Governance Case Study Ardee Golf Club

At a Glance

  • Ardee Golf Club had suffered a decline in membership numbers and turnover throughout the recession period.
  • The club felt they needed to improve how they ran as a business and engaged CGI to conduct an initial Governance Review in 2015.
  • Ardee established three strategic committees through an AGM in 2016 to focus on club management, course and facilities and tasked to create a set of final recommendations. They engaged with the membership to ensure that all had the opportunity to input into the future direction of the club.
  • The final proposals including an updated club structure with reduced committee numbers, new roles and responsibilities and terms of office were supported by the members at an EGM in July 2017.
  • Ardee is beginning to see a number of benefits following the adoption of the changes including streamlined decision making, purposeful leadership and more focused meetings.

About Ardee Golf Club

Ardee Golf Club was founded in 1911. It was a 9-hole course until 1985 when a second 9 holes were added. With the addition of the new holes, the current layout came to fruition providing what is now one of the most enjoyable parkland golfing experiences in the area. The course was further developed during the early 1990s when additional land was purchased and a further five holes, designed by course architect Declan Branigan, were constructed.

The Issue

Like the majority of golf clubs in Ireland, Ardee Golf Club was impacted by the recessionary period which seen a decline in membership numbers and turnover. The main focus of the club management like many other clubs had been on reducing costs which meant growth initiatives took second place. As things began to settle into a new normality in 2015, the club management and the members decided to draw breath, review the impact and take stock on where it currently stood.

The Challenges

The first hurdle to be negotiated within Ardee was to recognise the need for change. This proved difficult at the beginning of the process for a number of members as it can be difficult to emerge from the firefighting mindset that had become ingrained in the culture of the club. Furthermore, some felt that the review of the club practices would lead to a box-ticking exercise without any real output. For both views, it took time to digest the information and discussing the options with the club support officer before proceeding to the next step of starting an action plan.

While Ardee was aware that there would likely be a cash investment required, what was not factored in was the time commitment from those involved in the process. This was a proven worthwhile expense to bring the membership as a whole on a journey through the process which created a momentum for change within the club.

In order to settle on the final number of management committee members the club had to identify its core areas and ask “Who is actually doing the work?”

It was thought that the topic of separating the role of Captain and Chairperson would be a challenge however once the rationale behind this potential change was communicated was widely supported.

The Solution

Ardee contacted CGI for assistance and an independent review of the club governance undertaken by the Local Club Support Officer. The impartial review helped to confirm that there was a need for change within the mindset of the club and that the adoption of a number of proven industry practices including separating the Captain and Chairperson role and revised structure with reduced committee members would help them take on a more business-like approach.

A review process was initiated, and the club convened three strategic committees to focus on the Management, Course and Facilities who operated for a period of several months to detail and identify areas of concern or work needed. To ensure that all members had the opportunity to input into the future direction of the club they liaised with the membership as a whole through a club survey, information nights and interviews with staff and former club officials. The club constitution was also reviewed by the ILGU and GUI to ensure compliance with the affiliation guidelines.

From these strategic committees the final recommendations were compiled which included:

  1. An updated three-tier club structure.
  2. Reduced number of management committee members.
  3. The adoption of roles and responsibilities for all committee members.
  4. The creation of new sub-committees to support the clubs core areas.
  5. Terms of office introduced for committee and trustees.
  6. Movement to fiscal unity within the club between the men’s and ladies clubs.


Following the submission of the final recommendations, Ardee held an EGM in July 2017 to vote on the proposals. There was a high turnout for the club at the meeting and the meeting was unanimous voting in favour of the proposed changes. To transition into the new club structure, a Transitional Board was put in place to cover the two months until the club AGM with the new structure finally put in place in December 2018.

Since adopting the governance changes, the Ardee is beginning to see a number of benefits including streamlined decision making, purposeful leadership, more focused meetings with all participants having more time to contribute. Also, subcommittees have been established with members of these committees ratified by the board to ensure a gender and experience balance. With the new terms of office in place, it is intended that succession to the management committee will come from these sub subcommittee members.

Engaging with the club members throughout the process has proven a big success for the club and since the AGM the general communications within has improved. This has maintained the interest of the members in the running of the club and helped with recruitment of new committee sub-committee members.

Ardee now feels more equipped than ever to deal with what the future might hold for the club. With a renewed focus on a more business-like approach to running the club, there is a renewed sense of optimism that the club will continue to improve and grow over the coming years.

Tips & Advice

  1. Simplify the issues! There is no need to over-elaborate in the beginning. Identify the core issues and allow the working group's flexibility to work on the details.
  2. Be Flexible – the initial plan won’t be right straight away and will need to be edited.
  3. Review the constitution – can the club work within it rather than rewriting?
  4. Narrow the focus – don’t try to fix everything at once. Predetermine what should be done.
  5. Make sure you have EGM rules in place to make sure that the club can meet its requirements.

A final word from ARDEE

Ardee as a club is optimistic with the changes to the governance structure and has a renewed sense of purpose to focus on growing the club. The changes wouldn’t have happened without support from the CGI, ILGU and GUI and we are grateful for their assistance throughout the process.

To learn more about Ardee Golf Club please visit www.ardeegolfclub.com

Created By
Damien Connolly

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