President’s Newsletter December 2020
On behalf of myself, my family, the Board, Management and Staff of Waratah Golf Club, may I wish all our members a very Merry Christmas and a much greater New Year than what was served up to us in 2020.
Our club, under the fine leadership of our GM, Jono Towns has maintained a healthy and safe environment for all of us. We were hoping that the worst of it was behind us, but the events of the last few weeks have thrown those plans into some confusion. At the time of writing, we have not yet been affected, but we should never be complacent and continue to support the general directions as they are presented by the relevant government agencies as well as the specific guidelines as implemented by Jono. I will repeat again, what I wrote in my previous newsletter, regarding the expectation of our members and guests in complying with the relevant directions they are given. “Our members and visitors should be aware that our club has, and will continue to be, audited by SafeWork against our COVID Plan and it is all our responsibilities to comply with the requirements of it. If they find during one of their inspections, that the plan is not being adhered to, both the club and potentially the staff could be liable for financial penalties. I must reinforce with our members and visitors that the most significant responsibility of the management and staff of WGC is to provide a safe and COVID free environment for the enjoyment of all. What this means is that the COVID Plan is in place, first and foremost, to keep everyone safe. The result of keeping everyone safe is that we can continue to operate. If I, or the Board, believes that our members are flagrantly ignoring the requirements of the Plan, and as a result, putting the health and safety of our staff, members and visitors at risk, I will have no hesitation in closing the club until the message is understood. My message is clear - personal safety comes before club operations. “ Members and visitors will note that we have installed a new member sign in process adjacent to the reception window, which was a requirement of the authorities to allow our business to continue operating. At the moment, we are only using the new machine to register the attendance of people entering and leaving our clubhouse, but as time goes on, we will be using it for more purposes, which will be advised to you all at the appropriate time.
The Board elections were announced at our AGM in early November. We welcome Grahame Baker onto the Board as Club Captain as well as Lorraine Smith as Director. The new Board members replaced Wes Dickson, who did not stand this year as well as our past Vice-President, Paul Barrie. All other positions remained as per the previous Board. I must congratulate both Wes and Paul for their outstanding service during their time on the Board and it was a privilege to serve with them. Paul has volunteered to continue working as our “Web Master” and support the clubs marketing systems and Wes has also volunteered to continue his support work at our Friday afternoon Draw. Many thanks to both of you. I would also like to thank Barry Lalonde for the time and effort he put into both roles of Captain and Vice-Captain during the last 2 years. As per Wes and Paul, Barry continues to support the club daily in too many roles to mention. Thanks Barry. I would also like to thank the membership for allowing me to serve as your President for another 2 years, and I am very enthusiastic over the potential growth and development our club will experience during that period.
I say this in every newsletter, but my heartiest congratulations go out to Shaun Patrick and his outstanding greenkeeping team for the fantastic presentation of our course. In my opinion, the course is currently in the best condition I have seen it in my 20 years as a member. We have had some recent issues in presenting the rough in a way that is both penalising, but playable, but members will be pleased to know that those problems have now been resolved. Thank you to Greg Crnkovic for his outstanding work in this very taxing role. Members will also have noted the construction of a long overdue nursery green adjacent to the greenkeeping shed. This green and surrounds has been constructed for a few purposes.
1. Provide turf for worn or damaged areas of our 19 greens, without having to cannibalise the putting green
2. Provide our greenkeeping staff with some experience in constructing new greens and required infrastructure
3. Trialling new types of grass that may be used for our new greens to be built as part of the residential development
4. Understanding the duration between seeding and green “ready to play” condition and how that will affect the schedule for delivering new greens.
5. Trialling the suitability of Zoysia grass as green surrounds. The Zoysia turf has a reputation of being very slow growing and as a result, not running into the greens. The other advantage of the slow growth is the significant reduction in time required to trim and present the bunker edges. There has also been an area of Zoysia turf laid on the rear tee of the 18th hole. The aim of the trials is to confirm its growth rate as well as its suitability to our weather patterns and chemical applications. At this stage it looks pretty good.
One major risk to the ongoing presentation of our course is the condition of our ageing reticulation system. Our reticulation issues are numerous but our current strategies to mitigate them are highlighted below. Please note that many of these strategies are based on either the receipt of government grant funding or the income boosts the club will receive as a result of the development.
1. Our treated water dam adjacent to the 16th fairway has a usable capacity of 3.5 Million litres. This sounds a lot until you realise that we spray 1 Million litres per night onto the course during hot weather periods. Therefore, we only have about 3-4 days of water storage at any one time. The Edgeworth Treatment works which feeds that dam, does have occasional operational issues, which leave us without new water for a week or more. If these water problems occur at high temperature times, our course can run out of fairway watering very quickly, resulting in potential long-term damage. The Board is currently investigating the most appropriate method of providing more storage for the treated water on site but digging new dams or enlarging the existing dam so close to Cockle Creek is not an environmentally acceptable solution. Whatever solution is finally chosen, will almost certainly require government funding, so this issue will be with us for some time yet. We currently have a grant application with the government to allow us to replace the supply pipe from the treatment works to our dam as well as some other minor dam maintenance works. We won’t know the outcome of that request for some time yet.
2. The golf course does not capture any rainfall runoff for its own use. That is, no water actually runs into any of our dams, it all eventually runs into the creek. The dam between the 10th tee and the 12th hole is our potable (town) water dam and this water is used to irrigate our greens, which are too sensitive to be watered with the treated water. This dam is filled by mains water as required, as well as stormwater overflow from the 35 Latitude development adjacent to our 8th fairway. We are currently investigating the harvesting of our own rainwater to fill this dam, but this will require some earthworks to get it to happen. Fortunately, much of the area adjacent to that dam will be subject to the construction of new holes as part of the development and it could occur without too much disruption to the playability of the course. We are very lucky to have member Geoff Craig helping us with the design concepts for these harvesting plans. Geoff is a Civil Engineer, with decades of experience in the water capture and reuse industries. Thanks Geoff. The aim would be to pump any excess captured rainwater to the unused dam behind the 5th green and use it as additional storage for our greens watering as needed. This dam currently has a gravity feed line back to the dam mentioned above. In addition to the water harvested from the course, the aim will be to capture the stormwater runoff from the development housing in the area of the 9th and 12 greens and 10th tee and pump it to the most appropriate dam. 3. We are also planning to capture the stormwater from the development area adjacent to the 4th fairway for additional fresh water storage capacity. 4. We have recently begun conversations with a local water treatment company who specialise in treating water for golf course use. These discussions are based around processing our treated water to a quality that allows it to be utilised on our greens and more sensitive areas around the property. These types of processes are not cheap and will require government funding to progress. The majority of the above solutions are still some time away from fruition, but we must start investigating them now, if we are to install them in the most appropriate and cost effective manner.
Pace of Play
The match committee has been provided with much feedback from members who are dissatisfied with the pace of play during our Saturday competition. This is very much an issue during the winter months when the daylight hours are reduced, and the late groups struggle to finish before dark. Pace of play is not just an issue for those adversely affected players in the late groups, but it is a major issue for the golf industry, who is trying to grow the game for the benefit of all. It is difficult to attract new time-poor players to a sport that takes all of their Saturday to play. Please think of this aspect of slow play as well, if you think we are being unfair in our processes. The match committee has been trialling a method that measures each group round duration using the software that is available to us. This trial period has been running for about 2 months and the general reduction in round durations has been quite interesting. At the start of the period, many groups, especially at the end of the field were showing durations over 5 hours. Over the past few weeks, including our Stroke Monthly Medal days, most groups are playing in under 4.5 hours. This has been a great result but we hope to do better. The Pace of Play Procedure has been written and will be provided to all members by the Match Committee prior to executing any formal slow play penalties.
I am pleased to advise our members again that the club is performing reasonably well during the current COVID times. Our membership numbers continue to rise and are now sitting at over 960 across all categories. The increases have been across all classes. Social Golf Membership continues to grow, and we currently have nearly 220 members in this category. This category was originally created as an introductory membership for social players who would hopefully transition into full playing members and to some extent this has been successful. But we need also to recognise that there is a growing golf demographic that does not wish to become a full fee-paying member of a golf club and is more than happy to play socially. The next challenge for us is to maintain these membership numbers during the Christmas period when the social memberships become due. The Board has maintained the current membership fees for the coming year, and as such has now advertised the 15 months for 12 months offer available to new members. Our members will recall that our membership year has been revised to run from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021, so the 15-month deal is valid from 1 January. Let your friends and family know of this great introductory offer for them.
House Activities and Functions
Our clubhouse activities have started to grow, but function numbers are still very low with people uncertain about making bookings in these times. Our members may have noticed that the floor and walls of the pro shop are much dryer than they used to be. This has been largely due to the efforts of our volunteers, led magnificently by Director, Mike St Vincent, in first finding the root cause of the leak and secondly, putting in the time and effort to fix it. Mike has worked tirelessly in rectifying this problem and my gratitude goes out to him for his efforts. This has been hard work installing a new floor frame on the upstairs deck, and much of it has been done during the searing heat of the last month. Thank you Mike and team.
Our survey results indicated that the majority of members were supportive of a 2 tee start if that was implemented by the Match Committee. The Match Committee had decided to trial a 2 tee start on Saturday mornings to allow more members to beat the heat during Summer. This was to be trialled during December, but we realised that there would be an unacceptable noise issue for our neighbours from our green’s mowers from those greens closest to them. These greens would need to be mowed earlier when both tees are used. In the end, we decided to postpone this initiative until we investigated it further. Our thinking is that the lease on our current mowers expire in18 months’ time and we may be able to replace them with electric hybrid mowers, which generate significantly less noise. We will review this issue again at that time.
Development Proposals/Asset Sales for WGC Housing Development
After some minor delays since my last newsletter, we have officially finalised terms with our developer partner and our financial contracts are in the process of execution. These contractual documents have been under review and subject to ongoing negotiation for over 3 years, but both parties are now relieved to have completed this component and ready to get on with the process of delivering the beneficial outcome for us all. As advised earlier in this newsletter, much of the future strategic planning for the ongoing prosperity of our club is dependent on this development and the benefits it will provide, so I continue to implore our members to support us through this time.
Commencement of construction is well advanced, and we are very pleased with the design of both the path and the safety fences protecting the cyclists and pedestrians. Our expectation was for a late September completion and transfer of payment of $60,000 into our bank account shortly thereafter, but this has now slipped back into the early new year.
Finally, I must congratulate the following members and teams for their recent successes in both local and state competitions.
Grahame Baker – qualification into the NSW state Senior Open
Robyn Watt – State Over 70 Amateur Champion
Richie Ford – Newcastle Senior (Over 50) District Champion
B Grade Pennant Team – District Champions
Super Senior Pennant Team – Final 8 of State Pennant competition
These are outstanding achievements and don’t come around often. Thanks to those above and all the other players who have represented Waratah Golf Club with such honour over the last 12 months.
Till next time, stay safe, play well, and enjoy our wonderful game,