Governance & Planning Case Study Athlone Golf Club

At a Glance

  • Club has been in existence for over 125 years.
  • Club Governance not working efficiently for the clubs needs.
  • No long-term strategic plan in place.
  • Worked closely with CGI Club Support Officer to review and create alternative solutions.
  • Club committee downsized from 15 to 12 with new clear role descriptions.
  • Club Chairperson appointed to concentrate on the business side of the club.
  • Club plan enacted to strive to reach the vision of Athlone GC in 2021.
  • Some positive outcomes for the club from the process already including additional volunteers, engaged membership and new initiatives.

About Athlone Golf Club

Founded in 1892 Athlone Golf Course is situated on the shores of Lough Ree in the hearth of Ireland. Widely regarded as one of the most picturesque golf courses in Ireland the course has seen numerous upgrades and improvements throughout the years making it extremely playable twelve months of the year. The club has also hosted many provincial and national championships, including the All-Ireland Cups and Shields Finals, All Ireland Mixed and All Ireland Ladies Championships.

The Issue

While Athlone Golf Club had been running for 125 years, it was finding it difficult to react to a toughening market and increased local competition. Furthermore, the club had no strategic plan in place which had led to random projects and little investment in the upkeep of facilities. Finally, the recruitment of club captains and committee members was also becoming increasingly more difficult.

The Challenges

  • Establishing the need for change within the club. It was identified that previous attempts at introducing management changes had been shot down as the need for change was not established to all from the outset.
  • Shifting the mindset from the “way things have been done” to look at other alternatives.
  • A lack of leadership of the business of running the club in particular with regards to forward planning to improve the facility, in particular, the clubhouse.
  • Finally, there was a real sense that the members had become disconnected from the club management.

The Solution

Following an initial meeting with their local Club Support Officer, it was decided to first tackle the club governance before moving onto the construction of a club plan. The rationale behind this was it would be difficult to deliver on a plan without having the correct management structure and team in place. A motion was passed at the club AGM on proceeding with this course of action which started the process of building momentum behind the change process and establishing the need for change.

With facilitation by the club support officer, a review of the current structure was undertaken, and it was decided to reduce the management committee from fifteen to twelve. These twelve would each represent one of the core areas of the club with a specific role and responsibility which is documented and reviewed annually. Furthermore, it was decided to appoint a chairperson to manage the business of the club for a two year, plus one period which would help create continuity.

Athlone undertook a number of initiatives to engage with the members throughout the process including providing factual information of where the club currently stood and the issues it was facing.

Once the governance had been reviewed and updated a club plan was constructed with guidance from the club support officer to cover the period 2018 to 2021. This was a fantastic exercise that highlighted the change of mindset to “thinking of the club as a business” and providing direction for the future.


There have been many worthwhile results from this process for Athlone which have resulted in a renewed atmosphere of positivity. From a governance perspective, the club is now making decisions more efficiently, and those taking part are clear on the roles they are tasked with. In fact, this has resulted in more members coming forward to volunteer for roles. With a clear business plan for the next couple of years, the club has already successfully revisited long term issues with the bank, conducted a thorough clubhouse review with experts, upgraded the catering facilities to meet requirements and recruited a new caterer.

This renewed focus has allowed the club the opportunity to actively look at membership recruitment, expanding on their Get into Golf program and opening up new categories of Under-40 and family membership aimed at specific target markets.

The positivity and improved communication through surveys, information evenings and workshops have carried over with further additional social events added to the calendar and a willingness to take part and support the club from the members.

Tips & Advice

  1. The key advice to move forward with the process was to allow the members to be involved and have their say. The more transparent a club is with its members, the more things become possible.
  2. Someone or a group of people sometimes need to be strong and critically look at the way we do things in the club. Just because it has been done that way in the past, does not make it the right way now.
  3. Don’t focus on negative; let's focus on the positive. Be optimistic and instil this mindset in the club outlook.

A final word from Athlone

While there is still much work to take place, Athlone has a renewed sense of purpose and is looking forward to the future with a positive outlook of what can be achieved together as a club.

To learn more about Athlone Golf Club please visit www.athlonegolfclub.ie

Created By
Damien Connolly

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