The Board met last night and as usual I report now on the major items discussed and agreed.
As the Chancellor noted in his statement on Wednesday, there is great uncertainty. The economic crisis is only just getting underway. Under all scenarios, unemployment is going to increase. All this is compounded by the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s exit from the EU’s single market and customs union. Against this background, the Board has set a prudent budget, recognising that we expect to finish 2020 in reasonable financial health after careful management by Marc Newey and his team. Member resignations are broadly in line in numbers with those of previous years. The number of Prospective Members taking up the resulting vacancies from 1st January is good. We are not looking to increase our Membership numbers above the 5000 threshold.
While being prudent, the Board is keen we continue to make progress on maintaining and improving our key facilities. Accordingly, provision has been made for replacing the existing Airhall over courts 12-14; a new Airhall over courts 7-10 if planning permission is obtained; the installation of 2 Padel tennis courts by April and continued design and planning work for a new Sports Shop/hub, indoor golf centre and on the club house refurbishment. The Board will monitor the Club’s financial position closely and Members may be assured that no capital expenditure of this nature will be incurred unless the Board is satisfied that the Club’s financial position in the short and longer term makes it appropriate.
Golf Course safety works
Unfortunately, safety issues have arisen from both the 10th and 18th tees. Balls have been struck which have landed in the grounds of Fairacres and in the grounds of Priory Lodge School. There have also been instances of balls striking vehicles in Priory Lane. Previous attempts to deal with these risks have unfortunately not been sufficient. Before lockdown 2, the Board approved unplanned expenditure for remedial works on the 18th tee including new fencing and the re-alignment of the tee. Work has progressed during lockdown which Members will see next week, and the tee will back in play by March.
As for the 10th hole, the Board last night approved further expenditure to mitigate the risks of balls flying out of our grounds into Priory Lane and the school. This will involve planning permission being obtained for new higher perimeter fencing and possibly new fencing alongside the 10th tee. Meanwhile, a temporary tee has been installed to limit the risk. The Board is keen to preserve the character of the 10th hole. It is consulting with the Golf Committee on such changes as are recommended by our course architect and safety consultant.
Would all golfers please take extra care when playing on these two holes. It is essential that the Sports Shop or Reception is notified immediately if any ball struck leaves the perimeter of the course in accordance with the rules in place. I must emphasise the importance of doing so.
Finally, may I please remind us all to respect the social distancing requirements that are still in place as we emerge from lockdown. At the end of October, both the Chief Executive and I had to write to Members about the need to follow the rules about this, the wearing of masks, the use of changing rooms and hospitality areas. These rules are there to benefit us all and our staff. They also allow us to operate our Club safely and lawfully. Please respect them.
Online and other activities
I have been impressed by the imagination and hard work of many Members and staff in offering us lockdown activities and ways of keeping us amused. Whether it has been virtual fitness, golf, art, backgammon, or bridge classes, social scene events (of which I thought Boris Becker and Matt Frei were notable examples) or making available hampers and advent calendars, it has been a wonderful example of the Club coming together. I’m sure you will all join me again in warmly thanking those involved.
I cannot leave this topic without mentioning the virtual Art Exhibition. If any of you have not looked at this online, I encourage you to do so. The talent on show and the vibrancy of the exhibits is outstanding.
Lastly with Christmas around the corner I note there are numerous bargains to be had in the Sports Shop and a unique gift idea from Peter Jackson with his book on how to cure the Yips – that’s a must for some I’m sure- with proceeds to charity.