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From the boardroom to tee: understanding golf club volunteers during an era of change

Mills, Christopher, Mackintosh, Chris ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7798-5125 and Bloor, Matt (2021) From the boardroom to tee: understanding golf club volunteers during an era of change. Sport in Society. ISSN 1461-0981

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This paper examines volunteers in English golf clubs and considers how they interpret their roles. Hitherto, typologies of sports club volunteering have coalesced around organisational context or the time commitment of volunteers. However, these typologies are limited in capturing intra-organisational complexity, recognising the diverse activities that volunteers perform and reflecting changes in the operating and public policy environments. A grounded theory study was therefore undertaken to explore how sports club volunteers interpret their roles. Golf club volunteering was chosen as the substantive case since golf is a globally significant sport that is facing participation and sustainability challenges. Data was collected and analysed from documents and twenty-one semi-structured interviews. The study found that golf club volunteers tend to interpret their roles in two main ways: with a business management approach that is orientated towards business-like management, customer satisfaction and competing in the contemporary marketplace; and, with a sporting perspective that is orientated towards organising play. Some volunteers combined both aspects, although such hybridity presented significant challenges. The study concludes with a discussion of how the influence of sport policy may be limited by volunteers’ subjective interpretations of their role and club context.

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