"Club Politics" with C.W. Canfield from The Ford Plantation

December 5, 2011

C.W. Canfield is the Director of Golf at The Ford Plantation in Savannah, Georgia and he is in his 10th year at the exclusive, private club. Before his current position at Ford, he was the lead assistant professional under Gordon Johnson at Houston Country Club, so C.W. came from a great training ground going into The Ford Plantation. With that said, Ford is C.W.'s first Head Professional position, so he is able to provide us with some great perspective about what he has learned since he arrived there a decade ago. To start off, C.W. makes it very clear the importance of evaluating the governance structure:

Navigating Through the Governance Structure

Club politics typically differ in established clubs vs. newly formed clubs. Established clubs typically have the Club President or General Manger acting as “CEO.” Club committees and the club Board provide input to the CEO, but do not get involved with running the club operations. Many “young” clubs with newly established Boards and committees tend to be more involved in the daily operations. There are exceptions to this theory, but we’ll use this model as a guide. As a young professional, you have to indentify and understand the governance at your club. If you are working at an established private club, chances are you’ll rarely see club politics at work. If you work at a newer club, you will see club politics in action. However it’s important to know that club politics aren’t always negative.

Chain of Command

One of the most important aspects for assistant professionals to understand is making sure the appropriate lines of communication are being utilized. Overstepping our boundaries or skipping over someone in the chain of command can get us in trouble. C.W. expands upon this:

As a rule of thumb, always use your Chain of Command when asked a question by a member that may put you in an awkward position. All members will understand if you simply say…’let me speak with my Head Professional and I’ll get back with you.’ Lean on your HP or Director of Golf to help navigate through murky waters with established policies and procedures.

Brushing Up On Your Ability to Manage Club Politics

When asked how assistant professionals can brush up on their familiarity with club politics so their first few years as an HP can be smoother, C.W. had this to say:

Make your self a leader and manager. A leader provides vision and influences people in a positive way—staff and members. A manager manages activities—schedules, tournaments, counseling subordinates et cetera. Effective Professionals are capable of both. Ask to go to meetings with your HP or DOG. Ask for more responsibility within the golf operation. Lead by example—appearance, dedication to the profession of golf, be visible and available within the operation.

Getting “Cornered”

What about when situations arise and we are more or less cornered by a member. Some times it’s hard to find the correct things to say on the spot in these situations. C.W. continues with his advice:

When confronted by a member about a club issue, if you’re going to indulge in the conversation, keep your thoughts as objective as possible and use fact-based answers to questions. If you follow some of these guidelines that I have outlined, you’ll experience club politics and you will be less likely to experience any negative effects from them.

Nobody is perfect in this profession and nobody is mistake-free. We all make mistakes and club politics is an area where assistant golf professionals can be very vulnerable if it is not approached correctly. Hopefully this contribution from C.W. Canfield has grown your perspective on club politics and gives you a chance to make the right moves and avoid some mistakes that might occur otherwise.