GMé | April 2014

Page 1


On the cover...

As Toro celebrates its 100th anniversary, Rushmore Golf Club becomes the latest club to mark Toro’s century of innovation


£6.50 Issue 95 | April 2014

Golf Management éurope is the essential business magazine for golf course owners, operators, managers and directors of golf

In a special report, GMé investigates whether or not the money currently being invested into junior golf at grass roots level is actually paying dividends





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On the agenda april 2014 26


Debate rages about junior golf

David Bowers article on junior golf in the last issue of GMé appears to have struck a chord with many golf course owners, many of whom believe we are chasing the wrong age group.


A Malaysian masterpiece

This month, the Els Club Teluk Datai in Malaysia opens for play following a major re-design, overseen by four-time major champion, Ernie Els.


LeClub Golf est arrivé

A new golfing alliance between France-based LeClub Golf and UK outfit, Material Matters could prove to be hugely beneficial to golf clubs on both sides of the English Channel.


Golf travel... a comparison

Fabio Peral is a co-founder of golf travel comparison website GOLFBOO, and he shares his vision about why golf was stuck in the dark ages when it came to booking holidays online.



Toro celebrating 100 years

John Samuel Clapper co-founded the Toro Motor Company in 1914, and a century on, Toro has become one of the biggest and most respected names in golf.

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Publisher Executive editor Contributors

Michael Lenihan David Bowers Mark Alexander, Vanessa Gardner, Scott MacCallum, Giles Morgan, Aidan Patrick


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from the publisher

“I’m also at a loss to understand why we are having a National Golf Month in May. Surely it would be more beneficial to have it straight after the Open Championship in July”

Why Sport England’s funding cut shouldn’t come as a total shock While like everybody in golf I was disappointed to learn of the Sport England cut in funding for the sport over the next three years, I wasn’t surprised. Nor, I imagine, were many others. To recap, in case you’ve missed it, Sport England has reduced its funding to the England Golf Partnership by £496,000 following falling participation in the 26-plus age group. Overall, you could argue it’s not a huge amount of money given what swills around in sport these days. And you could debate the merits of golf participation against those of slithering down an ice slide on a tea tray, which has seen an increase in funding. But, let’s face it, golf isn’t as inclusive as some like to think – another thing that won’t surprise many I’m sure – and I don’t believe we help ourselves either. The R&A putting women membership to the vote – although well overdue – probably hasn’t helped in my opinion, serving, as it did, merely to highlight some of the issues that remain in this historic old sport. I’m also at a loss to understand why we are having a National Golf Month in May. Surely it would be more beneficial to have it straight after the Open Championship in July when we’ve had four days of saturated terrestrial television coverage? Anybody who plays tennis will know how difficult it is to try to book a public court – if there are any left – during and just after the Wimbledon fortnight.

4 | GMé April 2014

CUTTING TO THE CORE Jennie Price, chief executive of Sport England who rubber-stamped golf’s £496,000 funding cut

The enthusiasm generated by wall-towall tv coverage ensures you’d be lucky to find a tramline let alone a court. So, again, I don’t believe golf has helped itself. What’s more, while Sky Sports does a tremendous job of broadcasting golf, it’s only to a limited ‘paying’ public and not the masses, which is why we should use the Open as a platform to get more people into the game. The weather is typically kinder in the middle of July, the days longer, and let’s not forget that school holidays start around that time, meaning that clubs could benefit from summer golf camps during the holiday period.

Maybe we just need to put a little more thought into the initiatives designed to get more people playing. Maybe we need to look a little wider than golf to come up with decent marketing ideas. And, maybe, we have to learn not to take the golfing public for granted. GMé

Michael Lenihan

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Hold the front page As The Toro Company celebrates 100 years of industry-changing innovation, Rushmore becomes the latest golf club to experience the brands reliability and attention to detail.

“The success of this company is no secret. It has been due to two simple things: building a good product and treating customers honestly and fairly.”

Cover sponsored by The Toro Company (1) 952 887 8831

6 | GMé April 2014

As The Toro Company marks its 100th anniversary in 2014, it is reflecting upon its past whilst continuing to drive to the future. Since its beginning, Toro has created innovative products, services and solutions to help customers care for their golf courses, and course manager Jaime Acton of Rushmore Golf Club in Wiltshire, has become the latest industry professional to experience Toro’s legendary service. “I’ve always used Toro because the build quality is superb,” said Acton. “All the machines I’ve had the pleasure of using are reliable in that they very rarely break down and the after cut appearance is faultless. “I also really rate the fact that once you set the machine up it stays set, which is something I’ve found other manufacturers struggle to do.” From the company’s first patent in 1920 for a convertible cultivator tractor, Toro continues to demonstrate its commitment to innovation by annually dedicating at least three per cent of net sales to research and new product development. The combination of intensive product development and a deep understanding of customer needs has enabled Toro to achieve and maintain market leadership.

In 1919 at the request of The Minikahda Club in Minnesota, Toro created a mechanised mowing machine to replace horse-drawn equipment typically used by golf courses at that time. After Minikahda put the new machine to the test, the chairman of the grounds committee, Senator William F. Brooks, predicted it would “revolutionise the cutting of grass on golf courses.” His prediction came true and helped establish Toro as the leader in the industry. Core to the company’s success is the drive of its employees in continually seeking new products to deliver topquality performance, enhance productivity, and improve efficiency for customers. “As we head into our next century, Toro will continue to build on the strong foundation that has driven our company’s success in our first 100 years,” said Michael J. Hoffman, Toro’s chairman and chief executive officer. “We are committed to building trusted relationships with our customers, and to creating innovative products that help them better care for their outdoor environments. “As Kenneth Goit, the company’s third president, may have said it best, ‘The success of this company is no secret. It has been due to two simple things: building a good product and treating customers honestly and fairly.’” GMé


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Opportunities to grow golf despite funding cut claims the England Golf Partnership The drive to get more adults to play more golf in England was set a fresh challenge last month when a cut in public funding for the sport was announced. Sport England has reduced its funding to the England Golf Partnership (EGP) by £496,000 over the next three years, which follows falling participation in the 26-plus age group. Golf is one of six sports which lose a total of £2.8 million in the ‘Payment for Results’ review. The others are football, which loses £1.6 million; netball, hockey, rowing and mountaineering. Roger Moreland, the EGP’s chief operating officer, commented: “It is disappointing that we didn’t meet our targets for the 26-plus age group. However, we are working closely together and with Sport England to address this and to increase participation, which is in the interests of everyone in the golf industry. “As ever, we will respond positively to the challenge. England Golf, the Golf Foundation and the PGA have worked closely together for many years to grow the game and the partners will continue to do so. “There are so many positive aspects to golf development in England and they provide huge opportunities to turn around the disappointing drop in participation in the 26-plus age group. “England Golf’s emerging strategy has engaged so many partners from across

the industry in its development and it will be an important element in binding many more partners behind achieving common goals for golf. 2013 was a historic year for English players and teams and shows what a great job the system is doing in supporting each generation of talented golfers. “The number of women playing golf is starting to grow, participation is up among retired people and also increasing among disabled people, and it is holding steady in the 14-25-year age group. We now have work even harder to turn

CMM unveil new website

Stephen Lewis to step down as CEO of Crown Golf

Colt Mackenzie McNair, the specialist executive search firm offering recruitment solutions to the global golf industry, has launched a new corporate website,, that showcases job opportunities in golf, and acts as a learning and education platform for senior managers. Richard Wood, director of Colt Mackenzie McNair, said: “Our old website served us well as a ‘shop-window’ for CMM, but our new site offers greater functionality, bringing together many elements of our UK and international work – vacancies, management advice and social networking – which can now be immediately accessed from one point. “Giving jobseekers an opportunity to see vacancies in golf is always key, but the new site also allows business professionals, who may already be in employment, to confidentially share their current CV directly with our consultants, who are constantly working on assignments which are never made public.”

8 | GMé April 2014

Golf in England appears to be struggling to attract golfers in their mid-twenties

Stephen Lewis, who is leaving Crown Golf

Crown Golf have announced that Stephen Lewis will be stepping down as chief executive officer of Crown Golf at the end of April, after six years in the role. Commenting on his departure, Lewis said: “I have had a wonderful time working with some great people and seen Crown Golf progress considerably during this period. The business has some exciting initiatives in place for 2014 and beyond and I wish the team every success in delivering them.”

around the downward trend in participation in the older age groups.” The industry-wide drive to increase participation in golf will be underlined in May when National Golf Month takes place. This initiative, driven by the Bauer Media Group and the British Golf Industry Association, is a major campaign to offer opportunities to beginners and 100,000 lapsed golfers to try the game. In England the offers will be featured on the EGP’s Get into Golf website which directs visitors to great value coaching courses with PGA professionals.

The change is part of a succession plan that was agreed last year and will result in a change in the structure and responsibilities of the senior management team. Stephen Towers, formerly the resort director at St Mellion, has been promoted to chief operating officer, together with Gwyn Hicks, the group finance director, and Matthew Lynwood, the property director, will form the senior executive team of the business reporting directly to the Board and Bennelong Group chief executive officer, Chris Cunningham. Cunningham commented: “Stephen joined Crown Golf six years ago in April and during his tenure has delivered many significant and exciting initiatives for the Company such as the recently launched Freedom Play membership. “Importantly, he has nurtured the talent within the business and I am pleased that as a result of Stephen’s departure, Stephen Towers has been promoted to the position of chief operating officer.”


Historic club makes unique free golf proposal

In brief... Fota Island Resort has been awarded permission to complete an overhaul – for which local authority approval had already been granted a decade ago. New owner Cityking International has obtained the go-ahead for a hotel, 287 holiday homes, a nine-hole golf course and other site development works. Following the recent purchase of the resort, Xiu Lan Properties Ltd applied to Cork County Council in January to extend the duration of the previous permission. The same firm has applied in recent weeks to add extensions to the hotel restaurant and to the clubhouse at the existing golf course, which will host the Irish Open this summer. The PGA has announced the launch of its new Facebook and Twitter accounts to further promote its members and golf. Both Twitter and Facebook, which went live on the eve of the US Masters, will join the PGA’s existing presence on Linked In, Flickr and YouTube. BGL Golf has responded to a growing volume of web-traffic via mobile devices by launching 11 new optimised websites for each of its venues located across the UK. The golf course owner and operator has reported that more than 52 per cent of the group’s web traffic now originates from mobile devices, which translates as an increase of more than 25 per cent in the last 12 months. The 2014 golf season is set to be the most significant yet for Poland’s top golf resort, according to the team at Modry Las Golf Club. Celebrating its fifth anniversary in July, the acclaimed Gary Playerdesigned course will be joined by a new nine-hole course in the autumn, more accommodation and the first glimpse of the property offering at the resort.

An historic private members’ golf club with a link to Augusta has devised a proposal believed to be unique in world golf — it will provide free coaching and free golf for any child, but only if one of the world’s leading golfers opens its new junior coaching facility. South Moor Golf Club in Durham, which was designed by Dr Alister MacKenzie – who also designed Augusta National, the home of The Masters – made the proposal after reading comments by Tiger Woods. The world number one golfer called for a policy that’s used by Mission Hills Shenzhen in China, in which the club offers free golf to anyone under 16 on its par three course, to be replicated around the world. Mission Hills Shenzhen’s initiative has also been praised by The R&A as an effective way to introduce children to golf. South Moor has been building Europe’s largest artificial short game area, at 1,500 square metres, which will be used for junior coaching and will be accessible to the general public, for the last two years after it obtained funding from Sport England’s Inspired Facilities Fund, and help from local councillors. Club spokesman Guy Carr said he will allow any child to use it for free if one of the world’s top 20 golfers opens the

facility: “If Tiger Woods thinks juniors should get free golf and coaching up to the age of 16, we will quite happily do that,” he said, “provided he, or one of the top 20 golfers in the world, comes to open our new facilities. “It would be great to see a top player put something back into a members’ club – all top golfers have to start somewhere, why not give a little something back?” Carr said he is keen for South Moor to be seen as one of the world’s best venues for juniors, and the club, which recently reduced its membership costs, is hosting a new under 14 championship this August and is building a par three course which will also act as a beginner course for new golfers. The club says it hopes to hear from a top golfer shortly.

The new practice facility at South Moor

Wylie to convert hotel to private residence at Close House

The Mansion House at Close House

The millionaire behind the resort development at Close House is to convert the resort’s hotel back into a private house for its owner. The Grade-II listed former mansion house, between Wylam and Heddonon-the-Wall in Northumberland, has operated as a hotel and wedding venue since 2005 and is owned by former computing millionaire Graham Wylie, who also developed two golf courses on the site, with Lee Westwood signed up as the professional.

Now Close House is to concentrate entirely on golf, and, consequently, Wylie is working on plans to return the Mansion House to private residential use for his family. Close House director Alan Graham said: “The growth in our golf business has been spectacular, the members, our corporate partners and visitors have been incredibly supportive to Close House over recent years. We anticipate the growth of the golf business will continue as the economy continues to strengthen. “The future of Close House Golf looks bright. It really is an exciting time for Close House Golf and we anticipate that 2014 will be the most successful to date.” Close House dates back to the 18th century when it was built by High Sheriff of Northumberland and Member of Parliament for Winchelsea, Calverley Berwicke. Plans have been submitted to Northumberland County Council to make the mansion house into a private residence by 2015. | 9




La Manga Club unveils the first phase of its new practice facility La Manga Club’s plans to redevelop its driving range and practice facilities into one of the best teaching academies in the world are taking shape after the first phase of the major renovation was completed at the Spanish resort. The award-winning venue’s impressive new short game facility, incorporating a putting green four times its original size, was officially opened during last month’s PGAs of Europe International Pro-Am by new board member MG Orender, a past president of the PGA of America, alongside La Manga Club chief executive Jordi Robinat, general manager Jose Asenjo and non-executive chairman PY Gerbeau. As well as the new short game area, La Manga Club’s significant investment also includes a new Leadbetter Golf Academy – the only one in mainland Spain – and an extensive upgrade of its other driving range facilities, with all the work due to be completed in June. Orender said: “La Manga Club is already a leading sporting destination and the improved practice facilities will set it apart as the best teaching facility in continental Europe. “This is my first visit here since becoming associated with the resort and I’ve been very impressed by what I’ve seen. It’s easy to see why it is so popular with golfers and, when the development plans are finished, I predict some very exciting times ahead for La Manga Club.”

At the centre of the redevelopment will be La Manga Club’s new Leadbetter Golf Academy, one of nearly 30 academies worldwide at selected premium destinations offering the very finest learning and practice facilities. The driving range is being lengthened to 300 metres, with 20 more mats being added outside to double the size of the grass teeing area, meaning up to 100 golfers will be able to use the facility at one time.

GVA bring two to market

Barnham Broom new recruit set to bolster sales effort

Two golf courses have been put on the market through agent GVA Hotel and Leisure. Hounslow Heath Golf Club, in London, comes with planning permission for the redevelopment of the clubhouse, but is in need of improvement as spokesman Ben Allen explained: “Hounslow Heath is an exceptionally well-located golf property. “Whilst the current facilities are well below the standard required by the modern golfer, the planning permission that has been granted mean that this opportunity will undoubtedly appeal to a wide range of leisure operators. We have received a very encouraging level of early interest in the property.” The Grange & Links Hotel and Golf Club, in Lincolnshire, is also on the market through the same agent. The 18-hole course, which is in administration, is a par-70, 6,021-yard links dating back to 1901, with excellent coastal views.

Barnham Broom Hotel in Norfolk has recently appointed Greg Hacon as golf & fitness business development manager. The new role has been created to increase awareness of the hotel’s two 18-hole championship golf courses and health and fitness facilities. As part of his role Hacon will develop new packages and events and help increase corporate bookings and golf days. Hacon, who has seven years experience in the golf industry after working for Marriott – and three years sales experience following a stint in recruitment – will bring together both sales and golf knowledge in his new role. “I’m excited about raising the profile of the golf and fitness facilities at Barnham Broom, developing new business and building long term relationships,” he said. “It feels like I’ve come full circle as I worked at Barnham Broom while I was at college between the ages of 14 and 17 as a golf course marshal.

10 | GMé April 2014

MG Orender (third from left) with La Manga Club’s board of directors at the opening

A range of yardage targets will improve the quality of practice for players, while four classrooms will be available to aid La Manga Club’s expert team of professionals and visiting pros when teaching. As part of the extensive redevelopment programme, the driving range is due to be realigned 60 yards to the right, which will mean the 17th hole on La Manga Club’s North Course will play as a riskand-reward par-four over water in the future.

“I’ve also been a golf member at Barnham Broom since the age of five and my mum worked at the hotel for 20 years.” General manager of Barnham Broom Jonathan Ellse added: “We’re continuing to develop the golf and health and fitness facilities and are investing in this with new staff, as well as planned facility and equipment investment over the next six months. Greg has a wealth of experience in the golf and hotel sector and great knowledge of the area.”

Greg Hacon of Barnham Broom

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Major improvements completed at The Shire London The Shire London, which features the UK’s only full Severiano Ballesteros course design, has announced the completion of a major series of course refurbishments and facilities upgrades for the 2014 golf season. The changes include new bunkering and greenside modelling work on The Ballesteros Masters Course to increase the challenge of what is already regarded as one of England’s most demanding tests of golf. Other improvements cover everything from new sand, course furniture and flags to a renovated driving range. The club has even upgraded its coffee machines, TV sets and soft furnishings. In all, the club – which is privately run by The Bridgedown Group – has invested over £120,000 in improvements both on and off the golf course. “Every year we give you something new at The Shire London” said director Ceri Menai-Davis.

“We are approaching our eighth anniversary here, and although the group is building other golf courses across London, including the West London Golf Centre, the West London Links and The Dye London, The Shire London is our first-born, we are based at the club, and

Crown drops fees for kids

Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links up for sale at €20m asking price

Crown Golf has dropped membership fees for golfers aged 13 and under with immediate effect at all 25 of its clubs. The new policy grants a free Junior Membership to under-14s who have at least one parent, grandparent or guardian who is a seven-day or five-day member at the golf club. The offer – named Juniors Go Free – also extends to members who have joined Crown Golf’s new Freedom Play flexible membership, which is available at 18 of the group’s properties. The move is expected to quadruple the number of junior golfers across the group. Hundreds of existing junior members will receive an instant benefit, their fees being reduced to nil when they renew their membership this year. “We are serious about playing our part in safeguarding the future of the sport,” said Crown Golf CEO Stephen Lewis, “and Juniors Go Free is the strongest possible statement we can make. “Juniors Go Free means that many existing members will now enrol their children at the club for the first time. Far more families will get fully involved at a Crown Golf club in 2014 – we’re sending a clear message out, that golf is not just for the parents. “It is also key that our new Freedom Play members can access this scheme, as we believe that flexible membership should mirror full membership as closely as possible.”

Jones Lang LaSalle is selling the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, in Ireland, with an asking price of around €20 million. The sale comes on the instructions of receiver Simon Coyle, of Mazars, which was appointed by the National Asset Management Agency last year. The 136-bedroom hotel includes an 18-hole golf course designed by Bernhard Langer. Sitting on a 170-acre site, the property includes a bar, lounge and conference facilities. JLL’s Dan O’Connor said: “Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links offers considerable

12 | GMé April 2014

New bunkers at The Shire London

driving it ever more successfully forwards remains our number one priority. “Golf needs to modernise. Some parts of the sport seem to be stuck in the past, but we never stay still. We are always creating something new for golfers,” added Menai-Davis.

potential to add value along with the option for domestic or international hotel brand affiliation, if so desired. “The site also offers development potential for the construction of a new and substantial golf clubhouse facility and driving range on a portion of the lands. We are expecting strong competition from both domestic and international hotel investors.” The land on which the hotel stands, was originally part of the Jameson family estate – of Irish whiskey fame – and the house was often visited by King Edward VII.

An exterior view of the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links situated just outside Dublin, Ireland

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Moscow School of Golf receive SNAG master class SNAG’s master trainer Tony Howarth has had a busy start to the year, with his most recent journey to Moscow, Russia for a two-day training course at the Moscow School of Golf. Amongst those receiving the training organised by i-KAN GC and SNAG’s Russian distributor, Intergolf, were representatives of golf clubs, professional golf trainers and teachers of physical education from Moscow and other regions. In total, 17 people were awarded their certificates on completion of the course, which included understanding SNAG concepts, building SNAG courses, safety, and the important issues of the transition from SNAG to traditional golf equipment. Head of the project, Daniil Gubarev from Intergolf said: “The main aim of introducing SNAG into Russia is to help develop the growing interest in golf and to bring the game to a wider audience. The next course is going to be held in the autumn and we are already looking forward to it.” Prior to the training, Howarth visited the Russian State University of Physical Education Sport, Youth and Tourism, where he was given a guided tour of their

The students at the Moscow School of Golf receive their SNAG certificates

excellent indoor facilities by the Chair of Theory and Methodology of Golf, Aleksey Korolkov. The facilities are currently utilised by a very small number of professionals, but it is hoped in the coming months and years that the number of professional golfers will grow significantly.

The next stop on the tour was the Lyceum 1575 school in Moscow, where Howarth was questioned about SNAG and golf in general by staff and pupils before delivering a SNAG master class. The school was one of the first in Moscow to introduce SNAG and has its own 18 hole mini golf course.

Two more clubs Royal approval to be dug up for Envirobunker Another two golf clubs are to be closed down and converted into housing estates. North Worcestershire, an 80-acre site, is to be sold to developer Bloor Homes, and turned into around 800 properties, while Keele Golf Centre, in Stoke, has been earmarked for development after membership dropped to just 30. A spokesman for North Worcestershire said: “In light of declining membership, ongoing financial difficulties and the increasing trend of abating private golf club membership, the shareholders of the North Worcestershire have voted to look at potential redevelopment options for the future of their club. “The club has tried discounted membership, course improvements and special offers to attract new members and visitors but, I’m afraid, with over £350,000 per year needed to simply break even and 80 per cent of their income coming from membership fees, they’ve been fighting a losing battle.” Keele Golf Club closed on Christmas Eve owing to poor weather, but has not reopened because a deal to hand over control from the local council to a company fronted by Ian Woosnam collapsed in January.

14 | GMé April 2014

An example of a completed Envirobunker

Royal Winchester Golf Club in Hampshire will became the first club in England to complete a full course bunker renovation project using the Envirobunker construction method. The pioneering club took the decision in January 2013 to commission a small renovation project using Envirobunker – a patented bunker face and edge solution which had now been constructed in the UK, Europe and the USA. The initial project proved a resounding success on all levels and less than a year later, following a recommendation from the committee and a subsequent member vote, the golf club commissioned a renovation project that will culminate in all bunkers being rebuilt

using Envirobunker before the end of 2015. Andrew Buck, club manager at Royal Winchester commented: “The project has been greeted with great enthusiasm and positivity at all levels of the golf club. Members are very impressed with Envirobunker and the work being carried out, the aesthetics of the product are first class and the maintenance savings are significant. “This is a key issue for us as we move forward and we are delighted with the impact Envirobunker is having on our the golf course in that respect. The visual transformation of our bunkers is also noteable and we are desperately keen to complete phase two and three of the project this coming autumn and next winter.” Rhydian Lewis, co-director at Envirosports Ltd, the company that owns exclusive rights to all IP related to Envirobunker, said: “There are a number of courses in England and other parts of the UK and Europe who are in the process of renovating all their bunkers using the Envirobunker method. Royal Winchester will be the first to complete the process in England and as such can be regarded as genuine trail blazers.”

picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a change of leadership at the top of the PGA as Dr Phil Weaver steps down after 25 years.







In brief... Weller Designs were chosen to take on the remodelling of the fourth hole at Hankley Common Golf Club, which is continually listed within the top 50 best courses to play. The club felt that the hole was not to their high standards and appointed Weller Designs to change the layout and to reconfigure the line of the fairway through the use of new bunkers and heather planting. Club secretary, Ian McColl said: “Weller Designs have been instrumental in achieving the creation of a fantastic new fourth hole on a course that is renowned for its high quality of design and historical importance.” Two nine-hole golf clubs in southern England have closed down because of financial difficulties. Thamesview Golf Centre, in London, and Homelands Golf Centre, in Kent, closed down after difficult periods of trading. Thamesview, a pay-andplay facility had been refurbished only recently. Homelands owner has entered liquidation and its assets been sold off at an auction. It will, however, reopen as Kingsnorth Golf Club and Driving Range, after golf professional Mark Chilcott bought the property. Direct Golf UK is to invest in new storage and distribution systems to ensure it continues to provide the quality of service which saw it named the sector’s ‘best mail order company’ for eight successive years. A party of 70 Ransomes Jacobsen guests and staff from Europe, augmented by a further 20 from the Asia-Pacific territory attended the Golf Industry Show in Orlando recently. The activities on the hectic six-day round trip included a visit to Jacobsen’s manufacturing facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina, and a tour of the maintenance facilities at Arnold Palmer’s Bay Hill Golf & Country Club.


David Murchie has succeeded longserving PGA chairman Dr Phil Weaver OBE who has stepped down after 25 years in the role. Crieff Golf Club head PGA professional Murchie was elected at a board meeting on April 4.


Club de Golf Alcanada’s director of golf, Kristoff Both, has been honoured for his work in promoting Mallorcan golf tourism, back in his home country of Germany. Both, 39, was heralded at the recent Rheingolf, in Düsseldorf.


The 2013 DP World Tour Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates delivered a US$44 million gross economic benefit to Dubai, according to independent research commissioned by tournament organisers, The European Tour.


Pin High Golf Group, the golf and leisure management consultants and club operators, have signed a management consultancy agreement with Canterbury Golf Club which recently purchased the freehold of the club.


Leeds Golf Club has elected its first Lady president in its 118 year history. Ann McMullen has served on the Ladies’ Committee as handicap secretary as well as secretary, and was elected Lady captain in 1979.


Campey Turf Care Systems, one of Europe’s largest independent machinery suppliers, is hosting a series of pitch renovation demonstrations at selected high profile sporting venues across France, Germany and the Netherlands. | 15



company profile

“As we are the manufacturer and deal directly with the customer there is no middle man so we can offer extremely competitive quotes, while our customers know exactly who is looking after the project for them.”

MAKING AN ENTRANCE The rotunda area, which is the hub of the club, featuring the bespoke rug manufactured by Antrim Carpets

Antrim the perfect fit for your golf club As Scott MacCallum reports, an Irish company is starting to forge a reputation for itself as one of the biggest, and best suppliers of carpets to golf clubs.

Company Profile sponsored by Antrim Carpets (44) 028 9062 3888

16 | GMé April 2014

An argument often employed when discussing misplaced priorities in golf clubs is that they spend large sums of money on re-carpeting the clubhouse but neglect the course itself, the very thing which provides the primary reason for people to be there in the first place. However, if you were to turn it on its head and suggest that Open Championship-quality conditions were maintained outside, but that it would be bare floorboards inside, the priorities employed, it could be argued, would be equally flawed. It is all about balance and surely a golfer likes to have nice comfortable surroundings to discuss his round once he’s put his clubs back in his locker? The Royal Belfast Golf Club certainly thinks so. The historic club has recently carried out a complete refurbishment of its interiors which was designed by Paul Ferguson Design, and the carpets have played a huge role in the interior design of the old, stately clubhouse. “Each room is bespoke, with the main colours being dark navy and stone,” revealed Danny Heaver, business develop-

ment manager, of Antrim Carpets, who won the contract to carpet the club. “For example, in some rooms with bay windows, the border of the carpet follows the line of the window and has been woven into the carpet using electronic jacquard equipment which enables us to weave borders and designs into carpets without having to create joins on site, which can be a weak point of any carpet. “In The Bailie Room, the predominately blue with stone scrolls has been reversed so that it is predominately stone with blue borders and scrolls, while in the rotunda area, which is the hub of the club there is a bespoke rug which fits into a sunken timber area trimmed out in solid brass,” said Heaver. In another area of the club where double doors can turn two rooms into one large one, the carpet has been designed to flow from one room into the other with a border all the way around both rooms. “The whole job has turned out wonderfully. It is stunning and there has been nothing but positive comments

LAST ORDERS The refurbished bar area at The Royal Belfast Golf Club

from the from the club management, who said that the membership were over the moon. It is fair to say that the project has been a great success.” Antrim Carpets had been contacted about six months before and the final design had been the result of extensive meetings between the designer, club committees and Antrim Carpets themselves. Once the design had been signed off Antrim Carpets took a month to manufacture the axminster carpet in their Belfast mill and worked closely with the other contractors to ensure the installation went without a hitch. “Normally with such a size of project we would expect to install the carpets in four to five days but in this case it took us just over two weeks as we worked around the other trades involved in the refurbishment. The family owned Antrim Carpets have built a reputation for providing carpets within the hospitality and leisure industry sectors having been established in the late 1980s as a company which provided carpeting for hotels, bars, restaurants and night clubs. The company have expanded it’s manufacturing facility over the years, and currently have the capacity to produce up to 4,000 sq2 of customised woven axminster per week, all still woven at home in its own mill.

“In recent years we have found that more and more golf clubs want to achieve a plusher warmer feel. They want to attract new clientele, not only in terms of new members, but in establishing new revenue streams from their on-site restaurants, bars and function rooms,” said Heaver, who this year already has added five new golf clubs to his client list. “The move towards golf clubs looking at providing more hospitality is growing and clubs, which go down this particular route, know that they must provide the correct environment and the use of interior design, of which carpeting is a key element, is becoming increasingly important.” Antrim Carpets will advise on the best option for each particular project but the 80 per cent wool, 20 per cent nylon blend which forms the pile makes their carpets extremely adaptable as well as retaining their looks – or appearance retention as it is described in the business. “We make what we believe are the highest quality axminster carpets available in the UK or Ireland,” said Heaver, “We will advise the designer and clients on which colours are recommended for bar areas where staining will become an issue – stay away from light plain colours in large areas is the key. “Also wool is a natural repellent of dirt and as long as it is properly maintained and vacuumed regularly, to keep the fi-

bres healthy, the carpet will recover from some of the inevitable spillages that occur. There is no accounting for someone upending an entire bottle of red wine on it though,” said Heaver. Since launching, Antrim Carpets has become one of the major players in the UK and Irish hospitality and leisure sectors and their full design, manufacture and install service has seen them provide carpeting for as many as 50 golf clubs, including some of the most prestigious around. “Because we manufacture our own and don’t outsource to manufacturing bases in other parts of the world, we have full control of what we deliver and have total confidence in the quality assurance guarantees that we give. “As we are the manufacturer and deal directly with the customer there is no middle man so we can offer extremely competitive quotes, while our customers know exactly who is looking after the project for them.” The Royal Belfast Golf Club didn’t have to look too far afield for a company to supply their sumptuous new carpets but in giving their business to a company from the same city they certainly haven’t compromised on quality. Members can now enjoy a high quality experience both outside on their superb golf course and inside in their wonderfully refurbished clubhouse. GMé | 17



junior golf

Debate rages about Junior Golf & Pricing David Bowers article on junior golf last issue appears to have struck a chord with many owners, many of whom believe that we are all wasting our time and money encouraging kids to play golf. Article by Michael Lenihan.

“Stop regurgitating the same old trite cliché that junior golfers are the future of the game.”

WARNING SIGNS Will golf clubs soon be adhering to these signs?

GMé’s associate editor, Dave Bowers, is an old school columnist. He often reminds us that his first editor – a hugely well-respected columnist – told him the response to a well-written column should fill the letters page of the paper a couple of days later. He’s never forgotten this and, occasionally, when the mood takes him, he lets off what he calls, bewilderingly, an ‘editorial hand-grenade’ in his column, “just to see who collects the shrapnel.” Well, it worked in the last issue of GMé when he touched on the pricing structure of golf and suggested, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, that somebody might consider turning over a course to juniors. The ‘shrapnel’ was picked up by Chalgrave Manor’s managing director, Steve Rumball, and James Crawshaw, who is based at Lindfield Golf Club. Rumball said: “Golf is a finite resource; there is a limit to how many people you

18 | GMé April 2014

can get on a course in a day. In the UK, at the height of summer... 12 hours of starting, with seven starts per hour at eightminute intervals – a maximum of 336 people in a day. “But realistically, with the unsocial hours, the fact that people turn up late, that they lose balls on the first and take 15 minutes to play it so that no one else can start either... if you can get 200 on in a day, that is going some in my opinion. “And what about the members who have paid for unlimited golf? They have to be fitted into that system as well.” It was a theme also taken up by Crawshaw, who said: “Increasing sales volume by reducing the price can only work where there is latent demand. Where supply far outstrips demand, using your example, one fourball at £200 will become one fourball at £100. “Aha, I hear you say, but you will attract customers away from your competition.

“This could be the case, leading to the market price being driven down until clubs can no longer be viably operated. There is a school of thought that that is what is needed – for 20 per cent of golf clubs to go out of business. It might work but, personally I would not want to see that.” Forcing caffeine addict Bowers away from his sixth coffee of the morning, we garnered a reaction. He commented: “I accept much of what the guys said, but the fact remains that few clubs are lucky enough to have a course full, all day, every day. If the demand is not there, should clubs not consider every avenue to increase that demand? “Simply resting on one’s laurels is not going to pay the bills. And, if some clubs are driven out of business because they aren’t viable and don’t have a sustainable business model then so be it.

junior golf

PAIRING UP A brother and sister clearly enjoying themselves out on the course

“That’s what happens in other industries – why should golf be any different? Let’s not return to the 19th century.” But what really raised the hackles of our two correspondents was Bowers’ suggestion about an exclusively junior club. Rumball added: “Junior golf is about £120-150 per annum at most clubs. It is unbelievable value, given the cost of maintaining the surface on which they play. If you had a jam-packed junior-only club, let’s say 800 members, they will all want to play in the school holidays, evenings and weekends, but no one will be there on school days. “That’s £120,000 per annum income from memberships. That doesn’t even cover the staff costs at my small club, let alone the machinery, rent and utilities. Junior golf is a loss leader to encourage young golfers who will stay with the game and pay for it in the future.

“Unless you can provide the facility at a loss, permanently, a junior-only club, on a proper 18-hole course, is never going to happen.” Our editorial ‘troll’ – for want of a better word – admits he knows it’s not feasible unless, as Rumball states, there is a multi-millionaire signing cheques; although he did suggest it could still be possible at large resorts where there are as many as four courses. But Crawshaw took the argument a stage further. “Stop regurgitating the same old trite cliché that ‘junior golfers are the future of the game’. Stop pouring so much money and resource into junior golf,” he argued. “Of course if charities want to waste charitable funds that is up to them. Where funding is from the public purse, via organisations such as England Golf and Sport England then a closer scrutiny is warranted.

“Publicly funded golf development organisations must stop measuring results on the basis of surrogate outcomes such as the number of introductory and ‘taster’ sessions delivered or the number of schools programmes run. They must start to measure results on real outcomes such as the number of juniors that get into golf and who stay in golf. “If they continue to ignore the measure that really matters, ie long term golfers, then they are not only doing a disservice to the game but will cause long-term damage. The problem for the future of golf is – and has been for many years – in the 18 to 40-year-old age group. Look at the demographic of the average golf club and you can be in no doubt. “How about taking half of the money currently spent on junior golf and use it to get golf into college, universities and | 19



junior golf

“Juniors are not the future of golf; 18 to 25-year-olds are the future of our sport.”

STARTING THEM YOUNG A summer training camp for young golfers

FATHERLY ADVICE A father takes his son under his wing

other further education establishments. Use it to take golf into football clubs and even pubs, in fact anywhere where 18-25-year-olds hang out. “If England Golf were to commit to, and invest in, such a program I could almost guarantee there would be golf clubs queuing to get involved, after all, we have an over-supply. “Juniors are not the future of golf; 18 to 25-year-olds are the future of our sport.” GMé’s man responded: “If James really believes that then good luck to him. He must have a very active group of 18 to 25s in his catchment area. All I know is that the sports participation in that age range I’m familiar with – and I speak as somebody who has three sons within those age parameters – is negligible.

“I’ve seen lots of talented kids give up sport as early as 15 because other things start to occupy them. It was always thus, I suppose, with beer and women, but now they have the added distraction of video games – and lads I worked with at age eight through to 15, not to mention their friends in other sports, have drifted away and given up. But you can still find them playing Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto 5 every evening over the web. “We’re entering uncharted territory with this generation and the signs are they’re not going to be enticed into picking up golf – or any other sports – later in life. It seems you have to get them early or forget them. Interestingly, when I checked the website at James’ Golf College at Lindfield Golf Club, it was

20 | GMé April 2014

advertising golf open days for juniors on the home page...” Ironically, Crawshaw’s correspondence with GMé came in the same week that Crown Golf announced its 25 clubs were each doing away with membership fees for golfers aged 13 and under. In a statement the group said: “The move is expected to quadruple the number of junior golfers across the group.”Crown Golf’s chief executive officer, Stephen Lewis, added: “We are serious about playing our part in safeguarding the future of the sport and Juniors Go Free is the strongest possible statement we can make. “We’re sending a clear message out, that golf is not just for the parents.” It seems the jury may still be out on what, or who is the future of golf. GMé

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South West France Golf Club for sale including major development opportunity Located in the triangle between Bordeaux, Toulouse and Bergerac, all with busy airports, this 18 hole golf course built over 25 years ago is offered for sale. As well as the usual features of clubhouse, driving range, pro shop, coiffure, swimming pool and tennis court , the club also manages 12 rental apartments. In addition the club owns 11 hectares of land which is zoned for development and in 2007 planning was granted for a hotel, conference centre with pool and spa and 180 villas. Offers for an outright sale should be based on â‚Ź3 million; the possibility also exists for a joint venture operation. Contact Mr Goodman on 0044 1980 62 11 91. | 21


els club malaysia

The Big Easy’s Malaysian Masterpiece

This month, the Els Club Teluk Datai in Malaysia will officially open for play following a major re-design, overseen by four-time major champion, Ernie Els. Aidan Patrick takes a closer examination of the course, and asks why there are no bunkers. Malaysia’s eagerly-awaited Els Club Teluk Datai is now officially opened following a magnificent re-design guided by the hands of four-time major champion Ernie Els and his acclaimed design team. The project has been close to the heart of the popular South African over the past two years, as he carefully worked to re-mould the course, which first opened for play in 1992. The Teluk Datai represents the first stage of an ambitious Els Club Malaysia development project, which will see the creation of a further two championship golf courses on the Desaru Coast.

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Each facility will be managed by Troon, the global leader in upscale golf course management, development and marketing, and for Ken Kosak, The Els Club Malaysia’s general manager, Teluk Datai represents one of the finest settings for golf anywhere in the world. “The island of Langkawi is located on the North West peninsula of Malaysia and really is one of its crown jewels with unspoiled beaches, turquoise blue waters and first-class hospitality, courtesy of the residents on the island,” said Kosak, previously the GM of Abu Dhabi GC & Saadiyat Beach GC in Abu Dhabi.

“The Els Club Teluk Datai, or Datai Bay Golf Club, as it was formerly known, has undergone a huge transformation,” continued Kosak. “The golf course was already visually stunning, with beautiful rainforest and coastal scenery but over the past few years it became overgrown and lost the high standard of presentation it had become accustomed to. “Over the last two years, the team from Ernie Els Design and Troon have really embraced the project and added an all-new dimension to the product. Sandcapping has been completed on the golf A VIEW TO DIE FOR

The par-five, seventh hole, aptly named Teluk Datai, with a tee shot that crosses the Datai River, and below, an aerial view of the resort

“Ernie really wanted to create a tribute to nature, using the natural surrounds of the topography of the land rather than something overly manufactured.”

course to improve drainage, allowing buggies to easily access fairways, as well as a mass clearing of undergrowth that was choking many of the magnificent trees that typify the site.” The result has delighted Els, whose design brand represents the pinnacle of modern golf course architecture. Upon his most recent visit, he remarked: “We were tasked with creating something impactful and I am convinced the Desaru Coast will become a recognisable championship venue in international golf. “The site here is one of the most unique I have come across anywhere in the world and the end product is simply breath-taking. “We thought long and hard about the location of our first Els Club in Asia and in DRH (Destinations, Resorts and Hotels) have found great partners with the

necessary vision to help create a course that will have worldwide appeal.” The Els Club Teluk Datai is a valuable asset of the DRH group, a strategic owner of world-class venues and an important driver of Malaysia’s blossoming tourism industry. It has been entrusted by the investment arm of the Malaysian government to enrich the nation’s tourism landscape by developing sustainable resort destinations that will attract an international audience. Indeed, the course is located in one of South East Asia’s most popular settings for tourists, often referred to as a tropical paradise. Of the many scenic Malaysian golfing layouts, Teluk Datai is perhaps the most appealing among them. A million-year-old rainforest is the backdrop to the championship course, while the waters of the Andaman Sea

gently lap the pristine beach, along which no less than five holes are set. Feedback from selected VIPs and resort guests of the Datai and Andaman Hotels lucky enough to have sampled the course prior to its official opening has been nothing short of sensational. As well as the incredible condition of the golf course, which has now completed its growing-in period, visitors have commented on the surprising omission of bunkering of any kind. Kosak went on to explain the rationale behind this aspect of the new design and why he believes it adds to one of Asia’s finest golfing tests. “Ernie really wanted to create a tribute to nature, using the natural surrounds of the topography of the land rather than something overly manufactured. He wanted to blend all the elements | 23



els club malaysia

STRIKE A POSE Els showcasing his trademark easy swing

“Ernie’s design has ensured accuracy and strategy are key, with the course flowing both towards the mountains and the coast with small greens and tight fairways.”

24 | GMé April 2014

together in tribute to playing in such a diverse setting, experiencing the jungle, mountains, sea and natural streams all in one setting. “The course doesn’t feature any bunkers, the reasons for which are two-fold. Firstly, to create an extremely enjoyable experience for golfers and, secondly, it was based on the heavy rainfall the course sees during certain times of the year given our location so close to the rainforest. “From experience, there’s nothing worse than playing a course with waterlogged bunkers, which you have to treat as casual water,” added Kosak. “Ernie’s design has ensured accuracy and strategy are key, with the course flowing both towards the mountains and the coast with small greens and tight fairways.” In particular, two holes are considered standouts. The first is the par-5 7th, aptly named Teluk Datai, in Kosak’s opinion one of the most picturesque holes in world golf, with a tee shot that crosses the Datai River. The approach to the green is just as stunning, with the putting surface nestled against the shores of the bay. The second signature hole is the par-3 17th, named Andaman Shores.

Playing 162 yards, it runs parallel to the beach with the green perched perilously above the sea, taking full advantage of the natural landscape. With such a stunning design, and the fame of Ernie Els among golfers in South East Asia, where he has a loyal following of fans, it is no surprise that there has already been a flurry of interest among those seeking to be the first to test themselves against Teluk Datai. “We are already experiencing an influx of enquiries as we near opening,” continued Kosak. “Ernie is one of golf’s biggest names and has a creative vision that few can match in course design. “Guests who visit will experience something truly memorable in terms of all-round service standards and course conditioning, something that is synonymous with The Els Club brand and all Troon-managed venues around the globe.” Also neighbouring the golf course is the five-star Datai Langkawi resort, which will play an integral role in the creation of package offers, allowing visiting golfers to sample the very best of golf in Malaysia. It certainly appears as if Els, with a little help from both Troon and Kosak, has created another masterpiece. GMé

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huxley golf THE FUTURE A young girl getting some practice in at Modern Golf, Austria’s first all-weather nine-hole golf course

Huxley Golf aiming to widen its network Vanessa Gardner talks to Paul Huxley of Huxley Golf about his plans to widen the company’s distribution network. News of Huxley Golf taking their great British brand to new territories reaches us regularly. Just last month, we heard about the company’s largest installation to date: an all-weather nine hole golf course in Austria, working alongside head pro Markus Strobl and PGA Golf pro Eddie Cooper to create the intriguing ‘Modern Golf’. There’s no doubt that Huxley Golf is well known. Since its post war origins, the company has cleverly fine-tuned its offering to focus on all-weather surfaces for golf including tees, greens, practice areas and pathways. Huxley Golf is now exclusive supplier to the PGA, the English Golf Union’s National Golf Centre, the Scottish Golf Union and the Golf Union of Wales. As well as being seen at many of the world’s most famous golf courses, over 250 greens for private customers have been installed in locations ranging from Aberdeen to the Canaries, from the West Indies to Shanghai. The company’s user list boasts many famous golfers including several Major Championship winners, numerous European Tour and Ryder Cup players and other sporting celebrities. Sir Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Alison Nicholas, Catriona Matthew, Geoffrey Boycott OBE, Sir Clive Woodward, Tim Henman and Peter Crouch are all proud owners of Huxley Golf greens in their gardens. Perhaps what’s more impressive though, is that the company is flourishing in universally challenging times for our industry.

26 | GMé April 2014

Fundamental to this success was a decision to appoint a network of exclusive Huxley Golf distributors, which have enabled a far more rapid expansion than would otherwise have been possible. At the same time, it enables the company to ensure that customer needs are accurately met and customer service remains personal and attentive at all times. Paul Huxley, director of Huxley Golf, said: “Our distribution network is going from strength to strength and we’re certainly now working in territories that I’d never have dreamt would have been possible! “From mountains to deserts and good old waterlogged, windswept Britain, we’re generating a lot of interest in our products which are well regarded all around the world. Now, we want to continue to grow the business with people who share our passion for golf, are entrepreneurial in spirit, and who we can have some fun with because it’s so important to get along with those that you work with. “These close relationships ensure that success is mutually beneficial – it’s a great motivator for all concerned.” One of the most recent additions to the Huxley Golf team is David Gray, a PGA director of golf working across the Middle East, who was keen to get involved. Commenting on the new partnership, he said: “DG Golf is all about partnering with the leading golf brands in the world and so we are delighted to be representing Huxley Golf products and installations.

“Now, we want to continue to grow the business with people who share our passion for golf, are entrepreneurial in spirit, and who we can have some fun with because it’s so important to get along with those that you work with.”

THE BIG EASY The putting green at The Els Club, Dubai

ALL TOGETHER NOW Last year’s Huxley Golf distributor conference

PUTTING OUT IN STYLE The Huxley Golf at Modern Golf in Austria

“The all-weather surfaces are the perfect solution to the problem of golf surface maintenance in a geographic climate known for water shortages. The company’s professionalism and uncompromising standards in providing worldclass golf facilities will attract significant interest from golfers and resorts across the region.” Huxley Golf hosts regular Distributor Conferences to encourage idea sharing and facilitate closer collaborations. Jiri Votroubek of Huxley Golf Bohemia, which covers the Czech and Slovakian Republics, attended his first conference last year, commenting: “It was good to be able to talk about some of the challenges I face, share the successes and hear about different golfing markets around the world. I picked up a lot of interesting insights and some indispensable advice to help build my business and the profile of the sport in my region.” Openings currently exist for new Distributors to join the Huxley Golf business and you don’t need to be in an exotic location to be in with a chance of getting involved.

In the UK, there are opportunities for partners across North East London, Essex, East Anglia and also in the North East of England. Of course, there are still plenty of opportunities abroad too. Interested parties need to be prepared to visit the company headquarters in Hampshire to meet the team, see the business in operation and try out all the products in the first instance. Although it is expected that interested parties will have more than a keen interest in golf, thorough training in accurate site appraisals, quotations and installation supervision and management is provided in order to maintain the highest standards and protect the company’s reputation for all involved. Unlike many typical ‘franchise’ arrangements, the Huxley Golf principle is, in fact, quite straight forward. In return for a reasonable, one-off investment into what is now a truly global brand, official distributors have permission to trade using a licence to the Huxley Golf name (or they can trade using their own business name if they wish).

Quite unusually, no minimum sales figure is set although guideline targets according to territory are agreed in advance. As well as use of the brand and its associated trademarks, new commercial partners benefit from the company’s considerable heritage, first class product range, extensive know-how in terms of installation, an ongoing research and development programme, promotional materials and appropriate sales leads. Paul Huxley summed up: “We have become a ‘go-to’ supplier to some of the most influential people in the game of golf and we’re very proud of all the hard work that has gone into achieving that. “Our intriguing history, solid financial foundations and reputation for straightforward, honest and professional dealing in this specialist business stand us in good stead for further expansion in partnership with our official distributors. “We continue to invest in the growth of our business and our brand with a view to extending our reach around the world and, importantly, sharing this success with our distribution partners,” concluded Huxley. GMé | 27


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partnerships A new golfing alliance between France-based LeClub Golf and UK outfit, Material Matters could prove to be hugely beneficial to golf clubs on both sides of the English Channel as Aidan Patrick discovers.

It’s a Matter of Fact; LeClub Golf est arrivé

“LeClub Golf started as a purchasing alliance to help individual clubs gain purchasing power that could only be achieved by large groups of clubs.”

SHOWING OFF LeClub Golf exhibiting at a recent trade show

Born out of NGFGolf in France some ten years ago, LeClub Golf brings together over 360 golf clubs worldwide, including members in France, Spain, Sweden and the USA to name but a few. NGFGolf, who own and operate over 40 courses of their own in France, have built the alliance to 120 clubs in France and have, in recent years, franchised the business into Spain, Sweden and now the UK though a new partnership with Material Matters. The link is obvious, claims Paul Mould of Material Matters: “LeClub Golf started as a purchasing alliance to help individual clubs gain purchasing power that could only be achieved by large groups of clubs,” he said, “and Material Matters has done the same in the UK, currently working with approximately 250 clubs, primarily in the south of England.”

Whilst Material Matters has grown successfully over the last four years and now transacts over £10 million of purchases for golf clubs, this new partnership with LeClub Golf will enable the business to develop into many other services and aspects of club operations as well as extending coverage to the whole of the UK. “The LeClub Golf model splits into four main areas,” added Mould, “with purchasing remaining a key component of both LeClub Golf and Material Matters. “The LeClub Golf model is online, giving clubs the opportunity to engage with suppliers directly with the confidence and knowledge that a level of discount has been negotiated for them, based on the volume that the network brings to the supplier.

“In addition, LeClub Golf also pays the member clubs a rebate on every pound that is spent through its network of suppliers – turning expenditure into income. “Every individual member of a LeClub Golf club is also provided with a loyalty programme giving them access to the network of 360 clubs and resorts worldwide, discounted green fees as well as other benefits,” added Mould. “Points can be built up for every pound that the member spends, at their own club as well as at any club within the network. Points are then redeemed online at the LeClub Golf website for free green fees or weekend stay and play packages as well as other golf related products. “Most importantly, clubs can see where their members are playing via | 29


“We are extremely proud to partner with Material Matters in this venture and our ambition is to spread the LeClub Golf concept with partners”

A DONE DEAL (LR) Neil Dainton and Paul Mould of Material Matters with Paul Armitage, managing director of LeClub Golf

the CRM platform, and can gain a better understanding of their customers and keeping the golf spend within the network. It’s also a fantastic tool for membership loyalty and retention and in this day and age, we need that!” The third area covers best practise and training, with the annual conference – which is part of the LeClub Golf membership – bringing together managers, secretaries, greenkeepers, professionals and suppliers from all aspects of the industry to learn from each other. “Training for employees becomes ever more important as we strive as an industry to encourage customers to spend their disposable income and time with us,” added Mould, “and therefore training programs covering everything from customer service to health and safety and the latest employment pension schemes will be available.” Publicity, marketing and communications completes the suite of benefits, with clubs receiving fortnightly updates from suppliers, general industry articles and the sharing of best practise from the LeClub Golf UK team, whilst card holders have their own secure login to view their activity and points position. Commenting on the collaboration between Material Matters and LeClub, Paul Armitage, managing director of LeClub Golf said: “The UK has been a major target for us for sometime now, as we feel that the market is very fragmented.

30 | GMé April 2014

“We are extremely proud to partner with Material Matters in this venture and our ambition is to spread the LeClub Golf concept with partners to make sure the concept fits local market needs. “The success of LeClub Golf has been built on a simple concept of sharing knowledge, sales and purchasing power whilst creating strategic commercial alliances that are good for golfers, and in-turn, good for our facilities and good for the industry as a whole. “We are looking forward to working hand in hand with the team at Material Matters, and making LeClub Golf a resounding success and a market leader in federating independent golf clubs.” Pierre André Uhlen, CEO of NGFGolf added: “NGFGolf in France has always strived to create new golfers and new members, and changing consumer patterns are making it more obvious for multi-course owners and independent owners to come together and make the future brighter for our customers, members and our businesses. “We really hit it off with Material Matters and the team at Windlesham Golf Club who have exactly the right attitude... a win-win focus on the market which is the key to success using the LeClub Golf model. “We are honoured to see the concept in the hands of a reputable and solid company and are looking forward to celebrating 100 odd courses soon like we have done in France!”

There are two types of LeClub Golf programmes – Gold and Classic – with Gold status only available to members of clubs, where the club is a member of LeClub Golf. The Gold member receives up to 50 per cent off green fees across the worldwide network of LeClub and in addition, collects points on every transaction at all of these clubs. The Classic membership is available to all golfers – members and non-members – and the holder is entitled to receive up to 20 per cent off green fees at all UK venues, as well as Le Club’s European partners. “I am often asked ‘how does it all work’, and in reality it’s all very simple,” added Mould. “The maximum cost to a club, based on 500 founder members of LeClub UK is £2,000 and that cost is based on the club in question simply offering the Gold Card to every member as a benefit of membership. “However, after you factor in cost savings on supplies, along with the ability to sell both Gold and Classic programmes, and the added bonus of being able to market directly to an engaged network of golfers who will potentially spend money at your club, then the cost is negligible - in fact most clubs will be in profit sooner than later,” added Mould. With many clubs both in the UK and across Europe looking for extra revenue, perhaps, this latest Anglo-Franco collaboration will be just the ticket. GMé

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CHAMPION AMONGST CHAMPIONS (L-R) Jason Dufner, Phil Mickleson, Ian Poulter, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose fight it out

TROOPING THE COLOUR (L-R) Lee Westwood, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy pose with a traditional Emirati Ayala dance troupe

In conversation with Giles Morgan As the Global head of sponsorship at HSBC, Giles Morgan is the man responsible for spearheading the banks investment into golf, both at grassroots and tournament level.

GMé Prior to joining HSBC in 2005, you worked as a sponsorship and marketing consultant for the best part of 15 years. What attracted you to this line of work, and where were you raised and educated? GM I was raised in London and went to school in Oxford and University at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne where I read history. Having grown up in a sporting family, I knew from an early age I wanted to get involved in the sports and sponsorship industry – not just because of my passion for sport but because of the growth of the industry globally and the opportunities there would be. Since 1992 when I graduated, the industry has grown exponentially and I was fortunate to enter the workforce as this growth was really accelerating. GMé As the Global head of sponsorship for HSBC, what exactly does your role involve and is it limited purely to sport? GM My role is to set the commercial sponsorship strategy for HSBC – and to ensure clear objectives and measurement are set. We are focused on investing in fewer, bigger flagship events in our core priority markets with associations in both the arts and sport that mirror our global business objectives and our purpose and corporate values that match the passions of our top clients and customers.

32 | GMé April 2014

GMé As an organisation, HSBC sponsors rugby, tennis, equestrian and of course golf, all sports perceived as being ‘middle-classed’ as opposed to say football, which is often referred to as ‘the working man’s game’. What attracts you to a particular sport, and is it purely down to demographics? GM Partly. We are interested in associations that match our brand values and target our top customers. We are also able to reach a broader global audience through our airbridge advertising in the main airports around the world – which provides us with the kind of brand exposure that football and Formula One is able to provide. We use our international sports sponsorship portfolio to provide a platform to build relationships with our most important customers in our most important markets by creating spectacular brand experiences. We are an investor, stakeholder and influencer in sports around the world which many of our customers are passionate about. Golf is absolutely one of those sports. It’s a sport which embodies many of the values we hold dear so it makes absolute sense for us to invest in golf, especially in emerging markets where there are huge opportunities for growth. GMé The success of any marketing campaign can often be subjective, so in your opinion, what constitutes a successful sponsorship partnership?

CALM AND COLLECTED Educated at the University of Newcastle Upon Tyne, Giles Morgan has always had a passion for sport, and the desire to work in sports marketing

GM Our most successful sponsorships are those that meet the very specific marketing and business objectives that were set prior to each campaign. We have a bespoke set of measurement criteria – using eight separate trackers to ensure our return on media investment is met. I’m glad to say that our golf events are absolutely delivering against these criteria. Brands that create a unique theme to their sponsorships can engage customers more effectively and treating sponsorship as a form of media buying or badging is not going to deliver against your objectives. GMé Throughout the banking crisis since 2008, HSBC has been seen as a ‘safe pair of hands’ by many investors;

a brand with strong customer loyalty and solid ethical values. Do you believe that your sponsorship of sports such as rugby and golf has helped harness this perception? GM The recent economic climate means that these sponsorships are important to reflect our business and brand, but that it also becomes even more important that they are meeting the needs and goals of the business and that they are a sound investment. We see this as an investment to help grow our business around the world. GMé HSBC have been a big supporter of junior golf, yet many golf clubs at grass roots level still believe that investing in junior golf is a loss-leader. What

advice would you have for a golf club owner reading this who is questioning the value of investing in a junior academy? GM The fact of the matter is that all the world’s best golfers start somewhere and today’s prodigies are our future superstars. We have a holistic approach to our sponsorship portfolio so underpinning all of our international flagship events is an emphasis on the future. As a sponsor our main ambition is to open up the world of golf – one of the ways we do this is by opening up new opportunities for talent. A good example of this is the HSBC China Junior Golf Program, a sustainable long-term structure and framework upon which the future of Chinese golf is being built. | 33




MEDIA SAVVY Giles Morgan chats to the media during a press conference to announce the continuation of the HSBC Women’s Champions event in Singapore

“there is an $8.5 million prize fund for the tournament and we are absolutely not in the business of paying appearance fees on top of that.”

Recent graduates include Guan Tianlang who performed wonders at the 2013 Masters, Andy Zhang who took part in the US Open aged 14 (2012) and Jing Yan who qualified for the British Open at the age of 16 (2012). GMé HSBC have an extensive portfolio of golf sponsorships – including becoming patrons of the Open Championship – all partnerships which are targeted toward the consumer market. What was the attraction therefore, behind sponsoring the Golf Business Forum, and in particular the move into the business side of golf? GM The Golf Business Forum is an extension of our sponsorship portfolio from major golf championships to grassroots programs around the world and now supporting business in the golf industry. As a long standing international sponsor of the sport our ambition is to open up the world of golf and sponsorship of this event is an ideal platform to do that. GMé Raising finance for new golf developments has been near on impossible over the past few years, so is part of the move into the business of golf to help golf developers and operators obtain finance? GM I wouldn’t be so specific but as I said earlier we want to open up the world of golf and as a global banking and financial services organisation, we pride ourselves on opening up a world of opportunities for people.

34 | GMé April 2014

GMé As a magazine, GMé has been quite outspoken about the increasing demands that players are making when it comes to appearance fees at events, especially given the fact that prize funds at tournaments appears to be on the increase. As a title sponsor, what are your views on this? GM I think the key word here is respect. I’ve said this many times before but the tours should make sure that there is respect to the tournaments. As the title sponsor of the WGC-HSBC Champions in Shanghai we want to see the best of the best competing at the very top level – there is an $8.5 million prize fund for the tournament and we are absolutely not in the business of paying appearance fees on top of that. GMé You admit to being a loyal fan of Welsh rugby, as well as a keen golfer – sports which HSBC are heavily involved with. What would you say has been the best sporting highlight of your HSBC career to date, and how successful are you out on the golf course? GM I would describe myself as a hopeless golfer – with a power fade and leaden hands. My greatest golf experience was to play with Ernie Els – who is both a friend as well as the golfer whose swing I most admire. To successfully launch my first shot in the Pro-Am at the WGC HSBC Champions in 2012 and elicit a grudging round of applause from the big man was a highlight. I am not sure who was more surprised. GMé


orizonte golf

“It’s a hugely competitive environment out there at the moment and, here in the Lisbon area, we are trying to change the misconception, particularly in the UK, that Portuguese golf is all about the Algarve.”

Golf in Lisbon is in Seventh Heaven Seven golf clubs in around the Lisbon area of Portugal have set aside their rivalry to work together in order to attract more visiting golfers, as David Bowers discovers. WHETTING YOUR APPETITE The historic city of Lisbon (main picture) which is abundant in seafood restaurants

36 | GMé April 2014

With more and more clubs trying to attract an apparently diminishing customer base, it’s becoming increasingly harder to market to the target audience – particularly if promotional budgets have been cut. But seven clubs in and around the Lisbon and Costa Azul region, in Portugal, have set aside their rivalry to work together in attracting new business. What’s more, they’ve also joined forces with local accommodation providers to offer the complete package for visitors to an already popular destination close to Portugal’s historic capital city. And a whistle-stop tour of consumer golf shows – taking in Paris, Scotland, and Manchester – in March and April is already reaping benefits for ORIZONTE – Lisbon Golf, which brings together six

renowned layouts to the south of Lisbon in the natural beauty of the Costa Azul region, and one further nine-hole course at Oeiras, just 15 minutes from the city centre. Among the courses on offer is Quinta do Peru Golf & Country Club, a host to several European Challenge Tour events; the 7,000-plus yards challenge of Santo Estevão, Aroeira, venue for the Portuguese Open in 1996 and 97, and two more challenging courses set within ancient cork oak forest at Ribagolfe, host to European Tour qualifying school since 2009. Spokesman Pedro de Mello Breyner explained: “ORIZONTE – Lisbon Golf encompasses a fine selection of some of Portugal’s most naturally testing golf courses.

TRICKY APPROACH The approach to the 12th hole at Ribagolfe I, which was once described as the ‘Valderrama of Portugal’

“The proximity of the ORIZONTE collection to Lisbon airport allows visiting golfers to seamlessly blend memorable golf with the area’s outstanding cultural offering, which includes great seafood restaurants, the beauty of the Arrábida Natural Park, golden beaches and a fine selection of accommodation options. “It’s a hugely competitive environment out there at the moment and, here in the Lisbon area, we are trying to change the misconception, particularly in the UK, that Portuguese golf is all about the Algarve. “This initiative showcases that Lisbon courses are more competitively priced than those in the south of the country,” he added. With a range of accommodation options available – mainly of the four-

star variety – and more set to join the portfolio, the group is able to offer an array of packages to suit, as the popular travel saying goes, every budget. De Mello Breyner insists ORIZONTE – Lisbon Golf is doing more than simply “reinventing the wheel”, though many of the elements of the initiative have been tried elsewhere with various degrees of success. He added: “We have brought many different elements to the project and have adapted them slightly, removing what, in our view, were potential pitfalls and increasing the positive areas. “One of the major differences though is that we are all in it together – really committed to the project. It’s not something we thought of over a couple of bottles of wine only to allow it to drift

away a couple of months down the line. It’s an important element of the marketing strategy moving forward for each of the parties involved.” Not surprisingly, the group is issuing ‘golf passports’ allowing visitors to enjoy either three or five rounds at very competitive prices. The three-round deal starts at just €165 per person, while a five-round passport costs from just €275 per person. De Mello Breyner believes pitching the pricing structure at just the right level is essential to the success of the venture, with individual green fees at the courses as high as €100 per person. He added: “There would be little point in simply putting together all the greenfee rack rates and expecting an upsurge in business. | 37



orizonte golf

HOLING OUT The view across the lake of the 16th green at Quinta do Peru where the normal green fee is €100

“A lot of people initially thought Portugal was expensive for golf but that was because they had only been to some courses in the Algarve.”

38 | GMé April 2014

“We have looked carefully at the pricing structure, with both golf partners and accommodation providers, and feel that they will offer the best value around. And I think that was evident in the response we had to our appearance at the Scottish Golf Show. “It was very good and we had a lot of interest, to such an extent that we ran out of all our leaflets and brochures. A lot of people initially thought Portugal was expensive for golf but that was because they had only been to some courses in the Algarve. Once they heard about our packages and prices, they were very interested.” Benefiting from its location, the group plays heavily on the attractions of nearby historic Lisbon, with its pot pourri of unusual character and charm, and where 800 years of cultural influence mingle with modern trends and life styles to create spectacular contrasts. The ‘city of seven hills’ is large enough to have a cosmopolitan feel, while possessing intimate quarters and back streets full of cafes, privately-owned boutiques, and restaurants serving Portuguese and Brazilian delicacies. The climate in the region also compares well with the Algarve. It offers the opportunity for all-year-round golf, with autumn and winter temperatures particularly attractive for those travelling from northern Europe and further away. Between November and February the average high temperature is 14-17°c, while in October it’s as high as 19°c – plenty warm enough for the average UK visitor, for example.

And, crucially, given the plethora of low-cost flights into Faro, nearby Lisbon airport is equally well-served from the UK and Ireland, with the national airline, TAP, flying from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. In addition, budget rivals easyJet, Ryanair and Aer Lingus, fight it out to provide further low-cost access from Gatwick, Luton, Bristol, Liverpool, Stansted, Edinburgh, Dublin and Cork airports. Small wonder, then, that the UK and Ireland, Europe’s largest market for travelling golfers, is a key target area for the group. The formation of ORIZONTE – Lisbon Golf means it’s easier for group organisers to liaise with one point of contact or for individuals to plan short breaks. But it’s not just in the consumer sector that the formation of the group has been well received. Evidence of the esteem in which the courses – and the marketing group – are held came earlier this year, when students on the first degree course at WINSTONuniversity, in north-east Germany, spent a month in Lisbon to experience the challenge of golf resort management in a different climate at ORIZONTE clubs, as part of their sixmonth education programme. It’s fair to say that the progress of ORIZONTE – Lisbon Golf will be watched with interest by many regions, for the successful delivery of a project such as this may point the way forward for other golf clubs from other countries to join forces. GMé

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Comparing the golf market is a simples idea Aidan Patrick talks to GOLFBOO co-founder Fabio Peral about his vision to establish the website as the TripAdvisor of golf. Such is the propagation of low cost flights to far flung regions, an increased offering of high-standard hotels worldwide and the voracious appetite of golfers looking to play their sport of choice abroad, it is no surprise that the global golf tourism industry is worth in the region of US $2 billion these days. Neither is it remarkable that this has led to great clamour among tour operators, resorts, hotels and golf clubs trying to scramble their portion of the pie. Significant, however, is the fact that, until recently, the golf tourism industry had failed to embrace growing online demand for a more efficient way to assess multiple sources of information while booking holidays and travel, which has seen the rise of many meta search websites like Skyscanner, Trivago, Expedia and TripAdvisor. For Fabio Peral, a man with extensive golf tourism experience having worked

40 | GMé April 2014

with resort management company Troon in a sales and marketing capacity, the fact comparison websites had been largely ignored within golfing circles provided the perfect opportunity to be seized. In May 2013, he and co-founder Antonio Conde – a digital expert who also manages projects with 1997 Ryder Cup venue Valderrama and leading Spanish resort Finca Cortesin – duly established GOLFBOO, a service designed to bring golf into line with the travel industry. As Peral explained: “We felt that golf was somewhat stuck in the dark ages when it came to booking holidays online. We wanted to make choosing your golf holiday a fun and exciting experience from the moment the user logged-on. The result of this was GOLFBOO. “GOLFBOO was created from our desire of giving more power to the consumer.

“It allows them to search hundreds of websites for over 6,000 packages from more than 65 tour operators, a choice of tee times at around 7,200 golf courses and rooms in 200,000 hotels, without having to go anywhere else. Our goal is to establish ourselves as the search engine of golf. “As such, we are a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to book a golf holiday. We also provide the facility for all of our customers to review the golf courses they play and the hotels they stay in, therefore helping to create an online community and accurate ratings system. “We have just launched the second version of our website,, which will feature more booking functionality for the consumer, as well as more tour operator packages, venues for golf and hotels. “This, we believe, can help to make us the go-to website for anyone looking PARTNERSHIP Antonio Conde (main picture standing) and Fabio Peral, co-founder of GOLFBOO who include Las Colinas (right) and La Reserva de Sotogrande as clients

“We felt that golf was somewhat stuck in the dark ages when it came to booking holidays online.”

to get the best value for golf holidays anywhere in the world.” To achieve this, GOLFBOO uses the information entered by the consumer to instantly search hundreds of websites, providing information about the availability of tee times in real time and the most suitable accommodation, and returning only the most accurate options, as per their selected fields. Additionally, by providing a review function, it is hoped more consumers than ever will become aware of those venues which offer the very best golfer experience, bringing to the forefront emerging markets and hidden gems. To spread the world, GOLFBOO is engaging in a business-to-consumer campaign via their partnerships with leading online and print golf media in key European markets. This will be combined with exhibitions at flagship European Tour events in Great Britain, Scandinavia, France and Germany. Discussions with the golf’s national governing bodies and federations of golf in key European markets continue, as GOLFBOO seeks to utilise the marketing power of their respective media outlets, such as websites and magazines, to attract more golfers. So far endorsement has been received from the powers that be in Germany,

France and Sweden, as well as Europe’s largest golfing community HowDidiDo. Indeed, good working relationships and associations with the most trusted companies in the golf tourism sector have been fundamental to the early success being enjoyed by GOLFBOO. Access to hotels all over Europe, the Middle East and North Africa has been provided courtesy of, while the availability tee times for GOLFBOO users is guaranteed through agreements with booking engines, such as BRSGolf, GolfSwitch, and The secret of GOLFBOO’s growing success is in its mutually-beneficial nature for all of those involved in the process of a consumer booking their golf holiday. For golf venues, this not only means filling tee times, but drawing added value from the reservation process. “Every single user that clicks through to a partner’s website using GOLFBOO can be tracked and analysed by that partner via their DASHBOO account, a control panel which allows them to monitor the amount of hits they receive, where they come from and much more. “This allows all parties to generate an image of the golfer in order to tailor their packages, track user trends and

create the most attractive offering to the golfer who has seen through their ‘shop window’. “Our business model means that we earn a commission every time we send tour operators traffic (pay per click) or contact details for the user (pay per email). We also receive a fee from our partners for every hotel room sold and tee time booked.” With more partners strengthening the GOLFBOO community every day, things are looking bright for the future of the Marbella-based company. Peral, however, is determined to ensure that his creation continues to expand, bringing more choice and better value to the greatest number of golfers possible. He said: “We are always looking to expand the service we offer to golfers, which means continuing to source more hotels and golf courses by partnering with the world’s biggest booking engines and we are already beginning to develop a third generation of our website. “Perhaps in the future we may even look to include flights in our packages and a GPS locator to allow the traveller to find the closest golf courses. “Regardless of what the future holds, we are dedicated to providing the very best value and choice when it comes to memorable golf holidays.” GMé | 41




Toro celebrates 100 years Few companies have the staying power to become part of the golfing furniture. Mark Alexander finds out how Toro did in just 100 years. When John Samuel Clapper co-founded the Toro Motor Company on July 10, 1914, he surely couldn’t have dreamt of the success that lay ahead. In just four years the company would create its first golf-specific machinery, a power fairway roller, and in 1920 it would apply for its first patent for a convertible cultivator tractor. Today, the company has amassed over 800 US patents and spent US$60 million in 2012 on R&D alone. Not bad for a company that was initially created to build engines for small tractors. Today, Toro has a global reach that takes in more than 90 countries with over 5,000 employees who generate revenues of more than $2 billion. It has a client list to die for including the likes of the St Andrews Links Trust, the Wimbledon Championships, Pinehurst Resort & Country Club (site of the 2014 US Open), Royal Liverpool Golf Club (site of the 2014 Open Championship), Gleneagles (site of the 2014 Ryder Cup) and the Walt Disney World Resort. Now, marking its 100th year with various events and celebrations around the world, Toro is in reflective mood with the launch of a special centennial website ( and a self-penned Century of Innovation to ponder. As histories go, Toro’s is a fascinating one.

42 | GMé April 2014

Indeed, although Clapper formed the company a century ago making its initial foray into the world of golf in 1918, the company’s first real innovation came a year later when it was approached by The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis to create a motorised fairway mower to replace its horse-drawn equipment. By mounting five lawn mowers on the front of a farm tractor, Toro effectively launched the motorised golf course equipment industry, and the company never looked back. The new-look course would go on to host the US Amateur Championship, the Walker Cup and US Women’s Amateur, while Toro’s equipment would be used to nurture the best courses around the world ahead of all the major championships. But it wasn’t all plain sailing. The company was set-up during the same month as the outbreak of the First World War and in January 1929, just ten months prior to the stock market crash, Toro offered its first shares at $1.40 a pop. The timing couldn’t have been worse. In true irrevocable style, Toro responded by introducing the first petrolpowered greens mower and its Power Roller which was used by thousands of schools, tennis clubs and golf courses as well as private and municipal street maintenance crews for over 30 years.

RIDE-ON An early Toro ride-on mower cutting a tee out on course

There was also well-timed opportunism when the company acquired Whirlwind of Milwaukee, a manufacturer of rotary lawn mowers, in 1948. This keen business move was later described by Toro’s fourth president, David Lilly, as “one of the best business decisions we ever made.” It certainly boosted Toro’s consumer sales and propelled it to becoming a

recognised international brand. One man who has been privy to this assent is Barry Beckett, Toro’s senior marketing manager for international business. With 28 years of proactive campaigns under his belt and a healthy collection of air miles, Beckett has been at the centre of the Toro’s promotional efforts during the modern age and is well-placed to assess the impact of the company so far.

“We have become a global company with people stationed all over the world,” says Beckett, “and we will continue to evolve as the world and our markets change and mature.” He continues: “In the last ten, 15, 20 years, a lot of technology has changed completely. If you were to go back 30 years and get a ride-on greens mower and compare it with one today, so | 43




“Toro has a very good work and employee ethic in that it provides us with the tools and the facilities we need as our jobs evolve”

THE DAWN OF A NEW ERA The 1919 prototype in use at Minikahda Golf Club

CUTTING EDGE An early electric greens mower

much has changed you would hardly be comparing like for like, but these improvements have been made through increments. It doesn’t happen overnight. “The expectation today is you can get these bigger, better, faster, lighter, cheaper machines, but to develop these machines takes time.” Beckett says this emphasis on innovation doesn’t stop with the release of a new model or the development of a new technology. In order to exploit the possibilities presented by innovation, the company invests heavily in employee development, which Beckett has benefited from first hand. “Toro has a very good work and employee ethic in that it provides us with the tools and the facilities we need as our jobs evolve,” he explains. “For example, when I first started with Toro we didn’t use computers. Everything was done on paper, but with the advent of computers we needed to adapt, so the

company provided us with the training we needed to understand the software as well as the hardware.” Today, Toro’s innovative streak seems as hot as ever with the likes of the Groundsmaster 5900 Series rotary mower, released in 2008, allowing groundsmen to mow an acre in less than five minutes, or the Groundsmaster 360 rotary mower, launched in 2010, with its all-wheel steering. Most recently, Toro’s award-winning precision soil sensor became the first wireless moisture sensor aimed at the residential market while its Infinity series of golf sprinklers, launched this year, allows greenkeepers to quickly access internal components without the need for digging. And it doesn’t sound as if things are going to slow up for some time to come. “Computer applications in our industry will only continue to grow,” added Beckett.

44 | GMé April 2014

“The next generation coming through – anyone aged under 30 – will have grown up with computers so they won’t be afraid of them and they’ll want them to run their businesses. “As these guys take the top jobs, they’ll want computer technology to give them more information so they can make intelligent decisions. That is why it’s important that as a company, we must continue to evolve.” Toro’s track record is overflowing with intelligent decisions, made through good times and bad. Knowing its market and seeking out innovation has helped it to become a global brand with its logo being recognised from fairway sprinkler heads to the early morning rumble of the first cut. Toro has etched out a place for itself in the golfing landscape that is as familiar as dew drops and yardage markers. With 100 years to its name, it’s time to celebrate. GMé

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the renaissance club

Sarvadi oversees the re-birth of The Renaissance Club With the final tweaks being made to The Renaissance Club, this exclusive East Lothian retreat will soon be finished, and fully open for business. Mark Alexander discusses the changes with its co-founder and visionary Jerry Sarvadi.

46 | GMĂŠ April 2014 FINAL STRETCH The 17th hole (main picture) an uphill par 3, and right, the 18th green which sits adjacent to the impressive clubhouse

It is a strange experience listening to Jerry Sarvadi’s voice echoing off the old stone wall that backs on to the 11th green at the Renaissance Club. On a seemingly isolated peninsula, surrounded by the East Lothian coastline smothered in mist, his is the only voice you can hear. And to have an echo of it, makes it doubly surreal. It’s not that his impassioned pleas for his ball to drop are particularly deafening or exuberant. His is the only voice you hear because this is the Renaissance Club; an exclusive, members-only, madeto-measure golf retreat of the highest order – and with a price tag to match. “We don’t have a problem with overcrowding,” he tells me in the plush surroundings of the clubhouse. “We did 9,000 rounds last year. We could do 18,000 and you wouldn’t notice the difference. We have a way to go before anyone thinks it’s getting busy.” The club has 215 members each buying a 30-year, non-interest bearing bond priced at £75,000 with annual fees set at £5,000. This is a golf club with a certain clientele in mind. As incensed as he his when his ball doesn’t drop, you nevertheless get the feeling that Sarvadi has a spring in his step. Perhaps he could have the ideal temperament for golf, but more likely his upbeat demeanour comes from the satisfaction he gets from playing one of the new greens that blends seamlessly into the East Lothian coastline.

It is one of four new holes added to the course since it was opened in April 2008. Tom Doak, the designer of the original layout and the third most influential architect ever according to Golf Inc magazine, was asked to make a return visit when a land swap with the neighbouring Honourable Company of Gentlemen Golfers (Muirfield) made it possible to reorientate the course towards the coastline. From the glint in Sarvadi’s eye, it is safe to say he’s happy with how it turned out. “I don’t have to use my own words to describe these holes,” he says. “It has been repeated to me so many times over and over again; ‘stunning’.” The reaction from those who have played the new layout is universal and along similar lines to the feedback given to Sarvadi. Indeed, the head honcho at GMé, Michael Lenihan, described the 11th as one of the best par threes he had ever played. Should Sarvadi seek any reassurance that he did the right thing, he needn’t look any further. The new holes, unveiled in May 2013, aren’t the only addition to the Renaissance Club. A month later, the stunning clubhouse was opened giving the members access to steam rooms, dry saunas and Jacuzzis as well as a concierge service, a gym overlooking the 18th green and private dining when you really want to push the boat out. Perhaps tellingly, the £9 million project was funded by the members.

“We did 9,000 rounds last year. We could do 18,000 and you wouldn’t notice the difference. We have a way to go before anyone thinks it’s getting busy.” | 47



the renaissance club

“What I’ve been really good at from the beginning is forecasting expenses; I know what we’re going to spend, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where the revenues are coming from”

VIEW ACROSS THE COASTLINE The par 5, 16th hole with the coastline in the background

“The club went to the members and asked them to lend us £50,000 and we would give them an eight-year note and pay six per cent interest,” says Sarvadi. “That’s how we raised the £9 million. About half of the members contributed, some more than others.” The clubhouse has transformed the club. “One of the things that is different this year is the clubhouse,” he says. “Last year, if one of our members called from the States and wanted to bring over seven guys, that might have been difficult for us to book him in. We were still heavily involved in the construction of the clubhouse and I wasn’t sure when we would be done. “But now it’s here; there’s confidence. So this year, a number of our members who were thinking of bringing guests across are actually booking and they are coming, which is great.” What awaits is a course that even in its first incarnation impressed. Now sporting a look (including three new par threes), the Renaissance Club has shifted up a gear. The practice facilities are worldclass, with the three original opening holes acting as a mini academy, and the new clubhouse makes an impression as soon as you pull up to the bag-drop area. All it needs now is visitors. “Everyone realises that the club needs exposure,” says Sarvadi. “If you’re going to get people to consider membership, they’re going to have to play and stay.” With this is mind, the club is opening up its doors to some tour operators and

48 | GMé April 2014

providing limited opportunities for nonmembers to play the course. Of course, it’s a fine line between retaining an air of exclusivity and allowing potential members to taste the goods, so to speak, but Sarvadi believes he has the ideal solution and it involves grandstands, scoreboards and inviting some of the best players in the world to experience his course. “It’s in the front of my mind. It’s in my mind every second,” he says. “We’ve been in detailed discussions with the European Tour, but the powers that be haven’t made up their minds yet. We’re trying to convince them that the Renaissance Club would be a great venue for the Scottish Open.” He continues: “It’s about exposure. Will the Scottish Open be a money making event for us? I don’t think so, but it will get us on the tv and when you get on tv, you get 90 per cent of the people saying they want to play that venue, and that’s what we want.” The story of the Renaissance Club began in 2002 when Sarvadi and his brothers joked about building a golf course in Scotland while visiting Pinehurst in North Carolina. Six years later, they opened a championship course designed by Tom Doak sandwiched between Muirfield, Archerfield and North Berwick. Two years after that, four new holes were opened for play and a glitzy clubhouse (which incorporates six bedrooms) joined a 18-bedroom Members’ Lodge

to create a complete and impressive golf retreat. In reflective mood, Sarvadi gently mocks his progress so far. “What I’ve been really good at from the beginning is forecasting expenses; I know what we’re going to spend, but for the life of me I can’t figure out where the revenues are coming from, and I’m probably not the only one,” he says jovially. “From our perspective, we feel very strongly that we’re moving in the right direction. We’d like to get there quicker, but then, so would everyone.” Sarvadi, his brothers and the team of investors who first got behind the idea of building the Renaissance Club had a goal. They wanted to create something they could be proud of, and that avid and passionate golfers would want to play. Not only did they achieve this, but they did it during some of the toughest economic times in living memory. What’s more, they created a club with a membership fully engaged in its future and with the potential of delivering the next tranche of new members. With plans for a halfway house and some final touches being made to a few of the fairways, Sarvadi’s vision of creating one of the best new courses in the UK is nearing completion. With everything in place, you sense Sarvadi has the finishing post in sight. “The clubhouse is finished, the routing has been changed and we’re expanding our practice range. When that is finished in the next two weeks, I’ll be done.” Now, if he could only sink those putts… GMé

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signing off

“Organisers at UKFootGolf remain on the lookout for clubs interested in becoming venues and insist there’s no damage to the existing golf course”

FootGolf could provide a lucrative revenue stream for clubs Anybody who works even on the periphery of the golf industry will know how difficult it has been for golf clubs to survive during the recession. And the constant news of smaller clubs folding or being sold for housing suggests not much has changed despite the economic forecast being a little brighter. I also picked up recently on a news item from across the pond that told of closures of a couple of discgolf courses. I was particularly saddened to read of this because I’ve always felt there was a place for this kind of hybrid sport – that it might encourage the Frisbee-throwing, long-haired, bead-bracelet-wearing surf dudes to, ultimately, take up golf. What’s more it seemed, potentially at least, another possible revenue stream for golf clubs that had unused land. But news of their demise, in the land where 50-year-olds can still throw a Frisbee without the need for a grandchild as an excuse, suggests my initial optimism may have been misplaced. This is not an unusual experience for me of course: I support Portsmouth and England in football and the Orlando Magic in basketball – optimism is continually misplaced. However, I’m heartened by the recent upsurge in footgolf, a sport that combines elements of both football and golf. And that doesn’t mean buying a G&T while getting one’s head kicked in. No, this takes positive elements of both. Quite simply, you kick a football into an oversized golf hole. And the concept is similar to the basic premise of golf: holes vary in length and the one

50 | GMé April 2014

A LOAD OF BALLS FootGolf could be the driver to recruit teenagers into golf

who completes the course in the fewest shots is the winner. It’s one of the fastest-growing sports around – certainly in the UK anyway – and several golf clubs have signed up to become venues. There are even international championships as well. Organisers at UKFootGolf remain on the lookout for clubs interested in becoming venues and insist there’s no damage to the existing golf course and the potential for £50k revenue pa. Like discgolf, for clubs with land to spare this may be an ideal opportunity to create a new revenue stream; what’s more it’s likely to bring new blood into the club.

Personally I’d love to have a crack at it, but sadly my decrepit knees won’t allow me to kick a ball of any description anymore. If I swing my leg too quickly I’m just as likely to hole out with the bottom part of it as I am the football. GMé

David Bowers

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