John Collier Golf FAQ – Board Responsibilities

By Alistair Collier | From BG Magazine

John Collier Survey’s FAQs section in BGM, explores answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about good governance and environmental compliance. This issue looks at governance and its practical application in terms of a board’s responsibilities.


I am a club GM and we had a debate recently at the board level about what my role is and how it intersects with the board’s responsibilities in a management sense. I thought the matter would be dealt with quickly, and that we would move on, but it turned into a complex debate. So, for clarity could you oer some sort of a summary of the board’s roles and responsibilities, not just as they are in the ‘book’, but rather in a more practical day-to-day sense?


I get the sense that the unasked question about micro-management is ‘lurking’ somewhere in the semi-rough with this question! The truth is that in a practical sense, and at its most basic level, a board should set strategy and overall goals, and the required budgets, by working in conjunction with its GM, CEO and or management team.

Once the plans have been agreed upon, the board would then monitor – from afar – the progress, be on hand to support (not lead), oer advice when asked (not make unwanted inputs – the unwanted spectre of micro-management), and review progress (or otherwise) with its management team, to make any adjustments to any of the goals or strategies that might have been set in the original planning process. It sounds simple enough, but the complication is that any board’s eectiveness is directly predicated on the following core attributes, which each member brings to the table;


Many of the issues being faced by SA’s malfunctioning SOEs can be attributed to their board’s misfiring on the first of these two cylinders. As to the direct interaction between any board and its management – trust is a key factor. The board must have the trust that its management team has the skillsets to deliver the planned course of action.

Conversely, management must be able to trust that the board to allow get it to get on with its job and not interfere with management’s day-to-day responsibilities. If management fails there is a system of recourse to address this. The problem with boards at golf clubs is that they are rarely professional and are subject to continual change, which means that issues with personality or a new board not ‘knowing’ its management team can cause serious problems. Micro-managing the relationships in this type of environment is an unfortunate by-product of the the current system and looks unlikely to change any time soon. The sad outcome of this type of working the environment will often mean that a manager will spend more time engaged in managing the politics at the facility, than in actually managing the facility!

That said, some practical advice would be for the board, and any sub-committees set up by them to assist it with its deliberations, to agree on and implement governance charters. These charters would clearly delineate those obligations and responsibilities, which fall within the ambit of the Board and sub-committees and those that fall for attention by management.

Having a governance handbook with applicable charters, would greatly assist with providing direction, as to the role and separation of duties of the board on the one hand, and management on the other