Handicap freeze may deter 'leave of absence' brigade
THE proverbial cat has been thrown in among the pigeons over the 'leave of absence' issue facing golf clubs in the Republic. This trend of members looking to take a break from their club has increased over the last year and, as clubs seek to halt losses of revenue, it's becoming a serious issue.
Consider this: if 20 people in a club who should pay a €1,500 annual sub opt out for the year, that's an immediate €30,000 drop in income for 2010.
And if that's aggregated across 100 clubs the loss to golf as a whole is a staggering €3m.
Ironically, in the North, GUI officials report hardly any activity in the leave of absence stakes, but down South, particularly in the greater Dublin area, most clubs have at least 20 or 30 such applications.
We all agree that money, income and expenditure is a serious issue for households all over Ireland -- and golf is being looked on with a new critical eye in many homes.
Therefore, over the past 18 months, the notion of taking a wee 'holiday' from paying the golf subscription has looked attractive, particularly for club members who might be paying anything from €800 to €2,000-plus a year in subs without actually playing much golf.
But since the GUI and ILGU announced that those who take leave of absence will have their handicap suspended and cannot play in open competitions, the picture has changed somewhat. Judging by communication I've had to this office, men and women wanted to opt out of paying subs for a year, but expected to be able to play competitive golf in open events.
Now that door is shut, and it's causing some anguish. Another factor that has come to light is that in some clubs at least, if you think your leave of absence comes without a price tag, think again.
One club requires payment of the club development levy of €1,000 to be paid, even though the member is going 'on leave'.
Another demands a clubhouse levy of €326 be paid by the leave of absence recipient. In the case of a husband and wife at that club they would be paying out €652 -- even though they won't hit a ball in the club this year.
The situation is ripe for division and confusion among the ranks of members, particularly people who paid big joining fees in the last five years.
On the one hand, someone who has paid anything from €10,000-€20,000 in, say, 2005 as an investment in their golfing future, will feel bad that in 2010, many clubs have done away with joining fees altogether -- and they won't be coming back too soon.
In that situation some may feel like not shelling out their annual sub, and instead, seek to avail of the cheap green-fee offers elsewhere.
Others, who remain in the club, are paying for the upkeep and the debts, and the maintenance. They could say: "Hang on, I'm giving the club my €2,000 while this lot are saving that amount -- and we still have to run the place in a restrictive market."
Every case is individual, but not everybody who is looking for a leave of absence has lost a job or is in dire straits. It's more likely that they are just looking to cut down their expenditure, and their outgoings on a club subscription are an easy way to save some cash -- especially as they can still play the game.
Competition, however, is a huge part of the game in this country, and for that, you need an approved GUI or ILGU handicap. The desire to have a genuine handicap and be part of the mainstream of golf has traditionally been one of the basic motivators for people to join golf clubs. And as so many new facilities opened in the last 25 years, many thousands took the opportunity to get into the game.
All is changed now, and changing as we speak, but I just wonder if by suspending the handicap for leave of absence members, the golfing authorities, either by accident or design, will stem the flow of leave of absence applications in golf clubs.
It's a complex issue and one that every club and every individual will have their own opinion on.
What is your view? Email email@example.com with any thoughts.
Full programme for Grange centenary year
GRANGE golf club in Dublin has a full programme of events to celebrate its centenary year, and among them is the Dublin Scratch Foursomes.
This 36-hole event has been revived by popular demand will be held on Sunday April 18.
The competition, sponsored by AIB, is limited to the 50 pairs with the lowest combined handicaps, and there will be a shotgun start on the day for both 18 holes.
Entry forms are available from the club and the closing date for receipt of completed forms is Monday April 5.
Woodbrook to revive 36-hole Scratch Cup
The Woodbrook Ladies 36-hole Scratch Cup is being revived. It was last played in 1993 when former International, Kate McCann won the title.
It takes place on Sunday, April 11. It is an order of merit competition for girls, women and senior women.
Entries close on Friday, March 26. Forms can be downloaded on the ILGU web site or www.woodbrook.ie