Planning & Governance

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Sound Strategic Planning & Governance is the basis for a club’s long term viability.   A strategic plan provides a focus on the more important long term direction of the club and effective governance ensures that the board and management understand how to work together under a set of rules and agreed behaviours to achieve the strategic plan.  It is critical that all clubs give time and attention to these areas and put structures in place to stay the course.

Is it critical that all clubs give time and attention to these strategic planning and governance issues, and put structures in place to stay the course.

Strategic Planning is beneficial to golf clubs of all sizes. It enables a club to:

  • exert more control over its destiny - deciding where it wants to be in the future

  • become proactive rather than reactive - to clarify club purposes and direction

  • initiate and influence outcomes in favour of the club

  • adopt a more systematic approach to change and reduce resistance to change

  • improve financial performance and use resources effectively

  • increase awareness of its operating environment e.g. industry trends, benchmark performance and competitors

  • improve organisational control and coordination of activities 

  • improve governance performance and employee performance

Without adequate planning, a club can frequently deal only with immediate problems and fail to consider future needs. Consequently the club:

  • tends to function on a random ad hoc basis

  • will never seem to have time to anticipate challenges

  • does not create conditions to deal effectively with the future

Therefore, to overcome these limitations, a plan is necessary.

But if your club has a strategic plan, is it any good?

Many are little more than a shopping list of desired or intended management (operational) actions.  In writing the plans, boards can often forget that the club exists solely for the purpose of delivering a benefit or a desired outcome for the people it serves. A good strategic plan identifies that ends (or outcomes) are different from means (inputs).   Ends must be determined before any alternative means or courses of action can be decided to action. What are the ends your club is seeking to deliver and to whom?

A good strategic plan recognises that there can be many creative ways of achieving the desired outcomes of a club.  So the plan focusses on the ends and doesn't attempt to identify the means.

Analogy in a battle: Strategy (ends) is deciding which mountain to take.  Operations (means) is deciding how to take the mountain.

Those charged with the responsibility of implementing the board's "ends" should be supported by policy that helps guide decision making.  Too often adequate policy is lacking and decisions are referred to the board, burdening the board with operations and causing the most common problem in club governance, the activity trap of operational actions and monitoring of operational performance. Policy sets the boundaries and allows a form of board remote control.

Q. When is it time to update a strategic plan?  A.  When it's no longer being lived (i.e. providing the direction your club needs).

Based on current data from Golf Management Australia’s benchmark tool, the proportion of Australian not-for-profit golf clubs having, or not having, a long-term strategic plan is approximately 50/50.

Recently, both Golf Queensland and Golf Management Australia have developed excellent resources to assist golf clubs in developing a strategic plan.

Topics covered include:

  • What is Strategic Planning?

  • What is the best Strategic Plan?

  • How does a ‘Strategic Plan’ differ from a ‘Business Plan’?

  • How Do We Get Started?

  • What is the Role of the Board/Management Committee?

  • The Planning Process

  • The benefits in developing a professional plan

  • FAQs

  • Strategic Plan Template – Woodford Golf Club

'The Green Book - The essential guide to strategic planning for golf clubs" was produced by GMA with corporate specialist Tony Sernack.  Copies of can be obtained for $29.95 each (or $250.00 for a pack of 10).  To order copies email the GMA Executive Officer

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Governance is the system by which a club is directed and managed. It influences how the objectives of the club are set and achieved, spells out the rules and procedures for making club decisions and determines the means of optimising and monitoring performance, including how risk is monitored and assessed.

Effective club governance requires leadership, integrity and good judgment. Additionally, effective governance will ensure more effective decision making, with the club demonstrating transparency, accountability and responsibility in the activities undertaken and member resources expended.

It is commonly accepted that governance structures have a significant impact on the performance of clubs. Poor governance has a variety of causes, including director/committee inexperience, lack of women in board positions, conflicts of interest, failure to manage risk, inadequate or inappropriate financial controls, and generally poor internal business systems and reporting.

Generally, governance is focussed on three key issues:

  • How an organisation develops strategic goals and direction.

  • How the board of an organisation monitors the performance of the organisation to ensure it achieves these strategic goals, has effective systems in place and complies with its legal and regulatory obligations.

  • Ensuring that the board acts in the best interests of the members.

The Sports Governance Principles, as developed by SportAUS, advocate strengthening structures that support good leadership and decision-making, and ensure sound and effective governance.

In order to achieve their maximum potential for their participants and communities, sporting organisations need a good governance system. While sporting organisations do not succeed on good governance alone, poor governance almost certainly guarantees failure. SportAUS' Sports Governance Principles resource can be accessed from the following link

Other Useful Links: 

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In recognition of the important leadership role Directors hold within the Australian sport landscape, Sport Australia have partnered with the State and Territory agencies for sport and recreation to develop the online director education course - The Start Line. Excellent Directors are critical to the success of sporting organisations. Directors have a range of significant legal obligations and the decisions they make have a central impact on their organisation.

This course will provide the foundational knowledge to enable new and existing Directors to understand their duties and responsibilities and to make an effective contribution to their organisation’s Board.

Free of charge, "The Start Line" is accessed through the Australian Sport Learning Centre.

Each director will need to create a new account, and then the can begin the course which takes approxamately 2 hours.

A policy is a board decison made ahead of time. Policies are used in a club to guide decision making and provide transparency. Irrespective of size. All golf clubs should adopt a series of basic policies and procedures.

Once policies are in place it is important that they are regularly reviewed and updated where needed.

Policies are only as good as the people who use them; the most common mistake made by clubs is not actively referring to their policy to guide decisions. Your club should ensure that all board/committee members, volunteers, staff and club members are aware of the relevant policies that impact on their participation.

Play by the Rules is an initiative promoting and reinforcing the messages of safety, fairness and inclusion on and off the sporting field. It provides a diverse range of information, resources, tools and free online training to increase the capacity and capability of club participants, including administrators and officials. These tools can assist in preventing and dealing with discrimination, harassment and child safety issues at your club.

Refer to the Play by the Rules website for further information and helpful resources.

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Risk is anything that would impact on your club's ability to deliver on its strategic plan.

Risk Management involves identifying and assessing of risks, as well as determining priority actions to minimise the harmful impacts of risk and look to turn them into strategic advantage.

In other words, what do you need to do to stop things from going wrong?

At a golf club, there are many issues to consider when undertaking a Risk Management Assessment. Below are critical resources that will assist your club to develop a sound risk management process.

Practical Implementation

If you or your club in undertaking a review of its risk management practices it can seem daunting, with many not knowing where to start.

In the complex environment that golf clubs and facilities operate in, many chose to use the services of a risk management provider. Many large clubs have been using these services for some time, but smaller clubs more reliant on volunteers may not have seen value in committing the budget for the large programs that exist.

Golf Australia's Club & Facility Support team is pleased to partner with Risk Management Essentials, who provide an entry level tool for small clubs who are starting out or formalising their risk management processes.

At a low cost of $297 + GST per annum, your club can complete a questionnaire from which an action list will be created to help you identify and reduce risk. For further information on the program visit .

Volunteer Clubs VS Staffed Clubs

Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, workers are defined as:

  • employees

  • volunteers

  • contractors

This means that the same responsibilities rest with clubs and their officers no matter the makeup of the workforce. Under the WHS Act, clubs must eliminate health & safety risks as far as reasonably practicable and provide:

  • a safe workplace & safe ways of working

  • equipment, tools & machinery in safe condition

  • safe & hygienic facilities, including toilets, eating areas & first aid

  • information, training & supervision to all workers, including volunteers

  • a process for consultation for workers & keeping them informed.

Risk Management Essentials have provided some key resources below to help you run your toolbox meetings and begin assessing your risks.

Related documents:

Is it time to update your club's constitution?  Contact Golf Australia.

Golf Australia has engaged constitution writing experts to develop template constitutions for each state as well as a constitution templates for clubs that are incorporated as a public company.

The constitution templates allow you to modernise your club's constitution using best practice.  It also contains reference to GA's Member Protection Policy which all clubs are encouraged to adopt.

The templates allow flexibility in the choice of clauses to suit your club.  A guidelines document accompanies the constitution template to explain context to clauses and in some cases sample wording to guide you.

Please contact your state's Clubs & Facilities Support representative to be sent a free copy of the template and the guide to the template.



One of the main issues often facing administrators in voluntary positions in golf clubs is the issue of incorporation. There is no legal necessity for a sport organisation to become incorporated if it remains a voluntary organisation.  However, remaining unincorporated can leave the club in a difficult situation in regard to the law. If a club is not incorporated, legal rights and obligations can fall on to individual members.

Whether to incorporate or not is an important decision that should be reviewed from time to time, especially if the size or nature of your club changes (for example, your club wants to employ a paid staff member). This is one of the most important legal decisions you will face as a group.  

When becoming incorporated, member-based golf clubs are typically not-for-profit organisations incorporated either as an Incorporated Association or Company Limited by Guarantee. 

The vast majority of golf clubs in Australia are incorporated via their state Associations Incorporations Act.

It is quite common for larger clubs to be incorporated as a Company Limited by Guarantee is approximately.

Incorporated Association

The law relating to incorporated associations is state-based. 

Some attributes of an Incorporated Association include:

  • Obtaining not-for-profit status – exemption from income tax and other tax concessions;

  • A legal entity – ability for the club to conduct business and enter into legal agreements;

  • Limited legal liability – for members and office bearers;

  • Less complex and less expensive to administer than a Company Limited by Guarantee;

  • Flexibility for amalgamation.

There are a number of obligations incorporated associations must fulfil, including a written set of complying rules (constitution), governance, accounting, auditing and annual reporting and compliance requirements.

Company Limited by Guarantee

Not-for-profit clubs incorporated under the Commonwealth Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) are typically classified as a company limited by guarantee and registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC).

Some attributes of a Company Limited by Guarantee include:

  • Ability to ‘operate’ anywhere in Australia;

  • Obtaining not-for-profit status – exemption from income tax and other tax concessions;

  • A legal entity – ability for the club to conduct business and enter into legal agreements;

  • Limited liability – for members and directors;

  • More complex and more expensive to administer than an Incorporated Association;

  • Less-flexibility for amalgamation.

There are a number of obligations companies must fulfil, including a written constitution, governance (significant penalties imposed for breaches by Directors), accounting, auditing and annual reporting and compliance requirements.

Why incorporate?

The benefit of incorporation is that the club becomes ‘registered’ as an incorporated club. This means that the club has a legal identity, separate and distinct from the individuals who formed or make up the club.  With the club having a legal existence, it can conduct business in its own name, including:

  • protect club members, to a certain extent, from being sued individually;

  • sign documents and enter into contracts;

  • buy, sell, own, lease and rent property and other assets;

  • can sue and be sued in its own right;

  • can receive grants from government and other philanthropic groups; and

  • borrow money.

One of the main benefits of incorporation for a club is that the group has ‘limited liability’. This means that in most cases, the responsibility for debts or any legal proceedings or costs, is limited to the amount of money and assets held by the club. This protects individuals in the club from being personally liable if anything goes wrong. However, there are exceptions to limited liability with the main one being if a person or persons on the committee act improperly or unlawfully, then they will not be protected. It is imperative then that all committee members are fully aware and understand their responsibilities as office holders.

What are the dangers of remaining unincorporated?

If your club chooses to remain unincorporated, it is important to understand that the club will not have its own legal status. Incorporation creates a legal ‘identity’ that is separate and distinct from that of the individual members. It is therefore important that a club and more importantly, the office bearers, are made fully aware of the risk of personal liability for any debts or legal costs incurred.

Groups should also consider the other practical difficulties that arise by remaining unincorporated, which include:

  • an inability to receive grants from government or philanthropic trusts and foundations;

  • an inability to enter into contracts or agreements under the group’s name (including applications for tax concessions);

  • an inability to own/lease property in the group’s name; and

  • an inability to sue or bring a legal action in the group’s name.

A group should think about how much financial risk it may be exposing itself to through its actions.  Incorporation should be viewed as an opportunity to limit personal risk, and unincorporated groups should therefore consider whether they are putting their members in a position where they may become personally liable for the actions of the group.

See a short video.

Remaining unincorporated

Some of the benefits of remaining unincorporated are that the club doesn’t have to hold meetings in a specific format, register with government, inform who their members are or financial situation, or pay any annual fees to government. However, it is strongly recommended that unincorporated clubs develop a set of rules, similar to a constitution, that assists with governing the club and particularly decision making. It is also best practice to regularly review the decision to incorporate at least every year and particularly as your club changes and grows.

Steps to incorporation

Golf Australia recommends that all golf clubs should incorporate.

If your club decides to incorporate as an association, you should contact the relevant authority in your state or territory that deals with not for profit organisations and incorporation. The websites below will provide you with the relevant information, paperwork, costs and a template constitution for your club to use:

State/Territory Department

ACT Associations | Office of Regulatory Services

NSW Incorporated associations - NSW Fair Trading

NT Licensing, Regulation and Alcohol Strategy - Department of Justice

QLD Incorporated association : Department of Justice and Attorney-General

SA CBS - Incorporated Associations

TAS Consumer Affairs and Fair Trading : Incorporated associations

VIC Consumer Affairs Victoria - Incorporated associations

WA Associations - Consumer Protection - Department of Commerce

Alternatively, contact ASIC regarding details on incorporating your club as a company limited by guarantee.

The Club Constitution resource available for download below outlines the club constitution, provides a check list for developing a constitution and access to the model rules provided by the relevant department in each state or territory.

Related documents:

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