One of the many great aspects of private golf course or country club life is the feeling of being completely free to enjoy your time, safe from threats, with a sense of security. Indeed, the very definition of security is being free from danger or threat. At the same time, one does not want to be constantly reminded that overt physical and procedural elements are in place to make sure you are safe – it’s hard to golf or relax in a prison.
In the past, many clubs have decided against large security expenditures from the standpoint that they were located in rural areas where very few security events happened. The events that did occur were usually insider incidents where some money or valuables were stolen by a worker or fellow member.
However, in recent years, many clubs have been forced to take security much more to heart. And there is a growing expectation by members that clubs provide a safe environment for their them and their families whether the club is located in a city or out in a rural suburb. If a member does not feel safe at their club – they will move elsewhere.
Recent events show that private clubs in general are not equipped to proactively mitigate threat prior to an incident, and that they are ill-equipped to respond well when an incident does occur. Take for example the July 2021 shooting of 41 year old golf pro Gene Siller at the Pinetree Country Club in Georgia. A white pick-up truck with two dead bodies in the back was driven onto the course, at the 10th hole. When the Golf Pro approached the truck he was shot and killed.
While not every event can be stopped, and this was unusual, the questions must be asked:
- How did this truck gain access to the fairway of the course?
- What type of training, if any, was given to the golf pro to approach and assess this situation?
- What kind of perimeter and access security was in place at the club?
- Was there adequate fencing?
- Were there cameras installed?
- Were security staff on post?
Whatever the security systems in place at Pinetree, had anyone assessed the property from an adversary’s point of view to ask “If I were a bad guy how easy would it for me to commit a crime here?” Because obviously, the fact that such a murder had not taken place in the past, was not a guarantee it would not.
A more typical Country Club security event is where individuals who are allowed legitimate access into the club end up committing a crime. Such was the case in Orchard Park, New York where a wedding reception ended with seven different police agencies arriving on scene to arrest several members of the wedding party after a huge fight broke out. Multiple people were injured and there was a great deal of destruction.
So, what was this club’s security stance?
- Did they have a policy in place regarding security coverage?
- Had club staff any training in terms of monitoring the event and knowing how to de-escalate?
Unfortunately, when a property manager has encountered (and this is equally true of residential communities) little or no crime in recent history, the security is based on the notion that “Well, nothing ever happens here.” Instead, property managers must ask, “What kind of crime could happen here?” and then follow up with the question: “How easy would it be to commit that crime?”
This process is called Adversarial Based Security – where security is designed based on what the criminal or terrorist could do versus what has happened in the past.
There are many mitigation choices for clubs and no one-size-fits-all package. A holistic security upgrade could include: appropriate fencing, CCTV cameras with video analytics, facial recognition technology, solid access points, cyber security measures, pre-employment and in-employment screenings, professional security teams and security awareness training for both security staff and regular employees, and much more.
Done properly and proactively, security seeks to mitigate threat pre-attack. Threat mitigation can be accomplished hand in hand with sensitive customer service that even enhances the country club’s friendliness and customer service. It is the methodology, the mind-set, which is proactive in mitigating threat while the culture remains customer oriented. Security with a smile.
The first step we recommend is to get a professional assessment of a property’s security stance with the goal of moving it from a reactive to proactive footing. We warn against using a security contractor who has connections to security equipment vendors or installers. The assessment needs to be objective and entirely in your best interests. Additional services that can really help include a consultant’s ability to develop RFPs, and to deliver training. Better yet, if you add security testing of officers and personnel in the form of red teaming, to ensure goals are met and to identify gaps, you will have solid security in place.
These efforts not only result in a safe and secure property, but also in real appreciation from staff, visitors and members. With security foremost on everyone’s mind these days, there are profound goodwill benefits for making the effort to tackle security now and not after a breach or criminal event has occurred.