I was proud to represent OGCSA at the Chapter Delegate Meeting in November this year. It was a lively meeting with the delegates spending a lot of time debating the issues and initiatives the GCSAA presented to us in the 2 day meeting. Updates were provided on the current initiatives, proposed changes that we will be voting on in February, and the candidates for office were presented.
At the beginning of the meeting GCSAA CEO J. Rhett Evans briefed the delegates on the state of the association and focused his presentation specifically on the strength of GCSAA’s membership. GCSAA has nine regions, 97 affiliated chapters and two international chapters. There are 18,000 members scattered across the U.S. and the world. While there are differences in the specific needs of individual members, there are many common challenges that GCSAA and the members can broach together. Successful individuals understand that their achievement depends on a community of persons working together. This is what GCSAA means by strength in numbers. It’s not simply wanting more members for the association’s financial gain. When there are more members to collectively participate in programs and initiatives it helps the profession and industry succeed. Having a louder voice is vital with our advocacy efforts and having more hands to assist with key initiatives or board service provides benefits at all levels – national, local and individual.
He shared with the delegates GCSAA’s membership trends from 2008 through 2018. The good news is that membership numbers are trending upward. Particularly in the equipment manager, students and Class B classifications. GCSAA’s membership is aging. This is why GCSAA and chapters need to focus on students and individuals transitioning from students into their careers. The goal is to grow the future leaders of the profession.
GCSAA is adding to the current offerings for assistant superintendents and equipment managers. The association does this to strengthen the team at the golf facility. He advised the delegates that this attention to their teams makes the business stronger. Everyone succeeds.
Rhett Evans closed his presentation by sharing that GCSAA currently has a 48% penetration rate in the U.S. golf market. That means there are 7,555 golf courses with no GCSAA member. This penetration rate hasn’t really changed in decades. The traditional models for recruiting this market has not worked, but new ideas and strategies will be shared that the association is hopeful will bring in new members. New members to grow GCSAA, grow our chapters and grow labor. There is strength in numbers.
Rafael Barajas, CGCS and Mischia Wright, Associate Director, EIFG presented information on the Rounds 4 Research Auction. The number of rounds donated increased 24% from 2017 and the number of rounds sold increased by 21%. The top five fundraisers were:
• Carolinas GCSA – $60,000
• Florida GCSA – $26,720
• Georgia GCSA – $24,338
• Tennessee GCSA – $15,000
• GCSA of New Jersey – $14,534
The attendees heard from several delegates who outlined what made their chapter successful in the auction. Establishing a Rounds 4 Research committee at the chapter level and getting organized were noted as important. The EIFG will help with creative materials, donor forms and has planning documents available to assist chapters with their efforts. These items can be found at www.rounds4research.com.
The 2019 Rounds 4 Research Auction will be held April 29-May 5.
Mark Johnson, Associate Director, Environmental Programs gave an update on GCSAA’s goal to have all 50 states with a BMP in place by 2020. There are currently:
• 10 states with a BMP in place
• 10 states will finish up in 2018
• 20 states have told GCSAA they will complete BMPs in 2019
• The remaining 10 states are anticipated to be complete by 2020
Mr. Johnson advised that the second phase in the BMP project is facility adoption. Superintendents will be able to log in to the GCSAA BMP tool and create a facility level plan based on the published state BMP manual. GCSAA will assist chapters in training superintendents on how to utilize the tool and write their BMP plan by hosting regional and state workshops. It was stated that 44 states have received grants to assist in their BMP’s.
Steve Randall, Director, Chapter Outreach shared with the delegates a brief history of the Field Staff program and covered current and new initiatives underway in chapter outreach. GCSAA has nine regional representatives, or field staff, living and working in their respective regions. The intent of GCSAA’s chapter outreach efforts is to support affiliated chapters and assist in their success by providing programs and services tailored to their needs. GCSAA utilizes the Chapter Assessment Survey and reports from field staff to identify emerging challenges and trends. Mr. Randall called on several delegates to share how the work of field staff has impacted their chapter. Priority programs include:
• Chapter Board Orientation/Toolkit – based on feedback provided in the most recent chapter assessment survey this toolkit and the orientation sessions will help new board members understand their role, chapter operations, and integration of chapters with GCSAA.
• Chapter Executive Regional Conference – The first regional conference for chapter staff was held in Dallas this year. The goal is to provide networking opportunities, professional development and the sharing of best practices for these important members of the chapter team.
• Strategic Planning Sessions – These sessions help chapter boards identify their mission and outline their goals for the future. The session is tailored to meet each chapter’s individual needs.
• First Green Program – First Green is an innovative environmental education outreach program using golf courses as hands-on environmental learning labs. This program is an outstanding community outreach program for chapters and individuals.
• Site Visits/GCSAA Board Outreach – GCSAA Board members who are not officers visit a different region each year. These outreach visits are aimed at giving the board members an opportunity to meet new members and to see chapters in action. The board member speaks at a chapter event, visits with local turf students and will often make facility visits to meet with individual members.
Kevin Sunderman, Equipment Manager Task Group Vice Chair updated the delegates on the state of GCSAA’s equipment manager classification and the work of the EM Task Group. GCSAA introduced the EM membership classification in 2015 to address a growing concern among the members – lack of qualified equipment managers. The Equipment Manager Task Group is leading the way in identifying education, programs and services to enrich the offerings for this membership classification. The more involved an equipment manager is in GCSAA, the more successful they are at their job. Current programs and services for equipment managers include:
• GIS education specific to equipment management
• Equipment management live and on-demand webinars
• Turf Equipment Technician Certificate Program (TETCP), levels 1 & 2
• Five-Minute Fix videos
• GCSAA support of local EM education events
• Equipment worksheet templates
• Shop talk forum
• Monthly shop articles in GCM
• EM Profile Report
• Edwin Budding Award
• Most Valuable Technician (MVT) Award in partnership w/Foley
• EM networking reception at GIS
Future Initiatives include:
• EM First Green curriculum – The task group will discuss how equipment managers can contribute to this initiative and develop a separate curriculum to enhance the program.
• EM Self-Assessment Tool – Work will begin to incorporate EM and Assistant Certificate competencies to the current superintendent tool.
• EM Certification Program – GCSAA has developed the TETCP certificate program, and now as a career path, will develop a certification program, similar to the CGCS designation. Those that are eligible to apply for the program must have successfully completed TETCP Level 1 and 2. Additional criteria will be reviewed by the EM Task Group in 2019. Certification will get underway in 2020/2021.
He asked the delegates to support their equipment managers as members and to encourage their colleagues to do the same. The larger the platform is, and the more resources GCSAA has, the better the membership as a whole can be served.
Kevin Sunderman briefly updated the delegates on the work on the Assistant Superintendent Task Group. For those that were unaware, there are four certificates that can be earned. They are:
• Principles of Golf Course Agronomy
• Principles of Golf Course Business
• Principles of Golf Course Leadership and Communication
• Principles of Golf Course Environmental Management
The certificates can be taken in any order and range in price from $40 – $50. The feedback has been positive regarding these certificate programs.
Shelia Finney, Senior Director, Member Programs brought the assembly up-to-date on the work done by past and current membership groups, including chapter delegates and nominating committees to create a “road map” to GCSAA board service. Previous delegates have requested more information available on the GCSAA website that would outline the qualifications to serve on the board, the time commitment required and related experience necessary to be a board member. This year’s Nominating Committee finalized and approved a Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) section and a landing page of qualifications for the website. Items included on the FAQ:
• Do you have to be a CGCS to be a board member?
• How much time away from work/family is typically required?
• Is there a financial commitment associated with serving at the national level?
• Are board members required to be from different regions of the country, or a certain type of facility?
Items included on the landing page for the website would include:
• Minimum requirement of a candidate as stated in the GCSAA Bylaws
• Suggested list of experiences and personal qualities
The delegates were asked to review these documents prior to the meeting and to offer any additional items or edits. The delegates advised they would like to see items highlight the benefits to the golf facility when the superintendent is on the national board. Include quotes from employers on the professional development they witnessed in their superintendent who served as a GCSAA Board member.
Board Policy Oversight Task Group (BPOTG) member Kevin Custis reported on the task group’s work to the delegates. He explained the purpose of the task group is to review the appropriateness and strategic intent of the board support policies. The task group is also in place to ensure transparency in the process of the review, and the board truly values independent scrutiny.
The BPOTG is made up of the nominating committee plus two members at large. The task group also includes the most recent past president and the last president who did not serve with the current board members in order to provide perspective for board support. A previous BPOTG member is included to provide insight into that group’s findings and recommendations. This year’s BPOTG includes:
• Peter J. Grass, CGCS – GCSAA Past President, Chair
• Scott Ramsay, CGCS, 2015 Task Group
• David S. Downing, III, CGCS, GCSAA Past President
• Jorge Croda, CGCS
• Jeff Holliday, CGCS
• Bill Murray
• Kevin Custis
In general, GCSAA pays expenses and provides support in order to encourage the best leaders to become board members, not just those who can afford it. GCSAA works within the premise that board service should be expense neutral and feels this helps to encourage diversity on the Board of Directors.
The BPOTG felt that the board support does provide necessary resources for the Board of Directors to accomplish their job. However, they did make the following recommendations:
• Board Facility Relationships Support – Allow board members the opportunity to have their employer visit GCSAA Headquarters any time, not just when they become an officer.
• Board Representation at Annual Events – At events with restricted attendance, divide the travel between the two most senior directors so both gain exposure and experience.
• Board Meeting Invited Guests – Expand the list of typical invited guests from local chapter officers to include past presidents and other influential stakeholders.
• BPOTG Communication to Members – Send the communication to members before the BPOTG meeting so any feedback can be discussed more thoroughly and effectively.
In conclusion the task group found the board is demonstrating integrity in following the set board policies and the task group encourages the board to remain proactive and transparent.
John R. Fulling, Jr., CGCS, GCSAA Secretary/Treasurer and Cam Oury, Chief Financial Officer presented the biannual CPI-based dues increase proposal for the delegates consideration. In a process created by the delegates and voted on by members, there is a review of the dues structure for Class A, B and C members every two years, using a CPI-based process. The delegates wanted an easy-to-understand dues pricing system that would keep pace with the increasing costs of providing member programs and services, while also reducing or eliminating the negative impact that large, infrequent dues hikes had on membership growth and retention, and facility budgets. The process is not automatic and the membership must vote to approve the increase at the Annual Meeting in February. If approved, the first members to receive the increase will be those that renew, or join in May.
Because 96 percent of Class A/B member dues are paid by the facility, the state of the golf economy must be taken into consideration as well as the Association’s overall financial position and other general economic factors. Industry is also being asked to support GCSAA operations through fee increases for various marketing opportunities and exhibiting at the Golf Industry Show. GCSAA also uses a sustainable amount of funds from its investment reserves as an unrestricted source of support in its annual operating budget to fund member programs and services. GCSAA continues to explore additional revenue opportunities through new relationships and non-traditional sources.
The CPI increased 4.5% over the last two years, which equates to a proposed $20 dues increase for Class A/B and a $10 increase for C members. If passed the new dues would be:
• Class A – $400
• Class B – $400
• Class C – $205
Dues for Affiliate members would also increase by $20 with a corresponding increase of $10 for Associate and International Superintendent Members. There is no increase anticipated at this time for Equipment Manager dues, which are $95. GCSAA dues account for 25% of the Association’s budget, which is less than that of comparable associations (38% to 40%). If membership dues were the only source of revenue to fund GCSAA’s programs and services, annual dues for Class A/B would be $1,520.
Michael Lee, Manager, Government Affairs and Robert Helland, Director, Congressional Affairs briefed the delegates on the myriad of legislative, regulatory and political issues facing the golf industry and what GCSAA is doing to ensure the membership is heard. The Government Affairs team uses a Priority Issues Agenda that is set by the Government Affairs Committee to guide them in their efforts on behalf of the industry. Delegates heard case studies that demonstrate why strength in numbers is vital to the association’s success at all levels of government, including direct lobbying on the Farm Bill, WOTUS and H-2B. Delegates received updates on National Golf Day, the Grassroots Ambassador Program and the GCSAAPAC.
President Darren J. Davis, CGCS, Chief Operating Officer, Robert M. Randquist, CGCS and Shelia Finney, Senior Director, Member Programs held an interactive session with the delegates on GCSAA’s membership retention and growth strategies. GCSAA’s strength in numbers would be enhanced by improving membership retention and increasing new member growth. As was previously mentioned, there are approximately 7,500 golf courses with no GCSAA member. What can be done about the 52% of golf facilities that do not have a GCSAA member? Several strategies are being considered to tackle two perennial issues:
• The cost of a GCSAA membership is often prohibitive for potential members at smaller budget facilities
• Many government entities are not allowed to pay for employee’s personal association dues, but will pay for memberships that benefit their golf facilities or provide training and education opportunities for their employees.
The new potential membership initiatives are designed to expand membership, increase facility penetration and reward loyalty of current members. The new membership initiatives are Friends of the Golf Course Superintendent, Facility Membership Classification, Rewards/Loyalty program for existing members and incentivizing members to add additional members at their facility.
The “friend” membership classification would target golfers and potential advocates of golf. Benefits would likely be limited to a newsletter created specifically for this group keeping them informed on GCSAA member awards and good news stories. GCSAA initiatives such as First Green, BMPs and Rounds for Research could also be highlighted. Suggested dues would be in the $50 to $75 range. Delegates were advised that adding this classification would require an addition to the GCSAA Bylaws. The proposal reads:
“Golf Course Friends: To qualify for Friends Membership, an applicant must be an individual who supports the course and does not qualify for membership in any other class. Golf Course Friends shall have such rights of the Association as the Board of Directors may specify by Standing Rules, except those of voting and holding office.”
The name of this proposed membership classification was discussed. A suggestion was to change it to Friends of the Golf Course Superintendent.
The facility classification is aimed at smaller budget facilities. Suggested dues would be $200. The recommended qualifications would be:
• No current GCSAA member at the facility
• Must not have had a GCSAA member in the last five years
• Suggested limitation on green fees
• Limited benefits and privileges
GCSAA would use targeted marketing based on green fees to identify the facilities that might be eligible for this new membership opportunity.
The proposal to bylaws reads:
“Facility Membership: To qualify for Facility Membership, an applicant must be a golf course facility that employs no current GCSAA member. Facility Members shall have such rights of the Association as the Board of Directors may specify by Standing Rules, except those of voting and holding office.”
A rewards or loyalty program would be used as a membership retention tool to increase existing member’s satisfaction and sense of value with their GCSAA membership. The program could include items such as crew development plans, discounts on CGCS, TETCP and ASCS programs, extra perks at GIS and the Golf Tournament. The program would be based on the number of members at each golf facility and would be tiered – the more members at your facility the more perks you would be eligible to receive. This membership growth retention initiative would not require a change in GCSAA’s Bylaws and therefore will not be voted on at the Annual Meeting.
GCSAA is proposing a strategy to incentivize existing members/golf facilities to add new GCSAA members at their facility. Incentives would depend on the number of new members that were added. Delegates would be asked to vote on a proposed bylaw change that would allow the Board of Directors flexibility in creating these incentives. Class A, B and C dues would not exceed the amount that is set by the members at the Annual Meeting. The potential for growth with this strategy was illustrated to the delegates by showing that 59% of GCSAA’s members only have one member at their golf facility. The preliminary incentives shared with the delegates were:
• Add members for a total of 2 to 3 members at a golf facility and receive 10% off dues for all members at the facility.
• Add members for a total of 4 or more members at a golf facility and receive 15% off dues for all members at the facility.
• The incentive is only for new members added and it remains in effect as long as the membership numbers are maintained.
Proposed Bylaw Change
“Section 1. Annual Dues: The annual dues shall be sums fixed by the Board of Directors, except for Classes A, B and C. Annual dues for Classes A, B and C shall not exceed the sum fixed at any annual meeting of the Association, as decided by a balloting conducted under regular voting procedures set forth in the Standing Rules of the Convention established by the Board of Directors, in accordance with Article V of these Bylaws. Dues shall be payable in advance of the member’s annual renewal date.”
The delegates engaged in a robust discussion regarding these strategies in both the large assembly and in their small group breakouts. Each group was asked to list pros and cons for the strategies. The delegates agreed that the “out of the box” ideas that were presented were refreshing and would allow for creativity in the current marketplace.
The Friends membership was well received, and it was felt that this membership would be a valuable communication tool to reach golfers and elevate the profession and GCSAA’s brand.
The consensus of the feedback from the delegates was that Facility membership classification and the Incentive Program needed to be further refined to eliminate any potential unintended consequences.
A straw poll conducted at the end of the session revealed a majority were in favor of all four strategies. However, the board would like to hold follow up GoToMeeting presentations with the delegates prior to the Annual Meeting to answer questions, gain additional feedback and provide details of suggested refinements.
The GCSAA Board of Directors established the practice of conducting “town hall” meetings to further enhance the communication and information sharing between GCSAA’s elected leaders and affiliated chapters and members. The town hall format is an open forum where chapter delegates have the opportunity to have a dialogue with the GCSAA Board of Directors who will answer questions and share information on items of interest and importance to chapters and members.
The delegates discussed numerous issues with the board of directors including:
• How did the board introduce the idea of running for the GCSAA Board of Directors with their employers?
o There were various ways to discuss this with employers. Including inviting a sitting board member to communicate the realities of service to the employer. Letting your employer know the benefits to the golf facility that comes with the personal and professional growth of serving on the GCSAA Board of Directors.
• Will GCSAA continue to hold GIS in Las Vegas?
o GCSAA reviews member surveys to determine where to hold GIS. 86% of attendees like the three-city rotation, and they also like to rotate a city. Las Vegas, San Antonio, Phoenix and New Orleans are all on the mix for future sites.
• What sort of support are we offering to turf schools to help with attendance?
o GCSAA is putting a lot of emphasis on students and assistants. Including the Student Member Task Group – to help us better understand the needs of the students.
o GCSAA is also participating in conference and conventions aimed at high school students and teachers – such as Future Farmers of America and the National Association of Agricultural Educators and Association of Career and Technical Educators. These associations offer GCSAA a path to talk directly to students making career decisions and the teachers that influence those students in the classroom.
• Will we be expanding the First Green curriculum beyond the middle school grades?
o Yes, we are working on creating a high school curriculum.
• Question regarding requiring a BMP certification to achieve Class A in the future.
o The BMP program is still evolving. Step one is to get all states with a BMP by 2020. Step two will be facility adoption and step three will be a certification process. It is still being developed and discussed.
• What does the future of the Field Staff program look like?
o The Board of Directors are strategically discussing the future of the program.
Chapter delegates had an opportunity to listen to presentations from candidates running for elected office. After the presentations, delegates participated in the “Meet the Candidates” session where they asked questions of the delegates in breakout groups. The 2019 GCSAA
Board candidates are:
• Office of President – Rafael Barajas, CGCS
• Office of Vice President – John R. Fulling Jr., CGCS
• Office of Secretary/Treasurer – Kevin P. Breen, CGCS and Mark F. Jordan, CGCS
• Director (electing 3) – T.A. Barker, CGCS; Paul L. Carter, CGCS; Douglas D. Dykstra, CGCS and Jeff L. White, CGCS.
If Mark Jordan is not voted in as secretary/treasurer, he may be nominated as a candidate for director from the floor. If Kevin Breen is not successful in his bid for secretary/treasurer he will remain as director, as he is in the second year of his director term.
There are three open positions for director, with T.A. Barker, CGCS, Jeff White, CGCS and Mark Jordan, CGCS at the end of their terms. All three open director positions will be for two-year terms. If Kevin Breen is elected secretary/treasurer, the remaining year of his director term will be filled through the voting process.
There was a lot of information provided in a short time at the delegate meeting. If there are any questions about any of the proposals or initiatives please don’t hesitate to contact me and I will answer to the best of my knowledge. firstname.lastname@example.org 808-896-7973
OGCSA Treasurer and Chapter Delegate
Golf Course Superintendent