Bigger is not better.

Yesterday we golfed. In Scotland. We didn’t set out to golf. Our boat docked in Invergordon. Most of the passengers booked tours to nearby Inverness. We decided to strap on the iPods (that talk to our Nikes ) and go explore the countryside. We came upon a small golf course nestled in a quaint neighborhood.

Just a tiny two-story building acted as the club house. Inside was a bulletin board with handwritten names and scores. Notes from golfer to golfer. It felt very intimate and very inviting. Two local boys were walking up to the first tee. Carrying their bags.

There are no golf carts on this course. There is no fancy golf shop with overpriced merchandise. There’s no restaurant. Just people who love golf.

We rented an amazing set of golf clubs with “trolly” for a few pounds. I’ve never swung a Big Bertha before! Mark had the Bigger Bertha (which again, is not necessarily the better Bertha). There was no one visible playing ahead of us. No one behind us. Just the sea air, views of the nearby town, rolling green hills and beautifully manicured greens.

When we finished (the 18th hole is just wicked btw) we sat down with the locals and shared a pint of Guinness (or two) and watched football (we call it soccer). Something about the simplicity and quality of that course got me thinking. Sometimes we let our club house get a little too, how shall I say, sterile and boring? Credit unions used to be gathering places for the sponsor’s employees. The break room. Inviting and comfortable. It was okay to “hang” and catch up and show pictures of your kids. Offering someone a cup of coffee came naturally. It didn’t have to become someone’s “job.”

Lately I’ve been in branches that have clearly lost “homey” feel. Waiting areas that feel like “detention.” Plasma screens screaming about the latest product. Silk plants that need dusting. Quiet as a library. How did that happen?

I blame accounting. When it was discovered that the cost of a teller transaction is (insert your number: 5 times? 10 times?) greater than the cost of an electronic transaction, everyone freaked out. First time I heard that stat I said to myself, “Well, of course it does.” And guess what – the loyalty economics were not considered in that equation. It’s at LEAST 100 times harder to build a relationship with a member at an ATM than it is in the lobby. Unless you have a Flickr link built into your online banking you’re probably not going to see those pictures of the new baby. The loyalty begins to erode and the credit union becomes a commodity. Do the math on that one.

The Invergordon Golf Club has been around since 1893. If you ever visit the area, it’s on the west side of town. You can’t miss it.