As you can imagine, the journey that has been Covid has not been an easy one to understand or manage. We had rather hoped that by now we would all have a better understanding of when, what and how things would pan out. We all want certainty but the situation does not allow that. When making a decision on what to do with subscriptions in February we have tried to bring some perspective and certainty to the situation if we are to have enforced closure beyond the end of February.
We have decided that we will be charging full subscriptions for the month of February but, thereafter, will not charge if a further lockdown takes place between March 1st and October 31st, 2021 (broadly speaking the golfing season).
This will be calculated on a pro-rata daily subscription rate (i.e. the annual subscription divided by 365 days) and the credit will be applied when Members renew their membership.
The credit will be allocated evenly over the following 12 months. This will only apply to Members who continue to pay their subscription in full. This credit is in addition to freezing subscriptions for 2021/22 at their current level.
We want to give our decision some context:
- While subscriptions are apportioned monthly, the use of the membership is obviously not. Golf is to a great extent a seasonal sport, so we don’t think the loss of the ability to play is the same in February as it is in May.
- Assuming we are closed for the whole of February, we will have been closed for five of the past 12 months and Members will have received three whole months credit, and Get Golfing will have charged for two months. In our mind, there is some parity there.
- We also want to raise the issue of what happens to your subscription. We are a charity and no one has a personal gain beyond their remuneration and all remuneration is in line with industry standards. Just for the record, during lockdowns, no staff member has earned more than £2,500 a month regardless of whether they have been furloughed or not. So your subscription is actually going to your Club. We have been assisted by furlough (mostly partial) and some modest local authority grants recently, but have continued to pay our sizable rents in full and meet our other operational costs.
- At the beginning of February we will start to escalate investment into the courses in the hope that clubs will be allowed to open on February 16th or shortly thereafter.
- We have looked carefully at other clubs and believe that we sit in the top 25% of Clubs who have refunded subscriptions.
It has been our goal to significantly improve the Club and course by the first anniversary of our takeover. An awful lot of challenges have beset us but we do firmly believe that in the short time we have been involved, things have started to improve.
Therefore, in summary, we are charging for February but have given an undertaking that so long as a Member continues to pay their subscription, we will refund the period that we are closed.
We all want to be back playing and when the weather improves, hopefully that will be the case. We do not expect everyone to agree with our decisions but hope that this gives you an understanding of our position and that it can be considered as a reasonable solution to an awkward set of circumstances.
On a final, unrelated note, we have decided to hand back the keys on the lease at Oak Park. The rents were significantly above market values and despite a series of attempts to renegotiate the lease, the landlord, as is his right, chose not to engage. We, therefore, used the “in the event of closure due to government legislation” clause within the agreement to vacate the property – as was our right.
Edward Richardson, Chief Executive, Get Golfing
From Gary Walsh, Golf Operations Manager: We hope that all of our Members and their families are staying safe during this lockdown period. Although the announcement of this third national lockdown has forced us to close for the time being, Get Golfing is fully committed to the improvement of Mill Green and so we continue to maintain the course to the highest possible standard to ensure that you all return to the great conditions you have experienced over the past few months. Along with the work being done on the course, the refurbishment of the clubhouse is continuing as scheduled. Work started on January 4th and great progress has been made, as can be seen below.
We look forward to the return of golf, which we expect will bring with it; better weather, improved course conditions and the start of an exciting season, not to mention our clubhouse refurbishment should be beyond the half-way stage. With this in mind, the team at Mill Green would like to thank all of our members for their support and we look forward to welcoming you back to the club soon.
The first 10 days of the refurbishment have been a success. Andy Kavanagh (Site Manager) and his team have stripped away all of the relevant electrical fixtures and fittings, hot and cold-water feeds and the carpet has been removed from all parts of the clubhouse, except the locker rooms. The demolition team have also been and gone, and the pro shop and committee room have been removed.
The double doors and part of the wall leading into the old restaurant area have been removed, which will make room for bifold doors to be installed, allowing us to section off three function areas, while increasing the capacity for large events.
The Ladies’ restrooms off the Salisbury Suite have also be removed, while the Men’s restroom has been completely stripped to allow for the new ones to be built.
Work has begun on the sound proof wall, which will separate the Players Lounge and the function area. This will be completed over the next day or so, with the door being fitted at a later date.
Andy and his team have completed 90% of the new wiring and this will allow them to begin plastering ceilings and walls to repair any damage done during the removal of old lights, electrical fittings, and inspections. This work, along with the re-modelling of restrooms, will take place next week. Toward the end of the week, Andy will liaise with his structural engineer and remove the current patio doors and windows, before installing the new bifold doors, which will lead to the terrace. This will be done in phases over a four-day period, to ensure the clubhouse remains secure.
After speaking with Andy and the team, they are pleased with their progress and the programme is on track to complete by the end of March. We will keep you update via the club newsletter and please make sure to check out our social media platforms for further updates.
We are delighted to announce that Nicola Callander will be joining Mill Green as Golf and Events Manager as soon as the lockdown ends.
She will be responsible for selling the venue for weddings, events and room hire and looking after those events on the day. She will also assist with membership sales and the golf operations.
We are delighted to say that Nicola is one of Mill Green’s own, having been raised up through the ranks of our juniors, going on to represent Scotland Girls.
She says, “I am really looking forward to getting started in my new role as I learnt to play golf at Mill Green when I was eight years-old and played there for 10 years. It will be great to be back at the Club and interacting with the Members again. With the refurbishment, it is going to open so many opportunities to sell the venue to its full potential so I’m just ready for lockdown to be over so I can get started.”
Nicola joins Mill Green from The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple in London where she was an events sales executive. Her career so far includes working in a similar capacity at The Royal Horseguards Hotel in London, Sopwell House in St Alban’s and at TopGolf in Watford.
While on furlough during the Covid-19 lockdown, Nicola has been volunteering for Stevenage Football Club’s Community Careline initiative, helping to organise the delivery of food to local residents.
From Andy Copeland, Course Manager: 2020 is a year we will always remember but I’m sure it is one that we would all like to forget. If we try to look on the bright side, however, the arrival of Get Golfing at Mill Green has been a positive for both the green staff and the clubhouse.
Since the takeover, we have gone from strength to strength with investment in areas that have not been looked after properly for many years. The improvements range from machinery, staff, seed, fertilisers to infrastructure and more. I believe this is just the start for Mill Green and all the hard work over this autumn/winter will pay huge dividends for the years to come.
We spent most of January letting the golf course take another well-earned break. We managed to cut areas of semi-rough and fairways that have not been mowed for several weeks due to the wet conditions.
The greens have had an application of a high iron content fertiliser. This will help maintain excellent grass coverage on the greens while defending it from any disease activity. Tees and approaches also had a hit of iron to help thicken and strengthen the turf. The fairways will have the same treatment when we next have a break in the weather.
Once the temperatures start to rise we will start tickling the golf course with light fertilisers to wake it up and this will be followed by spiking and over-seeding the areas on the course that were worn by winter damage.
We will also invest a lot of man hours into the bunkers again. These are of huge importance to the golf course and we know they are not perfect but we will work extremely hard to make them as playable and presentable as possible.
The team is getting stronger and wiser year-on-year with experience. We had some fantastic recruits last year in Jake, Jon and Tom. We will be looking to bolster the team through spring to prepare us for a great season ahead.