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The essential management publication for EMEa golf club operators

Golf

With BTME set to take centre-stage once again next month, GME asks what the future holds for BIGGA and its CEO, Jim Croxton page 19

Management Europe

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Toro’s ProCore range of equipment and tines deliver precise, consistent holes for a faster return to play

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issue 93 december 2013


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publisher’s editorial

Metal spikes the best option for winter golf Normally, columnist David Bowers – see page 42 – and I tend to bemoan the lack of progress within the golf industry – the lack of vision and the tendency to do things that way because that’s the way they’ve always been done. So it’s somewhat ironic that I should choose to recommend a move to revert

Twice already this winter I’ve suffered the indignity of a fall as a result of plastic cleats, while a member at my club endured worse, slipping and breaking his ankle. I have no issue with plastic cleats in the summer as it is clear they do less harm to the greens, but, I’m with the guy from Champ: in my experience, once

“Twice already this winter I’ve suffered the indignity of a fall as a result of plastic cleats” to metal spikes – not permanently, you understand, merely for the winter. It was 13 years ago that Champ golf spikes launched a “Safety First for winter” campaign, which encouraged golfers to wear metal spikes in winter to maintain traction and avoid injuries from slipping. Back then, a spokesman said: “Plastic cleats are great in good conditions and can be more friendly to greens. However, during our winter months rainfall greatly exceeds evaporation and there are long periods of inactive growth. “This results in slippery, muddy areas on many golf courses. In these circumstances plastic cleats fail to match the traction of metal, and many are also more prone to clogging – rendering them completely ineffective. “In the current ‘compensation culture’ club management would be well advised to think twice before banning metal spikes in the winter months to avoid legal action from golfers who slip and injure themselves.” So, what’s changed? The message appears to be just as valid now as it was back then.

winter is upon us they get clogged with mud far too easily and have a tendency to offer no traction when walking on a slope. I know from conversations I’ve had at various clubs that a fair amount of pro’s feel the same way with several suggesting that, in the winter, the plastic cleats can cause excessive damage to greens. If clubs advocated a return to metal spikes in winter, not only would I, as a golfer feel safer, I imagine many golf course owners and managers would breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they had possibly reduced the opportunity for a law suit brought by a visitor who was forced to follow club policy on plastic cleats, only to slip and break a limb. It’s certainly worth thinking about. GME

25 John Glendinning of Close House, talks to GME about the clubs continued success.

28 Andrew Stanley reflects on 15 years of GolfBreaks.com whilst seeking out new frontiers.

31 Michael Lenihan lenihan@portman.uk.com

Associate Editor David Bowers Contributors Mike Beardall, Derek Clements, Jim Croxton, Andi Deeks, Calum Forbes, Guy Higton, Scott MacCallum, Peter Simm Golf Management Europe is published six times per annum by PPC Portman.

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7 Fitting inferior tines could turn out to be a false economy, warns Toro.

Golf retailing is becoming an increasingly competitive market, both on and offline.

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december 2013 GME 3


headline news

Objection mounts against proposed Dye Design course More than 1,600 people have signed a petition against the much-vaunted Dye Designs course planned for Edgware, in London. Among opponents to the scheme are other golf clubs in the area who believe a new course locally could kill their business. The 800-year-old Bury Farm could be closed and turned into an exclusive golf club if plans are approved. Yet there are already 21 clubs within a five-mile radius of the new development, which opponents claim would be built on a “treasured” patch of greenbelt land. Local residents David and Linda Cherry have surveyed the 15 largest clubs in a fivemile radius and claim all are short of members and fear the extra competition could force them to close. The Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE) has elected Arnaldo Cocuzza as its new president at their recent Annual General Meeting in Rome. Cocuzza, who is 48 years old, is currently the general manager of Golf Club Milano, one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious golf clubs. He achieved his CCM (Certified Club Manager) status in November 2011, and becomes the first Italian club manager to be elected to the post of president. On taking office, Cocuzza said: “I am deeply honoured to be elected to the post of CMAE president by my fellow club managers. “I hope that in the next few years, I will keep building on the good work of our previous presidents and boards in the development of club management education throughout Europe.”

4 GME december 2013

David Cherry said: “To build yet another seems completely nonsense – especially when it is proposed to construct it on green belt land, cherished and used by local people. “All the clubs we contacted were aghast at the thought of yet another golf club in the area.” The study found Radlett Park Golf Club has 350 members but space for an extra 250, and Aldenham Golf Club has vacancies for an extra 200. Nearby Hendon GC has 450 members but chairman Andrew Hoffbrand said it could “easily” take on an extra 50. He said: “We’ve fallen on severe times and golf clubs in the area are seeing their membership diminish. It’s happening, there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

“But what we don’t need in any shape or form is a new golf course. It would ruin everything. It would soak up any other potential members. It wouldn’t be a good thing at all.” Aldenham Golf Club proprietor Jacqueline Phillips told the local newspaper, the Times: “The last thing the area needs is a golf course at a time where others are looking for members. “It’s a concern – the recession has hit golf courses hard and people haven’t got much money to spend, so leisure is the first thing they cut. If this were to go ahead, it would give us all a smaller slice of the cake.” The land, owned by All Souls College, Oxford, will be

leased to Tony Menai-Davis, (pictured above) who owns The Shire in Barnet. He said he feels those opposed to the plans have “misrepresented” the facts. Also speaking to the Times, he said: “The golf industry has changed, and what is in the area at the moment is traditional member clubs built 100 years ago. People want to play on top quality courses, which we can offer here. The Shire Golf Club is a proven success and we are at full capacity - but we can’t expand anymore, so this is ideal. “We’ll be attracting a different clientele. Business here is fantastic and I know this is a well-wanted, wellneeded course.”

Direct Golf gears up for Guerilla warfare One of Europe’s leading golf retailers, Direct Golf, has intensified its guerilla marketing campaigns in an attempt to increase brand awareness and increase sales within the award winning business. The British owned company has targeted its main competitors with a series of clever guerilla marketing campaigns, including its “groovy gorilla’s” dancing nearby competitors stores. “In a tough market it’s all about winning market share and that is what we intend to do,” said chairman John Andrew.

“We are not afraid of a fight, in fact welcome it as we feel we are in great shape due to the new realigned low cost base. “Margins in the golf industry have been thin over the past two years due to a tough market and very poor weather, it’s time to get down and dirty and back to basics” The award winning retailer also continues with strong marketing campaigns across all channels including direct mail, text, email, magazines, mobile app, market place and Direct Golf TV.

The latest successful mailing saw over 250,000 golfers receive their full colour catalogue making it easy for customers to choose gifts for their friends and family.

De Vere team-up with EuroPro Tour De Vere is set to host a number of new events on the 2014 PGA EuroPro Tour across its renowned portfolio of luxurious golf resorts, as part of a strategic partnership to align The De Vere Group with one key development Tours for young

ambitious professionals. De Vere’s presence on the 2014 calendar will begin as early as the March 26, when the acclaimed tournament venue, De Vere Slaley Hall, will play host to the allimportant First Stage Qualifying School.

This will be followed by three brand new tournaments to be hosted at other flagship De Vere resorts: The Belfry; and The Carrick on Loch Lomond; as well as a full tournament back at De Vere Slaley Hall later in the season.


MASTERING THE ART OF SYNTHETIC TURF INSTALLATIONS


news

IN BRIEF;

De Vere has chosen to honour the legacy of the iconic course designer Dave Thomas by installing a number of unique commemorative plaques at each of the courses he designed across the group’s portfolio of UK golf resorts. Only one in ten golf club members is unlikely to renew their subscription for 2014 according to a poll carried out by HowDidiDo, Europe’s largest golfing community. Nearly 2,500 club golfers responded to the poll and 90 per cent said they would be renewing. Indeed, only three per cent confirmed they would definitely not be rejoining their club in 2014, with the remaining seven per cent still undecided. The TGI Golf Partnership, Europe’s leading golf retail services group, owned by, and dedicated to PGA Professionals celebrated ten years of events at the Harrogate International Centre in October. Royal St George’s Golf Club is celebrating the arrival of its first Toro machinery fleet, worth £330,000. John Deere has made a further leap ahead in the Interbrand ranking of the ‘100 best global brands’ for 2013. According to the latest report, John Deere’s assessed brand value stands at US $4.865 billion, a further 15 per cent increase compared to the previous year. The company is now ranked in 80th place, having moved up from 85 in 2012.

6 GME december 2013

MyTime Active signs up with Material Matters

Following a lengthy selection process by MyTime Active to find the right company to manage their procurement needs, Material Matters have won the contract with the Bromley-based golf operator.

Due to a combination of supplier choice, service and price together with the management of the whole process via the Material Matters Portal, MyTime Active had no hesitation in agreeing a contract across all of their 19 golf courses.

“We were extremely impressed with the procurement offering that Material Matters presented in the pitch process,” said Brad Chard, golf division manager for MyTime Active. “We are looking forward to working with Material Matters as we develop our procurement strategy.” Paul Mould, director of Material Matters added: ”This is a very exciting time for our company. The contract agreed provides both Material Matters and MyTime Active the opportunity to create a purchasing proposition for them which is unique and market leading. “With the way we structure our pricing all of our clubs will also benefit,” added Mould. “We already manage a number of the groups courses and this new agreement strengthens that position even further.”

Golf and Spa package unveiled at Four Seasons Couples sharing the same leisure activity often value this as precious time together to connect and unwind, while for those with opposite interests, prioritising time together can be more challenging. To provide a solution, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita has launched its new Golf and Spa package, with flexible options to share in activities or indulge individually. Home to an awardwinning overwater Spa and a Signature Ernie Els

designed golf course, Four Seasons Resort Mauritius at Anahita is incorporating both of these elements into a package that can be personalised for each couple. The new Golf and Spa package includes five hours of flexible spa time; five hours of golf lessons with a Four Seasons golf pro for up to two adults; a candlelight dinner on the beach; unlimited complimentary golf, complimentary water-skiing and non-motorized watersports and airport transfers.

Also included is breakfast and a three course a la carte dinner in any of the resort’s restaurants.

Wirral project receives strong interest Wirral council has said it has received “a positive response” from potential developers to cover its proposals for a new multimillion pound golf resort just yards from the Royal Liverpool Golf Club. At the start of 2012 the authority began a formal procurement process for its resort plan for a 300-acre site in Hoylake. Last summer the council approved plans to appoint an advisory team to help with the complex bidding

procedure to find a developer to build a luxury hotel resort which would feature a championship course. Leader of Wirral council Cllr Phil Davies said at the start of the procurement process it was “an incredibly exciting step for Wirral and its future as a landmark destination for golf tourism.” The pre-qualification period for potential developers has now ended and the authority is currently preparing to shortlist possible candidates.

A spokesman for Wirral council said: “We have had a positive response to our request for submissions of detailed interest in the opportunity to develop a world class golf resort in Hoylake and will now undertake a period of evaluation. “We will then invite a shortlist of potential developers to enter into a detailed dialogue with us so that we can move towards appointing a preferred developer in the summer of 2014.”


weblink;

toro.com

on the cover

Fitting inferior tines a false economy, warns Toro Turf professionals carrying out autumn/winter aeration work need to keep a close check on the quality and condition of the tines they are using, if they are to avoid aeration problems, claim Toro.

FACTFILE;

the job, or collecting core debris and repairing damage post-aeration. “And even more manhours and money are wasted buying and applying replacement tines,” added Bowen.

The Toro Company 8111 Lyndale Avenue South Bloomington MN 55420 USA

“And with Toro tines compatible with most leading equipment makes, others can benefit too.”

Fitting inferior parts can bring problems warns Toro, which is a sentiment that is echoed by Phil Bowen, Toro parts manager of UK distributor Lely, who who warns that giving into temptation to use inferior parts to save a few pounds can cause big headaches for operators. Bowen says: “If you’ve used inferior or spurious tines you’ll be familiar with the aeration headaches these can cause. Operators forever find themselves changing broken or bent tines, or unclogging cores while on

“So, to put a stop to these problems, we strongly recommend that turf managers working with Toro aeration equipment should always opt for genuine Toro tines. “And with Toro tines compatible with most leading equipment makes, others can benefit, too, and optimise their aeration programmes without having to invest in a new machine,” concluded Bowen. When it comes to getting the very best results from a autumn/winter aeration

TEL; (1) 952 888 8801 FAX; (1) 952 887 8258

programme, Toro has over 150 tines that golf clubs can choose from. There’s one to suit every turf application, soil situation, season and Toro ProCore aerator, from its highly-popular 648 pedestrian machine and 864 and 1298 tractor-mounted models to the SR Series deep-tine aerators. But, whatever users opt for, Toro says its tines will deliver precise, consistent holes for faster turf recovery, a smooth finish and speedier return to play. GME

Register Now

“I’m based in Cornwall but it’s well worth the trip every January whether I drive or take a flight. There is something for every greenkeeper at every level” Mike Bush MG, Course Manager, St Mellion International Golf Club

Visit btme.org.uk and click register now

25

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04/12/2013 13:14 december 2013 GME 7


news

Research reveils dearth of girl members Recent research carried out by England Golf has revealed the average golf club in the country has

Greetham Valley Hotel, Golf and Conference Centre, in Rutland, has revealed its Club Car fleet has enabled it to generate £90,000 of revenue annually, since 2010. Starting off with just two vehicles in 1992, the East Midlands resort has steadily grown its fleet to a unit of 40 Precedent i2L cars. “We were, like many golf courses looking at a new undertaking, cautious about our investment and opted initially for just a couple of golf cars,” explained managing director, Robert Hinch. “However, we quickly realised that, with only two cars available, guests mistook these for mobility vehicles, so we increased our fleet size to five cars. “The 40-strong fleet of electric Club Car Precedents that we now operate appears to be the optimum level for our 45-hole complex. “From the outset, rental income from the golf cars played an important role in helping increase our revenues, not only with the direct income from the cars themselves but also increased green fees, especially from visiting golfers.”

8 GME december 2013

fewer than three girl members. On average, the research discovered clubs will have

only 25 members under the age of 16 and 22 of those will be boys. However, the survey also revealed that the current number of golfers – around four million – could be more than doubled if clubs actively encouraged families. The study, which interviewed 2,145 non-golfers and 1,477 golfers, found nearly half of golfers feel intimidated by club rules and regulations while a quarter cannot recall ever being treated like a valued customer. A spokesman said: “The shortfall in female participation in golf, and the potential for more women and family golfers, was highlighted in the research. “Female golfers prefer to participate with family and

Weller Designs set to transform colliery site

The design partnership of twins Bruce and David Weller have added yet another new golf course development to their impressive portfolio by recently gaining planning approval for a new eight-

een hole golf course at Bentinck in Nottingham. The site, which was previously an old colliery tip, will be entirely re-profiled and capped off with imported recycled soils, adding to an already highly sustainable

friends, the study found. They also play a key role introducing children to the game. “Clearly, there is a significant opportunity here for golf to both retain existing players and to attract many new people into a sport that offers health and social benefits to all. “What we’ve found is that there is a very significant latent demand for golf that could be realised if clubs and courses were able to promote themselves in a friendlier, flexible and familyorientated way. “Ultimately, people want to relax, be treated as a valued customer, share time with friends and family and enjoy a healthy sport in an appealing, outdoor environment.” development which includes wind turbines to power the clubhouse and water harvesting measures to provide an entirely independent irrigation supply, free from mains, bore hole reliance or drought orders. In keeping with the current business need for golf clubs to include a multi-functional and family orientated aspect to their facilities, Weller’s design includes camping, adventure play, fishing, football and equestrian pursuits in this highly innovative regeneration project. Leigh Dyson who is the owner and inspiration behind the scheme, is very much looking forward to fulfilling the potential of the tip site and provide a valuable public sporting amenity to the local area.

Major changes at Quinta do Lago Quinta do Lago has unveiled plans for a major renovation of its North Course to match the other golfing facilities at the resort in Portugal’s Algarve. Work begin last month and the course is scheduled to re-open in October 2014, with the new plans designed by renowned American golf architect Beau Welling in collaboration with European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

Among the changes taking place, all greens, tees, bunkers, irrigation and drainage systems and cart paths will be rebuilt using the latest state-of-the-art technology. While the routing of the course will not change, Quinta do Lago has revealed that golf course strategy will be addressed to make the par-72 layout significantly more playable for all golfers.

John Dwyer, CEO of Quinta do Lago, said: “This is a very exciting time for us. This renovation will allow us to further reduce the impact on the environment by using recycled water and solar energy to maintain the course. “The reduction of grassed areas will lessen the impact on the environment and the new design will include the creation of some new animal and plant habitats.”


news

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december 2013 GME 9


news

IN BRIEF;

Desert Turfcare, regional distributor for Ransomes Jacobsen in the Middle East, have announced a strategic partnership agreement with Dubai Golf, the renowned leisure management company responsible for all operations at Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club in Dubai, UAE. Addlethorpe Golf Club, in Skegness, has been purchased by the owners of nearby North Shore Hotel and Golf Club. The Mitchell family has owned and operated North Shore since 1980 and purchased Addlethorpe from the Poyntons Consultancy. The course will be renamed Skegness Golf Centre. Abbey Hill Golf Centre, in Milton Keynes, has become only the third public pay-and-play centre in the UK to achieve the prestigious international sustainability award, GEO Certified™. The 2014 International Golf Travel Market will be hosted in Italy’s Lake Como region. Organised by Reed Travel Exhibitions, the event for golf tourism suppliers, buyers and media will take place from October 2730, 2014, at the Villa Erba Exhibition and Conference Centre, sited on the banks of Lake Como. Thorpeness Hotel and Golf Club has raised £1,100 for the Breast Cancer campaign by hosting a pink themed golf day. More than 100 golfers entered the Thorpeness Pink Putter, on National Wear it Pink Day in October teeing off in pink clothes.

10 GME december 2013

Ecosol helping to keep golfers happy at Denham

Denham Golf Club in Buckinghamshire has again turned to Ecosol Turfcare to help alleviate drainage problems on their greens which are over 100 years old. “Members were exasperated with unacceptably soft greens,” said course manager Guy Jenkins, who was finding it more and more difficult to calm the disgruntled membership who were fed up with playing on temporaries.

His course was built with push-up greens out of a sandy soil. Although it may have drained well in the early part of its life, organic matter put on the greens over the years was very absorbent and slowed water movement. Subsequent verti-draining had been rendered ineffective because the fines from the top dressing persistently capped all the holes, explained Jenkins: “As a result, there was compac-

tion, puddling, standing water and poor grass growth.” Ecosol Turfcare’s Drill n Fill aerator was contracted in to a regular turf management programme and has proved an effective and economical trouble shooter. Drilling into turf, extracting the old rootzone and backfilling with a sand/soil amendment not only establishes a network of effectively draining ducts for the water to percolate through but also improves the rootzone and health of the grass plants. “The effect was amazing,” recalls Jenkins. “I could see it in half an hour!” Although nothing will be as dramatic as the massive effect it had that first time, Drill n Fill has continued to improve Denham’s greens, and Jenkins is confident that water is now moving right through the profile. “Proof of the change Drill n Fill has made is that water is shedding away from the greens, and they are firmer and with better grass growth.”

Bullock receives Honorary Doctorate Eddie Bullock, golf business consultant and former captain of the PGA, has become a Doctor of Business Administration. Bullock, who operates his own golf consultancy business received the award during the School of Tourism ceremony at Bournemouth University. Bullock is a sought after golf business consultant and business speaker who is an advocate in the change of

attitude within the golf club business. He has acted as mentor and advisor for the Golf and Tourism programme at Bournemouth University and supports students as they study, and has recently received a NATO Medal for promoting golf and sport in Afghanistan. Bullock was awarded, in part, for his work with mentoring students at the University.

Spanish golf tourism worth Euro 340m Spanish Golf Tourism is a €340 million industry, according to research presented at this year’s IGTM. The study, which also revealed Spain as the number one travel destination for visitors from the UK, France, Germany and Scandinavia, also highlighted European golf tourism to be worth €1.55 billion per year.

The findings form part of a research document entitled European Spotlight on Golf Tourism to Spain, which was commissioned by Reed Travel Exhibitions, organisers of IGTM, and produced by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc. Richard Payne, senior Manager at SMS said: “The importance of golf tourism to Spain and the wider European economy is abun-

dantly clear with these findings.” Research also showed that of the 28.5 per cent of European golfers who visited Spain to play golf in 2012, 12.7 per cent went to the Costa del Sol, 3.9 per cent went to the Costa Brava region, 3.2 per cent visited the Canary Islands and 8.7 per cent went to other areas.


news

Envirosports widens its range of services Envirosports has recently strengthened its delivery team by appointing Steve Summerton as senior construction manager. Summerton has over 35 years’ experience in civil engineering, working for major international contractors. “Over the past three years, our team has consistently delivered high quality bunkers constructed using our patented Envirobunker method,” said Envirosports director, Richard Allen. “Clients have been consistently impressed by our committed approach and the perseverance of

the team, completing high quality work even in the most demanding conditions.” Whilst building Envirobunker, Envirosports have also been involved in other aspects of golf course construction, including earthworks, drainage, liner installation and natural turfing. “We understand what clients expect of a specialist golf contractor: a quality product, delivered on time and within budget,” added Allen. “With Steve’s engineering experience complimenting our existing collective skills, we are able to

confidently approach all types of bunker work.” Christer Ral, owner of Frosaker Golf Club in Sweden, became one of the first to benefit from Envirosport’s construction skills: “The work carried out on our new nine hole course

at Frosaker was of the highest quality,” said Ral. “In fact, we were so impressed that we have now commissioned Envirosport to renovate all bunkers on our 18 hole championship course using the Envirobunker method.”

Abu Dhabi wins major accolade for a second year The Abu Dhabi Golf Club has been awarded ‘Best Course in the Middle East’ for the second straight year at the Asia Pacific Golf Summit awards. The golf course is no stranger to accolades of this

magnitude, having previously been recognised across a host of international awards. In addition Abu Dhabi Golf Club was shortlisted for Best Clubhouse Asia Pacific. Group general manager at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, Chris Card said: “This performance reinforces Abu Dhabi Golf Clubs and Saadiyat Beach Golf Clubs position as leading venues in The Middle East and the appeal Abu Dhabi has as a

destination in Asia Pacific for golf and leisure travellers. “It is a thrill for all the team and our owners to be recognised for the second successive year. Testament to the hard work of all involved,” added Card.

NEED IMPROVED DRAINAGE ON YOUR TURF? The Solution to Bunker Face Erosion

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Ecosolve Ltd, Armyn Cross, Malmesbury, Wilts SN16 9RJ Tel: 01666 861250 email: info@ecosolve.co.uk www.ecosolve.co.uk

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december 2013 GME 11 30/3/11 09:17:07


news

Lely and BIGGA team up for Toro irrigation events Toro distributor Lely and BIGGA are celebrating the sell-out success of their first irrigation roadshow. Lely and BIGGA joined forces to stage events at Elmwood in Scotland and Sherborne in Dorset, for BIGGA members to learn about the latest developments in golf course irrigation. Flat screen TVs are nothing unusual at golf clubs, but Crown Golf is taking customer communications to a new level with Golf Club TV. Giant 55” digital screens will soon appear across Crown Golf’s network of over 20 clubs, showing club announcements and golf course information, plus local weather, news, golf tips, and content from the world of golf, as well as short lifestyle features. The content will be presented in a variety of three-minute loops, and will also carry both local and national advertising. “Golf Club TV will help our managers and their teams to inform and entertain their customers in a totally new way, making their visit to the golf club more enjoyable” said Crown Golf CEO, Stephen Lewis. “We have had interlinked TV screens before, but these new displays are much more eyecatching.”

12 GME december 2013

Both venues were fully booked well in advance, with greenkeepers, course managers and irrigation technicians all keen to hear about the latest Toro sprinklers and control systems and how to choose the best set up for their course. Workshops covered sprinkler breakdown, fault-finding and trouble-shooting, with

practical sessions including live sprinkler demonstrations. Added to the educational benefits, those who attended welcomed the opportunity to network with irrigation experts and their greenkeeping contemporaries. “As soon as word spread about this event, greenkeepers from all over Scotland were getting in touch to register their attendance and it was quickly full to capacity,” said Greg Kilgour, deputy manager – education, research and environmental matters at Elmwood Golf Course. “It’s obviously something the industry has been crying out for, and it’s easy to see why. Both the practical and theory sessions were really useful and you could see how people would be able to make improvements to their systems based on what they learnt. “For example, Adrian Mortram from Robin Hulme Associates explained the

importance of design in system efficiency. “You can have the best technology there is, but if the design isn’t right it just won’t work as well as it could. For greenkeepers looking to invest in a new system, that is invaluable advice to consider.” Meanwhile, distributor Lely’s Toro irrigation sales manager Robert Jackson, who ran through the features and benefits of Toro’s latest range of sprinklers and its popular, stateof-art Lynx control system, says he is delighted with the events’ success. “We planned the content and format of the roadshow, and selected the hosts, very carefully to make sure the programme was jampacked with invaluable information, help and advice,” he says. “We’re already planning next year’s event, and will be looking to extend it to more venues across the country.”

Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club in Russia renews its fleet of E-Z-GO golf cars Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club, situated 28km from Moscow, has recently upgraded its fleet of golf cars, with the delivery of 25 E-Z-GO RXV buggies by local E-Z-GO distributor Golf Technology. These new state-of-the-art people movers replace the former fleet of 20 E-Z-GO TXT vehicles, which have been at the golf club since it opened in 2007. Speaking at the handover of the equipment, Boris Shumskiy, deputy chief director at Pestovo said: “We liked the old TXT’s a lot, but the golfers are very happy with these new RXV golf cars.

“We will also be using E-Z-GO for our municipal and greenkeeping services around the estate.” Vladimir Potapov, import manager for golf technology added: “Our client is obviously delighted with

these new golf cars. The old TXT’s have served the club very well, but the new fleet features the latest design technologies making them more efficient and more cost-effective to operate,” he added.

Service levels lacking admit PGA Pro’s

Nine out of ten golf professionals feel more could be done to improve customer service levels at golf clubs. That staggering assessment of the state of the industry followed an audience vote during a seminar at the Golf Show 2013, in

Harrogate, by golf-specific mystery shopper service, 59Club. In an interactive seminar attended by more than 70 PGA professionals, 59Club directors, Simon Wordsworth and Matt Roberts, shared key customer service trends

and insights into best practice. The presentation was packed with around 25 key trends, particularly identifying the experience of visiting golfers, either as an initial group enquiry or through to an actual visit.


news

ClubtoHire expands into South Africa ClubstoHire.com, the golf club rental company, has extended its award-winning service to the African Continent with the introduction of a pick-up service in the increasingly popular tourist destination of South Africa, with Cape Town becoming ClubstoHire’s 17th rental location. A partnership has been formed with well-established Neil’s Transfer Services based at Cape Town International airport – Africa’s third busiest airport – to offer travelling golfers the chance to have their clubs personally delivered and

then picked up from just €35 each set per week. The airport is situated 20km from downtown Cape Town and caters for visiting golfers playing at spectacular golf courses such as Royal Cape, Fancourt, Pearl Valley, Atlantic Beach, Steenberg and Westlake. “This move into Africa shows just how far ClubstoHire has come in three years,” said CEO Tony Judge, who has spent a similar amount of time living and playing golf in South Africa. “More and more travelling golfers from northern Europe and Scandinavia are visiting

South Africa at a time when eight European Tour events are staged there on exceptional golf courses and in great playing conditions.” ClubstoHire – which offers the latest clubs from TaylorMade, Callaway,

Golf Care celebrating ten years of cover Specialist golf insurer, Golf Care, is celebrating its tenth anniversary with more golfers, up-and-down the country, realising the value of being insured with the market-leader. Since launching in 2003, the brands growth has been

exponential, with several factors contributing to its remarkable success. Awareness of the brand has certainly been bolstered by the support of three-time Ryder Cup captain, Bernard Gallacher, since becoming an Ambassador in 2011.

Gallacher fronts an extensive TV and print campaign for Golf Care, and since coming on board the brand has seen a 39 per cent increase in the number of policy holders. Highlighting the importance of customer service,

Wilson Staff and Mizuno – boasts sales growth figures of more than 40 per cent for this year, as golfers appreciate the convenience of the service coupled with the chance to trial some of the best clubs on the market.

Golf Care ensures that their customers not only receive comprehensive insurance, but a plethora of special offers, including three free rounds of golf at some of the country’s finest venues, including The Celtic Manor Resort.

“We have trailed and installed the blinder in a bunker that historically experiences sand slip after heavy rain events. To date after a very wet year we have not experienced one sand slip in this bunker.” David Cole, Golf Course and Estate Manager

Loch Lomond Golf Club International patent pending. Installed throughout UK and Europe. Environmentally conforming recycled rubber. Rubber designed and tested to bridge with sand and drainage stone. Withstands freeze, thaw cycles and extreme temperatures. Life expectancy of 20 years plus. Franchise options available.

The bunker lining solution +44 (0)1344 621654 www.theblinder.com golfmanagementnews.com

december 2013 GME 13


weblink; motocaddy.com

company profile

Many golf course owners and operators realised some time ago that golf cars can be revenue generators, but how many appreciate that electric trolleys can be equally as profitable? Calum Forbes examines the evidence.

Motocaddy rentals prove big business driver There was a time when directors of golf and club professionals were pretty sceptical about the role that electric trolley rentals could play in generating significant revenues for their business. But over recent years, the increasingly popular approach to rental trolleys adopted by market-leading brand Motocaddy has proved that reliable powered trolley fleets not only bring in regular income, but increase trolley sale revenues at the same time. “Rental sales of electric trolleys have become a big growth area for golf clubs and resorts in recent years,” said sales director Neil Parker. “Several high-profile resorts have taken fleets of up to 30 of our trolleys to extend

14 GME december 2013

their revenue streams, while even a smaller fleet with two or three trolleys displayed properly can bring in important additional revenue through hires and in-store sales.” Motocaddy estimates that electric trolley rentals can get up to five or six times the amount of use as a privately-owned trolley, so Parker suggests that rental models are replaced after a year of service out on the course. “We encourage our customers to keep each rental trolley for just a year and then sell it to cover the initial cost,” he added. “Then these sales can be used to buy new rental replacements, so the fleet is always in great shape both in appearance and performance.


“This way, it only takes a month for the club or resort to recover the cost of the initial outlay on the trolleys.” One of the latest high-profile venues to take delivery of a fleet of Motocaddy rental trolleys is the former Ryder Cup venue Celtic Manor. On the back of increasing demand from visiting golfers to use electric trolleys, the famous Welsh resort has assembled a 16-strong fleet of S1 trolleys, each with an efficient and reliable Motocaddy Lithium battery to power it. Celtic Manor’s golf operations manager, Matt Barnby, explains the decision to take on such a large rental fleet. “As well as satisfying our visiting golfers, Motocaddy rental trolleys promise to have a positive impact on trolley sales within the shop and will help free up our golf buggies that are often fully booked,” said Barnby, whose team have welcomed 100,000 golfers across three courses in the last year. “Motocaddy have provided a complete rental package,” he added. “The compact and lightweight trolleys are easy for the team to handle, the racking system makes charging and storage simple and the personalised signage helps us with sales.” Rental fleets also provide an easy ‘try before you buy’ demo service that helps the consumer gain more confidence in the product before making any purchase. This trial aspect has been well illustrated at the Stoke Park Country Club, Spa and Hotel, in Buckinghamshire, which introduced eight rental trolleys this year. “We’ve literally doubled our sales of electric trolleys with Motocaddy over the

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past year,” said Stoke Park’s PGA Professional Tim Harris. “This is partly thanks to having a brilliant display unit in the shop, but also because the ‘try before you buy’ scheme allows our members and visitors to play a round with the trolley for free in advance of purchasing. “When you’re confident in a product’s performance and its ability to boost your business, you don’t mind taking more on board – and that’s certainly been the case with Stoke Park and the Motocaddy rental trolleys,” added Harris. “What’s also been noticeable is the superb back-up support we’ve received from the brand. On the few occasions we’ve had any problems, the customer service team have been extremely efficient in helping us out,” Harris concluded. Motocaddy rental trolleys are supported by the most comprehensive service operation in the electric trolley industry, with over 200 Service Centres spread throughout the UK, equipped to ensure that any faulty trolley is back on the course and earning a return within a matter of days. The innovative brand also has a simple rental profit calculator available on its website, www.motocaddy.com, which has been designed to give owners of golf clubs and club professionals reassurance on covering the cost of rental fleets and then making a profit. “Our rental calculator is an easy way of finding out just how quickly a certain quantity of trolleys, big or small, can cover the initial outlay,” added sales director Parker. GME

“even a smaller fleet with two or three trolleys displayed properly can bring in important additional revenue through hires and in-store sales.”

december 2013 GME 15


weblink; i-kangc.com

development

‘We-Kan’, suggests Guy As a director of International Golf Development, Guy Higton talks about the growth of SNAG and the ongoing development of golf in general.

Your first venture into sport appears to have been working for the world’s oldest football club Sheffield FC. There are often many parallels drawn between golf and other sports, so what have you learnt working in the football industry which could be applied to the golf industry?

There possibly also needs to be a greater emphasis on the commerciality of the sport and an increased, wider sponsorship base. Golf is typically very intrinsic as there are a lot of high-end brands and specific golf companies. Some more everyday sponsors to widen the audience demographic would help.

I started as a sponsorship and affinities manager before working with Sheffield FC. I would say that the biggest differentiation between golf and football is the wider grassroots development and structure that is already in place in football. Football also relies very heavily on volunteers rather than solely relying on industry experts and professionals to develop the grass roots aspect of the sport. It is also more accepted as a mainstream sport. Football is already on the school curriculum along with plenty of community programs making it very accessible, which is golf’s main problem.

Football realised a long time ago that it’s important to get kids into the sport – both watching and playing – from an early age, and SNAG appears to be very passionate about this also. In your opinion, what could golf do better, to get participation levels up amongst children?

Football is arguably light-years ahead of golf when it comes to marketing the sport as a business, so what lessons do you feel golf could learn from football? One of the key elements I believe that could be a great success for golf, would be to focus on team events – like the Ryder Cup – which seems to have the excitement factor. Also, a quicker format and a more competitive edge would also help people try, join and have fun with golf.

16 GME december 2013

The quickest and most efficient way to do this is to focus on the schools network, and SNAG has school programmes in place that are proven and successful. A great example of this is in Belgium where golf was named the ‘Sport of the Year’, and where over 700 teachers have been trained with, and use SNAG – more than 150,000 children having been introduced to golf this year alone through SNAG in Belgium. They have also trained golfers to become an initiator – first level of PGA pro – and have used SNAG material during their courses, called ‘Golf on the Road’. In actual fact, we were present at 44 sport events throughout the country, where over 11,000 golfers hit their first ever golf ball. It just goes to prove, that when the right equipment partner, federa-


tions, commercial partners, and governing bodies all pull together the results can be unbelievably dramatic! Does the emphasis for recruiting non-golfers into the game need to be placed on the individual golf clubs or the golf bodies? Both. There are enough people out there who are passionate about the game, and these are key ambassadors for the sport. Even your average member at a golf club, with a little bit of direction and enthusiasm could become a powerful recruitment agent. The industry needs to focus on the fun aspects of the game, whilst not always just talking about what they can do. You travel the world in your role as a director of International Golf Development so must encounter golf clubs or all sizes and stature. Golf is still perceived by many to be an affluent sport played by the rich, so does this perception hinder your attempts to take SNAG to countries such as Africa? We have the perfect solution to help deliver and provide the perfect infrastructure within a country or territory regardless of commerciality, democracy or Economics. We have a new territory on board with Africa and the impact for 2014 for that

region will be interesting to see. SNAG is a leisure activity and can be played in various areas, you don’t necessarily need a golf club and/or a driving range – just an open space is all that’s required. Think of it as jumpers for goalposts in football. Park and recreational use is a big aspect of our business, and with the use of our VTS and Scoring Zones you can really take the golf course anywhere, turning an everyday location into a ready-made golf course. Our international tournaments are also making golf accessible for all. How many countries is SNAG being used at currently? We cover Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, and in Europe over 20 countries, from smaller nations such as Iceland and Czech Republic to large countries such as Russia and Germany. If you were charged with the responsibility of developing the game of golf by the R&A, what would be the one main thing you would change about the sport? I would endeavour to have a programme that would mean every PE Teacher would be trained over a five-year programme to create a large ground swell of golfers, along with a support network of coaches to maintain retention in what has to be said is a wonderful sport to be involved with. GME

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23/07/2013 16:56:30

december 2013 GME 17


The Specialist Property Adviser PRYORS HAYES GOLF CLUB Tarvin, Cheshire, CH3 8NL • • • • • • •

Award-winning 18-hole 5.961 yd par 69 course Set in c. 46.25 hectares (114.3 acres) Semi-permanent adjoining marquee for functions Net T/O £760,324 year end 28.02.13 Ample on site car parking Excellent demographic catchment area Energy Rating C

OIEO £1,000,000 Freehold For further information, please contact: Martin Davis, Manchester Office Acresfield, St Ann’s Square Manchester M2 7HA

T: 0161 825 0514 E: martin.davis@christie.com Ref 56/90009/J1330

Calls may be recorded for quality or training purposes

christie.com

Out with the old, and in with the new... Keep and eye out for the new-look GMé launching in February 2014 18 GME december 2013


weblink;

bigga.org.uk

question time

Jim’s BIGGA picture As chief executive officer of BIGGA, Jim Croxton talks about his PGA experience and his plans for the future of the association.

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Golf appears to have played a large part in your childhood with your parents owning Cold Ashby Golf Club when you were a child. What was it like effectively growing up on a golf course and did your game benefit from having access to your own course? My parents took over the golf club when I was just six years old. The business was failing so it was a huge risk for them to sell their house and purchase the lease (we lived in a caravan for the first three years or so!) and they worked incredibly hard to turn it around into a thriving little club. It was brilliant living right in the middle of a golf course as a child – I wasn’t particularly interested in the sport but having access to a 130 acre garden was fantastic! I only really took an interest in playing when I got to my teens and then of course living where I did was a huge benefit. We would play 54 holes in a day, that sort of thing. One major benefit of exposure to golf at a young age I believe is that you learn to communicate with people of all ages and I think that has stood me in good stead. As a player I never had any real talent, the lowest handicap I reached was three

and now I could barely hold down a single figure handicap of any kind. After completing your studies, you joined the PGA. How did you come to that decision, and what was your first role within the Association? Immediately following university I spent a year or so working in the family business. I did everything; greenkeeping, pro shop, administration, bar work, cleaning, whatever needed doing. I loved being out on the course in the summer months but equally the winter months were very tough; lots of freezing cold drainage work etc! I did know however that I wanted to try my hand at a ‘real job’ and see if I could make a career of my own. I spotted an advert in Golf Weekly for a Trainee Tournament Controller position with the PGA Midland Region, applied and was unsuccessful (I lost out to Ian Randell, now chief executive of the PGA’s of Europe) but was asked to try again for a different position in the PGA North Region. I was given a temporary contract for seven months in 1995 based at the Bolton office and that was the beginning of my career in golf. This first role involved driving the PGA’s Mobile Tournament

december 2013 GME 19


Office, setting up courses for tournaments and Pro-Ams, refereeing and generally assisting the more senior staff. It was long hours and lots of road travel but I loved it, particularly the course set up side – I enjoyed choosing pin positions and deciding how a course should play in tournament conditions. This was my first exposure to greenkeepers as working with them closely was crucial in delivering good tournaments. Having spent the best part of 16 years working in various different roles within the PGA, what would you say was the highlight of your time with the PGA? There are far too many highlights to mention. I was privileged to play some of the very best golf courses in the world; I refereed the PGA Championship at Wentworth and many other professional tournaments and was involved in Ryder Cups, Solheim Cups and PGA Cups. My most memorable event was staging the first ever professional tournament to take place in Hungary in the late 90’s. Before then golf was illegal in the country so the whole event was very new. It was the PGA Championship of Europe with, for then, a pretty decent field attracted by a prize fund of $100,000. The culture shock for the players was quite something but for the officials it was unbelievable. The golf course, though an interesting test, was maintained with rudimentary equipment by unqualified staff and they had no appreciation of the expectation level for a proper tournament. The challenge of working (via a translator whose previous career was as a circus acrobat!) with the local staff and volunteers was huge but we overcame all manner of obstacles and delivered a successful event. Leaving the PGA must have been a tough decision to take, so what was

20 GME december 2013

the appeal of jumping to the other side of the fence and joining BIGGA? I was very happy at the PGA, though perhaps had reached a position in the structure there which wasn’t going to change for a few years, but I was not actively looking for a move. When I heard that John Pemberton was retiring it piqued my interest and when I eventually saw the job description and the vision that the BIGGA Board had laid out for the future of the Association it felt like a really good fit. BIGGA had in some ways lost a bit of its identity as an important body within the golf industry and one of the key challenges for the new CEO was to build relationships with key golfing bodies in the UK, most of which I already had good experience of. It was also an opportunity to lead a business and that was something that I very much wanted to try. A successful Association focussed on raising standards of greenkeeper education and awareness of greenkeeping and greenkeepers is crucial to the future success of the sport in the UK, and the opportunity to play a part in that success was too good to pass up. What changes have you implemented during your time with BIGGA, and in which direction would you like to see the Association develop? The main task has been to bring more focus to all of our activity to ensure it helps achieve our core goals of raising standards, awareness and recognition. This has involved writing and implementing a business plan, restructuring the team of staff to ensure the resources are available to achieve our targets, working closely with our commercial partners in the fine turf industry and with other industry bodies such as the R&A, Home Unions, PGA, GCMA etc.


When I took over as CEO all of BIGGA’s core revenue streams – membership subscriptions, advertising and exhibition – were in decline and costs were increasing. I’m pleased to say that both those patterns have been reversed; we now have increasing revenues across the board and have got a strong grip on cost control.

service the needs of our 6,000 members but many of the other European associations do not have staff, so FEGGA has a crucial role to play in supporting the smaller Associations. We have no particular plans to develop our International membership further, instead we are rightly focussed on continuing to improve our activity in the UK

same geographical need to move the event around but that does not mean we won’t choose to do so. At present Harrogate provides an unrivalled combination of exhibition and conference space combined with the necessary hotels, restaurants and bars to accommodate several thousand likeminded individuals.

“I can see our conference growing to such an extent that we will need to seriously consider other venues.” Our main goal now is to implement an industry improved system of greenkeeper accreditation that recognises and measures the vast array of skills the modern course manager needs to have. Alongside the obvious expertise in agronomy, machinery operation and general turf care the modern manager needs to be skilled in finance, communication, health and safety, technology, fleet management and a myriad of other disciplines but these are generally not recognised in the standard greenkeeping qualification structure. We are introducing our own Accreditation scheme that will be beneficial to our members in providing structured development plans but will also act as a really important tool to enable employers to recruit more suitably. What’s the relationship like between BIGGA and FEGGA, and are there any plans to develop the International element of your membership? We are a strong supporter of FEGGA; it is important that our industry has a voice in Europe and FEGGA gives us that; much of the legislation that will affect our members and their golf clubs in the future is being formed in the corridors of Brussels and it is vital that golf and greenkeeping are able to communicate effectively there. Additionally we have many international members, the majority of whom are either British Nationals working abroad or other nationalities who have worked in the UK previously. We are fortunate that BIGGA has the resources necessary to

but we do believe that our CPD and Accreditation schemes may attract some interest from greenkeepers from other countries as time goes on. BTME is clearly an important element of BIGGA, so what plans do you have for the exhibition moving forward, and would you consider changing the location year-to-year? You’re right, BTME is a very important event in our calendar, it provides an annual opportunity to have the whole industry in one place and I genuinely believe that such a gathering has a positive impact on all elements each year; greenkeepers benefit from education, information sharing and problem solving and the supply trade undoubtedly gains not just commercially but in terms of product/service feedback and customer relationships. However we need to be mindful that a traditional exhibition is no longer the main route to market for a large proportion of the trade. Our plans for the exhibition are simple – to continue to encourage end users and key decision makers in the fine turf industry to attend and to provide high quality education for them. We will continue to form partnerships with key industry bodies, within golf particularly, but also other sports to try and achieve those ambitions. So far it seems to be working as our exhibition halls have been sold out for months and education bookings are at a record high. Long may that continue! In terms of venue we evaluate that every year. The UK is a much smaller territory than America so there is not the

We have looked at a wide variety of other venues and haven’t yet seen one that would be the equal of Harrogate, let alone an improvement. But the event is evolving, we are having to expand out of the Harrogate International Centre this year into local hotels to accommodate all of our education programme and I can see our conference growing to such an extent that we will need to seriously consider other venues. We are lucky that Harrogate is effectively in the centre of the UK so it works for most, but it is not completely ideal in terms of international accessibility. Over the last few years we have attracted a larger and larger international audience so accessibility is an important consideration for future years. Who do you find it easier to work with... PGA Pro’s or Greenkeepers? What a question! The two have a great deal in common – both are male dominated industries whose practitioners are passionate about golf. I’ve hugely enjoyed working with both but they are very different, the PGA Professional world is naturally more competitive and one of the main surprises for me when I joined BIGGA was how collaborative the greenkeeping industry is, our members really feel like they are part of a whole and are always looking to share ideas and problems, this is not quite the case with PGA Professionals. What I would say though is that they are both quite rightly very demanding of their Association so I continue to be kept very much on my toes! GME

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december 2013 GME 21


yearplanner 2014

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2-4 IOG SALTEX [Windsor] 26-28 Ryder Cup [Gleneagles] 28-30 Golf Europe [Augsburg]

7-9 Golf Show [Harrogate] 27-30 IGTM [Lake Como]

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yearplanner 2014

urf Equipment & igation Solutions

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7-10 US PGA [Valhalla]

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he right choice. visit www.toro.com

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weblink;

closehouse.co.uk

club focus

On Stable Ground

Close House is rapidly building a name for itself as one of the UK’s finest golf resorts. Scott MacCallum met up with general manager John Glendinning to learn more about the former University of Newcastle site.

If you are a golfer living in the north east of England the chances are you will know all about Close House, on the outskirts of Newcastle – you may even have been lucky enough to have played it. However, if you are from another part of the country and interested in golf, the name, Close House, might well be familiar to you, but you just can’t put a finger on why. Well, if you watch much television golf, or are lucky enough to attend a top professional event and had the pleasure of watching Lee Westwood in action you may well have noticed the Close House logo on the side of his baseball cap, as Lee represents the club on a worldwide basis.

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“Lee was actually the World Number One at the time we signed him to represent the club and he has been an absolutely superb ambassador for us since then,” said John Glendinning, Close House’s general manager. “From a marketing perspective we had been contemplating whether to host a tournament or go for a player association, and we are delighted we chose to link up with Lee as our name is seen around the world 12 months of the year,” added Glendinning, who said that the science behind on which side of the hat the logo should appear stretched some of the finest brains in the country and has already resulted in one swap of sides.

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FACTFILE;

Heddon on the Wall Newcastle upon Tyne NE15 0HT England TEL; (44) 01661 852255 email; events@closehouse.co.uk DIRECtor of golf; John Glendinning (pictured) course manager; Brian Clark Club founded; 1968

26 GME december 2013

“Apparently, in visibility terms, we get 51 per cent exposure on the left side and 49 per cent on the right,” he revealed, joking that it is very easy to become obsessed by the subject. Close House has taken on a metamorphosis over the last 20 years, changing from University of Newcastle-owned facilities, completed with conference centre, classrooms and offices, a botanical and agricultural laboratory site, together with an astronomical observatory and golf course to what it is now – a luxurious golf and hotel development. In 2004, the University sold Close House to local businessman, Graham Wylie, who has invested heavily in creating a superb golf development. However it was 2011 when it really moved from excellent north east venue to one of the most prestigious and “must play” clubs in the country. Two spectacular golf courses – the Filly and the Colt – the latter completely new and already rated as one of the UK’s top 100, and the former built on the site of the original Close House course. The new No.19 clubhouse and restaurant also opened in 2011. The focus is very much on golf as the membership grew and Close House invested in the state-of-the-art golf facilities. You could say that the addition of luxury accommodation in the form of Courtyard and Terrace rooms in 2012, in the shadow of the hotel was the last piece of the jigsaw, but that would imply completion but Close House does not and will not stand still. It is a remarkable achievement and one which has been met despite the deepest and longest economic downturn in living memory and Close House being found in

an area of the country which has been more severely hit than others by the recession. “Despite the recession we have always been ahead of where we had budgeted and we feel that the reason for that is that we have a very good product and that there was no-one else in the area doing what we were doing,” explained Glendinning. And having achieved so much at a difficult time, Glendinning can see positive signs for the future – a good sign for the area as well as for the golf club. “We are finding that the North East is starting to pick up and businesses are beginning to move to the area. With a direct flight between Newcastle and Aberdeen there are more oil industry related businesses opening up in the city while Emirates now have regular flights between here and Dubai,” said Glendinning, a native of the north east himself and a man whose infectious passion for Close House is there for all to see. The golf club proves to be an ideal meeting point for those new to the area as well as those more established residents. Among the members are Alan Shearer, who is a club ambassador, and a number of Newcastle United and Sunderland footballers which has led to some extremely competitive match-play ties! “There are a lot of people joining purely to meet other business people and this has helped us grow the club atmosphere and the social scene has been great. “Events that we put on are seen as networking events at the same time,” explained Glendinning, who also revealed that as of 2014 Close House would no longer be taking any wedding bookings.


“Weddings are booked well in advance and resulted in us blocking off days and losing golf business so we feel that we will be more successful without weddings.” It reinforces the point that Close House is all about the golf with husband and wives encouraged to play together and a thriving junior scene with the Lee Westwood Junior Scholarships introduced to encourage kids from around the area to take up the game.

two courses, aptly named Colt and Filly with their names. “Our owner is a huge horse racing man and owns a number of horses and he met Lee, who is also an owner, at a race meeting and they struck up a relationship. “Lee’s management approached us and asked if we were interested in a player attachment as Lee would be interested in representing the club and we thought who better than Lee, who is such a great guy.

“Weddings are booked well in advance and resulted in us blocking off days and losing golf business so we feel that we will be more successful without weddings.” “The courses are built so that all standards of player can enjoy the experience. It is mainly members who play so it is about making it fun and enjoyable and not overly difficult,” said Glendinning. Getting round, of course, would become easier if golfers take advantage of the Golf Academy with its high quality practice range, club fitting service and well trained PGA professionals. “The Academy is something we are very proud of and is unmatched anywhere else in the area,” said Glendinning, who arrived at Close House from Slaley Hall having become immersed in golf while taking a geography degree at St Andrews University. The Lee Westwood link came from the connection with horses which provide the

“He was also the World Number One at the time.” Lee opened the Colt Course and has had input into the design of the two courses and he visits several times a year. “He came to us a few days before the Muirfield Open and then again for a corporate day a couple of days after and we have the Lee Westwood Corporate Challenge each year where he plays with each of them, hosts a clinic and then does a Q&A. He also does a lot with our junior members and they just think it is wonderful,” said Glendinning. Close House may be a couple of words on the side of a hat for some people but the club is doing everything right and is set to become one of theAFT>GME established 18912_. 18/09/2012 12:38 Page 1 names in the UK game. GME

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december 2013 GME 27


weblink;

in discussion

golfbreaks.com

New frontiers on the horizon for Stanley As Golfbreaks.com celebrates 15 years in business, Michael Lenihan visited founder and chief executive Andrew Stanley at his Windsor head office to witness first-hand his commitment to service.

28 GME december 2013

Having been founded in 1998 by chief executive Andrew Stanley as a company specialising in Ryder Cup-style golf breaks for corporate and society golfers, Golfbreaks.com – under the leadership of Stanley and fellow directors Guy Proddow, Steve Hemsworth and Daniel Grave – has grown to become one of the world’s largest golf tour operators with a staff of 130, an annual turnover of more than £40 million and partnership deals with the PGA, the PGA’s of Europe and the European Tour. The company’s aim is to make booking golf breaks as simple as possible, saving golfers time and money while delivering outstanding service and expert advice, along a wide choice and great value. This year, Golfbreaks.com celebrated 15 years in business, which Stanley is understandably proud of. “It’s a big milestone and something that we are all very proud of,” he said. “We’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed strong support from our suppliers and partners in the industry, and it’s testament to these valued partnerships that we’ve enjoyed the success we have over the last 15 years. “Most of all, though, it’s about our customers. We’ve sent millions of golfers on breaks in this time and everything we

do is geared around making sure they have a great time.” So what, according to Stanley, is the secret of his success? “Well I managed to recruit some very good people. From the early days there were three other shareholder directors who are still very much here now, and between us we’ve built a team of 130 people who are very friendly, polite, positive and knowledgeable with an evident ‘we’re here to help’ attitude. “What has been key is that we’ve been really committed to delivering three things from the outset: value, choice and service. If you do that right it brings great loyalty, which is why we have so much repeat business.” This year has seen challenging trading conditions for many within the golf industry, but Stanley seems to have bucked the trend, at least in the second half of the year. “The long winter meant we had a slow start but after the Masters and then Justin Rose at the US Open things really took off and we actually had a great year. Our Teeofftimes.co.uk brand was absolutely flying as well, booking more than 350,000 golfers, and BookaSpa.com also showed good growth. All in all we’re very happy with our year’s work,” he added.


The upturn in business since the summer, also appears to have given Golfbreaks.com renewed confidence for the future, as Stanley explained: “It’s fair to say there’s been bit of doom and gloom in the last 12-18 months, but it does appear that last summer was something of a blip, with poor weather, the Olympics and various other events having a significant impact. “Recent research from Sports Marketing Surveys into the number and frequency of golfers taking golf breaks gives us plenty of reason for optimism.

“That clubhouse discussion about where to play next is just as likely to involve an iPad as a brochure so we have to make sure that golfers have both options. Teeofftimes.co.uk is also mobile enabled and we now have apps for both iPhone and Android, ensuring golfers can book wherever and whenever they want.” Whilst Stanley is justifiably proud of what he and his company has achieved over the past 15 years, he’s certainly not resting on his laurels, and is aiming to continue the growth that Golfbreaks.com has experienced.

“The push in the US though is just part of a global expansion” “Far from being in decline, golf travel is actually bucking trends, with 85 per cent of golfers surveyed having taken a golf holiday of between three and six days – either in the UK or abroad – in the last three years. “Even more encouraging is the fact that almost half admitted taking golf holidays more frequently than they did five years ago, and our own booking figures for 2013 back this up. “The SMS research tells us that real golfers are enjoying golf travel more than ever. Times are hard for everybody but for many it seems that the annual golf trip with friends or family is firmly enshrined in their calendar and we are doing all we can to make it as affordable as possible,” added Stanley. “As service is king for our business, it’s all about making the entire journey easier for golfers... from that first visit to the website to the time they’re in the 19th having a post-round beer. “A lot of things have been put in place that they won’t even notice but these all help make it as smooth as possible. We extended opening hours by 30 per cent and invested in a new phone system that reduced the number of internal transfers by 50 per cent. “We also hired more staff so that customers aren’t kept waiting and even personalised the brochures we sent out to them.” When Stanley setup Golfbreaks.com back in 1998, the Internet was still very much in it’s infancy so how importance is new technology to that journey? “It’s everything, states Stanley. “The website is effectively our shop window, which is why we’ve made a massive investment in creating a totally new site. For customers, the process of researching, finding and booking is going to be a whole lot easier. “There are loads of great features – including thousands of independent venue reviews and comprehensive destination guides – but most crucially is that it’s mobile and tablet enabled, recognising that people are no longer tied to a desktop computer.

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“There are four million golfers in the UK, so we’ve still got a long way to go until we’re getting every one of them going on a golf break every year. “We’re working with all our existing venues to ensure we can offer the bestvalue deals possible as well as expanding into new destinations worldwide, including the United States. “We’ve already taken a big steps in the US, with our commercial director Daniel Grave relocating to Charleston, South Carolina to open our first overseas office and oversee the American operation,” continued Stanley. “We are already seeing the benefit of this and I’m sure it’s going to be a huge growth area for us. With Dan on the ground contracting states like California, Nevada, Scottsdale and North Carolina we’re in a very strong position to offer UK golfers amazing packages for golf in America. “The push in the US though is just part of a global expansion that has seen a whole raft of new destinations being added to our existing portfolio of more than 2,000 properties. “The likes of Porto went live this year, along with Finland and Estonia – in partnership with European Tour Properties. We’ve also added Thailand and there’s more to come next year. “We’re also offering packages for customers to attend the Masters and the Ryder Cup, helping to achieve our aim of making Golfbreaks.com the complete one-stop shop for the travelling golfer.” Having achieved so much in such a short period of time, Stanley doesn’t harbour any thoughts of taking a well earned break himself, and is still as committed to driving his business as he was on day one. “Even after so long there’s not a day I wake up and think ‘Oh my God I’ve got to go into work’. I absolutely love it, and I still get a huge kick out of growing the business. “The challenge is to keep growing and to keep remaining profitable. I’m always reminded that turnover’s vanity, profit’s sanity, so that’s the yardstick.” GME

december 2013 GME 29


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retail

Golf is a tough sell, both on and offline

When Edwin Watts, one of the largest golf retailers in the world filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States last month, the retailing side of golf took a sharp intake of breath as Derek Clements reports.

It’s the time of year when the tills should be jangling, the plastic should be taking a hammering and Internet orders should be threatening to bring retailers’ systems to a grinding halt. Well, that’s what should be happening, but for thousands of golf retailers, in Britain, Europe and around the world, the reality is somewhat different. There are many reasons: competition, prices, manufacturers constantly bringing out new stock (thus rendering previous models immediately archaic) and, of course, the ongoing credit crunch. The Governments keeps telling us that things are getting better, but it is hard to believe when the evidence of our own eyes tells us something very different.

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Professionals struggle to shift stock from their shops for the simple reason that everybody can go online or head down to their nearest Sports Direct shop and pick up golf balls, clubs, bags, waterproofs and shoes at knockdown prices. Mike Ashley, owner of Newcastle United FC and the Sports Direct empire, has bucked the trend because he buys in bulk, he piles stock high and he sells it cheap. The shopping experience might not be the most enjoyable one, but he figures that his customers don’t care. Just don’t dare ask for a club fitting! Ashley’s rivals would say that he sells it too cheap. He has huge buying power and is able to buy in bulk, and that allows his stores to offer generous discounts that your average golf pro simply can’t compete with. So what about the online retailers? Surely they are doing well? After a fashion. The problem now is that there are

december 2013 GME 31


simply too many of them, which means consumers are spoilt for choice. And the Internet allows us to do price comparisons, which should make it easier to get the best deal. Oh yes, mustn’t forget about eBay either, must we? Sometimes the prices on the online auction site look too good to be true. In all probability, that could be because they are. Bear this in mind – nobody, but nobody, can sell a new set of, say, TaylorMade Speedblade irons for £195 and make a profit. Unless, that is, they are not really TaylorMade Speedblade irons but a copy. A fake. They may look the part, but the materials used to construct them will always be inferior. And when you go to TaylorMade to complain when something goes wrong, they will simply laugh at you. Fake clubs do not come with guarantees. Here’s a useful hint – if you eagerly unwrap you new SLDR driver (the one you paid £125 for) and the logo reads ‘TailorMaid’, it’s not quite what it seems. Well it is actually – you have been taken for a ride. Direct Golf UK have consistently produced good financial results. How have they done it? I visited the company’s head office in Huddersfield recently and was dumbstruck at the amount of stock they carry – it is truly mind-boggling. Row after row, piled from floor to ceiling. More important, however, is the emphasis they put on customer care. If you visit a Direct Golf shop the staff will take the time and trouble to ensure that you are buying clubs that suit you.

32 GME december 2013

They have a fully-equipped fitting centre, and can even tell you whether or not you are using the right putter. In the year 2010-11, Direct Golf opened five new stores and drove retail revenues to the highest levels in the company’s 20-year history, bucking the trend of retailers in the process during these tough economic times. An improved website, together with the launch of Direct Golf TV, helped increase online sales by 14 per cent year-on-year and the trend has continued. In total, the company increased retail revenue by a staggering 42 per cent.That trend has continued, but Direct Golf is a rare success story. The message is that if you are going to succeed you have to remain competitive on prices and you have to offer great customer service. You also have to innovate constantly. That’s all well and good if you have the resources. But what about the small businesses who want to compete by keeping all the latest clubs in stock? Certain manufacturers introduce new models with dizzying frequency. For a small business, it means that the value of the previous model goes through the floor, and stock has to be sold at a loss. A sign of what could be around the corner came in November when Edwin Watts Golf Shops, which has 90 stores in the southeast of the United States, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, blaming increased competition and, more worryingly, waning enthusiasm for the sport for its woes.


That increased competition came in the shape of an explosion of Internet outlets, but the thing that should worry most retailers, whether Internet based or not, whether American-based or located in Britain or other parts of Europe is the assertion that golf is losing its appeal. Let’s get something straight here. We are not talking about some Johnny Come Lately organisation. It was set up by Edwin Watts in the 1960s when he was a 22-year-old golf professional in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. He transformed golf retailing by expanding beyond the typical fare of shirts and gloves to offer hard-to-find quality golf clubs. Watts sold the business to Wellspring Capital Management in 2003, which in turn sold it to private equity firm Sun Capital Partners Inc, which has been busily trying to sell its assets through a court-supervised auction. While some stores will remain open, many will close. Sun bought the company in 2007 and bought or built 39 new stores – months before the worldwide credit crunch. It could, of course, be argued that it finds itself in this plight through an unfortunate set of circumstances, but Edwin Watts had a big presence on the Internet, and even that couldn’t save it. It has liabilities of at least $100m and owes PNC Bank $50m. Liquidator Hilco Merchant Resources and GWNE Inc will continue to run some of the company’s shops, but you

have to wonder how they can make it work when Sun Capital was unable to do so. America may seem like a long way away, and you might well ask why European retailers should be concerned. It’s not rocket science – golf is struggling to attract new players to the game, not just here but all over the world. That means the pie is getting smaller, and there is less to go around. Is there really still enough room for the likes of Direct Golf, Golf Direct, Nevada Bob’s, American Golf, Golfstoreeurope, 118Golf, onlinegolf, discountgolfstore, thegolfshoponline, small pro’s shops, private golf retailers, Sports Direct – you see where we are going with this, don’t you? No longer is it enough just to offer golf equipment for sale and be guaranteed survival. Only the fittest will survive, and that means the retailers who offer not only the best prices, but the best in customer service – services such as custom-fitting should no longer be an added extra for which the golfer has to pay; it should be included in the cost of the clubs he or she buys. Direct Golf has done so well because it has listened to its growing customer base and consistently offered them what they want. But sooner or later, something has to give. Edwin Watts in America. Take your pick as to who will be the first to vanish from the scene in Europe. GME

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december 2013 GME 33


weblink;

course construction

www.mjabbott.co.uk

MJ Abbott on the up Business appears to be on the up for MJ Abbott. Michael Lenihan paid a recent visit to their HQ for a coffee and a catch-up.

34 GME december 2013

If the experience of renowned contractor MJ Abbott is any indicator, golf has turned the corner economically. This year has seen a resurgence in golf business for the Salisbury-based company and, although it’s not to the same levels as five years ago, it’s certainly a good sign moving forward. Steve Briggs, the company’s contracts director, explained: “In 2008 golf was approximately 60 per cent of our turnover – yet last year that was down to about five per cent. “We did three golf holes: two at Effingham at the beginning of the year, and one at Woking at the end of the year. But this year we’ve seen a significant improvement in golf business: our turnover is up overall and golf accounts for around 25 per cent of that. “We’ve had an 18-hole reconstruction at Close House, a nine-hole reconstruction at Royal Mid-Surrey, 14 greens at Long Ashton plus several bunker reconstruction projects at other clubs.” So what did one of golf construction’s big players do when the big golf work dried up? The answer, quite simply, is other projects. “We’ve adapted our skills to other sports and high-end landscapes. There were a number of fairly large landscape projects for private residences – one of which was a 30-acre landscape including

earthworks, lake lining, drainage, irrigation and seeding works – that was one area last year which helped to replace the missing turnover from golf. “And we focussed on sports turf construction contracts, drainage and independent irrigation on golf and sports fields,” added Briggs. “We did a lot more irrigation when the construction was quieter. At Gerrards Cross we’ve done nine bunkers with Swan Golf Designs and we’ve been asked back by the client because they have some drainage issues to look at. We’ve always done reconstruction work, it just tends to have a bit of a lower profile than construction of big name courses.” As one of the leading specialist contractors for the best part of 50 years, MJ Abbott has worked on some of the top golf courses in the UK, including Celtic Manor Resort, Fairmont St Andrews, the Wentworth Club, Sunningdale, The Duke’s Course at St Andrews, and Rockliffe Hall. Briggs explained: “The one project I always think of with particular pride is The Grove. We were still developing at that time – we’d done some sizeable projects at The Belfry and Burhill but this was a big 18-hole, high-spec, five-star hotel and golf project with the renowned American architect, Kyle Phillips – everything they’ve done there is high quality.


“We go back most years and do something new – we’ve built a beach volleyball court, a football pitch and a new practice tee, and we’ve carried out secondary drainage and irrigation upgrades. There’s always something going on.” However, the company remains committed to its original ethos and to its construction roots, and, unlike some, refuses to get involved in course design. Briggs added: “The only elements we work on a design and build basis is drainage and irrigation – other than that it all goes through an architect. We always point people towards the EIGCA because we steer clear of golf design and want to be able to work for all of the architects – we never give a preference for one architect. “If a course manager knows exactly what he wants and it’s an exact replacement of what he has there – just a refresh – there’s no problem with that. You’re not treading on anybody’s toes as there’s no design or strategy involved. You’re just doing something they have chosen not to do themselves.” MJ Abbott has also carried out work abroad including extensive reconstruction at Les Aisses Golf, in Orleans, France – and Briggs doesn’t rule out the possibility of further projects overseas. He added: “We’re happy to work in northern Europe. We’ve done work in France and I was recently in Holland looking at a project. Anything that’s easily accessible and driveable from the

Channel Tunnel is within reason – we like to take our own specialised equipment and operators to ensure we can do the same quality job as in the UK. “We’ve also done drainage projects in Germany, reconstruction and irrigation in Jersey and irrigation projects in both Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic.” As for the future, it appears that, despite the lack of new course builds around, golf will continue to once again play an increasingly major role in the company’s business. “As far as 2014 is concerned, we’ve won a contract for a greens’ reconstruction at Rye this winter and there are a lot of tenders out there to be decided. That looks positive and we know there are some tenders expected for bigger projects,” explained Briggs. “We’re not quite sure what’s going to happen on the sports pitches’ side currently, but we have to balance it carefully. We operate with 100 staff and our own machinery and try not to overload ourselves. “Normally we end up with a buzz of activity around Harrogate Week. That’s a key time of year for us, when our workload for the coming year begins to crystallise. Most importantly we have a great team ethic and committed staff who work harder every year to drive the business forward.” It will not be a surprise if, like a blockbuster film, MJ Abbott is coming to a venue near you soon. GME

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december 2013 GME 35


weblink;

recruitment

exclusivegolf.com

Exclusive! Slinger’s new year challenge Pictured above right with Rugby legend Mike Tindall, Steve Slinger is looking forward to a new challenge in 2014, when he takes over the position of general manager at Effingham Golf Club. Article by Peter Simm. Having successfully completed the daunting Scotland Coast to Coast challenge in the last six months, Steve Slinger is not afraid of taking on a new adventure. Not just content with conquering the daunting 105-mile route, which involved running, cycling and kayaking from the east coast of Scotland to the west and across some of the most scenic but demanding terrain in the Scottish Highlands, Exclusive Golf’s manager crossed the finishing line in an impressive time of 13 hours and eight minutes. After raising £1,800 for Macmillan Cancer Support, Slinger is planning to tackle the tough test again in 2014. But before he does that, the 39-year-old will embark on a new direction in his career after taking the decision to head for pastures new to become new general manager at Effingham Golf Club, near

36 GME december 2013

Guildford, Surrey, at the start of February. Slinger has worked in a number of different roles since joining Exclusive Golf in 2002, playing a key part in helping the group become one of the most successful and prestigious golfing brands in the south of England, and he admitted that he didn’t take the decision to leave lightly. He said: “Leaving was naturally a tough decision for me – I have lived and breathed Exclusive Golf for 12 years and have some very strong ties with the company, the staff and the memberships. However, it feels like the correct time for me personally and I was drawn to Effingham for a number of reasons. “I have always loved the history and tradition of the game and, for me, Effingham offers both. This will be the


first time in the club’s history that a general manager has been appointed, so that in itself is a significant landmark and I’m excited by the opportunity that the role is sure to bring.” The son of a golf professional, Slinger always seemed destined for a career in the game in some form or another. Having started playing at the age of four, he progressed to playing representative golf and captaining teams for his club (Ham Manor in West Sussex), school and county, before being drawn to the coaching side of the game and training as a PGA professional.

“Golf sat there as a supporting mechanism – I suppose my opportunity for growth came in seeing the potential of the golf properties as a standalone outfit and, thus, Exclusive Golf was formed.” Slinger is the first to admit that things have not always been plain sailing and there have been challenges along the way but, just as he has done throughout his career, he has met them head on. While membership numbers across clubs in England have generally been in decline since 2004, the opposite is true at The Manor House and Mannings Heath while, under Slinger’s leadership, both

“I have always loved the history and tradition of the game and, for me, Effingham offers both. This will be the first time in the club’s history that a general manager has been appointed” Teaching golf was still his main focus when he embarked on life as a professional at first Orchardleigh Golf Club, in Somerset, and then the world-famous Killarney Golf and Fishing Club in Kerry, Southern Ireland. But Slinger’s eyes were opened to the possibilities in golf management when he moved back to England to become head professional at The Manor House Golf Club in Castle Combe, near Bath – one of Exclusive Golf ’s two golf venues alongside Mannings Heath GC in Horsham, West Sussex – and the rest, as they say, is history. Two years after joining the Wiltshire club, he was promoted to the role of director of golf before becoming general manager of its sister club, Mannings Heath, in January 2007, and responsible for both clubs as Exclusive Golf ’s manager when the group was formed three years later. “It was only when I got to The Manor House that I realised my future might lie in the management of golf clubs,” explained Slinger, ”and the experience Exclusive Golf has given me over the years has been priceless, in particular in showing and training me to understand the business behind great F&B service and that of the other non-golf related subjects. “I was completely ‘wowed’ by The Manor House when I first saw it. The product was so complete with one of the most seamless customer experiences I had encountered at that time. Naturally, there were things that needed attention but, on the whole, the place was full of quality and I wanted to be a part of it,” added Slinger. “The Manor House is owned by Exclusive Hotels, a hugely successful group of five-star hotels and, more recently, some really contemporary venues have been purchased to join the portfolio.

golfmanagementnews.com

clubs now feature in the ‘Top 100 Courses in England’ poll – the only golf group with that dual position. He said: “Just because Exclusive Golf is proprietary owned and run that way, that is never an excuse to discard the members’ wishes or concerns – actually quite the opposite should occur. “I believe if an individual wishes to become a member of any establishment that this will only truly be cemented when the relationship between both parties is strong and trustworthy. “The creation of the Exclusive Golf brand helped give clarity to our offering and has been embraced across all of our main market segments, and importantly, the staff in particular enjoy being part of that identity.” With Exclusive Golf looking to build on his legacy in 2014, Slinger is now turning his attention to his new role at Effingham and continuing his recent success at the historic private members’ club. Its famous Harry Colt-designed Open qualifying championship course has already been the subject of significant changes in the last 12 months with the re-design of its 18th hole and the laying of a new fifth green and, using his considerable experience, Slinger is relishing the chance to help the Surrey venue maintain its progress in the future. He added: “All of the recent work that Effingham has carried out shows they mean business and plans are afoot to refurbish large areas of the clubhouse which, alongside enhanced customer service, will serve to compliment this fabulous Surrey members’ club. “The board at Effingham’s sole focus is on moving the club forwards in the interests of its membership and, using my knowledge and experience, it’s my responsibility to deliver one of the best membership experiences around.” Based on his track record, only a fool would bet against him succeeding. GME

december 2013 GME 37


drainage

The Drain Game

Winter is here and wet weather is almost certainly guaranteed, so to keep golf courses playable, effective drainage is essential. Mike Beardall examines the facts. Drainage problems can best be avoided if greenkeepers understand the soil conditions they have and how they can diagnose and treat potential troubles with water. Too often pipe drainage systems are installed automatically with not enough thought being given to the soil physics of water movement. Soil is made of minerals originally derived from rock and organic matter derived from vegetation, water and air. Most of the soil is made of the mineral fraction derived from the parent material which is frequently located under the soil, and the structure is a term that describes the way in which the individual soil particles join together to form larger aggregates. A well structured soil is usually characterised by an intensive system of small aggregates or crumbs gradually leading into larger blocks further down the soil profile. Well structured soils are established on sites that have been left undisturbed for many years. The smaller particles in a soil form aggregates under the influence of clay, organic matter, earthworm activity and grass root activity. Water moves through a soil in the spaces between the soil particles. These are called the pores. In a soil with a high clay and/or silt content the pore spaces are very small, the pore spaces are usually much larger in a sand dominated soil. A well structured soil contains a system of interconnected very large pores that enables efficient water movement. Downward water movement is faster in a soil where the pore spaces are large, hence sandy soils drain faster than clay/ silt soils and well structured soils drain faster than poorly structured soils. Compaction reduces pore size and causes deterioration in structure.

38 GME december 2013

Air injection systems, like the latest Air2G2 air injector, from Campey Turf Care Systems push air in under force and break up compacted soil. Because the surface is hardly disturbed it can be a good way of treating golf greens. Contracts manager of Speedcut Contractors, Barry Pace said: “Breaking up compaction is an essential part to keeping surfaces playable. As well as a ensuring good drainage system is in place, surfaces need to be de-compacted or they will not let water through.” “The key to good drainage systems is looking at the soil conditions underneath to work out the best form of long-term drainage treatment.” Water movement is affected by the forces of adhesion and cohesion, which are both a result of the electronic charges on the water molecules and soil particles. Water molecules are attracted to each other more strongly than to the air and this causes the effect known as surface tension (surface tension is caused by the cohesive forces of the water molecules). Molecules are also attracted to the soil particles by the forces of adhesion. Water that is adjacent to the particle is subject to the strongest forces. Hence water is held very tightly in soils with small pores. Water will only move down through soil when the force of gravity is greater than the forces of adhesion and cohesion. Water can move sideways or upwards through a soil from an area of saturation to an area with lower moisture status. However the speed of water movement under the forces of adhesion and cohesion is very slow and only occurs over small distances. When all the pores of the soil are filled with water the soil is considered to be saturated. The force of gravity pulls water downwards through the soil. The rate at which the soil drains at this point is called the saturated hydraulic conductivity, this rate is proportional to the square of the pore diameter. Hence coarse textured soils will drain much faster than fine textured ones.


As the soil drains the largest pores are emptied and water remains in the smaller pores. A balance, or equilibrium, is reached when the force of gravity can no longer move the water against the resisting forces of adhesion and cohesion. At this point the soil is at field capacity. The amount of water held in the soil at field capacity varies enormously according to the texture of the soil. Typically a loam soil will hold around 25 per cent moisture at field capacity compared to only five-seven per cent for a USGA sand.

a site as they effectively by-pass the soil and the sub-soil by introducing lateral drain lines which provide a connection between the surface and the gravel over the pipe drain line. Sand slit drainage systems can often become sealed at the surface after play. Heavy sand topdressing will reduce this problem but the potential for capping the coarse grit-sand in a slit with the finer sand used for top dressing is sometimes a problem encountered by consultants. Good contractors are familiar with the properties of all types of sand.

“Nothing is more costly to a contract than repeating an item of work that should have been done correctly the first time.” Water can now only be moved through the soil by the pumping pressure of the grass roots. Once all of the water available to the grass roots has been removed the soil is at wilting point. Most sports surfaces are characterised by a shallow depth of topsoil frequently overlying very slow draining clay-dominated subsoil. Pipe drainage systems are usually installed using professional trenching equipment. There are a wide variety of trenchers specifically designed to work on golf courses, sports fields and amenity surfaces. Harry Jurgens from AFT Trenchers says: “We work closely with contractors to develop products such as the AFT 45 trencher or Wizz Wheel 75 which are specifically designed for golf course use.” The aim of a main drain system is to increase the removal of water from the subsoil to allow the topsoil to drain at its optimum rate. The sideways movement of water is virtually non-existent in most situations, so the drain will only accept water from the area directly above it and slightly to the side. Pipe drainage systems are only effective when there is a zone of ‘free-water’ at the depth that they are installed. In this situation the drains will ‘pull’ water that is above and to the side of the drain line due to the hydraulic head of water created above the drain. Planning a drainage system means calling in the experts. Sportsturf consultant Gordon Jaaback (pictured top right) says: “A detailed professional investigation of the project beforehand should identify most of the problems. A comprehensive work plan and specification prepared by a consultant gives the contractor a clear idea of the scope of work. “Technical decisions reached early can prevent unnecessary costs. Nothing is more costly to a contract than repeating an item of work that should have been done correctly the first time.” The AFT Sandbander systems are effective at increasing the drainage rate of

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The majority of golf greens are constructed using the perched water table principle, which usually consists of a medium sand dominated rootzone over a gravel layer with drains below. A blinding layer of grit sand is often included between the rootzone and the gravel. The profile always consists of finer materials overlying coarser materials. Water will only move downwards through the rootzone when the gravitational pull on the water exceeds the adhesive and cohesive forces in the rootzone. Water movement only occurs when the height of saturated water reaches a critical depth. The depth of saturated water required to produce gravitational movement is dependent upon the texture of the rootzone. The finer the rootzone, the deeper it needs to be to obtain gravitational water movement. Frequently this critical tension is in the range 150-300mm. Perched water table constructions often fail when the depth of rootzone is less than the critical tension of the material used. Most golf greens are built with rootzones of 150-200mm in depth and sometimes less. Theoretically these greens will be permanently saturated during wet times of the year. The movement of water between the rootzone and the lower coarser layer is also influenced by the relationship between the particle size distribution of the materials. This is called the ‘bridging factor’. If there is too much variation in the particle sizes, water will not move from one to the other. Again this is due to the adhesive and cohesive forces present in the pores of the two materials at the interface. Barry Pace of Speedcut added: “Good drainage contractors have years of experience and have seen every type of sportsturf problem. Careful analysis of soil conditions and specific area problems will result in a detailed outline of the work required. “Every sportsturf situation has its own unique drainage solution. No two situations are the same.” GME

december 2013 GME 39


weblink;

my view

dks-sport.co.uk

Service Please!

From a personal perspective, sports marketing expert Andi Deeks takes an objective look at the golf industry. I am your customer, but do you know who I am? It may well be a strange question that I’m asking you to consider, because in all probability I don’t think you know who I am, what I do or where I come from. The old days of the golf club were steeped in history, with stuffy members and waiting lists but golf – and indeed society in general – is rapidly changing. Yet I’m not certain, from what I’ve seen with my own two eyes, that the golf industry has woken up to this fact. New golfers, like myself, are initially driving range hitters who come to the game either through friends, or even playing the likes of Tiger Woods video games on the XBox, Playstation or Wii, and then decide to give the ‘real’ game a go. Usually purchasing a second-hand set of clubs from a discount or online shop, many new golfers often use the golf venue more often that not as a social venue to meet-up with friends, rather than practice their golf game – we may well not be ‘scratch’ golfers, but we do never-the-less consider ourselves as golfers. The Golfer has changed over the years, but the venues set-up and clubs mind-set hasn’t moved with the times.

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Most clubs don’t know or understand the importance of creating a Brand, Image or developing customer experiences that creates loyal customers, who in-turn, promotes the venue far and wide. Customer service has never been more important than it is today, especially with the emergence of social media which has engulfed the younger generation. Using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all your customers have the ability to become instant critics, and before you know it, a poor customer relation experience can be published online and read by thousands of people. In contrast, a great customer experience can be the most cost-effective way of not only retaining your existing client base, but also encouraging existing and new golfers to your establishment – making people feel welcome and wanted has never been more important than it is today, in what has become a competitive and cut-throat customer-led industry. It often amazes me when I talk to golf club owners and managers, that they never fully appreciate the value of their brand, and the revenue that their club could generate if it was only managed correctly.


Yes, the revenue from the golf side of the operation is important, and based on an average green-fee of £25, and a course yielding 40,000 rounds per year, that income should be close to £1 million per year. Yet it is the up-sale on items such as buggy hire and food and drink where so many clubs in my experience, are falling down.

the same regardless if you have 30,000 rounds, 35,000 rounds or 40,000 rounds per year. Coming from a motorsport background where everyone is welcome regardless of class or wealth, golf has really opened my eyes to just how different the two sports are from a customer service perspective. Again, talking from personal experience, far too often golf clubs miss the

Small matters which you may think are trivial, but its my money that I’m spending and it’s my leisure time that I want to enjoy. So, if this club fails to meet my expectations, that I simply take my money elsewhere and spend it. It comes back to who are your customers? Where are your customers, the current ones, the new ones and the ones you don’t know?

“Remember without customers, your business doesn’t make any money, And without money, there is no business... you drive the customers; the customers drive sales.” With profit margins on food and drink often in the region of 70 per cent, why is it that so many golf clubs close their bar and restaurant areas at six o’clock on a hot summer’s evening, especially when the course and their driving range is still open for business? If a golfer is spending £25 on a green fee, then you should be expecting a minimum additional spend of £10 off course – there really shouldn’t be any excuses for not maximising the spend from this individual. I’m willing to bet that few golf clubs in the UK are running anywhere near capacity when it comes to maximising tee-slots, so it then becomes increasingly more important for clubs to generate as much off-course income as possible. After all, your staffing costs, business rates and energy consumption will remain

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‘little things’ which can all too often put off new customers. Only last month I visited a golf club where the car park was ankle deep in rain water from an earlier downpour and I had to walk past not only the rubbish bins to get to the pro shop, but also staff on their break who were smoking outside – not the best first impression of any business. Then, to compound matters still further, the pro was on the phone clearly talking to another member of staff and chose not to acknowledge me, or cut his conversation short. Customer service like this is unacceptable in this day and age, and when I arrive at two o’clock in the afternoon to play golf, I also don’t expect to be advised that all of the buggies are not in use as someone neglected to charge them the night before!

And are you losing customers because of the venue, the staff’s attitude or the club’s set-up? Are you building a business that is based on customer’s needs, wants and requirements, and is it a venue that encourages customers to spend money in? In reality the customer is looking for a venue to enjoy a few hours of precious leisure time, a time to relax after a hard day or week, and enjoy their golf with friends. Playing golf is just a small part of that overall experience, which should include the course, the welcome and the experience in the clubhouse. Remember without customers, your business doesn’t make any money, And without money, there is no business... you drive the customers; the customers drive sales. GME

december 2013 GME 41


the last word

“For I have become – whisper it quietly – a little disillusioned with sport. Money is at the heart of almost every professional sporting endeavour these days and I simply can’t summon up the enthusiasm to watch.”

Modern history far more compelling than sport

In sporting terms 2013 has seen a bit of a lull for me. Putting aside my weekly stints in the press boxes of league two football clubs this season, I’ve actually seen and participated in less sport this year than since I first came out of nappies. If familiarity really does breed contempt then that may well explain it. For I have become – whisper it quietly – a little disillusioned with sport. Money is at the heart of almost every professional sporting endeavour these days and I simply can’t summon up the enthusiasm to watch. I still force myself to view Match of the Day on a weekly basis, but I watch a recording so that I can fast-forward through all the inane chatter which seems to have replaced thoughtful analysis.

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And I watch the Football League Show for research. Golf-wise, I saw a little bit of the Masters and a bit of the Scottish Open on TV. I was on holiday for the Open Championship and simply couldn’t be bothered to stay up to watch the other two Majors. The only televised sport I watched for any real length of time during 2014 was Andy Murray’s success at Wimbledon. Meanwhile, age and two increasingly dodgy knees have put paid to almost all my participation except for four rounds of golf – and by anybody else’s standards, they wouldn’t even qualify as that. I can no longer play veterans’ football – that’s nothing to do with the knees; it’s just that I’m ****! – and I can’t even summon up the enthusiasm for a game of pool or darts.

Our youngest has now reached the age when he won’t let me play him at FIFA on the Xbox because I’m so “embarrassingly bad”. And I keep losing at every sporting video game I attempt on my own. Even playing the computer at Scrabble on my iPhone sees me trail home in second place. So it’s easy to see why I’ve become disillusioned at all levels. Instead, I’ve discovered a passion for modern history and can be found in front of the TV fascinated by documentaries or curled up in a corner poring over a copy of BBC History magazine. The money I would have spent watching football has, instead, been spent on books on D-Day and a week’s visit to the Normandy beaches, during which – in a first for me and much to the surprise of my wife – I visited no golf courses or football grounds. I’m a new man. But a few wins for Portsmouth FC in league two and a decent round of golf will, I’m sure, see a return to the couch potato of old. Though I can’t promise to be any less grumpy. Here’s to an enjoyable and profitable 2014! GME

David Bowers mail@golfmanagementnews.com


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