The two organisations that run amateur golf in this country will hold their last ever AGMs this month. Women's Golf New Zealand (WGNZ) convene on May 20 and the New Zealand Golf Association (NZG) four days later. Then, on May 27, the two move in together to new offices in Willeston Street, Wellington. That will be the de facto relationship before the official marriage.

The most significant agenda item at both AGMs will be the draft constitution of the new amalgamated body which should become a done deal during the winter.

It has been a painfully slow process. Discussions began as far back as 2002. Both bodies knew it had to happen. The success of hockey, cricket and bowls, where amalgamation brought increased efficiencies in administration along with an increase in playing numbers and international competitive success, just could not be ignored any longer.

Since the initial moves were made, both organisations have new chief executives. Larry Graham came on board at NZG about a year ago after the Peter Dale-Mal Tongue disaster. That he'd had virtually no contact with golf before has turned out to be an asset. As a professional sports administrator, and one well connected in Wellington sports politics, he's ruffled a few feathers but led the New Zealand Open onto the European Tour, stirred up the lukewarm pot that was the amalgamation with WGNZ and will report a financial surplus at his first AGM.

It will only be $39,000 on revenue of $3.5 million but after losses in the last two years totalling almost $400,000, there is at least a tourniquet on the bleeding. There'll be another gush of red ink next year when the huge loss from this year's New Zealand Open is factored in but by then Graham has to ensure the Open becomes a primary source of revenue for the combined administration.

WGNZ will also report a surplus this year - $80,000 on revenue of $1.3 million. They don't have a professional tournament to make demands on their finances but both organisations benefited from the increased levy of $4 more per club member.

Golf's biggest problem continues to be the decline in club members. The SPARC participation surveys might say half a million people play at least once a year but the number of men who are club members has dropped by 1.5 per cent in the last year, while women have decreased by 2 per cent.

There are bright spots among those statistics. Junior women members increased by 18 per cent, admittedly off a low base, while the introductory nine-hole membership for women rose by 2 per cent.

Reversing the trend of declining membership must be a priority for the new organisation. Helping clubs capture the casual or corporate day golfer as a new member is an obvious way to increase numbers. But that is easier said than done when the sport is desperately lacking New Zealand stars.

The hope is that a new, streamlined golf administration can put in place the high-performance programmes to produce golfers who will be among the best in the world. It happened before and not long ago.

The old codgers in the cheese ads say good things take time. The merger of NZG and WGNZ has taken long enough. Let's get it done and move forward.


- HERALD ON SUNDAY