'The Pros and cons of green committees' - Ivan Morris

Ivan Morris


Ivan Morris



Limerick Leader golf columnist Ivan Morris

I WAS in the company of my old pals, Mutt and Jeff, recently as they discussed the subject of Greens Committees. As usual, it was a stimulating discussion.

Mutt: I've served on a few Greens Committee in my time and it left me wondering should Golf Clubs have greens committees at all?

Jeff: I've never served on a Greens Committees because they're a waste of time and do as much harm as good.

Ivan: Why do you say that?

Jeff: Too often the members of Greens Committees want to put a stamp on the golf course by planting trees or introducing new bunkers, ponds or adding flower beds for so-called beautification without any real appreciation of golf architecture.

The best way to manage a golf course is to have a Greens Chairman all right but to do away with the committee approach. A one-man-band dictator achieves far better results than a group of people who really haven't a clue about course architecture or agronomy.

Mutt: That would mean defining what exactly the Chairman's role is and hiring a top-notch golf architect or adviser to develop a Master Plan that would include strict maintenance standards and the prioritisation of long-term and short-term objectives.

Jeff: That's right! A relatively-mundane golf course beautifully conditioned is a joy to play whereas, a well-designed golf course is not worth a damn if it is not conditioned properly.

The Chairman's job should be to oversee the execution of the Master Plan within the Club's financial constraints, dictate policy but stay out of the way of the grounds staff except for monitoring progress periodically. A committee only provides more opportunities to screw things up.

No need for monthly meetings. A quarterly or half yearly report to the Board or management committee would merely state how the overall plan is progressing. That's enough!

Ivan: I see the benefits and advantages, all right. Time and money would be saved as the greens staff would be free of interference to get on with their jobs. Different points of view are irrelevant when you have an agreed overall (architect's) plan. Just get on with it!

Jeff: Often, those that 'serve' on committee's stay involved too long. My preference is for no greens committee. It is too important to put people with no knowledge of the caring of golf courses in charge.

The Head Greenskeeper/Course Manager should report directly on a daily/weekly basis to the Chairman and they can problem solve together. If they can't work together. One (or both) of them has to go. But, leave the committee out of it!

Mutt: I enjoyed my time as a greens committee chairman because it was interesting. I learned a lot about course maintenance and golf club politics.

Jeff: Yes, but that wasn't what you were there for.

Mutt: What's wrong with a committee representing all of the major factions in the membership and providing communication and feedback? Members are entitled to information.

Jeff: That's all fine and dandy if the committee is a good one that knows its place but if the opposite is the case? A Chairman operating on his own will achieve better results and be quicker about it too. Too many and varied opinions leads to a messy process. 

Being a committee member is thankless. I'm amazed that anybody would want to be on one, especially on a volunteer basis. Committees are there to pretend decisions are made by the whole group when they are not.

Mutt: I interpret what you are saying as: ultimate success depends on how good the architect/adviser's overall plan is. When it is a good one, the 'good Chairman' will merely observe and stay out of the way. It may be 'dynamite' to say so, but greens keepers are capable of changing the characteristics and playability of a golf course if they are not supervised to some extent.

When those changes are detrimental they must be nipped in the bud.

Mistakes can be made for genuine reasons but, they are still mistakes that need to be rectified as soon as possible. That's why I think a few extra pairs of eyes helping the Chairman are useful.

Never forget it's the members who own the place and they do need to feel that they are part of the process even if the most strident of members' opinions are often based on nothing apart from personal biases and preferences.

Jeff: Too many committee members simply do not know enough to be of any value. Nor do they trouble themselves to become properly informed. More often than not they are a source of mischief. I believe in one, overall committee (say, 7 seats at most) controlling everything.  Each member is given one or two responsibilities and gets on with his own education and research before making any proposals to the other members of the Board. Too many cooks spoil the broth!

Words of the Wise

In today's game, the ability to hit the same shot over and over again is more important than the ability to play different (types of) shots. Top players must be bored to tears with the game they are asked to play. It could be what is ailing Rory McIlroy, but he would never admit it.