So you wannabee a club captain?

Meet Golfmagic member Steve Sanger - at 32, the youngest golf club captain in the UK (perhaps?)

Posted: 19 January 2006
by Bob Warters

Archetypal club captain

During my 30-odd years as a golf club member I have ‘served’ under dozens of club captains, most of whom, in recent years, have possessed most of the qualities the position demands.

A handful, however, failed to grasp that their duty need not always have had to extend to out-staying the bar staff with a glass of claret still half full. Neither should it require a litany of lewd jokes when entertaining visiting teams, or long-winded stories lacking a punchline.

I once commissioned a jobbing author to write me a series about a fictitious golf club which included all the archetypal officials and staff and he portayed the club captain as a tweed-suited buffoon with his own favourite bar stool, from which he could regularly tweek the nether regions of the club secretary’s assistant as she passed by.

It was a fictitious caricature though at the time many readers agreed it had a strong ring of truth about it.

Fortunately much has changed in the modern golf club and today the club captain tends to be a professional businessman or freshly retired with time to devote to regular internal club meetings, entertaining visiting teams and hosting the social functions that are the heartbeat of a local club.

As well as organisational skills and the ability to make brief, ideally humorous, speeches with few notes, he has to possess diplomacy, patience and integrity in the face of a regular volley of complaints and whinges from members who think they know the way a club should be run. Sound familiar?.

Steve Sanger – youngest captain at 32?

One of the youngest captains I have known of in the past four decades is 32-year-old Steve Sanger, a new Golfmagic member, who this year has taken over the reigns at Ashley Wood Golf Club, near Blandford in Dorset.

He’s the youngest in the club’s 109-year history – and the first to follow in the footsteps of his father – and may possibly be the youngest in the country (unless you know different!).

He says: "I have been playing golf for over 20 years and currently play off a handicap of two. I have been as low as scratch and was captain of the Dorset’s 2nd team for two years.

"I’ve even played (and lost) a county foursomes match against an amateur David Howell and am currently Ashley Wood’s club champion, having won it eight times in the last 10 years.

What’s involved in becoming a club captain?

"I have served on the committee for over six years and had the opportunity of becoming 2006 captain when I was nominated as last year’s vice-captain," Steve revealed. "As a members club, normally the nominated choice automatically gets the position, though it has been known for the nominated selection to be opposed and defeated in a vote at the annual meeting (AGM)."

Ashley Wood GC

Though Steve works five days a week as regional operations manager for an advertising agency in Bournemouth, he says he has sufficient holiday entitlement to ensure he’s able to attend all club functions as well as being available at the course every Saturday and Sunday through the summer.

"As captain of a members club, I’m responsible for the year’s activities and hopefully ensure members enjoy the calendar of fixtures I arrange. The personal cost to the captain, of accepting the role is a bit of an unknown quantity but I do get help from the club along the way."

So is the position only for the elite?

"I wouldn’t class it as elite but more of an honour," he says, "which, at a members club is achievable by those who aspire to it. But I can imagine that some members don’t want the hassle or responsibility of such a role within a golf club.

It’s more than a parking spot and free golf at other courses, then?

"It’s true that you get a decent parking space and the chance to play other courses free of charge (as a courtesy during your year of office) but that shouldn’t be the reason to do this job. I hope to serve the members in such a way that the club moves forward and has a reputation for creating a friendly atmosphere and promoting a golf course which is a fair but challenging test."

But the job must have its down sides?

"I have had some internal strife to deal with already but as long as I remain calm and make decisions with the best interests of the club in mind, I don’t think the members can ask anymore."

Steve hopes the highlight of his year will be to stage the club’s first ever pro-am – a South West Region PGA event on August 30. He will host 40 professionals and their teams from across the region and aims to have the Ashley Wood course in its best ever condition and to be a worthy venue. wishes Steve and Ashley Wood well for the forthcoming year.

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Do you aspire to the captaincy of a golf club? Or is it perceived as an expensive perk? Tell us your experiences of club captains – good, bad or indifferent - though we prefer you avoid specific names. Their lawyers may be watching! ED

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 17:15

I last held membership 3 years ago. Unfortunately i did hold a grudge with the club and the captain at the time. Couldn't mention his name anyway as i can't remember it, may have been Tool or something!

I'm not bitter anymore, honest.

My grudge stemmed from the captain's honour of selecting a team to represent the club. As i wasn't known to him personally i was never selected. I would have loved to have participated in this and feel that i deserved to, based on the strengths of my game at the time. The clique surrounding him put paid to it though.

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 18:31

Catch 22 being captain - you'll never get along with everyone. Our current captain gets along with hardly anyone and he makes little effort. Takes a good outgoing personality to be a good captain. It should be an honorary position with little or no input to the running of the club unfortunately at our place any rate the captain is mixed up in all the club politics and it makes life hard. Some see it as a power trip trying to change things in their year of office.
How many small businesses (and that's what most clubs are) change their M.D. every year?
It's a recipe for disaster.

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 18:45

Agree with threeputter's ideals as to what it should involve. Personaly I think golf club committees are dangerous full stop. They are usually a group of people with a level of influence well beyond their expertise, but they act as though they know everything. May sound ungrateful as positions are voluntary, but their reward is usually a boosted ego.

Thankfully golf club managemnet is increasingly becoming a professional affair.

A non interfering figure head with a sense of humour is great.

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 19:42

I have never met any of the captains at any of the clubs I have been a member. I am 22H so not worth the trouble:^(

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 19:48

I was also 32 when I was 2004 club captain of Sandhill Golf Club in Barnsley. Our club was only established in 1993, but the honour still felt the same. You have to learn quickly that you need a thick skin and appreciate that you will never please everybody. I was fortunate to have a boss who appreciated what a big thing this was for me. I basically worked a year of flexi time.

Whilst young, our club is developing rapidly, and a new, bigger clubhouse is in the pipeline as the current one is now much too small, making functions difficult.

What I also found was due to changing culture, drink driving etc., it was very difficult to get large turnouts for events. Anything I arranged golf wise was very well supported. Social events were much more difficult to make a success. Talking to other captains, it quickly became apparent that I was not alone with this issue. People just did not want to travel to the golf club (which is a bit out of the way) to then have to arrange transport home etc.

I really enjoyed my year, and although I new beforehand it would be hard work, it surprised me at times how much of my time it took.

We have all sat at an AGM, looked at the captain putting on his new jacket and thought to ourselves, how hard can that be?
Until you actually do it, you have no idea!!

I am not retired, and I do not consider myself wealthy, but with the help of a yearly captains allowance, no membership fees for the year, and good organization, it was not that costly. The one thing I can say is that I have no regrets. Once elected, it is a very steep learning curve, as no one can teach you how to be a good captain. I made mistakes, but i learned from them. I also met some really good people who i would not have otherwise met.

(I am gonna get flamed for this LOL)
It may sound corny, but I also believe it made me a better person, on & off the course. You spend most of the year thinking about others, not yourself.

Oh, and you also learn who your REAL friends are.

Can I have the title of joint youngest Bob?

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 20:48

As regards committees, most clubs would falter without them. They turn up every month, at there own time and expense to make decisions that could effect every member. What would happen if every time a decision need to be made, every single member had to be written to for a response?

As you can probably gather, i am a committee member myself. The whole point of comittees is to provide the best club they can for the members. Full stop.
Yes, some decisions will be unpopular, but you always have right of reply. Minutes of meetings are always posted for members to read, but most of the time they choose not to. Then complain when changes are made that they do not like. Anyone can join a committee, most people can`t be bothered. But it is those same people that expect to turn up to well organised competitions with good prizes, played on a well prepared course.

Does this all happen by itself? Of course not.

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 21:03

I'm hoping to get offered junior vice captaincy at the end of this year. They tend to choose the old members and I'm the second oldest who hasn't been junior captain, so with any luck!!

Posted: 19/01/2006 at 21:42

I believe I'm right in saying that Ian Sheppard was 30/31 when he sserved his term as Club Captain at Cambridge Meridian GC - that was 1995ish.

And I'm with Nubbins on the subject of committees.

Posted: 20/01/2006 at 08:47

Its a bit like politics, no-one should ever be allowed to be a Club Captain that wants to be one.

Every club has enough wannabe commitee people who like to wallow in self importance and carry bundles of papers around with them. And so I believe the position of Club Captain should be given to the best player in the club, a sort of honorary role, rather than a leadership one.

Just make ONE SMALL CHANGE, move the Captain's car parking space to the FURTHEST from the club house and you'll attract a totally different (and better) type of person to the role.

Posted: 20/01/2006 at 10:25

Nubbins. You are spot on.
I had some issues with my club, so I joined the committee.
The committee we have now has changed quite a bit over
the last few years from a group of people running it for their
own benefit to one who have the clubs best interests at heart.
A lot of them have their own businesses which help with the
financial side of things. You do get a bit of flak from some
members most of which wouldn’t give up their own free time
but that’s part of the job. I was 25 when I was voted on last year
and I got quite a lot of support because of this. I was quite surprised
how many people were glad to see someone younger want to be
involved with the running of the club. It’s also nice for me to be
able to put across a point of view from the younger members.

Posted: 20/01/2006 at 11:28

I've served on three committees in my time, Junior Organiser, Competition Sec & Handicap Sec. I've done this because the jobs needed doing and I wanted to contribute something to my club. I got no special privileges, no dedicated parking spot, no free golf. I got satisfaction from doing a worthwhile job for the benefit of the club and all it's members. I got hassle and I got abuse as well, it goes with the territory. But to suggest that many, if any, golfers join their club's committee is order to wallow in self-importance could not be further from the truth in my experience.

As for Club Captain, it's not a job I'd touch with a 10' barge pole.

Posted: 20/01/2006 at 11:37

Some very interesting and valid observations, which I personally, have never seen discussed in public before - though no doubt have been much in evidence 'in committee'!

I'm glad that the feature has stimulated the responses and delighted that at least two of our '30-something' members have carried the captain's torch with distinction.

Please keep your reponses coming. ED

Posted: 23/01/2006 at 09:02

When Captain the best rule is that there should always be an odd number on the committee, and 2 is too many!

Posted: 23/01/2006 at 14:57

If they're as miserable as the "Old School" at my club then it'll be a hot day somewhere cold before I stick my hat into a Captaincy fray!

Same miserable old goats who chub endlessly about the junior members not clearing the green quick enough on a par 5 while they're 260 yards out armed with a persimmon 3 wood, which they did hit flush, once, in the year that Brian Barnes beat Nicklaus twice in the same day, a good - oh - 190 yards or so!

Is their wine made with sour grapes?

The exception to this rule is our honorary head of club. At 80-odd he still carries his clubs (and bugger me it's a hilly club), is a gentleman personified, and actually realises that the juniors are the future of the club - unlike those misrable gets who wish they could break 80 at least once, now that they're in their retirement dotage!

Posted: 23/01/2006 at 22:53

Thats one of the many reasons i joined our committee and agreed to be Captain. We are not a stuffy club with a long history. We are a newish club with a slightly more modern outlook. Only 3 members of our committee are classed as senior golfers. We also have 3 ladies on the committee.

Meetings can be noisy, controversial and frustrating at times, but ultimately they are usually quite fun.

We are there to make decisions on behalf of the members. Nobody is hushed up, and anyone can suggest anything to the committee. It will be discussed and a decision reached, which we believe, is in the best interests of the club and its members.

Posted: 23/01/2006 at 23:17

Unlike me Nubbins you should take up politics for a living. Not in this country though - seeing how your an international and all!

Posted: 23/01/2006 at 23:44

I once turned down the chance to be a junior captain, it just didn't appeal to me at the time as it involved dressing smarter, talking in public at other clubs ect and not dying my hair funny colours
(I was only 16 at the time).

Posted: 24/01/2006 at 07:40


Why do you need 3 ladies on the committee? Do you drink lots of tea?

;o) If your watching Kate.

Posted: 24/01/2006 at 10:13

No but my jacket creases easily !!

(sorry, could not resist)

I all fairness, the ladies section is probably the strongest in the club.

@Chris, ooohhh, are the wounds still that deep LOL.

Posted: 24/01/2006 at 12:29

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