Sabah Golf and Country Club is back on track
Published on: Sunday, July 28, 2019
By: Datuk John Lo

I congratulate Nash Hon, the newly elected SGCC [Sabah Golf n Country Club] president for the manner in which he conducted the EGM for budget on 22 July 2019. Very wisely, he has kept to being professional and allowed members their say. The ambience of this EGM was indeed like a breath of fresh air in comparison to those in recent years when the discussions were often acrimonious.

The 2019/2020 budget consisted two important parts, operational and capex, both of which were well prepared and succinctly presented by President Nash, supported by his principle officers. I do believe in the wisdom of SGCC members as they have, unlike previous years, supported the budget overwhelmingly. Of more than 100 voting members in attendance, 80pc to 90pc have voted to approve the operational budget and individual capex items.

I am confident that under Nash’s leadership, the “premier club” era of SGCC will return soon with the whole hearted support from members. When the club is blessed with good leadership, the members can see the benefits of unity and good management for themselves. This is clearly exhibited with many members having begun to volunteer their services to the club in their individual and professional capacities. A few members have even donated machinery and items which SGCC is in urgent need for daily operation. The changing attitude of members in accepting the need to conserve money is most heartening.

SGCC has little room to reduce cost as it has already been cut to the bone. 

Due to excessive club politics and unsatisfactorily management in recent years, SGCC has deteriorated in many ways. The reserves of more than RM7 million that has been accumulated when Samuel Chin was president has gone. Short of funds for routine maintenance of the golf course, buildings and facilities have become apparent.

However, returning SGCC to its past glory will be an arduous and stony journey which will demand many initiatives and hard work. The 2019/2020 budget has focused correctly on critical areas that need prompt rectifications and attention. Failure to do so will result in much larger financial burdens in future, bearing in mind the adage “a stitch in time saves nine”.

Looking at the present operation cost and expected future cost increases, the present monthly subscription of RM60, which is the cheapest for a city golf club in Malaysia, is grossly inadequate as an ex-president has pointed out in the EGM. This amount has not increased for more than 30 years. Restoring SGCC’s golf course and facilities to acceptable standard will require a decent increase in subscription, the amount of which is best left to Nash and his committee to determine. The reality is that RM60 is just not sufficient.

The challenges in the golf course are in good hands and given time, will be sorted out. The next and equally important issue that needs solution is how to transform SGCC to be the’ “2nd home” for members, where they will be enticed to bring their loved ones and friends for meals and enjoyment. With more than 2,000 members and their families, they can become an excellent “revenue source”. With good management and imagination, losses in F n B can be avoided. SGCC has been incurring losses for many years in F n B. Singapore’s Orchid Country Club, to which SGCC is affiliated, has a vibrant and profitable F n B.

Going forward for the long term, I hope Nash and his committee will look into several areas. First and foremost, the need to build up a management team that is consistent with the size and requirements of SGCC. With it, a proper management system, appropriate policies and a long-term plan for the club. The recent years of turbulence, “muddling through”, ad hoc decisions and whims and fancies by some presidents cannot serve SGCC’s long term interest. In fact, it is precisely these attitudes that have reduced to what SGCC is today.

SGCC cannot sustain on its present revenue model. It is being kept alive only because of revenue from the “machine room”. CM Shafie has announced that he may review all licences for these machines. Under this circumstance and SGCC’s present less than satisfactory financial position, it is time to construct a new business model for SGCC that will give it a long-term viability with a diversified income. Relying on regular increases in membership subscription is not a long-term solution.

If I may suggest to Nash and his committee, SGCC is sitting on a very valuable piece of real estate, right in the middle of the most developed area in Kota Kinabalu. SGCC also has considerable land bank which can be developed to provide a long-term revenue stream. How to do it is best left to Nash and GC to appoint a committee consisting members of good standing, with relevant professional qualifications and business experience. RSGC [Royal Selangor Golf Club] has undertaken such real estate development and investment astutely.

At the same time, another committee consisting of members with good standing and relevant professional qualifications, can look into setting up a mechanism/structure that will produce an iron clad safeguard to protect the interest of all members in real estate investment.

From the manner in which SGCC members have voted overwhelmingly in support of the budget in the just concluded EGM, I am led to hope Nash and his young and energetic GC will be encouraged to undertake an extensive transformation of SGCC for the benefits of all members. Likewise, I am confident that the members will respond positively if there is a credible plan.

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