One essential component of being a Club of the Future is utilising volunteers and appreciating their valuable contributions. One club which understands the importance of this is Oakbank Golf Club.

As explained by Oakbank Golf Club Course Director Grant Parker, volunteers stepped up and saved the club from going under by taking on various tasks to maintain the golf course.

How did this idea come about?

The Oakbank Golf Club was struggling where memberships were static, member involvement was down, and we were in trouble financially. We couldn’t afford to keep paying a greenskeeper to maintain the 9-hole golf course on top of the costs required to keep the club running.

Who championed this change or were there multiple people involved?

As Course Director I took on the responsibility to put together a plan and a team of volunteers to look after the maintenance of the course. Other members supported this volunteer program and started the first core group with the backing of the board. Since the implementation of the volunteer program, we have not looked back since.

What barriers did you come across in implementing this idea?

Getting the right people and the support to go it alone. All the volunteers had to learn their roles, including things like mowers and machinery, spraying and chemical treatments. All volunteers were trained by other members within the club who are professional in their respective trades.

A yearly planner was put together with the requirements of the course upkeep and everyone’s roles and responsibilities. We have an independent turf manager come to the course quarterly to inspect and make sure we’re on track and will help advise on any required adjustments.

What has been the reaction (from club members and broader)?

Very positive. Ownership of keeping the course in great condition has developed a sense of pride for club members and encourages everyone to contribute. Recently we have had members who are irrigation technicians and arborists in their professional career provide their expertise to coordinate irrigation upgrades and a review into trees across the course which has led to re-planting of trees and shrubs to beautify the course.

As we are a private/public golf course we have various visiting groups throughout the year. Visitors are gob smacked that the course prepared each week is maintained by volunteers. Recently we held a Pro-Am where local professionals and trainees come to play the course. The best score to be carded that day was -1 for 18 Holes, so that goes to show that the layout offers many challengers to top golfers.

Do you think this initiative could be easily picked up by other clubs and in different sports?

As golf courses are very labour intensive, this could be picked up by smaller courses only. You need a strong core group of volunteers and a strong social club in order to all pull together to make sure you’re all on the same page.

Foreseeable challenges to doing that?

The need to have a good vision and someone to drive it. We now have 1-5 year plans in place. You also need to have a succession plan in place and new volunteers trained up in waiting, as other volunteers gradually reduce their commitments over the years.

Any advice for other clubs seeking to implement this?

Have good rosters and good communication between volunteers. We run a Messenger chat group for all the course volunteers as a notice board and a forum for anyone to voice ideas. It’s also rewarding to those members volunteering, as the work they put in not only benefits the club but themselves.

Is there a next step/are you looking to grow this further?

More members taking on very specific parts of the course that they maintain as individuals under guidance. As more work has been seen to be done, different members are coming forward to offer their assistance. We have members with professional backgrounds, (irrigation, earth moving, painters, electricians, signage experts) so we are using this expertise in order to keep improving the club and the course.

Has this supported increase in members/volunteers/revenue?

Better quality course = more new members! More volunteers do make more people want to help as the workloads don’t seem as daunting.

We have increased our revenue by our membership expanding from 150 to 250 members with a large take up from the younger generations. Our expenses have also dropped considerably which allows the club to spend that money on course improvements.

Is there anything you would do differently?

Wish we had started the volunteer program a lot, lot earlier.