GMé | August 2015

Page 1


On the cover...

Even in challenging conditions, Toro helped to keep the 144th Open Championship on course at St Andrews last month


£6.50 Issue 103 | August 2015

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

As the new CEO of Crown Golf, Stephen Towers discusses the new suite of services on offer to third-party golf club owners and operators





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On the agenda august 2015 36


Crowning glory for Towers

Since taking over at CEO of Crown Golf, Stephen Towers has set about transforming the business, including launching a range of services which non-Crown clubs can utilise.


Queue Busting


Shepherd flocks to Monte Rei


Mission Impossible in China

As group director of golf responsible for 11 venues within the QHotels portfolio, John Angus discusses QFairway, as well as the De Vere acquisition.

As one of the finest golf resorts in Portugal, Monte Rei’s golf operation is managed by David Shepherd, an Englishman who appears to be on a lucky streak.

Publisher Michael Lenihan recently returned from a weeklong visit to Mission Hills resorts in Dongguan, China and reports from the worlds largest golf resort.



A different GPS route

Cart-mounted GPS systems are growing in popularity, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to purchase direct from the buggy manufacturer.

GMé is published and distributed six times per year by Portman Publishing and Communications Limited Deben House, Main Road, Martlesham, Woodbridge IP12 4SE Telephone (44) 01394 380800 |


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from the publisher

“I too question how KPMG can, effectively, act for both parties in this dispute. Why, is clear – but ‘how’ remains questionable”

VAT resolution will not happen until industry bodies work as one If you’ve ever taken part in a tug-o-war team you’ll know that the secret of success is pulling backwards, together, in a straight line. Should one member of the team choose to go out at 90 degrees to the rest of the team, the contest will be lost. It’s that simple. And those golfing organisations looking to obtain a resolution to the VAT distortion in the sport might well take note. The Association of Golf Course Owners’ (AGCO) Vivien Saunders – one of the most outspoken critics of the clear imbalance in the industry – chose to put out a press release, which stated: “The UK Golf Course Owners Association (UKGCO) has put out a statement suggesting that they are making huge inroads into the possible changes to VAT regulations by meeting with the Treasury. “Most of the background work to this has been done by AGCO over a 22-year period. Andrew Sutcliffe was a director of AGCO and much of the work he used was developed by AGCO, including counsel’s opinion.” This followed a meeting in late July when HM Treasury agreed to continue a dialogue with a project team made up from UKGCOA, England Golf and KPMG to work towards a resolution. The team “representing the golf business” included David Joy, the chief executive of England Golf and UKGCOA board member Andrew Sutcliffe. The statement put out by UKGCOA also said that the presentation received legal technical assistance and advice from

4 | GMé August 2015

BOTH SIDES OF THE STORY KPMG who are acting on behalf of England Golf and the UKGCOA

KPMG – a quirk which was also pounced upon by Saunders, who said: “We question the judgment of the UKGCOA in using KPMG who are acting in total opposition to the proprietary sector in the Bridport case, in which members’ clubs are in total claiming back some £500 million of VAT on certain green fees.” I too question how KPMG can, effectively, act for both parties in this dispute. Why, is clear – but ‘how’ remains questionable. As for the discussion itself, apparently the parties concerned would consider a reduced rate of five per cent VAT “for participation at a proprietary golf facility” fair.

If member clubs are still paying zero VAT, that is still not the much-vaunted ‘level playing field’ that needs to exist. The UKGCOA, England Golf and AGCO would do well to remember the tug-owar team – unless everybody pulls in the same direction, simultaneously, they’re unlikely to get it over the line. GMé

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Hold the front page Despite some of the most challenging weather conditions in living memory, the Old Course at St Andrews was kept in fantastic condition, thanks to a little help and support from Toro.

“Toro and St Andrews Links share a rich history of innovation and quality, and we were proud to support the Home of Golf and the 2015 Open Championship”

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

6 | GMé August 2015

The R&A may have battled with the elements at The Open Championship, but despite this year’s unrelenting rain and wind, the aesthetics and playability of St Andrews Links’ historic Old Course received high praise from many of the Championship’s players. The beautifully presented course, which provided a demanding yet unique test for the world’s very best golfers, was prepared using all-Toro irrigation and equipment, including greens, fairway and rough mowers, and utility vehicles. St Andrews’ director of greenkeeping, Gordon Moir, says the Toro equipment allowed his 65-strong greenkeeping team to achieve the best possible conditions for what was the 29th time The Open took place at the world’s most famous Links. Crews spent months preparing for the event with the help of Toro products from distributor Lely UK. And, following the play-off in which Zach Johnson took the Champion Golfer of the Year title, it seems the hard work paid off. “The R&A told us many players said the course was the best they’d ever seen it,” said Moir. “All our Toro’s performed fantastically well prior to and throughout the tournament, giving us that reliably precise finish an event like The Open demands.

“Our Greensmaster TriFlex Hybrid 3420 mowers were a particular favourite, resulting in a superb cut and finish on the fairways,” said Moir, who expressed his appreciation for the support received by both Toro and Lely. “We had a couple of Toro service engineers from Lely on hand throughout the tournament, who sharpened and handled machine maintenance, and this support really was a huge help.” Toro also supplied St Andrews’ greenkeeping team with a brand new uniform especially for the championship. “As our official supplier, Toro has provided mowing equipment to the course for 15 years, throughout which they’ve supported us through many an event. “We’re very grateful for their continued support during the 2015 Open, and the new uniform was a great addition, ensuring our greens team looked just as smart as the course,” concluded Moir. Darren Redetzke, vice president of The Toro Company’s international business added: “Toro and St Andrews Links share a rich history of innovation and quality, and we were proud to support the Home of Golf and the 2015 Open Championship. It’s truly an honour to be part of continuing this legacy of excellence.” GMé

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Adidas appoints investment bank to consider options for struggling golf brands International sports giant Adidas is considering a sale of its golf brands – including Ashworth and TaylorMade – after hiring an investment bank to explore options for the division. Adidas revealed the possible sale of its golf business, which also includes the Salomon and Adams brands, as it battles against a drop in the sport’s participation numbers. The number of golf courses in the US, which accounts for around half the global golf market, has fallen steadily for the past eight years. Adidas reported its golf unit had seen double-digit sales declines in most of its categories, with particularly sharp falls in metal-wood and irons. The German group bought the TaylorMade brand in 1997, along with Salomon, developing it into the world’s biggest golf supplier. The company also bought the Ashworth golf brand for £47 million in 2008, and Adams for slightly less in 2012. Adidas has already overhauled top management at the golf business, including appointing David Abeles as its new chief executive in March, and launched a restructuring programme last year. In a statement, the company said: “As a reaction to the persisting challenges at TaylorMade-Adidas Golf, the Adidas Group has initiated a major turnaround plan for its golf business. The set of measures is aimed at enhancing the

company’s pricing, promotion and trade patterns, as well as optimising the supply chain and product costs. “In addition, the Adidas Group has engaged with an investment bank for the purpose of analysing future options for the company’s golf business, in particular the Adams and Ashworth brands.” Despite the decline in golf sales, a strong performance by its Reebok and Adidas ranges lifted group sales by five per cent during the first six months of the year, with Adidas reporting pre-tax profits of €225 million for the half year.

Small to leave Wentworth

Fagan and Burgess step down from Oceânico board

The Wentworth Club has announced the appointment of Stephen Gibson as chief executive, succeeding Julian Small, who will leave the club after almost 20 years to join Jumeirah Golf Estates as managing director, club operations. In a statement, Small said: “It has been a privilege to have been chief executive of Wentworth Club, but I think the time is right to take on a new challenge. “Jumeirah Golf Estates is going through an exciting period of development, with Dubai’s market dynamics and the upcoming EXPO 2020 spurring continued demand for the residential golf community. “I am thrilled to be joining Jumeirah Golf Estates, as we aim to further enhance its current and future offerings.” Gibson added: “I am honoured to have been asked by Dr Chanchai Ruayrungruang to become chief executive of Wentworth Club. I look forward to leading such a prestigious and historic club into its next exciting chapter.”

8 | GMé August 2015

The Adidas TaylorMade stand at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando

(LR): Simon Burgess, Darren Clarke & Gerry Fagan

Oceânico Group, the Algarve-based resort and golf owner-operator, has announced, a change in its management structure. With immediate effect Gerry Fagan has stepped down from his positions in Oceânico Lusoirlandês, S.A., Morgado da Lameira, S.A., Estrela da Luz, S.A. and Sociropa, S.A. and, as a consequence neither he, nor Simon Burgess will have any further involvement or relationship with any of the companies mentioned above or with Oceânico Golf, S.A.

Zuzanna Pusz, an analyst at Berenberg, said Adidas was trying to offload the part of its golf business that made clubs, where sales are falling, while retaining footwear and apparel. However, it was not clear whether the company would be able to find a buyer given the poor growth prospects for the hardware sector. Pusz also believes Adidas has benefited from the weak euro this year. Its sourcing costs, which are denominated in US dollars, are still hedged at last year’s exchange rates, when the euro was stronger.

Furthermore, Oceânico Group also announced that Christopher Howell will continue in the position of chairman of the board, while Heitor Tomás will also remain in the position of group finance director. Both have been reappointed for a further four years as main board directors. In addition, Christopher Stilwell, Oceânico Golf CEO, will join them on the board of directors of Oceânico Golf, S.A. Commenting about the management changes, Howell said: “I would like to take this opportunity to thank both Gerry and Simon for their years of work on the managing board and obviously for their role as founders, as well as wish them all the best in their future endeavours. “This is an exciting time for the Oceânico Group following on from last week’s announcement of record golf booking figures for the upcoming months of September and October as well as our major property launch in the Algarve,” he said.


Jacobsen strikes Gold for Rio 2016 Olympics

In brief... John Deere will continue as a title sponsor of professional golf to 2023 as a result of a seven-year extension announced by Deere & Company, the PGA Tour and the John Deere Classic tournament. The agreement includes sponsorship of the John Deere Classic and multiple designations for John Deere in the Tour’s Official Marketing Partner programme. One of Scotland’s most iconic golf clubs has opened its doors to a newly revamped clubhouse following an extensive 21st century upgrade. Gullane Golf Club, which has a history stretching back over 130 years, completed the development in time for the 2015 Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open which the club hosted last month. Justin Rose and Charley Hull have agreed to become England Golf Ambassadors to champion the work of the organisation. Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, and Hull, the youngest-ever Solheim Cup player, both represented England as amateurs before embarking on their professional careers. David Joy, chief executive of England Golf, commented: “We are delighted to welcome Justin and Charley as our Ambassadors and look forward to working with them.” Dreamland Golf Club, the IMG-managed golf club in Baku, Azerbaijan, has just completed the installation of the StayPrime Elite Pro+ GPS golf cart fleet management system. Dreamland operates a mixed fleet of golf cars comprising Club Cars for regular golfers, and Garia’s for VIPs. Hugh Bishop, chief executive officer of StayPrime Global, said: “We are delighted to welcome Dreamland Golf Club to the evergrowing StayPrime family of golf clubs, courses and resorts.”

Jacobsen mowing equipment, built at the company’s manufacturing facilities in Ipswich, UK and Charlotte, USA are maintaining the Rio Olympic Golf Course as golf returns to the Olympic Games after a 112-year absence. After winning the exclusive supply contract for the mowing equipment, Jacobsen machines have been mowing the course for the past 15 months as construction finished and grow-in progressed. Initially, 18 machines were delivered in June 2014, and by the time the first test event takes place in early 2016, a total of 35 Jacobsen turf maintenance machines will be on course. During the Olympics, the course will be in constant use for 14 days and a team of Jacobsen technicians will be running the maintenance facility to provide 24-hour support. Englishman Neil Cleverly was appointed course superintendent in June 2013 and has worked closely with Gil Hanse, the course architect, whose design was chosen as the preferred option from eight high profile entries. Alan Prickett, managing director of Ransomes Jacobsen in the UK said: “We are, once again, delighted to be involved in the Olympic Games and it continues a tradition that goes back over many decades.

“This was a particularly important win for us, as it marks the return of golf as an Olympic sport after more than a century, and it is sure to be one of the high-profile events at the Games. One of the deciding factors in our winning of the contract was that we have a distributor in Brazil. “ProGolf has represented the Jacobsen brand in Brazil since 2012 as well as Ryan, Turfco and Smithco, and they are working as sub-contractors at the Olympic course,” said Prickett. During the Games, the course will host two 60-competitor tournaments with the women’s event following the men’s competition over a two-week period. It will accommodate 2,500 spectators in grandstands with space for a further 17,500 around the course.

Jacobsen equipment at the Olympic course

HSBC renews agreement with The Open Championship

Giles Morgan of HSBC

HSBC has renewed its agreement as a Patron of The Open and will continue as the Official Banking Partner of the Championship, with the new five-year agreement announced at the 144th Open at St Andrews. Peter Dawson, chief executive of The R&A, said: “We are delighted that HSBC has renewed its agreement and will continue as a Patron of The Open. HSBC is a valued partner for the Championship and we very much appreciate their continuing commitment.

“In addition to their support for The Open, HSBC has made an outstanding contribution to the development of golf around the world.” Giles Morgan, global head of sponsorship and events at HSBC, added: “Our commitment to golf globally stretches back to 2003, and right at the heart of this is our partnership with The R&A. We have sponsored over 40 professional golf tournaments around the world and The Open creates a centre of gravity for this portfolio at every level, from grassroots to elite. Today represents a landmark moment for HSBC and we look forward to continuing our successful partnership with The R&A and the world’s oldest championship.” HSBC became a Patron of The Open in 2010 and is actively involved in a wide range of golf initiatives around the world. The bank is also an active supporter of youth development and grassroots programmes such as the HSBC Junior Golf Programme in China, which is a major initiative designed to nurture the next generation of golfers in that country. | 9




England Golf launches Trust to support young players and encourage participation A new charitable trust, supported by England Golf, was launched earlier this month, and will provide grants and bursaries for boys and girls who need financial help to play the game. The England Golf Trust replaces and extends the scope of the former EWGA Trust for girls’ golf, and is being backed by ambassadors, BBC presenter Naga Munchetty and European Tour professional Robert Rock. Munchetty said: “Every time I play I see the effect that the game has on the development of young people’s personal skills, confidence and values — and this is why I am delighted to be associated with the England Golf Trust. Young people are the lifeblood of our golf clubs so helping them to play in a fun environment should be encouraged by us all.” The Trust will help young people, aged under 21 or in full-time education, who are in financial need and who, without this support, would not be able to play golf. It will award grants and bursaries. Money which was given to the EWGA Trust to help girls, has been ring fenced and the Angela Uzielli and Bellamy Bursaries will also be open only to girls. But all future money will be available for both boys and girls. Trust chairman Di Horsley said: “It became clear that to make a real difference to young people, we should have a trust supporting both boys and young

England Golf Trust launch at Kings Norton Golf Club

men as well as girls and young women. The England Golf Trust fills a gap by offering help to young people who genuinely can’t afford to play golf, but who love the sport. “It will give them the opportunity to stay in the game, to develop life skills including confidence, self-esteem and integrity and to help make up the heart and soul of our golf clubs.” Among those attending the launch were representatives of the PGA and

the Golf Foundation, together with four young women who have been helped by the former EWGA Trust and who spoke about the support they had received. They included Lucy Buckley, from Birmingham, who first started playing golf, aged ten, on the Wii — and loved it. Her grandma enrolled her for a series of golf lessons with Greg Lynch, the PGA pro at their local driving range, and Lynch encouraged her to join Warley Woods Golf Club.

Nicklaus design Westwood urges authorities for Municipal to do more to promote golf Hoylake’s municipal golf course has been earmarked as the site for the new Jack Nicklaus private golf resort. Wirral Council says a replacement public course will be built alongside the new facility and that local golfers are “very much at the centre” of their plans. Nicklaus’ own company would design the new municipal links – making it unique among council-owned courses – after the legendary golfer was announced as the council’s preferred developer for the multi-million pound resort scheme. The initiative will bring an 18-hole championship course, a luxury five-star Marriott hotel, including health and spa facilities, a clubhouse and an academy. Clubs affiliated to the Hoylake course have been updated on the proposed new resort by Wirral’s director of regeneration, Kevin Adderley, who said although the council-owned site was earmarked for the private development, a new municipal course would be built next to the site.

10 | GMé August 2015

Former world number-one Lee Westwood believes governing bodies need to consider making holes bigger in an effort to increase participation in the sport. Westwood feels the game’s authorities are not doing enough to promote the game to a diverse audience, and he expressed particular concern at the lack of women playing the game in the UK, which has one of the worst ratios for female participation in the world. He said: “Golf is not doing enough and it needs to be promoted better. The R&A, the PGA and the European Tour need to do more to encourage women to take up the game. In Britain it’s a very poor percentage of women who play the game.” He also suggested considering options to make the sport more attractive and less time-consuming. He added: “Golf needs to be faster and cheaper. It’s very expensive to join a golf club and there needs to be a shorter format of the game.

“Five hours on a Saturday or Sunday to be out of the house is too long; there needs to be a two-hour format of the game. The holes need to be made bigger – the game is too difficult and that makes it less fun. “Golf also needs to have the stigma that it’s for old men – toffs – taken away from it. I’m from a working-class background and started playing on a municipal golf course – there needs to be more municipal courses.”

Lee Westwood

‘Specialist in Golf Course Construction’ Repton Short Course at Rudding Park Royal Birkdale, Royal St George’s Carnoustie, Goodwood


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09/02/2015 12:14:04 | 11



Amsterdam to stage anniversary conference as EGCOA returns home The European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA) has announced that Amsterdam will be the host city for the tenth Anniversary European Golf Business Conference. Scheduled to be staged between November 25-27, the conference will be held at the newly built Schiphol Hilton Hotel, and one of the Netherlands leading courses – The International – both of which are conveniently located at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. The 2015 conference theme, ‘From VISION to action’, will highlight the success of many golf facilities across Europe who have shared their VISION, and have taken action to change and adapt their approach to the fast changing golf market. Commenting on the anniversary, EGCOA president Alexander Baron von Spoercken said: “We are delighted to be marking the tenth anniversary of the EGCOA and the conference back home where it all started in Amsterdam.

“Since the inaugural conference in 2006, the event has grown from strength to strength, welcoming many of the most influential people in the European and global golf industry. “We are proud to say the conference is now a major event for golfing industry players of all levels and is widely regard-

Members keen on land deal

Golf Europe 2015 trade fair is cancelled

Members at an Ayrshire club are lining up a potential million pound windfall with a developer poised to purchase a prime patch of land, as retirement specialist, McCarthy & Stone wants a one-acre slice of Prestwick St Cuthbert Golf Club to build upmarket apartments. Members have been secretly discussing the bid, and at a recent meeting there was a massive show of hands in favour of selling. Though members pay £742 a year, money remains tight; joining fees have been slashed and there is no waiting list. Secretary Jim Jess confirmed there had been a meeting but denied suggestions members were split on the issue. “We are at early stages and obviously there is South Ayrshire Council to negotiate planning permission,” he said. “We have had huge offers in the past for the land and even for the whole course, but we have never taken these to the members. “The land involved is not part of the course and the view was unanimous at the last meeting, and we have a mandate to continue negotiations with McCarthy & Stone, a highly respected developer of retirement homes.” He said: “We are still talking about figures and it could be their valuation does not meet the club’s and we decide not to go ahead. We are not desperate to sell, they approached us.”

As the organiser of the international golf trade fair Golf Europe, Messe Augsburg has decided to postpone the trade fair until 2016. In a statement, the show organisers said: “Despite the extensive interest displayed by both exhibitors and partners, the latest developments in the golf industry necessitate a review of the future organisation of this event. “In the past few years, Golf Europe has successfully established itself as a business platform for the entire European golf industry. “The high quality standards and attentiveness of the trade fair team and the

12 | GMé August 2015

The Schiphol Hilton will stage the tenth anniversary EGCOA conference in November

ed as a must attend event on the golf business calendar. “Building on the momentum and overwhelming responses we have received for the VISION 2020 project, we are working hard to make our anniversary event a memorable celebration of the EGCOA’s work over the last decade.’’

choice of Augsburg as a trade fair location as it is centrally situated in a charming region and has excellent transport links, have won unanimous praise,” the statement continued. “The exhibitors from the various industry sectors nevertheless seem very heterogeneous, especially as far as the ideal time frame for the trade fair is concerned. “It has therefore been decided that the industry meeting’s profile needs to be defined in more detail for the relevant target groups, in consultation with the partners, in order to find a date that is as convenient as possible for all participants.”

The conference centre where Golf Europe is held in Augsburg, Germany | 13



Surprise increase in number of rounds played in 2015 claim SMS Inc. Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. (SMS INC.) has announced a year-on-year increase in the number of rounds played during the second quarter of 2015. The sports research company has confirmed that the number of golf rounds played in the second quarter of 2015 exceeds that of those played in the same period of 2014. The average number of rounds played has increased by 3.5 per cent in this quarter when compared to last year, and, hot off the heels of a similarly encouraging first quarter, the half yearly total of rounds played is up 6.7 per cent compared to in 2014. In April, all UK regions saw increases in rounds played, with an average of a 6.9 per cent increase compared to 2014. This is perhaps due to the month being dry and according to provisional figures, the sunniest since 1942 across the UK. The overall UK rainfall was 64 per cent of average. Scotland saw the coldest May since 1996, and the fourth wettest since 1910. Perhaps unsurprisingly then, Scotland saw a decrease of 15.6 per cent in its rounds played compared to 2014, however all other regions saw increases. The number of rounds played in June was up by just 0.9 per cent nationally compared to 2014.

England’s sunshine amounts were 125 per cent of average, resulting in positive results across all regions. Scotland, however, saw 103 per cent of average rainfall, resulting in a decrease of 8.5 per cent of rounds played across the region compared to 2014. There were few major sporting events competing for golfers’ attention, which is a contributing factor to these positive numbers.

Mowing ban to keep the peace

PGA extends its relationship with Wordsworth and 59Club

A Cheshire golf club has agreed not to mow its greens before 7.30am – after repeated complaints about the noise. Retired David Horner, who suffers with a neurological problem, said his life was being made a misery by mowers at Astbury Golf Club, which backs on to his home of 35 years. He claimed the club would start mowing as early as 5.30am, frequently disturbing his sleep. Now the club has confirmed its groundsmen will not cut the grass early in the morning. Horner, 64, said: “The mowers would start at 5.30am and startle me awake. I complained to the golf club as they have been extremely arrogant.” Club secretary Fred Reed said: “Following his initial complaint we met with Cheshire East Council and agreed a schedule of cutting and timings that ensured no activity before 7.30am. We have adhered to that schedule but it has not satisfied Mr Horner nor stopped his complaints. “Astbury Golf Club has a proud tradition of being a good neighbour and has no desire for that situation to change.”

The PGA has extended its PGA Official Supplier agreement with leading customer service analysts 59Club for a further three years. Benchmarking is becoming an increasingly standard procedure for clubs and resorts looking to ensure levels of customer service and 59Club has established itself as a leading exponent. It’s a message The PGA is driving home to its members and as part of the agreement 59Club will be providing additional educational opportunities to help PGA pros meet the needs and expectations of the golf industry. 59Club employs mystery testers with telephone enquiry calls and live visits to analyse customer service levels with the data and feedback fed back for staff training programmes. Simon Wordsworth, chief executive at 59Club and a PGA Fellow Professional, said: “I have always been of the view that the PGA professional is the central point of every golf club. “59club is proud to be part of, not only the education programme that cements that but to be the company that allows

14 | GMé August 2015

Richard Payne of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc.

Commenting on the figures, Richard Payne, senior manager of sports accounts at SMS INC. said: “The amount of golf played in this quarter was up across the UK in contrast to 2014, and a seven per cent increase at this mid-year point is a fantastic figure. “Golf participation numbers have stabilised, and going forward we are hoping to see more positive results again next quarter.”

Simon Wordsworth of 59Club

all PGA Professionals to be the driver of improved customer service within their venue. “59Club’s system and products can be perfectly matched and personalised to the multitude of venue styles and cultures that my fellow professionals work in.”

picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a significant honour for Iain Roberts, the group executive director of Mission Hills in China.







In brief... Abbey Hill Golf Centre, a BGL venue, has announced the completion of a £90,000 clubhouse refurbishment programme, which includes a new 120 cover function room. Andrew Scholey, general manager at Abbey Hill, said: “We are delighted with how the renovation has gone and really feel the new facilities provide a fresh, modern look.” The Golf Trade Show has announced the industry’s major manufacturers and suppliers will, once again, be exhibiting at Europe’s largest retail and education event, in the Harrogate International Centre on October 6-8, 2015. Major hardware manufacturers to feature at Golf Trade Show 2015 will include: Bridgestone, Callaway, Cleveland Golf, Cobra PUMA, Lynx, Mizuno, PING, TaylorMade, Titleist, Srixon and Wilson. The AFT Trenchers 45 and AFT Wizz Wheel are set to install a full drainage scheme in the 96-yearold greens at Worcestershire Golf Club, as well as playing a vital part in the installation of a new irrigation system. It is the primary task of Steven Lloyd, who took over his current role as course manager last October, to address the issue of drainage and find a solution to flooding which had closed five greens for four months the previous winter. PGA Catalunya Resort has announced a 15 per cent rise in international visitors for the first half of 2015. Between January and June, the resort located just outside Girona and less than an hour’s drive from Barcelona, has enjoyed significant year-on-year increases in visitor numbers, driven by a 16 per cent rise from the UK, a seven per cent increase from Switzerland and a five per cent rise from both France and the Nordic countries.


Mission Hills’ group executive director, Iain Roberts, has been crowned a PGA Master Professional. The honour was bestowed in the PGA’s latest Accreditation for Professional Achievement and Learning.


Home to the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, Abu Dhabi Golf Club is delighted to announce the strategic promotion of director of club operations, Paul Booth, to the position of general manager with immediate effect.


Hanbury Manor has announced two new appointments to its golf operations team. Adam Tross has been taken on as a golf sales executive, while Sean Mitchell has been promoted from assistant professional to golf events co-ordinator.


Fairmont St Andrews, the five-star luxury golf resort at Scotland’s ‘Home of Golf’, is ready to write an exciting new chapter in its history after appointing Irishman, John Keating, as the resort’s new general manager.


Peter Driver, Ransomes Jacobsen’s public relations manager, has won an international writing award from the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association, a US-based body composed of editors, writers and publishers.


A professional golfer has launched a brand new events company by mixing business and pleasure. Michael Chamberlain’s company, Clubs Away, aims to take away the hassle of organising a golfing expedition. | 15



company profile BAYWATCH The Bay Course at Costa Navarino, Messinia, Greece

World of Leading Golf driving quality The World of Leading Golf is a growing collection of some of the finest golf venues in the world, and as Samuel Frederick investigates, there are far more benefits to being a member than at first meets the eye.

Company Profile sponsored by World of Leading Golf (49) 151 1964 6682

16 | GMé August 2015

With the core golf market continually shrinking as the number of rounds played per club and country deteriorate by the year, even the finest golf clubs need to ask themselves ‘what exactly is it that the discerning golfer desires?’ One imagines prestigious establishments such as Stoke Park or Roehampton Club should not really have anything to fear, but, nevertheless, both decided to join World of Leading Golf (WLG) in order to help maintain their status and make it known on a pan-European scale. WLG is a corporation representing some of the globe’s most distinctive clubs, and the core of the terms of admission are a complete devotion to the quality and values of golf. Member clubs and potential members are tested anonymously to certify their compliance to WLG standards, in order that the brand can provide an objectively evaluated certification to identify the ‘best of the best’ and position them as the ‘Champions League’ of golf courses. Stoke Park’s Stuart Collier, the director of golf at the five-AA Red Star Hotel, said: “We were delighted to lead the way in England with our WLG membership. “The benefits are clear and it is reassuring to know that golfers across Europe are able to determine immediately the quality of our venue simply because we have the stamp of approval from WLG.”

And this is exactly what WLG is aiming to achieve: to establish a brand representing the elite golf clubs in Europe and serve as a credible means of benchmarking for the moneyed, but, consequently, fastidious golfer. However, it is not just courses that attract this desirable target audience of sophisticated golfers. To them, golf is not just the game – it’s a question of attitude and lifestyle. Ambience, gastronomy and obliging customer service, therefore, play a key role in creating the aspirational ‘World of Leading Golf experience’. Consequently, the comprehensive WLG mystery test covers more than 400 items of interest from the first call at the club, across all golf and course-relevant questions, to refreshments and the last ‘good-byes’. Ascertaining absolute impartiality, the test is carried out by Europe’s leading golf-specific mystery shopper service, 59Club. With renowned member clubs like Roehampton Club, Golf Son Gual, Golfclub Beuerberg and Costa Navarino, across 16 countries, WLG enjoys increasing worldwide influence. WLG CEO Claus Feldt explained: “The brand, and whoever is connected to it, will be recognised as part of the elite of golf. Serving as ambassadors of the WLG brand and associated member clubs everywhere they go, the management

FIVE STAR RATING A sign plate at a member club

GOLDEN PEDIGREE Stoke Park, England

LEADING THE WAY Golf Son Gual, Mallorca

will represent members’ interests: on the web, facing the press, and in their presence at trade and consumer fairs. “Presidents, managers and the leading personnel of member clubs will profit from a diverse means of networking – online and personally – by meeting up at our varied events. Research and consultancy on the basis of the mystery-test results will help eliminate any weaknesses and raise our already high standards.” While the number of golf club members in England, especially, is on the slide, the upward trend of golf tourism is unbroken. And this is why WLG focuses on marketing and communication platforms for certified premium clubs in order to promote awareness and raise their return on investment. Print and on-line publications – such as its annual WLG Guide, advertisements and regular newsletters – serve as refer-

ence guides for the demanding golfer, while ‘member only’ travel offers and other advantages help deepen the relationship between the designated golfers and WLG member clubs. In the next month, WLG will introduce a new ‘concierge services’ platform, a web-based booking tool accessible only to those golfers who belong to WLG member clubs. Since ‘reductions’ and ‘2-for-1’ offers are not the means by which WLG is looking to make sales, the website enables users to book tee-times for VIP packages automatically granted to registered WLG member golfers. Exclusive golf breaks and event and tournament-packages at WLG member clubs will enable participants to ‘feel like a member’, which is the conceptual guideline for all offers provided within the WLG concierge service. While golfers enjoy certified standards and

outstanding services, the member clubs themselves profit from networking at eye-level, since WLG regularly organises connecting trips and networking days for presidents and managers of member clubs. De facto and potential partners and sponsors may also participate in such events to present themselves and discuss joint activities. David Shepherd, director of golf at Monte Rei Golf & Country Club – ranked number one in Portugal in many polls – approves of the efforts being made by WLG. He said: “Since golf is a seasonal sport, there is a lot of potential in the co-operation of northern and southern European clubs especially. Furthermore WLG has been forging contacts to launch a number of tournaments for co-op partners in the consumer industry, finance and charity sectors.” GMé | 17



stephen towers

Towers rings the changes as Crown Golf widens its appeal Since taking over as CEO of Crown Golf earlier in the year, Stephen Towers has set about transforming the business, putting St Mellion up for sale, and launching a range of services which non-Crown golf clubs can utilise. Interview by Andy Hiseman.

18 | GMĂŠ August 2015 OPEN FOR BUSINESS Stephen Towers (main picture) and right, as a members’ club which is also popular with visitors, South Winchester Golf Club accesses Crown Golf’s full range of management expertise

Crown Golf, the UK’s largest golf club owner and operator, has introduced an initiative in which other golf club owners and operators can access the company’s management skillset, purchasing power and Open Play Affiliation. Customers can contract Crown Golf to provide a complete package of golf club operating services, including core management areas such as operations, purchasing, F&B, sales, health & safety and golf course maintenance, or a tailored consultancy package based on the customer’s specific requirements. And for the first time, non-Crown Golf clubs can now join the group’s highlypopular Open Play Affiliation, subject to a simple suitability test. This boosts the attraction of membership by offering club members playing rights at a large number of facilities within the price of a single golf club membership. But what triggered this change of thinking? “When I took over the CEO role, I reviewed the business, and a number of different factors contributed to this decision,” said Crown Golf’s chief executive officer Stephen Towers, who took over the role earlier this year. “We will continue to aggressively market and operate our existing portfolio of golf clubs, and this will remain the main focus for the company. However, from talking to other golf operators and those interested in our business, I

identified that we are able to operate our courses at consistently higher levels of conversion than comparable courses, not just because of our scale, but also because of the systems and learnings we have been able to develop as the largest multi-site golf operator. That has created an opportunity. “We have restructured our own internal operations on a more contract-style structure, so that addition of other sites to the portfolio and a provision of advice is now possible. “We have had a number of direct approaches from golf owners who enjoy golf, and owning golf courses, but who do not want the full-time involvement of day-to-day golf operations. They need their business to be able to develop and grow in safe hands,” added Towers. Unsurprisingly, Crown Golf has a number of examples from within its own group of properties which demonstrate where they have successfully implemented change via the systems and learnings which they have developed over the years. Take greenkeeping as an example. The group has restructured its course management operations to gain more benefit from its scale. Greenkeeping teams are now clustered, with turf care machinery and resources managed under a cluster course manager. As a by-product, several internal progression opportunities were created

“When I took over the CEO role, I reviewed the business, and a number of different factors contributed to this decision” | 19



stephen towers

for some of the group’s key greenkeeping talents, retaining them within the business and also opening the way for new team members to arrive. Crown Golf has recently increased its machinery utilisation by 70 peer cent, and reports that its ability to draw on group-wide resources for maintenance – along with a targeted machinery investment – has reduced course down time across the group by around 50 per cent. In F&B, the group reports that it has greatly improved its operational and purchasing efficiencies. “We have moved our F&B margins by 830 basis points in the last five years, providing a clear bottom-line improvement,” says Towers. As regards tee sheet management, Crown Golf has an excellent record. “We are a very broad church, with exclusive private members clubs such as Batchworth Park sitting alongside some of the UK’s best-performing pay and play clubs in the group. “Our tee sheet management systems, introduced from the hotel world and focussing on utilisation, pricing, mix and distribution, have produced double-digit rises in tee sheet yield in 2015.” Aggressive new business activity has also enabled Crown Golf to expand its green fee customer database signifi-

20 | GMé August 2015

cantly over recent seasons, providing increased profitability and long term membership sales opportunities. A key part of the new service is access to Open Play, as Towers explains: “Open Play is a key driver of new memberships and member retention across the Crown Golf group. “Following the recent return of the lease to the land owner at Blue Mountain Golf Centre, we retained almost 80 per cent of Blue Mountain memberships within the Crown Golf estate, with members transferring to nearby Sherfield Oaks, Oak Park and Pine Ridge – largely because they wanted to retain the benefit of Open Play. That is a superb endorsement of what is a spectacularly successful scheme. “On average, one of our members will play at six other Crown Golf properties each year – and some play a lot more than that. Open Play gives the member an option they simply don’t have elsewhere, both because we are the largest group, and also because we manage it very efficiently. “Even non-regular users see it as a huge benefit, particularly if their home course is affected by maintenance or weather issues at any point in time,” continued Towers.

The company already has four Open Play Affiliation courses, and expects this number to grow, reporting a minimal effect on green fee revenues and limited overlap with potential new full membership joiners. “Given that the majority of our green fee income is typically generated from non-golf club members, Open Play helps us to attract nomadic golfers, introducing them to club golf, without curtailing their opportunity to enjoy several golf courses,” says Towers. Management services are available to all golf clubs, regardless of their location. “If for any reason there is a conflict of interest because of local competition, we would advise a potential client well before engagement. However, supporting other golf clubs to make more money and improve their operations is not mutually exclusive to the success of our own clubs, and of course it is beneficial for the game of golf overall.” Crown Golf, which recently moved its headquarters to Pine Ridge Golf Centre in Frimley, Surrey, intends to deploy the services and the individuals involved based on the needs of each specific management project. “From an overall business review perspective, I would typically get CROWNING GLORY Left, golfers enjoying a round at Milford Golf Club, a popular destination for Open Play golfers; right, Oak Park Golf Club, a popular club within the Crown network, and below, female participation rates across the Crown Golf group are higher than the industry average

“Given that the majority of our green fee income is typically generated from non-golf club members, Open Play helps us to attract nomadic golfers”

involved before we took on a new engagement,” says Towers. “With a 25-year background in the hotel, hospitality and golf industries, I am well-placed to understand the key business issues and to provide focus on the drivers that will bring about positive change. “Course management is led by Mike Bush, one of the world’s youngest master greenkeepers and a well-known figure within BIGGA. Mike provides a wealth of experience, with an unusual combination of proven high-quality course delivery and a highly commercial track record. “He has been involved in the establishment of many of our group-wide course systems and procedures, from machinery set up and operations to turfcare, including chemical specification and composition. “Group operations is led on the ground regionally by our director of operations, Robert Climas, a qualified PGA pro with over a decade of multisite operational management experience, including leading key business projects around business development, retail and restructuring. He holds key relationships with a number of external partners, including revenue distribution channels and equipment.

“Depending on the level of engagement there may be a number of other key team members involved, including our property team. The scale and blend of skills and experience present across our management team make Crown Golf class leaders in the UK, I feel.” Once a management service contract is agreed, a SLA (service level agreement) will be put in place to match the contract and Crown Golf will resource the team accordingly. The company expects a significant level of involvement when a business is initially taken on, with the level of support subsequently adjusted to reflect the desired investment from the operating partner. The group intends to offer both longterm projects and one-off or very short term advice. “At Crown Golf we are keen to develop long term relationships, but we recognise that all relationships must start somewhere,” says Towers. “We would certainly be prepared to provide a shorter-term engagement, although we predict that many shortterm arrangements will naturally develop into longer-term partnerships.” Towers expects the bulk of interest to be in the south of England, where Crown Golf is typically better-known and has a

higher concentration of clubs, although the company states that it is happy to consider engagements throughout the UK and Ireland. In spring 2015, Crown Golf announced that its award-winning property St Mellion International Resort was to be offered for sale. “The sale of St Mellion is progressing and we have a number of interested parties,” says Towers. “Our decision to sell was primarily based on the realisation of property opportunities. While this is likely to create some additional capacity subsequently for the team, as previously outlined, the move into management services is primarily led by demand and the opportunity to utilise the broad level of skills and experience unique to Crown Golf.” Towers summarises: “If you own or operate a golf club, the chances are that Crown Golf can make your life easier, more efficient and ultimately more rewarding. “I feel that we are highly-qualified to offer our services to both the membership sector and the more commerciallyrun clubs, so we look forward to hearing from potential customers of all kinds from across the golf industry.” GMé | 21


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bunker renovation Ask any golf course manager what the most time consuming element of on-course maintenance is, and bunkers would be high on that list. But as Scott MacCallum reports, there is a cost-effective, and time-saving option available.

Allen has the Edge with Ecobunker “there had been a great deal of development done into bunker liners, but there was nothing on the market designed to improve bunker faces and edges”

ON CLOSER INSPECTION Llewellyn Matthews (left) with Richard Allen

Ask any golfer to review a golf course that they’ve recently played, and you can be fairly sure that once they reported on the green speed, their relative smoothness and then the quality of the club sandwich, the standard of the bunkers (should they have visited any) will be next in line for marks out of ten. Despite being hazards, bunkers are one of the main selling points for any golf course, but they are perhaps the most difficult of all golf course features to maintain. There are so many variables – the direction of the bunker faces, the prevailing wind direction, the quality of drainage, the provenance of the sand, the volume of the sand – which all conspire to make bunker consistency across 18 holes, a dream many golf courses have little chance of making a reality.

One aspect of a bunker, however, can have uniformity and a longevity which will reduce the need for time-consuming maintenance on a weekly, not to say, daily basis. The Ecobunker construction method ensures that bunker faces and edges look great, perform constantly and require next to no maintenance for up to 20 years, with reliable research showing that maintenance costs are reduced by up to £20,000 per annum. What is it that can guarantee such resilience? Artificial turf. And to whom does the brainchild belong, which led to artificial bunker faces and edges being employed on some of the most prestigious and historic golf courses in the UK and, indeed, worldwide? That would be Welsh civil engineer and golfing nut, Richard Allen.

“I was not only passionate about playing the game; my vocation as a civil engineering designer stoked my interest in golf course architecture. I became chairman of Greens at my local golf club at an early age, and I’ve never lost interest in this fascinating subject,’’ explained Allen. “I discovered that there had been a great deal of development done into bunker liners, but there was nothing on the market designed to improve bunker faces and edges – the area of bunkers which needed the most day-to-day maintenance. “As a civil engineer with a passion for golf, I hit upon the method of constructing layers of synthetic turf – forming a bunker edge retaining structure – that I am now marketing as Ecobunker.” When he says “hit upon” he is actually referring to his very own Eureka Moment | 23



“Ecobunker will improve a golf course, and by doing so, the club will retain members”

IN THE DEEP SOUTH Secession Golf Club in South Carolina

ON THE FACE OF IT The bunker face at Royal Winchester Golf Club

which happened late one evening following a meeting at the golf club. “I was sitting in my car about to drive home and switched on the headlights. The beam hit a roll of used astro turf and to me it looked just like the layers of turf in a revetted bunker. “I did some research over the following few weeks, and found that there was a lot of waste astro turf being dumped at great cost into landfill, and that as it was not biodegradable it made it highly resilient and durable. Perfect for our purposes,” he explained. After producing some drawings showing how the new idea could work, he took it to a golfing friend and colleague, who immediately saw the merit. The pair then began to turn the idea into reality. “I received a lot of assistance and funding from WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). They were vital in supporting the successful patent application as well as providing invaluable marketing support.’’ Among the early adopters was Southerndown Golf Club in South Wales, which after a successful trial decided to install Allen’s revolutionary idea into every bunker on the course. “To have Southerndown show faith in the product was the breakthrough, and other clubs began to take interest.” Quality workmanship is critical to the appearance and hence success of the new bunker faces and edge construction method. When Envirosports Ltd (the original company set up by Allen and his colleague) ceased trading, the construc-

tion team transferred to Allen’s new company Ecobunker Ltd. Among that team is Llewellyn Matthews, who had gained a reputation for superb shaping skills, a passion for quality and a fantastic work ethic. “It helps that our construction manager has huge golfing credibility. Llewellyn Matthews is a former Welsh Champion and played in the Walker Cup at Royal County Down in 2007, where among his team mates and rivals were Rory McIlroy and Rickie Fowler. “Llewellyn is also a qualified greenkeeper and there is no-one better on this planet at building our bunkers – he has a flair for shape and fitting them into the landscape which is extraordinary.” It is the fact that Matthews and his construction team joined Allen under the new Ecobunker banner which gave the company such a superb springboard. “Our first full year exceeded the turnover achieved by Envirosports in its final year, which was wonderful, and much of that can be credited to the fact that the established construction and sales team decided to join with me at Ecobunker,” explained Allen. “It was important to our established clients that we had the team which they had worked, and were familiar with, while many new clients were looking for the reassurance of an experienced tried and tested team to carry out their work,” added Allen, who has sufficient quality manpower to work on three projects simultaneously. “If you have an inspiring person, who can lead, motivate and train the team

24 | GMé August 2015

you will get quality results,” he said. “We also train local greenkeeping teams so that they can carry on the good work.” Ecobunker is currently being rolled out into continental Europe with major work underway at Scherpenbergh (Netherlands), Haningestrand (Sweden), Rheinblick (Germany) and a new opportunity in Denmark, while the huge prize of the United States – a potential market which makes the eyes of every golf industry entrepreneur water – has had a very encouraging start. “This summer we won two stunning full course renovations in the US,” said Allen. “Secession Golf Club, a beautiful links style course in South Carolina became the first to commit, closely followed by the Medalist in Florida, which boasts Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler among the membership. “It was a major logistical challenge to build over 100 bunkers in three months, but with over 70 bunkers now completed, both projects are scheduled to finish early and under budget.” Allen is well aware that the cost saving derived from using Ecobunker for bunker faces and edges is very attractive to all golf course operators, but he is quick to stress that it is quality which does more than anything to ensure a sustainable future for a golf development. “Ecobunker will improve a golf course, and by doing so, the club will retain members and attract visitors. Combine that with the maintenance savings that are made through using Ecobunker, and it really is a win-win.” GMé



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1. Can reduce your bunker maintenance costs by 80% 2. Enables you to transfer labour to other golf course tasks


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As part of the same MM Portal of tools, you can now access online ordering from one single platform covering all of your suppliers! You can also access a price comparison tool for regularly purchased items and start receiving your invoices for supply online. Technology is the key to streamlining your operational costs.

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data capture

Golfingindex seeks unattached golfers Aidan Patrick looks at the myriad benefits golf clubs can draw from capturing data via the launch of Golfingindex.

“In terms of creating a level playing field for all golfers, it is the biggest thing to happen to the sport since handicapping was introduced”

TOUCH-FRIENDLY The Signinbook system in use at Withington golf club

It is not unusual in golf for something to be rolled out to a media fanfare with the normal retinue of ex-pros in attendance saying how wonderful it is… whatever ‘it’ is. We’ve all seen it, and those of us who work within the industry will have received invites to plenty of such shindigs. They’re often great fun with enough alcohol and canapes flowing to cancel the third day’s play in an Open Championship. So maybe this was why Club Systems International (CSI) and HowDidiDo chose to launch the beta version of the innovative and potentially game-changing in a much more understated and serious fashion – consequently we paid more attention to it. Many who will have seen the press release or spoken to Richard Peabody, the managing director of CSI, will have quickly realised the significance and long-term effect of this new system,

26 | GMé August 2015

which is designed to revolutionise the way golf clubs communicate with ‘unattached’ golfers. Of course, for many clubs, communication with pay-and-play golfers is limited to the exchange of a green fee for a scorecard and bag tag. They may say they collect data from visitors but how much of it is clean, maintained and – more to the point – utilised? Golfingindex offers unaffiliated golfers – or ‘unregistered’ in some countries – essential and valuable tools which enable them to experience, analyse and compare their golf to a hitherto unavailable degree. The analysis and benchmarking uses ‘par’, as it is a concept understood and utilised by all golfers worldwide, who may not be familiar with the complexities of SSS and CSS. The golfer’s personal index is created using a unique formula – but, from the golfer’s perspective, it’s a simple, familiar process which involves

submitting scores from each round after the event. The index is calculated and updated automatically, giving unregistered golfers the same ability to play the course as it was intended. And because it is based on ‘par’ it is, therefore, ideal for use in all countries. But for golf clubs the clear benefits are commercial. Using a digital ‘Signinbook’ – free to clubs using utilising swingSURE™ insurance services – clubs retain details of visiting golfers and are able to communicate directly with them. It is hoped this will make visitors feel more attached to the clubs and help reverse the trend of a reduction in members, highlighted by a drop of nearly two per cent in Europe in 2014. Visiting golfers are encouraged to sign the club’s digital visitors’ book, which then generates a Golfingindex card, to be used on subsequent visits to the club or any other club using the ‘Signinbook’.

DATA HUB The display terminal where visitors sign in

Clubs are then able to build up their own database of genuine golfers enabling them to market green-fee offers, products, lessons and even memberships to people they know have visited the course previously, and to have an assessment of their ability level. The Golfingindex is produced and hosted by HowDidiDo, which already holds the handicaps, results and scores of more than 1,300,000 UK golf club members – and powered by Club Systems International. Peabody explained: “It is conservatively estimated there are more than 1,000,000 unattached golfers in the UK&I alone, with many putting the figure as high as three times that. This has always been an issue for clubs – but the launch of Golfingindex changes that. “Clubs can now communicate with visiting golfers in much the same way they do with their members, which means unattached golfers use the clubs

more often and feel valued – ultimately, they may see membership as something to aspire to. “All golfers – be they members or visitors – need courses to play and this tool enables those clubs to target golfers directly. It’s much more focussed and cost-effective than local advertising, not least because it doesn’t cost anything to operate. “And because the system is easy to use and to comprehend, owing to its use of ‘par’, it is not limited to national boundaries, so golfers can use it in any country, at any club. “What’s more, the clubs will also be able to access the database of golf societies that will prove comprehensive through day-to-day use of the system,” added Peabody. For the unattached golfer, the benefits of Golfingindex are manifold – not just the Index which enables them to enjoy the much-vaunted ‘level playing field’.

These include the mechanism to build a profile of one’s own game; post round scores; garner advanced statistics; to compare performance with like-minded friends; and to read and post course reviews. Golfingindex is also a perfect tool for golf society organisers who can use it to communicate with society members; manage and publish the results; create a standard society ‘handicap’ calculation for each member; review courses; create single or multi-round trips; and provide an online portal and home for each individual society. Peabody added: “In terms of creating a level playing field for all golfers, it is the biggest thing to happen to the sport since handicapping was introduced. For the golf clubs, however, it offers unprecedented access to a sector which has often been regarded as unreachable.” And for that reason alone, we should surely embrace it wholeheartedly. GMé | 27


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membership schemes

MOULDING PARTNERSHIPS Paul Mould, founder of Material Matters (left), and below, pictured with Brad Chard of MyTime Active

PRIZED ASSET Golf club trophies are a value commodity for burglars

Rebate Membership Scheme proving to be a Material success Renewals can be an anxious time for golf club operators, but thanks to a new scheme from Material Matters, the entire process could be far less stressful as Aidan Patrick reports. With eyes firmly fixed on 2016, Material Matters are delighted to be celebrating a successful first year with the members of their Rebate Membership Scheme. Renewals can often create a sense of nervousness for any golf club, however this has not been the case for those clubs that have signed up to Material Matters in the past year. “We have had a fantastic first year of our Rebate Membership Scheme,” said Paul Mould, director and founder of Material Matters. “Over 90 per cent of the clubs that joined the scheme have made savings in addition to increasing their spend, there-

fore, accumulating Rebate payments in excess of their Membership Fee. “In addition to the benefits already enjoyed, there is a real focus on the renewal, development and expansion of the scheme to ensure members continue to benefit further,” added Mould. As Material Matters continues to build its brand, and its portfolio of clubs, on October 1, the company will launch a brand new online toolset including Ordering Platform; Online Invoicing; Contract Matters and my-golfbenefits. In addition, three new service areas will also be launched. “The online ordering and invoicing platforms are where we see the future

of main line procurement for our golf clubs,” added Mould. “The control and operational efficiencies offered by using a single platform for a club’s daily ordering requirements are huge, enabling clubs to control spend and supplier compliance at the point of order, whilst streamlining the administration process with the transfer of data. “Contract Matters will remain as the mainstay of contract management for clubs within the group,” he added. “More clubs are using this tool on a daily basis, ensuring no important action dates are missed, and therefore putting them and Material Matters in the driving seat when renegotiating contracts.” | 29


“Material Matters continues to be innovative in all areas of the golf business and, whilst purchasing remains at our core, we will continue to focus on all important areas of the business”

STRONG ALLIANCE Ransomes Jacobsen, sponsors of the My-Training brand

Material Matters has continued to build on their services, adding value to clubs that work closely with them and by seeking strategic partnerships with companies that have the same ethos and vision. A new collaboration with Parliament Hill – the leaders in the world of benefit provision – will enable Material Matters to offer clubs access to over 25 market leading offers that they can provide to their employees and club members. “We wanted to provide an online service for our golf club members, that would further leverage the collective power of the group to give a knock out tool for retaining and recruiting club members and the employees of the business,” said Neil Dainton, business development manager. “The benefits include high street store cashback cards, travel, wine, cinema, health club membership, spa breaks and clothing to name but a few. These offers are provided to club members giving a real enhancement to their membership at the point of renewal along with real enticement for potential new members.” Late last year, Material Matters launched Training Matters, and have continued to build a full training propo-

30 | GMé August 2015

sition ready for the main end of year Training Workshop that will be run in November, and event which has been made possible by the synergy with partner Ransomes Jacobsen – the main sponsor of the My-Training brand for Material Matters. “Ransomes Jacobsen are huge supporters of training and continual professional development in golf, so to support the programme of workshops, onsite training courses and Material Matters’ new online training portal for 2015/16 is a real bonus for us,” said Mould. Commenting on their association, international corporate accounts manager at Ransomes Jacobsen, Nick Brown, said: “As Material Matters’ Machinery Supply Partner and sponsor of their My-Training brand, we are delighted with the strategic partnership we have with the group. “Their core principles dovetail with the ethos of our organisation in that we both strive to be transparent, professional and friendly as we go about our business, and strive to build strong and lasting relationships with our customers. “We have strategic alliances with major organisations in the golf world,

and are proud to be part of an education process committed to raising standards right across the industry. Our support of Material Matters’ programme of workshops, training courses and their new online training portal is further evidence of this commitment.” Material Matters have also secured partnerships in other strategic areas that include Peninsular for HR services, Colt MacKenzie McNair for recruitment and Promote Training for online training. “Material Matters continues to be innovative in all areas of the golf business and, whilst purchasing remains at our core, we will continue to focus on all important areas of the business, helping clubs produce the correct outputs and services for its members and guests,” concluded Mould. By working closely with golf clubs and partners, and continually developing solutions to meet the needs of the golf business, Material Matters are fulfilling a vital role for an expanding number of clubs, helping them to become more efficient, effective and profitable. As we head towards 2016, next year looks as though it will be another interesting year in the short history of Material Matters. GMé



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“Every area of golf is comparable to the hotel industry; for example, we treat our golf diaries the same way as we set up our room diaries”

In conversation with John Angus As group director of golf responsible for 11 venues at QHotels, John Angus discusses the De Vere acquisition, QFairway and how his career has developed to date. IN FULL SWING John Angus plays his approach to the green at Mottram Hall, and above, (centre) answering questions alongside Dan Walker of the BBC, and QHotels’ director of hotel operations, Vivien Sirotkin

GMé You began your career working in the hotel sector, before taking on the role of resort director at Heythrop Park in 2001, so what tempted you to move into golf? JA I didn’t fully move into golf, as I had the dual role of resort director at Heythrop Park. The owner wanted to build the ‘Gleneagles of the South’ so I got the job, and I’ve looked after golf as part of my roles ever since. GMé During your tenure at Heythrop Park, you oversaw the design and construction of the parkland course which must have been fascinating. Looking back, is there anything different you would have done with relation to the layout? JA I’m very proud of Heythrop, and feel that it is a real ‘gem’ that is still to achieve its full potential. Heythrop Park is built on a Grade II listed site, and is also one of the ‘Top 50 English Gardens in the UK’, so you can imagine how difficult it was to get any course plans approved.

32 | GMé August 2015

I guess the main talking points at Heythrop are the 17th and 18th holes, where we were restricted to do anything – the mounding by the green took 12 visits to agree! I think the 18th is like Marmite; you either love it or hate it, but I think the hole is made by the view of the house. When all things are considered with the planning and historical restrictions, I think the team did a remarkable job, in fact, I almost became a politician! GMé After almost 12 years at Heythrop, you spent a year at Five Lakes Golf Resort in Essex, before joining QHotels in 2013, initially responsible for three resorts including Forest Pines. What was your role for QHotels at the time? JA My role at QHotels was regional general manager for three hotels, and director of golf for the Q group which consisted of five golf resorts – these included Forest Pines Hotel & Golf Resort in north Lincolnshire, Telford Hotel & Golf Resort in Shropshire and The Westerwood Hotel & Golf Resort near Glasgow.

INSPIRED BY YOU Group director of golf, John Angus

MIND THE GAP The approach to the par 4, 9th on the Hunting Course at Slaley Hall

GMé At the time of your appointment, were there plans to expand the QHotel portfolio?

from traditional memberships on to a points-based system?

JA I was appointed in 2013 which, looking back, was a really fluid time in the hotel acquisition market, so it was highly likely something was always going to happen. GMé How much of a role did you play in the acquisition of the De Vere properties that QHotels purchased, and what are your plans for the acquired venues moving forward? JA I visited a number of the venues and gave my assessment on a number of areas. My involvement accelerated when the purchase became more likely, as we essentially had two of everything, and my job was to get the best from both companies in one new agreement. The former De Vere Hotels that we acquired and have subsequently joined the QHotels portfolio include Cameron House, Loch Lomond; Dunston Hall, Norwich; Oulton Hall, Leeds; Mottram Hall, Macclesfield; Slaley Hall, Hexham, and Belton Woods in Grantham. GMé The QFairway flexible membership scheme – allowing members to redeem golf points at any QHotel venue – must be a great selling point. Therefore, have you found it easy to move members over

JA We completed a past and present members’ survey before we took over, and one of the key areas that was highlighted from the feedback, was the fact that we didn’t have categories of membership for all golfers, and that our golfers were almost forced to accept membership categories that didn’t fully match their requirements. QFairway has grown organically out of those demands. It is – and will continue so to be – one of the biggest membership drives that have taken place in golf in recent years. In just a few months we have seen more than 1,000 new golfers take up the QFairway membership and that’s testament to its flexibility and suitability. Free junior memberships are available to all children aged 15 and under, providing their parent or guardian also has adult membership at the same time. We also listened carefully to our members and regular visitors, and it was evident that high quality golf-courses and golf facilities, low costs and flexibility were the key requirements for the modern golfer. GMé At present, most of your courses are based north of the Midlands, so what plans – if any – do you have to expand in the south?

JA Watch this space! GMé Do you have any PGA or CMAE qualifications, and do you feel that they are really necessary in order to undertake your responsibilities as a director of golf? JA I believe both qualifications are valuable, but feel my role doesn’t need them as I have a hospitality degree and 25 years’ management experience. Every area of golf is comparable to the hotel industry; for example, we treat our golf diaries the same way as we set up our room diaries; we sell golf events the same as we sell hospitality events. I find common sense and my past experience stands me in good stead to fulfil my group role, plus eyes in the back of my head! GMé The golf industry is still operating in challenging times, so where do you see the growth for QHotels in the years ahead – in the golf or hotel sectors? JA I see it in both; we pride ourselves at QHotels on quality of service and good common sense management, and believe that will always put us above our competition. Q is the holder of many awards for service – we are the AA Hotel Group of the Year – and it is our job to attain similar accreditation in golf, which will be | 33




VIEW FROM THE TOP An aerial view of Slaley Hall, which according to John Angus, features QHotel’s best course

the foundation for our growth in future years. One of our big pushes for 2015/16 and beyond is to increase the number of female golfers. Lady golfers make up just six per cent of QHotels’ golf members at the moment which is below the national average. It is our intention to lift that figure above the national average – we’ve given ourselves some big targets and we intend to deliver on them. And shortly, QGolf Academies will launch across all our golf resorts with a commitment to growing participation levels, particularly among juniors and female golfers. QFairway and QGolf Academies are just two examples of QHotels’ commitment to golf, ensuring quality facilities and service can be affordable and accessible to all. Our commitment to grassroots golf and increasing participation in the game is clear through everything we offer. Obviously, we have only been trading as a group of 11 golf hotels since November so, whilst we are always learning, we are strategically looking to grow our business through outstanding customer service. We have been delighted with the performance through the first half of 2015 as we now move in to the very busy time of the year for our golf hotels. Indeed, the residential golf and corporate golf segments of the business are outperforming last year by 15.7 per cent which we are very pleased with.

34 | GMé August 2015

GMé If you had to make a choice between the golf and hotel sector, what area would you prefer to work in? JA I work in both, and would like to continue doing that. GMé Do you get the chance to play golf much, and if so, what’s your current handicap? JA You would think with 11 golf resorts within our portfolio, that I’d be on the golf course all the time, but this year I’ve only played twice. My handicap is at 17, but I am playing to around 23 at the moment! I think there are some benefits to having a higher handicap, as the majority of our golfers are at that 17-handicap level or above. It is my job to make sure our courses are set up appropriately to the standard of golfer. GMé Of all the QHotel venues, what course would you say was your favourite? JA That’s a tough question to answer. My biased head would say the Forest and Pines 18-hole combination at Forest Pines; it is a truly stunning golf course and facility which is a challenge for any golfer. However, I think our best course is the Hunting at Slaley Hall; it’s picturesque, steeped in history and is a truly great golfing experience. GMé



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“When Troon moved out and Iain McInally, the director of golf, moved in, he wanted a British golf pro as golf operations manager”

‘Lucky’ Shepherd on par at Monte Rei Michael Lenihan recently flew over to Monte Rei in Portugal to meet-up with director of golf, David Shepherd, and witness first-hand why the club is held in such high esteem. THE STYLE HOUSE The clubhouse at Monte Rei, and above, David Shepherd

36 | GMé August 2015

There are many reasons why one would want to visit the stunning Monte Rei Golf & Country Club in the eastern Algarve – not least that it has, according to Golf Monthly, the number one course in Portugal. Small wonder then that, seven years ago, the then 25-year-old David Shepherd jumped at the opportunity to work at the luxurious venue, and is now the director of golf. From the outside it might seem a massive step for one so young, but Shepherd has been immersed in golf from a very young age. His father was a golf professional, at Hickleton Golf Club, in Doncaster, South Yorkshire, and Shepherd junior used to help out in the shop even before he was out of long trousers.

Ever the pragmatist, Shepherd senior, while undoubtedly proud of his son’s prowess was, however, insistent he should not turn pro at 18 but enjoy the benefit of further education – and it was a decision the now 32-year-old heartily endorses. He explained: “I always wanted to be a PGA pro, but with some education behind me. I didn’t really want to be a club pro, I wanted to do resort stuff, so I thought it was important to have some education behind me before I turned pro and I’m glad I did. I did the standard PGA route but my degree is in resort and hospitality management. “As I was finishing uni I went to The Belfry for an interview and got offered a job. As a first year trainee pro I was picking up balls on the range, doing the par-

LEGS ELEVEN The par 3, 11th hole features an elevated tee which looks down onto a small green which is well guarded by bunkers

three challenge on the course, cleaning buggies... eight of us pretty much started on the same day. It was pretty dog eat dog. The idea was we’d do summer in golf, and winter in another department, so some guys went off to the nightclub, some to the gym, some to marketing, because there wasn’t enough work for us all in golf. “Thankfully I was one of the top two of the eight who managed to stay on the golf side. Then I was lucky, I got three promotions and ended up as golf operations manager there.” Modestly, Shepherd often uses the term ‘lucky’ when describing a career path that now sees him on the verge of overseeing a second course build at Monte Rei. But as Arnold Palmer said: “The more I practise, the luckier I get.” Remarkably, Shepherd was appointed golf operations manager at The Belfry before he’d even qualified from the PGA Golf Management programme – an unusual occurrence, maybe even a unique one. “The Belfry was like an accelerated learning course with 100,000 golfers,” he smiled. “Then, it was run incredibly well. De Vere was really strong. The group of pros who were running it were

happy to give opportunities to trainees if they showed a bit of ability. So I ended up as golf ops manager when I was still a third-year trainee. “I was doing my PGA exams – but also sneaking off to do P&L meetings at The Belfry. At the time we were running the British Masters and I was fairly heavily involved. I was lucky The Belfry were prepared to give such opportunities. When I did qualify it became a lot easier because I just shifted a load of work – revision, assignments and such like – so I could concentrate on The Belfry stuff.” He remained in the West Midlands from spring 2004 to summer 2008, when Monte Rei, came-a-calling. Again, according to the self-deprecating Shepherd, luck played a huge part. “When Troon moved out and Iain McInally, the director of golf, moved in, he wanted a British golf pro as golf operations manager. They placed an advert in all the normal places, but he also rang the PGA and asked for some recommendations; and I was lucky enough that the PGA were foolish enough to recommend me,” he laughed. “I interviewed in London – but having been out here on holiday just before was pure luck, again.

“It just gave me a bit of a leg up. I knew about Monte Rei, having played it, knew about the challenges with the location, and I knew a little bit more about the long-term plan. And I got the job not long after.” Nine months after the resort opened, in June 2008, Shepherd took up his position as golf operations manager. “Our main remit was to make Monte Rei sustainable; from an initial opening of a huge investment in marketing and massive numbers of staff, we needed to keep the standards and service levels, but to do it realistically, with viable numbers. “We managed to reduce our costs by around a third, but I think anybody who would come here, who’d been in 2008, would probably agree that you wouldn’t know it was any different. “There were many areas we were able to cut back on – we halved the number of golf operations staff. When I first got here, there must have been three guys waiting for every car to arrive. We just reined it all in and looked to see what was necessary and where we could save money without damaging service. “In the early days the owners decided they wanted to do everything to the | 37




DINING PLEASURE The dining experience at Monte Rei is equally important as the golf, with world-renowned chef, Jamie Perez, serving up his unique brand of Mediterranean cuisine

“Our price is part of our marketing, we need to be expensive – you wouldn’t expect to get a cheap Ferrari”

38 | GMé August 2015

highest level; we still do but we do it sustainably now.” Visitor green fees are €190 at Monte Rei, and remarkably, they have been since the Jack Nicklaus-designed course – the only Golden Bear signature course in Portugal – first opened back in 2007. They will remain at that level at least until 2017, with Shepherd insistent that nobody is allowed to undercut that price. Monte Rei will always be, like a certain Belgian lager, ‘reassuringly expensive’. He explained: “Tour operator business is important. It’s such a big driver of business, but 55 per cent of our business comes direct. It’s a nice position to be in because some of our neighbours in the Algarve are 80-85 per cent reliant on package golf holidays – we’re not. “Our pricing policy with tour operators is that they have to sell at the same price as we do directly – of course, they make a commission, but our green fee is €190, so if you go to any operator those rates are maintained. “We do come under pressure from the operators but the moment we allow our partner operators to sell lower than us will be the start of our problem. Our price is part of our marketing, we need to be expensive – you wouldn’t expect to get a cheap Ferrari. You wouldn’t want the best course in Portugal to be cheap. It’s been tough maintaining that and there aren’t many that have done it. “Our owner’s given us the freedom to do it this way, so we’ve not been under pressure to reach a certain financial target or a certain number of rounds at any particular speed. It’s always been important to maintain the brand; that’s far more important than the number of golfers.

“We might get up to 12,000 rounds this year; we don’t have a cap in mind. The second course will start once we get to 13-14,000 rounds. At the moment we’re 95 per cent pay and play, visiting golfers, or people staying with us – in ten years’ time, or when Monte Rei has developed, we’ll be 60-70 per cent member based, from property owners. We’ll limit the numbers who can visit then.” Being part of the second course development is a hugely exciting motivator for Shepherd. “We’re really hopeful in the next 18 months to two years we’ll be able to approach Jack Nicklaus to come back and have a look at it for a second course. Planning is not easy in Portugal; we’ll have to go through environmental studies again, but the hope is that the build will be easier this time. “This will be the first course from scratch for me, a new experience. To see it from start to finish, to meet Jack, to look at his design work and watch how it goes through... it’s exciting.” There’s also a hotel in the plans – the plot is in place, as is the planning permission. But there is no fixed date for its launch. Shepherd added: “We’d like to think the hotel would come along with the second course, but there’s not been any interest in anybody building hotels anywhere in the last five or six years. “We have to continue to offer a great product and, certainly, the course gets better each year as it matures.” So, it would appear does the stock of one-time range-ball collector David Shepherd. If he truly is lucky, then Monte Rei is also lucky to have him. GMé

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groundwater regulations

A clear way to save water, money and the environment As Groundwater Regulations begin to be fully implemented across Europe, Scott MacCallum talks to David Mears of ClearWater about how to stay legal. There are some things that are so mundane in life that we very much take them for granted. Washing the car for example. We are out there with the chamois and hosepipe most weekends just to ensure that our car is that little bit shinier than that of our neighbour’s. It is something which happens in every street, in every town, in every country in the world. But if someone were to do virtually the same thing in a work environment the chances are they could be breaking the law and leaving themselves open to a huge fine. The Groundwater Regulations came into force in the UK in 2009 and the EU Water Framework Directive is due to be fully implemented throughout Europe later this year. They are designed to ensure that anyone who lets hazardous substances – oil, petrol or diesel – seep into natural water courses risks criminal proceedings.

40 | GMé August 2015

So the consequences of carrying out what in domestic circumstances is a routine chore for those doing so in a commercial environment are completely different. It means that responsible operators must find ways to ensure that their machinery is kept clean and efficient without risking a huge monitory penalty. ClearWater is a below ground, low cost, Water Technology List (WTL) officially approved, biological washpad water recycling system for greenkeeping, grounds maintenance, small plant, machinery and vehicles which offers a safe and legal manner in which to carry out the job. “It is legislation which has driven our ClearWater business,” explained David Mears, co-managing director of the Highspeed Group Ltd, which launched ClearWater onto the market in 2003. But while the reassurance that everything being carried out is legal

is a massive comfort to all golf course managers and head groundsmen, the simplicity and unobtrusive design, not to mention the water saving benefits of ClearWater is allowing it to steal a march on its competitors as the company starts to make significant inroads into the lucrative continental Europe market. “The ClearWater system tank is hidden below ground and all that is visible to the naked eye are the four turret covers set into the soil or turf. It’s not an ugly monstrosity,” said Mears. The benefits of the 5,000 litre tank being sunk into the ground are twofold however. Not being a blot on the landscape is one, but the fact that the temperature of the water underground can be maintained at safe levels is extremely important. The simplicity of the ClearWater system is its real strength though as Mears added: “Andy Vincent, my co-director, and I designed it ourselves, CLEAN AS A WHISTLE The unobtrusive ClearWater system (main picture) in use, (right) in action at Southport & Ainsdale Golf Club, and below, twin hose washing at Bromsgrove Golf Centre

“On an average 18 hole golf course, we would estimate that they would be able to save half a million litres of water a year”

and we feel that it is successful because it is so uncomplicated and because there are so few moving parts to go wrong. “You have one water pump for every hose, ensuring maximum pressure which is only applied when you switch on and pick up the water gun and start to wash down. This saves electricity as you only use it when the pumps are in use. “There is small low wattage compressor too and the whole system is virtually silent when operating. It is easy to install, easy to use and easy to maintain. We are very proud of the system,” said Mears, who added that because it is on the WTL, UK owners can claim 100 per cent against their capital allowances under the ECA Scheme. “We have data showing that the temperature in our systems throughout the year varies between 14 and 16 degrees. “Legionella becomes a risk at 20 degrees, whereas the temperature inside above ground tanks could quite easily reach 40 degrees in summer,” said Mears, who added that the ClearWater system can either be installed through a turn-key service, or by the purchaser carrying out a ‘self-installation’ with the help of detailed instructions and Highspeed commissioning and signing off on the final installation.

With water a commodity which is only going to increase in cost in the future, the ability of ClearWater to recycle is a benefit which is going to save money as well as protect the environment. Research has identified that swimming pool quantities of water can be saved over the course of a few years. “On an average 18 hole golf course, we would estimate that they would be able to save half a million litres of water a year. Over five years that’s 2.5 million litres of water – which is not only a huge cost saving but environmentally it is very good news.” With Mears looking after sales and marketing and his fellow managing director, Vincent, taking charge of finance and logistics following a management buyout in 2001, the continental European market, where golf courses are under very strict environmental laws, is ripe for the benefits of ClearWater. “We have appointed a distributor in Germany, GolfKontor and, following a successful launch, we are confident that they will grow our business there, while distributors in France, Ireland and Scotland have overseen ClearWater installations in their countries. “Add to that the fact that we have had interest shown in ClearWater from Italy, Portugal, Sweden and Spain, we expect

this business to expand,” said Mears, who added that there is also a system in place at the prestigious East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, home of the Tour Championship on the US Tour. Golf has been the main market, but the company is expanding, and anyone with machinery required to cut large areas of grass are potential customers. Vincent and Mears are also developing the product for greater commercial use and expensive vehicles which need a more polished finish. “The product has been tested and we shall be launching ClearWater Commercial shortly,” revealed Mears. The tighter legislation and protection offered to European water courses may have created a market for ClearWater, but through the foresight of Andy and David back in 2003, they have ensured that they are at the forefront when it comes to supplying equipment to meet that legislation. And with the added benefit of saving valuable water and money, golf clubs all over Europe and beyond will be including ClearWater in whatever research they do regarding the need to meet those ever tightening regulations. And all the while domestic users continue to hose down their cars as part of their Sunday ritual. GMé | 41



mission hills

Mission Hills Roque Nation Last month, Michael Lenihan made a 15,000 mile round-trip to pay a personal visit to the world’s largest golf facility, Mission Hills Resort in China.

Do you remember the classic scene from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, when John Cleese, as Reg, addresses the Judean People’s Front? Or was it the People’s Front of Judea? In it he wraps up his diatribe with the priceless: “All right, all right, but apart from better sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health... what have the Romans ever done for us?” I recount this particular quotation because it came back to me while listening to an Australian visitor during my recent stay at Mission Hills in China. He was not overly enamoured with the costs of playing golf at the resort, and his argument with his playing partner might well have ended thus: “Well, apart from largely being responsible for the growth of golf in China; pumping millions of euros into the European Tour; being recognised by Guinness World Records as the largest golf resort anywhere… what has Mission Hills ever done for golf.” The crux of the matter is that a visit to Mission Hills does not come cheap – and

42 | GMé August 2015

despite the fact this guy was clearly not short of a bob or two, like many of his ilk, he was loathe to part with his money. So let’s get the elephant in the room – at least as far as ‘Reg’ (or probably Bruce) was concerned – out of the way first. It is not cheap. For a hotel guest playing at the weekend, 18 holes will cost 1950 RMB (approx €275), with an additional cost of 400 RMB (€56) for the compulsory buggy and caddie, plus a compulsory 100 RMB (€14) caddie tip. If you fancy hitting a few balls on the range before you walk – actually drive – to the first tee, then a bucket of 50 balls will set you back 30 RMB (€4), and if you want to use the locker rooms, that’s an additional 30 RMB (€4). So, the full Mission Hills ‘experience’ is going to set you back more than €350 a round – and ‘Reg’ felt it was overpriced. Like a certain Belgian beer, however, Mission Hills is not embarrassed by its expensive tag – indeed it wears it like a badge of honour, because golf is unashamedly an elitist sport in China. It’s a cultural thing. Status is hugely important in this country and showing

THE HILLS ARE ALIVE An aerial view of the Mission Hills Resort at Dongguan, with the final hole on the Olazabel GIRL TALKCourse adjacent to the clubhouse and hotel. A coupe of senior lady golfers share a joke on the green

people you’ve made it – or at least trying to give the impression you have – seems to be a national pastime. Hence, golf is a status symbol. It’s expensive, so to play it you must have achieved something in life. That’s fine for China and the Chinese, but it’s not likely to endear the resort to visiting Westerners. Still there are enough Western golfers who have plenty

of the folding stuff, so they’ll probably continue to see a trickle of tourists. If, however, they wish to be seen as a viable destination for the general golfing public, those prices will need to be reduced. Whether that will happen in the short term, however, remains to be seen. In a recent interview with GMé, Tenniel Chu, the vice-chairman of the Mission Hills

Group, said he believed that the domestic market remained untapped and he wasn’t yet planning to move the ‘brand’ into other regions. Certainly it’s hard to see such a business model succeeding anywhere in Europe, so maybe attracting Western tourists is not yet a priority. I found the language barrier exactly that, something of a barrier. Admittedly my Mandarin leaves a lot to be desired, | 43



mission hills CHINESE WHISPERS Left, a small section of the massive pro shop at Mission Hills Dongguan; below, the 11th hole on the Rose Poulter Course; right the 18th on the Olazabel Course and below, the presidential suite bedroom overlooking the final hole on the Olazabel.

“Each individual course also looks spectacular – but you are left with the feeling that some may feel the cultural differences are just too much to overcome”

but I don’t spend my time looking to supplement the experience of visiting Chinese businessmen. Even my ‘Golden’ caddy – one who ‘speaks’ English – was really only fluent in numerals. That’s not to say the caddies are unhelpful – far from it. They are pleasant almost to the point of obsequiousness – another aspect of the cultural differences one finds difficult to deal with, at least initially. But, don’t get me wrong; I’m being hyper-critical. There are a lot of positives at this fascinating resort. The whole place is simply stunning. Brochures, reviews and imagery struggle to do it justice when you see it laid out in front of you. Each individual course also looks spectacular – but you are left with the feeling that some may feel the cultural differences are just too much to overcome.

44 | GMé August 2015

Mission Hills may be recognised as the world’s largest golf club, but the 12 courses are not all on the same site. There are three, designed to appear continuous, and a shuttle bus ferries you between the resorts. All told it takes around an hour to do a full loop. However, that’s not a problem, as even the most energetic golfer won’t manage 12 rounds in a day. Mission Hills Dongguan stretches over a 20sq km complex and features five 18-hole courses: the Annika (Sorenstam); the (David) Leadbetter; the (Greg) Norman; the (José María) Olazábal; and the (Justin) Rose-Poulter (Ian). At Shenzen, there are a further seven: the World Cup Course (by Jack Nicklaus); the Vijay (Singh); the (Jumbo) Ozaki; the (Nick) Faldo; the (Ernie) Els; the Zhang Lianwei par-three course; and the Pete Dye.

It seems ‘celebrity’ is important here – to the Chinese middle class in general, but especially to those behind this complex. In addition to the signature courses there are pictures and video footage of any number of A-listers who have been invited here to take part in pro-ams or to simply luxuriate in the opulent surroundings. But, since 1992, it’s golf upon which Mission Hills has built its reputation. That’s when it first opened its doors, and since it held the China Tour’s Coca-Cola Open three years later, it’s gone on to host more than 100 tour events. There are 3,000 caddies at Mission Hills – yes, 3,000 – and they’re all women. And they ride on the back of the buggy as you drive round. It gives an indication of the status of women in Chinese society – one which, presumably, would be applauded by the remain-

Presidential luxury on offer at Dongguan

ing few stuffed shirts of the European golf industry. Mission Hills is the only five-star resort in China integrated into a golf complex, and offers more than 500 guest rooms spread across Shenzhen and Dongguan. It also possesses the largest spa destination in Asia, and several fine-dining restaurants. Not surprisingly, for a country where it seems golf and business go together like chop and stick, the business facilities at Mission Hills are extensive. The exhibition centre offers a variety of function rooms, conference halls, media facilities and an auditorium – with the ballroom seating a staggering 1,800. If geography is not your strong point, I should point out that China is huge. And I don’t mean ‘huge’ as in Mission Hills is a ‘huge’ golf complex. I mean ‘huge’ as in it covers an area of 3.7 million2 miles; it is

the second-largest country in the world in terms of land mass. So don’t worry about throwing your golf shoes in your luggage the next time a business trip takes you to Beijing – it’s more than 1,340 miles away. Mission Hills is located in the south of the country and is around an hour from Hong Kong International Airport. The whole experience will be a culture shock if you’ve not visited the country before, but we should all step out of our comfort zone once in a while – and it’s not an unpleasant experience, far from it. The people are friendly – when you can communicate – the scenery spectacular, and the golf challenging. You may just need to put on hold your western sensibilities and advise the bank manager where you’re headed. And, after all, isn’t travel meant to broaden the mind? GMé

Located within the National Forest Park, the 23-storey Mission Hills Resort Dongguan is an integrated eco-friendly golf and family resort destination in China. The resort offers an alluring combination of luxury accommodation, sporting, meeting, wellness, and leisure facilities, and together with Mission Hills Resort Shenzhen, offers 12 world-class golf courses across the two resorts, five of which – Olazabel, Rose/Poulter, Norman, Leadbetter and Annika – are on-site at Dongguan. The hotel features over 334 guest rooms and suites, each offering its own interpretation of a tropical golf and leisure paradise, as well as four presidential suites which are located on the 23rd floor. In addition, guests have access to a full-size outdoor swimming pool with fun-filled obstacle water park and a heated indoor swimming pool, as well as one of Asia’s largest spa & wellness centres. Mission Hills Resort at Dongguan is home to one of Asia’s largest collections of golf accessories and apparel, featuring leading brands such as Titleist, Nike, Honma, Boss, PING and Golfino. The resort also boasts a convention centre with a 2,000m2 grand ballroom and 38 multi-purpose function halls, together with a varied selection of children’s activities, including playgrounds, a daycare centre, a mini-zoo, and a BBQ area with wooden houses which are also available for families of all sizes to enjoy. | 45



cart-mounted gps

StayPrime offers alternative Route in cart-mounted GPS Cart-mounted GPS systems are growing in popularity, but don’t be fooled into thinking that you have to purchase direct from the buggy manufacturer. Scott MacCallum talks to StayPrime’s Jerry Kilby, and discovers there is an alternative option.

46 | GMé August 2015 USER-FRIENDLY The StayPrime GPS system in use at Dubai Creek (main picture) and right, the Emirates Golf Club in Dubai, another StayPrime client

Golf has a reputation for being a fairly conservative sport, keen to cling to its traditions, but in reality nothing could be further from the truth. Think about it, from the days when the gutta percha replaced the featherie; hickory made way for steel and then graphite and Gore-Tex came in for tweed, the game has always embraced new technology and progress. Nowadays, your modern golfer can be sitting on a cart in the middle of the 12th fairway, feeling a little thirsty or peckish, press a few buttons on a console in front of them and within minutes someone will turn up with a beer and a hotdog. Or, if they stray off into a restricted part of the course, the cart will automatically stop and directions will be issued on how to return to golfing civilisation. StayPrime GPS systems have not only added to the enjoyment golfers derive from the game, but golf course operators can manage their facility much more efficiently as well as generate additional revenue. The company was launched just over ten years ago and has its headquarters in Dubai with distributors, affiliates and strategic partnerships now found in North America, Europe, Middle East and Asia. The ability to manage the areas where the cart can go, just by drawing a restricted zone onto a computerised map in the director of golf’s office, and

then downloading the information onto the carts as they recharge overnight, also has other benefits than merely stopping a confused golfer driving into the irrigation lake. “The GPS is connected to the forward gear so it will stop the cart going into GUR, recently turfed areas, wet areas or dangerous parts of the course, with the added benefit of increasing the annual operating period of the carts,” said Jerry Kilby, StayPrime Global’s sales and marketing director. “In winter, carts are often not able to operate because certain areas of the course are unfit for them, but by marking the areas on the computer which can’t take the carts, they can still be rented out, but diverted around the areas not suited.” He added that the bane of the modern day game – slow play – can also be monitored by the system and messages sent from the office to the console on each cart requesting that players get a move on. “By managing the cart routes we can reduce the periods of time when the carts are out of commission, and increase the time in which they are generating revenue for the golf facility,” said Kilby, adding that golf clubs have been able to remove unsightly stakes and ropes as a result of the system. “Another benefit of the system is that we make it easier for the golfer to

“we can reduce the periods of time when the carts are out of commission, and increase the time in which they are generating revenue” | 47



cart-mounted gps

“No matter the brand of buggy – whether it be EZGO, Yamaha, ClubCar, Garia or any other brand – our system can be fitted”

FULLY FEATURED The base station monitor

CLEAR AND ACCURATE The impressive clarity of the ElitePro screen

purchase food and beverage during a round which is great for the golfer, but it also increases sales for the golf club or resort,” said Kilby. One of the major benefits of StayPrime is that the system can be fitted to any brand of golf cart. “A golf facility may have a fleet of 30 carts and replace ten of them every couple of years. No matter the brand of buggy – whether it be EZGO, Yamaha, ClubCar, Garia or any other brand – our system can be fitted, so a golf operator can choose the best available deal each year knowing that whichever cart he opts to purchase, hire or lease, the StayPrime System can be used,” explained Kilby. With budgets now tighter than they have ever been, and every piece of excess fat having been shed years ago, golf facilities now look to every conceivable avenue to generate revenue. Tee box sponsorship has been a great way of attracting local businesses to spend some money, while StayPrime offers golf clubs the opportunity to generate significant revenues with advertising/sponsorship on their cart screens. And with the added flexibility of being able to update the screens on a daily basis, it means that those running corpo-

rate days can ensure their guests are fed useful information as well as targeted advertising during the course of the round. “I know of one golf club with two courses which hosts 65 corporate days a year, and they are charging each corporate client an additional £500 to advertise on the carts. The golf club operator paid for the system within the first year,” revealed Kilby. The traditional benefits of a GPS system are not forgotten and even if the cart is restricted to paths, identifying and then tapping the position of the ball on the on-screen map gives an accurate distance and enables the golfer to take the correct club to the ball, not half the bag, as was often the case in the past. “The system can also be programmed each day to the exact pin position. Alternatively it can be set for front, middle or back or just to the centre of the green, depending upon the policy of the director of golf.” With the slogan ‘Any Cart, Any Course, Any Country’ StayPrime has already lived up to their boast by having some of the world’s most celebrated golf clubs as clients with Wentworth, Valderrama, Dubai Creek and the Medalist numbered among them.

48 | GMé August 2015

“We have made the greatest progress in countries where large cart fleets are more common – Spain, Canada, the USA, the Middle East – but we are developing a dealer network within the UK and expect this to broaden our base of clients once it has had time to establish.” The GPS market is quite crowded if you think of GPS as a tool to measure the distance for your next shot, but Kilby believes that StayPrime has certain advantages that clients appreciate, most especially the ability to know where your carts are at all times and control where they go, and the flexibility of being able to be fitted to every brand of cart. “It means golf clubs retain the flexibility of being able to change their cart brand without also having to think about GPS system compatibility, while having additional potential revenue generators is a huge boost to dynamic golf facilities.” So golf does grasp the opportunities the future has to offer and while the likes of Old Tom Morris, Harry Vardon and Henry Cotton didn’t necessarily know that the following century would see GPS distance measurements and in-cart food and drink ordering, the likes of you and I are more than happy that such progress has been made. GMé

Elite Pro+ GPS Cart Management System The StayPrime Elite Pro+ golf cart management system can be deployed on any course, any cart, anywhere in the world. It’s the perfect combination of technology and usability, all designed for the golf course. We deliver more functionality than any other system and back it up with friendly financing and comprehensive support. StayPrime is the first global cart GPS system without any restrictions. With StayPrime there’s finally a complete cart GPS system that makes sense.

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signing off

“The Old Course is a different prospect and is exactly what its name suggests, an old course. It’s so popular around the world because it’s exactly that”

The Open at St Andrews. Just accept it for what it is So then, Graeme McDowell reckons the Old Course at St Andrews needs some work to ensure it remains Open Championship standard. There is some merit in what he said about moving bunkers to make them come into play more, but this is the Old Course. Can’t we just accept it for what it is? This year’s Open Championship was one of the most ‘open’ – and most interesting – we’d seen in years. The natural elements – the undulations and, of course, the weather – still catch out even the most experienced of player, while the man-made hazards aren’t completely out of play yet. Just ask Phil Mickelson… The majority of Tour events are played on pristine, manicured lay-outs that could easily be mistaken for the extravagant gardens of a country house. The Old Course is a different prospect and is exactly what its name suggests, an old course. It’s so popular around the world because it’s exactly that. If the Open Championship is played on it just once every five years, how much does it hurt the pros to ‘suck it up’ just for four days? If it tells us anything at all, perhaps it is that the governing bodies need to rein in the technological changes that allow the pros to regularly hit the ball in excess of 350 yards. Links golf is special and it requires special skills. The Old Course at St Andrews is a special links. Would the likes of Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus treasure their final appearance at any other venue as they do that at St Andrews? Would it be as special if every time they visited it looked differ-

50 | GMé August 2015

UP TO STANDARD Graeme McDowell commenting on the Old Course

ent? I don’t think so. It may be behind the times in terms of 21st century golfcourse design, but we should remember that when it was laid out it was 400 years ahead of its time. I was not surprised that certain elements of the media reacted in an overthe-top manner to Peter Alliss’ ‘kitchen’ remark when Zach Johnson putted for the Claret Jug. It has, sadly, become de rigueur to lambast the Voice of Golf for being anachronistic, sexist, bigoted or out of touch – or even all four – over the past few years, as people lost sight of what the guy has done for the sport as a TV spectacle in the UK. I am biased, admittedly, as his youngest son and I are friends, but, personally,

I still find his comments, in the main, amusing. Indeed, his line about Gary Player drowning in a vat of muesli had me spitting out my coffee during this year’s Open. The guy is 84 for heaven’s sake. Let him be himself. He’ll be off our screens soon and we’ll miss him; so let’s just enjoy him while we can. GMé

David Bowers


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