Captains Blog


Captains Blog

Shirland Golf Club

Captains Blog
Dear Member

Two weeks since the lockdown restrictions were eased and the club has seen a lot of traffic, with new members joining and full schedules, supplemented by pay and play golfers. It’s been a bumper time, from a financial perspective, and the weather has been pretty favourable too.

One area of concern has been the condition of the greens. Rest assured, steps are being taken to fully diagnose the issue and identify an effective solution.

This week we have launched the men’s knockout competition with 57 players having entered. You should now have sight of the draw. Please make booking your first round matches a priority for the period 6-10 June. Tees are being blocked out on 6 June and we encourage you to arrange to play your ties on that day if at all possible. As soon as your result is know please notify Dan Preston (Competition Secretary) and look to the draw to see who you will be playing next. Dan will keep you posted with regular updates of other results.

Following the Prime Minister’s announcement that groups of up to 6 people will be able to meet in outdoor settings, from 1st June, we are delighted to confirm that 3 & 4 ball groups will become available. Naturally, the onus on all of us to continue observing social distancing rules will increase and we must ensure that we do not allow standards do not slip. #STAYSAFE

It is great to see that the new hand-mower has arrived, paid for by the fundraising events over last season. I’m sure that we look forward to seeing the impact of this new tool in the greenkeepers’ armory.

On the subject of fundraising, we continue to make steady progress in our efforts to support the Teenage Cancer Trust. As it was my birthday this week, I set up a Facebook fundraiser. We surpassed my target of giving the overall fundraising effort a £200 boost and we are now closing in on our first £2000 raised. You can still donate, via my Facebook page (for 1 more week) or via my Just Giving page, which will remain open for the duration of my captaincy. On Friday I spoke to my new contact at the charity and we continue to look at what we can do together, once restrictions become less necessary. Watch this space.

And finally, some will have heard already, but I’d like to confirm, that in keeping with clubs across the country, your committee has proposed that I retain the captaincy for a second season, with John Baker taking up the role in the 2022 season. In essence this is a recognition that the captaincy brings a batch of responsibilities and a number of benefits to the post-holder. Under the COVID-19 restrictions, the responsibilities remain but opportunities to realise those benefits will be extremely limited. I am grateful to the club, the committee and my Vice-Captain for their kindness in this regard, and I’ll continue to do my utmost for the club as we work through, and emerge from, these challenging times.

Happy golfing

Mr Captain

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Dear members

I’ll keep this week’s blog a little shorter.

One week ago we returned to playing on the course, with restrictions applied.

Four massive thank yous are due:

1) to Paul Owens and his team for the excellent presentation of the course. True some aspects are not perfect, but given the reduced workforce and restrictions applied by England Golf, I feel they’ve worked wonders.

2) to Tina and the other volunteers who have given many hours to ensure the smooth access to, and running of, the course and proshop. We could not have done this without you.

3) to the players for doing your bit to support the club and the demands of social distancing on the premises. Membership numbers and associated funds have taken a tremendous boost as a result of your commitment to the club, and the future is started to look really encouraging.

4) to all who dug deep to support my 1st tee charity collection on Saturday and who have made further contributions via the collection tin in the proshop.

Sadly, I’ve only managed one round of golf so far, but hopefully that will change over the coming weeks. I suspect that some will be well on their way to double figures in that regard.

Finally, we’ve launched our plan to run the men’s matchplay knockout competition through June, and entries have started rolling in. Closing date 27 May 2020.

Please continue to enjoy your golf, in the responsible way that you have been doing, and I look forward to seeing more of you all in the weeks to come.

Stay Safe

Mr Captain

Hi everyone (Happy days, we’re back, well sort of)

As ever I trust that you are all keeping well, and enjoying the adjusted restrictions. Clearly it’s not yet golf as we know it, but it’s a step forward and one we all must embrace with care, for ourselves and those around us. 
Today, as the unofficial start of the season, I thought I’d tell you a story. I hope you enjoy it.

As I mentioned last week, the Captain’s Drive-Off will not take place. You can imagine how disappointed I am at having to take this decision, but in the circumstances, I can see no likely opportunity to hold this event before we are well into the season and, by then, the moment will have passed. 

But, not being one for waste, I thought I’d share the following with you. This is extracted from the acceptance speech that I’d already written, before the Coronavirus hit these shores. 

It was a Tuesday evening, in July or August of 2018. Time for a spot of Social Golf. I’d been up to the bar, and just before heading to the practice green I spotted a brown envelope pinned to the noticeboard at the foot of the stairs. It had my name written on it. “That’s odd” I thought. Didn’t I pay my membership in full? Has the Handicap Committee had an emergency meeting? or perhaps some kind fellow member has taken the time to jot down a few tips to help me sort out the weaker aspects of my game…. “No it couldn’t be that, the envelope wasn’t thick enough”.

I took the envelope down, took a quick peek at the contents (opening couple of lines only) and realised that it was none of the above. I didn’t dare read on, conscious that, if it was the letter that I thought it was, I was not going to be able to focus on my game and that wouldn’t be fair on my playing partner. I returned to the putting green, walked to the 3rd tee (its always the 3rd, 5th, 6th or 8th) and prepared to start my round. This was probably a good move as it meant I didn’t have to speak to anyone about the letter until I’d had a couple of hours to contemplate the enormity of what had just happened. I played OK that evening, buoyed by the apparent contents of the part read letter that I’d stashed in my golf bag.

Thoughts like, “me? why me? surely there are other more worthy candidates!” “Do I see myself doing the job?”  “Can I imagine the members getting behind me, afterall, I’ve never been “one of the cool kids, part of any in-crowd or particularly popular, for that matter.”

Yes, I’m prepared to muck in, do my bit when others might not want to stick their heads above the parapet, but not through any desire for credit or popularity, but following in the example that my parents taught me, that “if you have the ability to contribute and the cause is worthy, then you should do your bit”.

So how about it? Did I want to take on the role? What would it mean for me, my family and the club? It crossed my mind several times, to decline graciously. The ramifications were endless. The one thing I knew was, we were only a few months into Rich Parker’s tenure, this was his time, and for now I needed to keep my own counsel. After that it would be Richard Coates’ year. We were looking 20 months down the line for me. This was no time for hasty decisions.

I didn’t read the rest of the letter, until I got home that evening, and I spoke to my family long before I even responded to Richard. The over-riding advice that I received was, “you weren’t looking for or expecting this opportunity in your lifetime, chances are, it won’t come around again”.

A good friend once said to me, “I don’t have regrets about the things I’ve done in life, but I do have regrets about the things I didn’t dare to do.” That’s probably not word perfect, but you get the idea.

My decision was made, and I arranged to meet with Richard to accept, in person. A couple of secretive months later, I suddenly found myself watching in horror as his world, and to a lesser extent mine, lay in near ruins, as an EGM had been called and the future of this wonderful club looked to number less than 30 days. “It was great while it lasted”, but for Richard, his destiny was about to disappear when almost within reaching distance. As for Rich Parker, the impact was even more immediate and I felt for them both.

But then, as the vultures were circling over the 18th green, up stepped George Wishart with a mandate from Colin Hancock and suddenly there was hope. I barely knew George and certainly had no knowledge of Colin, but like many at the club, I concluded that we had to back them, or we’d all be looking for a new club in a matter of weeks. True there were doubts: Was this package going to be enough to keep the club running? Was there an undeclared plan that might see the club pulled like a rug from under our feet? Was a struggling club sustainable in the current climate? (Don’t forget Maywood sadly went to the wall just a few weeks later.) There would be nervous times ahead, but the alternative was even less palatable.

Natural concerns, but we had to keep the faith. Rich got to complete his year as Captain and he has to take huge credit for his part in overseeing the transition to the new regime.

Followed ably by Richard, 2019 has seen the promises made by Colin and George starting to become a reality, with increasing membership numbers and lower fees, the installation of the Marquee and the prospect of a fully renovated clubhouse in the near future. This club is moving forward and, with hard work, your support and your patience (please) even better days are on the horizon. Rome wasn’t built in a day and Shirland GC won’t realise its full potential for some time yet, but the progress is ongoing and I have faith that we have a great future to look forward to.

A note of caution though. Since the EGM the club has had limited funds. It could not have sustained itself during that period. [Or the current disruptions] It is due, in no small measure, to the depths of Colin’s pockets, and his willingness to delve deep into them, that we are still here today. That can’t go on forever, nor should it do so, but in the meantime let’s keep our expectations in check and give the evolution of the club the time that it needs to proceed. But while things may seem calm on the surface, you can be sure that the army of grafters here at Shirland are tirelessly working to improve every aspect of this great club and venue. [The support of volunteers in recent days and weeks only serves to emphasise that this club is a community and one I’m proud to be a part of.]When you get the chance [this would have been a “put your hands together element of the speech”] could I ask you all to take the opportunity show your appreciation to Mr Rich Parker, Mr Richard Coates, Mr George Wishart and Mr Colin Hancock for all that they have done over the past two years? They deserve it.    That’s all for now. (I’ll try to keep next week’s blog a bit shorter)

All the best and Stay Safe Mr Captain  

Hi everyone

I hope that all members and your families are keeping well. 
As we wait for further direction from UK Government and England Golf I thought I’d take the opportunity to tell you a little about what we are planning for when golf returns. Only the headlines for now, but further details will follow as soon as we have more clarity over what will be permitted. 
England Golf are currently planning and sanctioning no tournament golf before the end of July 2020. It is therefore reasonable to assume that they will not sanction any open or inter-club competitions that we might wish to arrange before that date, but we may well find that we can return to the course in some form some weeks before then.
I have met with our Competition Secretary and Vice-Captain to look at what we might be able to achieve in what remains of the 2020 season. Naturally, the start date will have a significant impact on what can be achieved. The schedule, when published, will be quite different to the usual calendar, but we have sought to focus on board competitions, opens and OOM qualifiers. We ask that you accept the new schedule as the best we can achieve, recognising that we will return to a more traditional timetable in 2021. 
We have decided that the following events will not take place. (Others could be lost, but for now we have a plan for them to proceed). 

  • The Captain’s Drive Off. By the time that we can have a large gathering the moment will have passed. 
  • The men’s pairs knockout competition. Restrictions to play in a 2-ball format and increased gaps between tee times will make it impossible to run this competition. 
  • The men’s singles knockout competition UNLESS, we return before the start of June 2020. We have a plan that could see this competition played through the 4 weekends in June. Keep this in mind if you’re minded to take part. We’ll provide more details as and when we know if this can go ahead. 

I’d also like to make a quick mention with regards to my Captain’s Charity for 2020 – The Teenage Cancer Trust. By now some of you will be aware that I’ve already started promoting this cause and I am immensely grateful to everyone who has already helped us to raise in excess of £1000 (plus gift aid). Support for young people with cancer (particularly where their treatment is being interrupted by the need to focus NHS care on the fight against the Coronavirus) is such an important concern. While we will do all that we can once we return, to really promote this cause, if you feel that you can donate anything to the charity I ask that you visit my Just Giving page and give what you can. I thank you in advance. Follow this link

That’s all for now. 
All the best and Stay Safe Mr Captain  

Hi everyone

In the interest of communication, I’ve decide to reinstate the Captain’s Blog. It is my intention to make this a weekly bulletin (where work commitments permit). 

So where are we at the end of April 2020? Somewhere deep in the Twilight Zone sounds about right. I don’t need to tell you about the current climate and the impact on society as a whole. Naturally, if you’re reading this piece, your concerns will be centered around returning to on course play. 

For the moment we remain at the mercy of this dreadful virus and the direction coming out of central government in terms of when restrictions can be lifted. In the meantime, we know that England Golf, the R&A and other golf related organisations are planning for a likely phased return, when the eventual go ahead is given. In the meantime we must all be patient, understand that there is a far bigger issue than our desire to play a bit of golf, and please do not attempt to bend the rules with a spot of sneaky play/practice down at Shirland. Such conduct will reflect badly on the club and our sport, and potentially could lead to further delays or more draconian restrictions being imposed when we do return. 

When that day comes we must recognise that it will not be “business as usual”. Social distancing restrictions will still apply, we expect to be playing in pairs only with around a 10 minute gap between tee times.A DO NOT TOUCH policy will apply to all course furniture (flags, seats, ball washers, shoe cleaners etc etc). 

Restrictions on bars and restaurants are likely to persist for some time after lock-down is lifted, so clubhouse facilities are likely to be unavailable. So expect to arrive, play, and go home. Not ideal, but the priority must be that we, as a nation, do all that we can to avoid a second spike in COVID-19 cases

Rest assured your club is working hard to prepare for when the go-ahead is given, but until that time stay safe and keep in touch. 

Until next week, I’ll leave you with a word of thanks to everyone doing their bit to support the club through hese challenging times and to the Greens-staff who, by all accounts, are doing marvellous work (within England Golf restrictions) to prepare the course for whatever remains of the summer’s golf.

All the best Mr Captain