversely, the other association in town is hosting an absolute sweepstakes, turning away participants for tournaments on a regular basis. I should also point out, our club is semi-private, where the other club is public.

I’m 32 years old and among the youngest active members at our club. I’m hoping the NLU Community may be able to help me out with some ideas to increase participation and make 2021 a year to remember, and hopefully, attract some new members over the course of the year. I would love to hear any input/feedback you might have on what has made your local club successful and/or an enjoyable experience to play in on a regular basis.

I think we have a lot of common club issues:

  • Older (sorry AARP guis) member base that is resistant to change, but is dissatisfied with the status quo
  • Several social cliques, consisting of 4-6 people that won’t play with anyone outside this group without major protest
  • Complaints regarding handicap system / same people winning top money in every tournament/outing

I’m under no delusion that I can fix all the problems the association has, but I’m hoping we can ride the Year of the Process high and begin introducing some changes that will make the club a more attractive option in a growing golf community.

Let me know what you think!

Gratitude in advance,


My biggest suggestion would be vary formats. I’m not sure how many events you have on the schedule, but only one or two should be the same format. Have a season long match play event with losers bracket so that everyone plays 6 or so matches with presumably new people. Have a 4 club event (maybe Stableford so no one makes a 9). Have an alt shot event. Have a best ball event. Have a Greenskeepers Revenge event. Have a short tee event. My club sucks ass in this regard, and as such, I don’t play in any of the events outside the Club Championship. Nine of our 12 events are 4-person scramble or shambles where you pick your teams which guarantee the same clique issues you described. They also stink for new members that may not know three other guys that aren’t already on a team. The member-guest is Thursday-Saturday instead of Friday-Sunday which makes it tougher for younger folks that are still working and tend to have more trouble taking vacation days.


Yep. As much variety as possible. Here’s a list of events from a local course I saw posted the other day


Why would you put yourself through this?

What did the outgoing president say? What ideas did s/he have that s/he found difficult to implement and why?

Hows the budget?

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I’m trying to live by the “Be the change you want to see” mantra. Also, I took a one-hopper to the dome last year in our member-member tournament. Needless to say, I can feel myself getting dumber. I organized a few tournaments last year that were well received. Being an active community member helps attract sponsors, or some bullshit like that.

Outgoing president has been presiding the last 3 years. Has been mostly checked out the last 2, not playing in many of the events himself, which is a tough scene. Was part of the “good ol’ boys” club, which you might think would have been a good fit, but it was not. He wanted a more strict format of competition, so it was a lot of net/gross stroke play tournaments, but let’s be honest-- for the average golfer, this isn’t the scene they’re seeking. The number of “Weekend Warrior” far outweighs we few sickos. We’re pretty fortunate that there’s a tournament somewhere within 40 miles every weekend from May through September.

Budget has operated at a surplus between $1-3k pretty consistently since I’ve been a member. The Men’s Association has also helped to sponsor Junior Clinic scholarships and new equipment, along with some initial funding for the First Tee program, which my wife and I started a few years ago. We have an organization charter rule (passed in the 80s) that the Men’s Association only adds money for max fields. Unfortunately those marks haven’t been hit in quite sometime-- one of my first thoughts was amending this rule to a lower threshold to not carry so much money over. They’ve also done a very poor job about utilizing the member base’s connections to obtain sponsors for lunches/dinners/activities, so while the tournament entry fee may only be $40, you end up paying closer to $100 for the full experience. This is a change I think needs to be proposed to gain more member involvement.

Honestly, for Southeast Idaho, it’s a premier golf course and practice facility with well above-average bar and restaurant offerings. I think the old mentality is to keep secrets a secret-- but I think that has been driving the more active player base away to more social golf associations. When I play across town, the competition is good and there’s a much greater sense of community, ie very few people are playing their rounds and immediately leaving. I know some of that is recency bias because COVID restrictions, but this has been a regular occurrence since I’ve been a member. I think that’s a part of golf that is unique, and something that should be celebrated-- not kept secret.

@tylernichols91 that a really good mix of events. We have a few similar ones, but there are a few I’m going to borrow–Thank you so much for sharing!

Good luck! As a younger member, you have to decide whether you want to make incremental changes/easier and keep more friends, or be a tornado and high risk/reward. If it works out you are genius. If not, many existing members think you are disgruntled and entitled.

Seems like you have been successful with other projects so im sure you know how to communicate well. Unlikely you can keep all the people happy all the time. Hopefully you can get support for your ideas.

Have fun.

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It seems like the “I play with this/these groups and that’s it” is a widespread issue. Maybe try to implement some games that have random draws for groupings, getting more people introduced and playing outside “comfy” pairings?


This - vary the tournaments to have some random draw teams. Our club does a good job at that - so that certain events you can pick your own team/partner (like our member-member tournaments which are 5 rounds of 9 hole match play in flights, followed by an alt-shot shootout of the flight winners and some wildcards), but many are blind draw. Our opening day tournament is a scramble where everyone who signs up is split into 4 handicap categories - A/B/C/D and you get a blind draw from each category to make the team.

We do a blind draw “par 3” tournament too - better ball of partners (with like 85% of handicap) - one 1A and 1B player on each team.

The Trash Can tournament is fun - again blind draw A/B but the A player has an opportunity to “trash” the B player for x amount and get a new B player drawn. If A player keeps the original B player, the B player get’s an opportunity to trash. You can only trash up to 5 times. Then the actual tournament is 6 holes better ball, 6 holes scramble, 6 holes alt shot. good time.

Our Tuesday night 9 hole league is pick your own team for the duration of the tournament ( 3 person teams, only 2 play each week). It’s 9 hole match but you play all 9 and the more holes you “win” by the more points you get - 1 point for the win and .25 points for each hole you “beat” them by).

We really don’t have a separate men’s/women’s association tournaments - the gals that want to play in tournaments play in all the same ones as the dudes. We do get our own club championship though lol.


It’s also important to remember each member chooses how to use their membership according to their needs. I’m a member of a two ball club which is more social golf that competition, more competitive players tend to join another local club. Our club has a healthy waiting list and hefty (for the U.K.) joining fee, each club need to find it’s position and whatever that is do it well.

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Agreed. I think our club has a good mix, but generally falls short of the bodies needs. You’re not going to please everyone all the time, but it seems that many of the association’s board have given up trying completely. Thanks for your guidance!

My biggest suggestion is pick formats where participants are still playing there own ball on a consistent basis, seems like there is a majority of golfers that only play in events if they can post a score for their handicap.
I would throw in super best ball foursome format:
1BB par 5’s
2 BB par 4’s
3 BB par 3’s
Also a big fan of a better ball match play vs par
I always try ABCD pairings on our weekly events
Team stableford, you can even divide by the number of players if you have uneven foursomes

One thing to consider is to evaluate your entry fees, we actually saw a spike in participation after raising our fees.
Plus you can never go wrong with a skins game.

Also it could be an opportunity to evaluate how tournaments are paid out, cash vs shop credit. If you pay out in shop credit but your pro shop is weak might want to change it up to cash.


There are some great ideas in here and I second the vary the format and have tournaments where you get matched up with other people. Have you tried a Friday night 9 and Dine League?

At our course we have an extremely popular Night Golf tournament a few times a year. This past weekend we had our first ever Arctic Open - 9 holes, and had to chip the ball through a 2’ goal post. We have about a foot of snow in southwestern New Hampshire but it was great.

Also, you said you have a lot of members who are resistant to change but dissatisfied w/ the status quo - have you asked members what they would like to see more of? This could lead into more trouble than its worth but it could allow more ideas and more buy in from members.

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Great ideas Andy! We play an ungodly amount of stableford (they call it Chicago out here?) which was a big point of contention last year. That said, it does seem like participation is better when each player is playing their own ball.

Entry fees is a big item I think needs addressed. Two years ago they raised most tournament entry fees from $40 to $50. Participation did go up slightly, but I still think $50 is on the low side. We’ve always had Gross/Net payouts, but it makes the pots pretty small-- I think when the money from the association is added 1st G/N in 3 flights makes ~$280 each. All clubhouse credit. Don’t get me wrong, its not bad earnings…but across town they’re holding competing tournaments on the same days where the entry fee is $125 and winners are getting $800-1000 instead. No brainer for the competitive scene.

They’ve also gone away from a regular tournament Calcutta and Prop bets between groups are basically non-existent because the way they’ve been tracked historically has been really poor. Something I’d also like to address. Participation on those is always voluntary, but adds some excitement to the round, I think!

We do have a Friday night 9 and Dine league that is for couples. During the summer, Men’s association events are on Thursdays and the club hosts a $10 BBQ on the patio which (outside of last year) has been relatively well attended.

Never hosted a Night golf tournament at the club, but have played in a few and they’re a blast! Our groundskeeper crew is pretty strict about play on the courses here during the winter months-- we don’t typically have a foot of snow, but a few inches from Nov-Feb/March is pretty common. I love the idea of the 2’ goal posts. Could possibly tie it with some booster events for our local college sports-- great idea!

Previous administration has had an “open door” policy for suggestions, but it seems like they’ve been slow to receive recommendations. I thought about putting together a poll, or something to that effect to email out to the membership to give them an easier way to provide feedback.

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Personally, I much prefer tournaments where I play my own ball. I hate scrambles/shambles etc. I will generally only play in them if the course is really good and hard to get on otherwise and even then I still keep my own score. I like the idea of mixing up tees as was mentioned above and playing a tournament from the front tees. That would be fun.

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Our superintendent wasn’t thrilled but everyone had to play off of mats. We made a bunch of 6”x8” faux grass turf mats, along with mats with tees like you would have on mat driving ranges. So you just bring those with you as you play and it does virtually zero damage to the turf.
We don’t do it often but it gives us a tatse of golf in the winter months

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It’s probably what most would consider to be a semi-private club. Non-members of the club are not allowed to participate in club tournaments, outside a few events every year. They can schedule to play with no member present 2x/week. We’re pretty fortunate that our pro shop has a robust inventory and good buy power, so clubhouse credit is a good incentive most of the time time. I’d say for our population, our association is generally middle-class–probably an upper middle class bias. I think that a $75-100 entry fee wouldn’t scare most of our membership away.

What absolutely floors me is the club holds $10 Saturday/Sunday skins game, in which they block out an hours worth of tee times. I played in probably 50% of these last summer, and the best turnout we ever had was 7 guys…in an association of of over 70 members, only 7 play weekend skins. This is part of the issues about golf cliques, I think, really comes to the top.

Start here. Cheating ruins the fun for everyone


Agreed. Handicap committee has compiled a list of “offenders” I’m looking over at the moment. Amazing how 10 guys post every single round for months on end between 1-3 shots. The consistency is UNREAL.

Anyone have suggestions how to combat this. Unfortunately, most of our offenders fall in that 12-15 handicap range. Makes the 2nd flight a tough scene.

Public shaming

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