GMé | December 2015

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On the cover...

Upgrade from economy to business class with a VIP fleet from Garia... the golf car for the discerning golfer and golf club operation


ÂŁ6.50 Issue 105 | December 2015

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

With a pedigree in horse racing and motorsport, Golf at Goodwood has been revived in recent years thanks to general manager, Stuart Gillett





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On the agenda december 2015 46


Gillett helps Revive Goodwood

Stuart Gillett, the charismatic general manager at Goodwood, has revived the fortunes of the historic venue with a creditsbased membership scheme.


GCA working for the industry

The Golf Consultants Association is a varied group of golf industry professionals, who have the skills and expertise to benefit golf club operators.


The Great ‘Pace’ debate

The pace of play is a hot topic at the moment, so PGA Master professional, Alan Walker, offers some advice on how clubs can curb slow-play out on the course.


Ruiz’s heads up La Manga

Michael Lenihan meets Eduardo Ruiz, the newly appointed director of golf at La Manga Club, to ask what plans the 35-year-old has in store for the Spanish resort.



SkyTrak has the X Factor

SkyCaddie’s new SkyTrak claims to be golf’s first affordable professional-standard personal launch monitor and simulator. But what can it do for club owners and operators?

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


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Michael Lenihan David Bowers Tom Brooke, Daniel Chidley, Andy Hiseman, Scott MacCallum, Andy Martin, Alan Walker, Bruce Weller To ensure your regular printed copy of GMé, delivered six times per year, subscribe online at View our library online at

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from the publisher

“And, presumably, it heralded a similar inhalation at BMW’s HQ, in Munich, given the automotive giant markets the event as such”

BMW gets that sinking feeling as ‘flagship’ event starts to list At a recent press conference at the Football Association, chairman Greg Dyke stunned the assembled media by announcing that the FA Cup final at Wembley was no longer the organisation’s flagship event. Instead, there will be a money-spinning show-piece game between two of England’s biggest sides, played in a country with no real history of football, but one which is prepared to pay inordinate amounts into FA coffers for the privilege of hosting it. Obviously this didn’t happen. If it had you would have been reading about it on the front and back pages of newspapers for weeks. And Dyke would have been forced to resign. Yet, apart from a few gasps of astonishment in the press ranks and a few column inches, European Tour chief Keith Pelley’s statement that the BMW Championship at Wentworth is no longer the tour’s flagship event seemed to pass by with barely a ripple. Speaking ahead of the DP World Tour Championship, in Dubai, Pelley had been asked how he felt about the Tour’s ‘flagship’ event being staged at a club that was about to embark on an extremely exclusive membership policy. “First of all, I’d take issue with you describing it as our flagship event,” he said. Cue the aforementioned gasps of astonishment. And, presumably, it heralded a similar inhalation at BMW’s HQ, in Munich, given the automotive giant markets the event as such.

4 | GMé December 2015

OWN GOAL Keith Pelley, the European Tour chief executive

“I’m telling you our flagship event is right here,” continued the Canadian, who, lest we not forget, has been in the job for just a little more than six months. “This is an event offering a prize fund of $8 million (£5.3m) plus a bonus pool. The event at Wentworth is a terrific tournament which attracts 125,000 fans but it has a prize fund of €5 million (£3.5m). “The other event in America that week offered $6.7 million (£4.4m). That’s unacceptable. So I don’t see the BMW as our flagship tournament.” On the one hand, one has to admire his confidence, making such a statement in the embryonic stages of his tenure. He’s clearly set out his stall.

But what will the effect be on the Tour long-term? Can the European Tour have a flagship event that’s not in Europe? Or is the statement merely a precursor to a further announcement that the European Tour is to be rebranded to give it a more global appeal, in keeping with its schedule of events? GMé

Michael Lenihan

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Hold the front page As clubs are increasingly placing more emphasis on the golf experience at resorts, perhaps its surprising that too many clubs are still opting for ‘budget’ as opposed to VIP golf cars.

“Garia adds to the prestige of the club as well as adding additional revenue through rental sales”

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6 | GMé December 2015

As car owners we all spend many, many hours behind the wheel and, hopefully, become extremely comfortable in our own surroundings. However, there are occasions when we like to be pampered or treated as “special”. Think of the vintage Bentley we hire for our wedding day, or the stretch limo that is booked to take the children to their prom. That same experience can now be offered to golfers if they are lucky enough to be a member of, or a visitor to, a club which has leased a fleet of Garia golf cars. Behind the wheel of a Garia every golfer feels like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth or Bubba Watson… in between shots at least. The Danish Garia – which earlier this year celebrated its tenth anniversary since production first started – has built packages which enable golf club owners and operators to lease a VIP Fleet and so be able to offer their members and guests a luxury golf car experience and, at the same time, increase the club’s profits. Whether it be a corporate day, or just a bunch of friends enjoying their annual golf outing, the increased cost of hire is more than compensated by the enjoyment and lasting memories created by the experience.

From the club’s perspective, the monthly leasing costs are typically swallowed up far more quickly than with a standard golf car, meaning that a golf club with a Garia fleet is making money on its investment much earlier in the month. “Having the opportunity to play at a top course is the highlight of the year for many golfers,” commented Steen Scherff, Garia’s vice president of sales EMEA. “And that experience can be made even more memorable if the round can be played from one of our luxury golf cars. “We have found that golf clubs which offer a Garia fleet are actually attracting additional corporate and society business because golfers are so keen to experience golf from a Garia golf car,” added Scherff. “A golf clubs which offer a Garia fleet, on top of their regular fleet of golf cars, also does attract new members, often from neighbouring clubs, as Garia adds to the prestige of the club as well as adding additional revenue through rental sales.” So whether you are a club member being treated with a Garia round for a birthday, or a golf club seeking to add new revenue streams, Garia golf cars are a winner all round. GMé

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British Foreign Secretary wades in over Wentworth membership row Philip Hammond, the British Foreign Secretary, has waded into the row between Wentworth members and its new Chinese owners, accusing the Beijing-based conglomerate of “very disappointing” behaviour. Hammond’s intervention will boost the hopes of golfers that he can succeed in forcing the new owners to backtrack in plans for a massive hike in fees and a drastic cull of members. Hammond, who is Wentworth’s local MP, will need to use all of his diplomatic skills, as relations between Reignwood Group – which bought the club last year for £135 million – and its membership have sunk to an all-time low. In a growing escalation in tensions, Wentworth’s Chinese owners are being accused of a lack of respect after the St George’s flag was lowered to half-mast for victims of the Paris atrocity while the Chinese flag, that also now stands outside the clubhouse, was not. Members’ anger was provoked by an announcement by Reignwood last month that it plans to cut membership of the club from 4,000 to 800; charge a one-off debenture fee of £100,000; and raise annual membership rates. Nigel Moss, a Wentworth member for 26 years and leader of a campaign group against the changes, wrote to Hammond urging him to intervene “in this deliberate destruction of our community.”

British Foreign Secretary, and Wentworth MP, Philip Hammond

In his response, Hammond said: “Thank you for your recent email in which you express concern about proposals by the new owners of Wentworth Club, Reignwood Group, substantially to increase both the joining fee and the annual membership costs. “I agree that this is very disappointing. Although Wentworth has always been a private club, it is very well-loved by the local community.” Hammond, MP for Runnymede and Weybridge, said in his letter he would seek a meeting with the new owners

“to convey the strong feelings locally in respect of these proposals,” and added that he would further make it clear to Reignwood that it “may wish to bear in mind the need to engage and to maintain good relations with the local community if they wish to seek planning permissions in the future.” Michael Fleming, the club’s captain, said: “What they are planning to do is killing the community. Philip Hammond can serve a really useful diplomatic purpose here. Chinese UK relations have not got off to a good start.”

Trust takes over Solheim receives HSBC at Old Course Lifetime Achievement Award St Andrews Links Trust will assume responsibility for the distribution of all commercial Old Course tee times for the season commencing April 2018. The St Andrews Links Trustees have decided to take control of the distribution of all commercial tee time operations and informed long-standing partners, Old Course Experience (OCE), that its existing contractual arrangement will conclude at the end of 2017. Commenting on the change of emphasis, Euan Loudon, chief executive, St Andrews Links, said: “Following a lengthy period of consideration the Trust has decided that it is the appropriate time to take control over the presentation and sale of all Old Course commercial times as well as developing and managing a closer working relationship with multiple tour operators. “This change in emphasis will bring to a close the existing contractual arrangement which we have enjoyed with our partner, OCE, for more than 20 years.”

8 | GMé December 2015

(LR): Bubba Watson and John Solheim

John Solheim, PING chairman & CEO, was honoured last month with the distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award at the HSBC Golf Business Forum in Shanghai, China. Solheim was recognised for his contribution to golf and for his achievements, leadership and innovation within the business side of the game. He got his start in the business when he was only 13, working alongside his father, Karsten, on early putter designs in the family’s garage.

He aspired to be an architect, but as PING’s business expanded, he turned his passion to designing golf clubs and helping Karsten grow the privately-held entity into one of the most influential golf companies in the world. As chairman and CEO, he leads the company’s strategic direction and oversees the design and development of PING products. “This prestigious award has been given to the game’s biggest names over the years, so I’m very honoured to have the Solheim name next to many of golf’s legends,” Solheim said. “I accept this on behalf of my family and the entire company because achievement is always the result of teamwork. We have a lot of great team leaders at PING who make my job easier, and together we give PING the reputation it enjoys in the golf world.” In particular, HSBC saluted the Solheims (PING founder Karsten Solheim and his wife, Louise) for creating the Solheim Cup in 1990.


Major investment planned for the Buckinghamshire

In brief... The TGI Golf Partnership has announced that famed club designer Roger Cleveland will be the keynote speaker at its 2016 Business Conference. Callaway Golf’s chief designer will be the main speaker at the event, which takes place at The Belfry, on February 2-3, 2016, and gives the group’s 480-plus Partners the opportunity to acquire new skills from leading figures from inside, and outside, of the golf industry. Following its success at the 2014 Ryder Cup, Abacus Sportswear has signed a new Ryder Cup licensee agreement for the 2016 and 2018 matches. As an Official Licensee to the biennial event, the Swedish technical clothing brand will produce an exclusive Ryder Cup collection for consumers, consisting of polo shirts, pullovers, layer products and high performance rainwear. The Marine Hotel, located on the edge of the 18th hole of Royal Troon, has been sold in a multi-million pound deal brokered by Julian Troup – head of UK hotels agency and Alistair Letham – hotels director of commercial property specialist Colliers International, which had offered it for sale on behalf of previous owners, The Hotel Collection, with a £7 million guide price. Foremost Golf is to expand its portfolio of digital marketing services to include a lite version of the popular Elite Marketing Programme (EMP). Available immediately, EMP Lite will be free of charge and provide a simple, easy to use service that supports the Elite Marketing Programme, of which there are currently 340 members. As part of every member’s Foremost membership, the integrated digital retail service will provide personalised e-newsletters and websites utilising content produced by Foremost.

The owners of the Buckinghamshire Golf Club are to invest £2 million to develop and improve the acclaimed golf course near Denham. Asahi Group Holdings Ltd has agreed to finance the improvements, following a major survey conducted by golf course architects Thomson Perret and Lobb. The project will include building a reservoir, adding buggy paths and installing a new sophisticated irrigation system. The lakes on the 7th and 8th holes are also to be redesigned, with a large number of bunkers relocated and lined. The course improvement work will be spread over the next two winters to minimise disruption to golfers, with an anticipated project completion date of March 2017. “We are delighted to announce our owner, the Asahi Group Holdings Ltd, has agreed a major seven figure investment which can do nothing but enhance our reputation as one of the finest inland golf facilities in the south east of England,” said Buckinghamshire course and grounds manager, Andy Ewence. “These are exciting times for all of us here at the club. Building a large reservoir will help us to save money and improve our sustainability and means we won’t be reliant on using mains water,” continued Ewence.

“Installing a new irrigation system will help us to produce tournament standard conditions throughout the year, while our advanced new sprinkler system will also reduce wastage. We will be able to target only the greens, surrounds, approaches, fairways and tees where water is required.” Commenting on the project, principal course architect Tim Lobb of Thomson Perret and Lobb said: “We have been working with the Buckinghamshire Golf Club to develop a plan which will refresh its impressive lay-out by implementing a strategic review of the bunker positioning and style among other planned upgrades. “At the forefront of all our design proposals is to create a strategic, interesting and fair golfing challenge.”

The clubhouse at The Buckinghamshire

Stoke Park to get five-star bunker treatment this winter

The seventh on the Colt Course at Stoke Park

Stoke Park is to invest a seven-figure sum in a facelift of its 27 holes, which were created by Harry Colt in 1908. The first phase of works, which began at the Buckinghamshire club last month, will involve rebuilding every bunker on the Colt course – holes one to nine – with some minor design changes being made to their shape and size before the holes reopen in April. The renowned strategic positioning of the bunkers will remain, however, with just a few minor tweaks.

And, while the nine holes are ‘out of bounds’, other work will take place to enhance Stoke Park, as director of golf, Stuart Collier explained: “We are very fortunate to have three nines of outstanding quality which enables us to close one for a brief period while maintaining 18 championship holes for members and visitors. “So, holes one to nine will remain closed during the works period this winter, while holes 10 to 27 – the Alison and the Lane Jackson – will ensure our members always have 18 holes on which to play.” The task of reshaping the bunkers will be undertaken by John Greasley Limited, under the supervision of Collier and estate director Alex Millar. Collier added: “The remit for the contractor is to ensure there is consistency in shape and design for all fairway and greenside bunkers. “John Greasley uses a proprietary bunker liner called HyLine, with which we have been very impressed, and which is designed to eliminate the possibility of stone contamination.” | 9




FootJoy extends partnership with Ryder Cup Europe FootJoy has extended its Official Licensee role with Ryder Cup Europe for a further three years, following the reported success of its Ryder Cup branded gloves, socks and apparel range which was launched to coincide with the 2014 contest at Gleneagles. The new deal will see the successful partnership continuing for the events at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota in 2016 and Le Golf National near Paris in 2018, with the respective Ryder Cup logos featuring on new FootJoy gloves, socks and apparel. Incorporating a number of stylish polo shirts, sweaters and pullovers, the apparel line-up for next year’s Ryder Cup in the United States will include new ‘Evoke’ and ‘Maui’ colourways, whilst golfers will also have the chance to buy Europeancoloured shoes thanks to the Mark of a Player brand’s MyJoys service. “We’re delighted to extend a really special partnership with Ryder Cup Europe and are privileged to continue our involvement in what is the most anticipated tournament in golf,” said Paul O’Hagan, marketing executive for FootJoy. “Our Gleneagles-branded garments have proved really popular over the last two years and we hope the new agreement will help support our retail partners further with more standout garments until at least 2018.”

The new Ryder Cup-branded FootJoy garments are now available to stockists and consumers throughout Europe. Richard Hills, Europe’s Ryder Cup director, said: “Ryder Cup Europe is delighted to extend our agreement with FootJoy, the number one shoe in golf. “As one of our valued Official Licensees, the company proved a huge success at Gleneagles last year and I have no doubt they will continue to build on that success when The Ryder Cup takes

New farmland course rejected

EGCOA celebrates tenth anniversary conference

Plans for an 18-hole golf course on farmland – described as the ‘lungs of Edgware’ – have been rejected. Green belt land at the site would have been turned into a course, along with a clubhouse and car parking, if the proposals had gone ahead. But Barnet Council’s planning committee voted unanimously to turn down the plans last month. The decision was met with relief by spectators in the packed public gallery. Originally submitted by Tony MenaiDavis – owner of The Shire London Golf Club – in 2013, the plans were withdrawn in 2014, before being resubmitted later that year, only to be withdrawn again. Councillors questioned if there was any demand for a new golf course, as the committee report said there were 30 golf courses within a 10-mile radius, and 19 within five miles. The reason for rejection was given as “inappropriate development” on the green belt.

The 10th Anniversary European Golf Business Conference hosted last month in Amsterdam has been hailed “the best to date,” by EGCOA president Alexander Baron von Spoercken. “With a record attendance since 2010, it’s clear the industry is on the up,” he added. The conference theme ‘From VISION to Action’ truly delivered a refreshing and insight into the European and global golfing industry, offering realistic and actionable solutions. Day one opened with the 7th European Multi Course Owners meeting, with operators reporting increased turnover in 2015 compared to previous years. Day two featured a full day of presentations, including Sander Allegro, chief consultant on the VISION 2020 project, detailing a summary of the outcomes and reach of VISION 2020 since its launch in 2014. Representatives of the Finnish and Norwegian owners association were interviewed sharing the positive impact

10 | GMé December 2015

FootJoy apparel sporting the Ryder Cup logo for 2018

place at Hazeltine National next year,” said Hills. Brand new for 2016, the Evoke collection features prominently in the new FootJoy Ryder Cup offering, boasting striking mint, berry, white and navy colour combinations. Meanwhile, a varied and distinctive colour palette of aqua, orange, white and navy define the Maui collection available to golfers purchasing FootJoy apparel in advance of the contest at Hazeltine.

the project has had on the members of their national associations and the industry at large. The 10th anniversary Awards & Gala Dinner was hosted at The International Golf Club, located adjacent to Schiphol airport, where Marcel Welling, CEO of The International, was presented with the EGCOA lifetime achievement award by Greg Patterson, general manager of the Beach Club in Los Angeles.

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The stage is set for huge BTME in 2016 as GolfBIC joins the party Only weeks remain before the turf management show of the year – and BTME 2016 is set to be one of the biggest yet with five halls of exhibitors, a bumper education programme and another industry’s conference joining the party! BTME 2016 is the first for several years to feature five halls at the Harrogate International Centre with Hall Q joining the usual A, B, C and M. Over one hundred exhibitors – from the industry’s biggest worldwide names to brand new companies – will be putting on the most diverse show in the industry featuring everything from fungicides to turf apps for smartphones. Jill Rodham, BIGGA’s business development manager, said: “BTME 2016 is the only place in the turf management industry where thousands of delegates from all corners of the sportsturf management sector come together with hundreds of exhibitors. “There will be five halls showcasing all manner of new products, innovations and

BBC presenter and commentator Andrew Cotter gives a keynote address at BTME

more and we’re very confident it will be a hugely successful show with plenty of business done during the week.” The thriving Continue to Learn programme again gets BTME underway, with in excess of 240 hours of education available to visitors, over 40 hours of which are free of charge to attend.

BIGGA CEO Jim Croxton said: “The excitement is now palpable as BTME 2016 approaches, and the continued evolution of the show is evident as we prepare to welcome not only thousands of delegates and exhibitors to Harrogate in January, but also GolfBIC for the first time.”

HS2 could wipe PGA extend relationship out course with Huxley golf A proposed HS2 haul road would “completely wipe out” a popular golf course in Uxbridge, which users thought would be previously unharmed by the rail link. After months of petitioning by Stop HS2 campaigners and Hillingdon Council, the haul road is part of a response to mitigation requests to ease congestion in the borough. But the leader of Hillingdon Council, Cllr Ray Puddifoot , said the suggestion is “unworkable” and “just won’t wash.” He said: “HS2 claim they’ll turn Uxbridge into a nine-hole golf course whilst working around it. It just won’t wash, as there will be so much dust and mess going on around the golf course. “With the amount of traffic that it will generate from construction, people just won’t visit the course, so it’ll be unplayable in my opinion, during the period of construction.” The Conservative council leader says it’s “wishful thinking” from HS2 to suggest the course will be playable with HGVs passing through it, and reiterated his stance against the project altogether. He said: “There’s no business case for this proposal, it’s a white elephant. It should be abandoned now. We’re not against high-speed train travel, but they’ve got the wrong routes here. “They’ve got the most expensive and environmentally damaging routes.”

12 | GMé December 2015

The PGA has extended its Official Supplier relationship with Huxley Golf for a further three years, signalling another chapter in a long-lasting partnership stretching back more than a decade. Huxley Golf has established a reputation across the world at golf facilities, and is also a popular choice in private homes for enthusiastic golfers eager to have their own practice putting area. Among recent high profile fittings undertaken are those at St Andrews Links, PING’s European headquarters at Gainsborough and Brokenhurst Manor while it has also teed up a purpose built facility at the Royal Hospital Chelsea for its famous Chelsea Pensioners.

Robert Maxfield, The PGA’s joint chief operating officer, said: “We have worked with Huxley Golf since the late 1990s and recognise them as the leader in their field. Over that time, The PGA has been greatly impressed with the company’s integrity, high levels of customer service and extensive range of synthetic turf surfaces. “Huxley all-weather practice greens, golf course tees and practice tees can be found in many well-known and highprofile golf resorts, teaching academies and training centres and are used by numerous PGA members so we are delighted to extend our Official Supplier relationship with them.”

A Huxley putting green in use at a golf club

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Al Zorah becomes the first new course to open in UAE in over six years Golfers from around the world descended on the Al Zorah Golf Club earlier this month as the Middle East’s newest championship golf course – and the first in the UAE for over six years – was declared officially open for play. Exactly two years to the day since construction started on the spectacular piece of land in Ajman, near Dubai, the par-72, Nicklaus Design was officially opened by His Highness Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman, as golfers and high-profile government officials watched on. Those participating in a special opening event were the very first to play the final layout at the Troon Golf-managed course, located just 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport. “Over the last two years, a tremendous amount of hard work has gone into ensuring Al Zorah Golf Club is the stunning layout that it is today,” said Philip Henderson, general manager for Al Zorah Golf Club. “We’d like to thank Troon Golf for its exceptional management support throughout, as well as Nicklaus Design for the incredible job they’ve done in creating a world-class course layout, whilst maintaining the natural environment. Solidere International has also

Troon Golf’s Mark Chapleski hits the first tee shot to officially open Al Zorah Golf Club

been instrumental in the ongoing development of properties at Al Zorah. “During the construction phase we had more than 300 people working on the course and all have played a part in making Al Zorah Golf Club completely pristine and ready for action,” he added. Bruce Glasco, chief operating officer, managing director, Troon International

Division, commented: “We’re delighted to have played a part in the world-class proposition at Al Zorah Golf Club, and the final product is even better than originally expected. “Now the course is open for business, we look forward to providing the level of service that this incredible venue deserves.”

Ex-pro jailed for Material Matters team-up sex offences with Promote Training A former golf professional at Leeds Golf Club has been jailed after admitting historic sex offences against a 13-yearold girl. A court heard Christopher Mowl committed the offences during the 1990s while working at the club, based in the Roundhay area of the city. Mowl, now 44, was jailed for two years, three months after pleading guilty to two offences of indecent assault and one of gross indecency. Leeds Crown Court was told Mowl was in his early twenties when he committed repeated offences against the youngster after moving to Leeds to work at the club. Duncan Ritchie, prosecuting, said Mowl would threaten to hurt the victim’s brother if she did not do what he told her. The offending came to light last year after the victim, now aged in her thirties, found the courage to tell the police about what had happened to her. Ritchie said the three offences to which Mowl pleaded guilty were only a sample of the offences which took place on a number of occasions.

14 | GMé December 2015

Material Matters, the golf club buying and services group, have announced a partnership with Promote Training to offer a range of golf club management eLearning courses as part of their MM subscription service. The new relationship will see all of Promote Training’s eLearning courses feature within the Material Matters online portal and be available for employees of member clubs at a preferential enrolment fee. Commenting on the new relationship Material Matters managing director, Paul Mould, said: “Over the last two years, we have staged a number of large scale training events that have been extremely well attended, and this partnership will extend that offering as part of our ‘my-training’ service. “The eLearning format also fits with our own focus on technology, where we can offer contract management, ordering, invoicing and now training – all via the internet.” Promote Training, founded in June this year by David Reeves and Matthew Orwin, have big ambitions to roll out a

Paul Mould of Material Matters

library of eLearning courses covering a diverse range of golf club management and operational topics. “We were impressed by the company’s strategic objectives and the quality of the eLearning courses already created, and particularly liked the practical nature of the training – written by golf club operators for golf club operators,” added Mould.

picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a new appointment for John Glendinning, who succeeds Wayne Sheffield at The Wisley.







In brief... Tributes have been paid to one of the architects of the modern day PGA training programme – Geoff Cotton – who has died at the age of 90. The former PGA captain from Beckenham, Kent, was a highly successful club pro in the south of England as well as an accomplished administrator who as PGA chairman in the late 1960s was a driving force for improved changes in the education and training of PGA members. Fairmont St Andrews, the five-star, hotel at the ‘Home of Golf’, will undertake a multi-million pound interior refurbishment programme over the next 18 months to further elevate its prestigious facilities, with the capital investment resulting in new interiors for all of the public areas as well as all bathrooms and suites. Two of North America’s most successful women amateur golfers have become Honorary Members of The Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews. Canadian Marlene Stewart Streit, the only player to win the British, Canadian, US and Australian women’s amateur titles, and America’s Judy Bell, a former Curtis Cup captain and player and United States Golf Association president, accepted invitations to become Honorary Members. AFT Trenchers has moved to a new high specification facility to allow production to match the current growth in machinery sales and any future additions to the product range. Located a mere 100 yards from the original warehousing, the new premises, in Addison Road Sudbury, Suffolk, stands on just under 2000m2 (21.500 square feet), allowing expansion to in-house production, with more fitting stations, spray and drying rooms, plasma cutting table, new presses and robot welding facilities.


The Wisley has appointed former managing director of Close House, John Glendinning, as its new chief executive, effective January 2, 2016. Glendinning succeeds Wayne Sheffield, who has assumed a new role in the US.


Marriott Breadsall Priory has announced the appointment of PGA professional, Natalie Clarke, as lead teaching professional, the latest in a string of initiatives designed to develop women’s golf in the local area.


Aitkens Sportsturf has appointed Matt Porter as technical sales representative. Formerly a greenkeeper at Ingol Golf Club, Porter joins the company as it celebrates 25 years serving the sports turf industry.


PGA Catalunya Resort has appointed David Plana as its new chief executive officer – Plana is no stranger to the Spanish Resort, having been corporate director of The European Tour destination for nearly eight years.


TGI Golf Partnership managing director, Eddie Reid, has been named among the ‘most powerful in European golf’ by Golf Inc, with the list highlighting the 15 people who are influencing and impacting golf courses the most.


Thornbury Golf Centre, one of ten UK BGL Golf venues, has appointed Tim Good as its new general manager. Good joins Thornbury with a wealth of experience in golf, including time spent in senior roles at a variety of other clubs. | 15



company profile THE ELITE Elite Marketing Programme (EMP), #1 in digital golf marketing

Foremost helps clubs to retain members Too many golf course owners and operators in the UK don’t work close enough with their PGA pro’s in an effort to retain and build membership, but as Andy Martin, company director of Foremost explains, his organisation have taken a different approach, with clubs reporting some startling results.

Company Profile sponsored by Foremost Golf (44) 01753 218896

16 | GMé December 2015

A lack of integration between golf clubs and their PGA professionals has become an all too familiar problem in recent years. This however often isn’t the case at many Foremost supported professional businesses. Foremost is able to deliver a wide array of services that are aimed at helping 21st Century golf professionals and their clubs buck the industry trend of declining participation, fall in memberships and internet retailing. Since most modern golf professionals are in a position that enables them to grow the game – both at club level and within the local community – it is important that they receive sufficient support and have adequate resources in order to break down the existing barriers and make golf more accessible. As the leading provider of golf retail and marketing services in the UK, Foremost is able to provide golf professionals with the absolute best buying terms from all of the industry’s leading suppliers, but increasingly the focus of the group is to help its members provide the best retail and digital communication services (Elite Marketing Programme) for customers of their clubs.

The digital services come in the form of an impressive weekly member newsletter and supporting personalised website that helps keep club customers informed of club events and competitions and encourages involvement at the club. Having access to a wide range of exclusive supplier offers also helps Foremost members provide the best retail proposition to their members. Another essential element to the modern day professional maximising their role is to ensure existing club members are retained. Through the help of Foremost’s Elite Marketing Programme (EMP), professionals are now able to communicate with the club membership in a more personalised and efficient way than ever before. While obviously this is of benefit to promoting the services and retail opportunities of the professional, it is also an essential element of boosting club competition participation, overall involvement at the club and in club events. Each EMP member is allocated a dedicated campaign manager who helps put together customised weekly email newsletters.

FITTING Utilising modern technologies and club fitting processes

SUPPORT Foremost’s dedicated EMP campaign manager support team

COACHING Leading coaching systems to help golfers enjoy better golf

This digital communication is designed to help member professionals make their customers aware of the latest products and technologies that are available, special offers and all the services that the professional provides. Foremost also recently announced an expansion to its EMP with EMP Lite, a free of charge, easy to use digital retail service for every member that provides personalised e-newsletters and websites utilising content produced by the group. Written in the voice of the club professional, Foremost coordinates the distribution of the digital content, as well as the management of the pros

personal website, so the member doesn’t even have to remember to press send each week. By making initial ‘Supplier Selections’ with a member of the Foremost team at the EMP Lite service, the communication is then only populated with products from brands they stock in their store, in order to provide the best service for their member. The expert advice that the group offers to its members from a business consultancy standpoint has proved invaluable to Foremost members all over the country who have benefitted from personal store visits in order to identify new ways for them to better serve their customers.

The Modern Retail Initiatives help members activate their business from coaching through to retail, while the unique Central Payment System simplifies the management and payment of invoices to suppliers in order to free up time to concentrate on coaching, fitting and generally spending more time with their members and customers. Through an effective use of Foremost’s retail and marketing services, member professionals are now able to bridge the gap between themselves and the membership, in order to help the golf club grow the game in the local community. GMé | 17



stuart gillett

A BYGONE ERA The famous Woody golf car which is used exclusively at Goodwood

THE DOG HOUSE The front elevation of The Kennels, the clubhouse at Golf at Goodwood

Gillett helps to Revive Goodwood Stuart Gillett, the charismatic general manager at Goodwood, has revived the fortunes of the historic venue with a creditsbased membership scheme. Interview by Michael Lenihan. “Getting people here and getting them to understand it is our biggest challenge, because sometimes it seems too good to be true.” So says Golf at Goodwood’s general manager, Stuart Gillett, 41, who celebrates five years in the role in January. And if that’s truly the case he and his team seem to be doing an excellent job in converting their prospects. For Golf at Goodwood is currently riding the crest of a wave; the historic estate – famed also for its motor and horse-racing pedigree – is not in the midst of a credit crunch, more a credit bonanza. Its credits-based scheme has seen its membership rise exponentially and has sparked increased interest industry-wide. So much so in fact that Gillett is often asked to give advice to other clubs. He explained: “There’s no secret to what we do. On average, once a month, we have a call or email about it and we’ve started, shall I say, to not give quite so much advice for free. “We realise we have something that works here; it’s all in the book but there are a few nuances. We have a great product and great people. My discussions with people are to tell them what they can find out through the website or the pack and the way we approach it.” Gillett was the driving force behind the introduction of the credits-based

18 | GMé December 2015

membership having introduced it shortly after he joined the club. But it wasn’t the only thing he needed to do upon arrival. “Goodwood had been looking for somebody for some time,” he added. “I think it had probably been lacking a little bit of leadership from the time Mark Vickery went back to Les Bordes. “It was about getting to grips with the commercial needs of the business, putting some infrastructure and processes in place and maximising the opportunity in terms of membership. “I remember getting here in my first week, in January, the competition schedule for the year was about to go to print and I looked at it and it was two Stablefords and one medal every month. “I mulled it over for a couple of weeks wondering if it was too early for me to change it, but eventually I did, and said to the team ‘let’s get a bit more creative’. “So we introduced Intelligent Golf and, consequently membership participation in competition golf went through the roof. The introduction to Intelligent Golf really helped and the members loved it,” he added. “Going from a point where there was not a lot of communication, to that level, was great. We had 250 new members the first year, then 274, with a 90 per cent retention. And we started to concentrate on improving the experience and the quality on the Park course.

STRIDING FOURTH Stuart Gillett walking the course at Goodwood during a ‘revival’ golf tournament

“We’ve put 1,300 new members through in the five years. We offer only 125 unlimited golf memberships – the rest of it is all credit, and that’s something people don’t realise. “There was a line in the sand; this was the only option. I can see how clubs might struggle to juggle the two and that’s one of the issues they have. There are no rights here, if you’re a member; you’re a member regardless of how often you’re here, who you are, any of that…

“That is something we know our members enjoy. There is no elitism, even with the unlimited golf – the Braid membership we call it. We’ve got members on credit system that pay more for their membership than some that are on unlimited golf. They like it that way because they know they’ve got their money’s worth and their golf’s costing them £10-£15 a round. “Even the retired gents love it, because they ‘get it’. They’re able to

manage their use, they’re able to manage their credit balance. They like to manage their diaries, they know how often they play, and they fluctuate into the cheaper times. “It’s been a success because we deliver value for money. The product has continued to improve – we needed to up our game to keep members coming back. And members see that improvement.” Golf was in Gillett’s blood from a very young age – indeed he has pictures of | 19



stuart gillett

SEVENTH HEAVEN The 7th hole on the Downs Course at Goodwood, with the spire of Chichester Cathedral in the background

“When I look at the reports out there on increasing golf participation, I’m incredibly proud that we do most of it. But it’s a business”

20 | GMé December 2015

him swinging a golf club aged just 18 months. And, although he plays golf to a good standard off a handicap of two, his background was firmly in hospitality rather than the sport. He grew up in Zimbabwe where he started playing golf regularly. By the age of 12 he was playing off 17 and continued to improve. When he left to go to university in Cardiff, his sporting emphasis switched more to cricket and rugby and when he left behind his education to join First Leisure, it was cricket which commanded most of his ‘downtime’ attention and he joined the historic Lymington Cricket Club, in the New Forest, in Hampshire. A professional move to Norwich saw him become a member at Royal Norwich Golf Club and his passion for golf was reignited. He gave up playing league cricket and played golf every weekend. “That was before I met my wife,” he smiled. “I dropped down from a handicap of five to one quite quickly – I was loving it.” Skiing became a popular pastime in the Gillett household when he met his wife, Catherine, but once he’d enjoyed a couple of ski seasons he moved to a job as clubhouse manager at Bearwood Lakes and his rise in the golf industry began in earnest. He recalled: “Within a year I was deputy general manager and played a bit more golf there. Then I went to Mill Ride for a couple of years before moving to Heythrop Park. I spent a year and a half there before coming to Goodwood. “In my days at Brannigans, First Leisure, the idea was always to get the management experience. I was a general manger with them at 27, running a P&L so I understood the fundamentals of management.

“I’ve never been tempted to go down the route of qualifying as a PGA director of golf, because I really enjoy my social golf. It never really featured. I was definitely more from the management side of it. “It would probably have looked good on my CV, particularly if I wanted to go in a resort direction. But once you have general manager on your CV, as I did at Mill Ride, there’s an assumption you have the key skills. “I’d like to get to the CCM qualification but this is a 24/7 business and I’m not just involved in the golf side of the business here; about 20 per cent of my time is taken up with Goodwood non-golf stuff. Being part of all the other events, like the Revival – and the new projects – is fascinating though. That’s a really interesting part of the job.” It’s a job in which he takes great pride – not just pride in the bottom line, but pride in the staff and pride in the whole ethos at the historic estate. “There’s a real shared philosophy here and I’m proud that, as a team, we’re on a journey together; we’re very committed to making decisions together. “When I look at the reports out there on increasing golf participation, I’m incredibly proud that we do most of it. But it’s a business. My job was to make Golf at Goodwood work. My job moving forward is to make sure it keeps delivering a return to the estate. “I want to take our philosophies about growing the game and the experiences we offer and really try to target a new audience and push it forward. “Goodwood will hopefully be here for many hundreds of years more and golf will be a part of that and continue to be part of the sporting heritage synonymous with Goodwood.” GMé



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golf consultants association

“having professional colleagues alongside me, who are able to complement what I can provide, is a great way forward, both for my clients and me”

GCA working as one for the industry As David Bowers reports, the Golf Consultants Association is a varied group of golf industry professionals, who have the skills and expertise to benefit golf club operators. FLASHBACK The GCA Business of Golf Conference in 2006

22 | GMé December 2015

Way back in November 1999, in only the 13th edition of Golf Management Europe, our news pages carried the story of the inauguration of the Golf Consultants Association (GCA). The brainchild of the late Bryan Griffiths, the founder of Golfconsult International, and Stephen Proctor, chairman of Sports Marketing Surveys Inc, its raison d’etre was to ‘provide a muchneeded point of reference for those requiring independent professional golf consultancy services…’. Sixteen years ago the association was launched with nine members; in 2015 it broke the 30 barrier and continues to rise. And, despite many technological changes in the sport and its management, its current chairman, Howard Swan, repeats that mantra almost word for

word when asked about the association’s ethos. The expression ‘one-stop shop’ could have been spawned for the GCA, which now boasts more than 30 members with a wide range of professional expertise, but it hardly does it justice. Each member – with each bringing valuable skill sets with many years of experience in the golf industry – carries on their business independently, but benefits from recommendations from fellow members. And joint ventures are a common occurrence as clients realise they can find two or three of the service providers they need with one phone call. It has established itself as a ‘go-to’ organisation, delivering honest, practical advice and solutions to golf developers and operators around the world.

MR CHAIRMAN Howard Swan, current chairman of the GCA

Swan, an architect with family-owned practice Swan Golf Designs, has been chairman of the GCA for the last three years. He explained: “Bryan and Stephen felt there was a need for a group of people who were a lot more than just a specialist in one area of the golf development marketplace,” he said. “It was important those who were consulting on a great variety of the business aspects of the golf industry got together and shared their extensive experience and expertise through one association. “At that time there was no aggregation and no feeling there was a group of people working together with a wide spectrum of disciplines for the greater good. “As a golf course architect, I have often found myself being asked for much more help than just I can honestly and proficiently offer in my design field. And having professional colleagues alongside me, who are able to complement what I can provide, is a great way forward, both for my clients and me.” The GCA is unique in the UK in its ability to make available a team of highly respected and experienced golf

industry professionals to see any phase of a project through from conception to conclusion. Members each have a proven track record in helping clients build, develop, market or operate golf clubs and resorts – from single ninehole courses to full-scale international resorts. “One of the real advantages which members find is the opportunity to network among themselves and work with each other as a consultancy team, offering clients a very broad range of disciplines and expertise in any particular area or in any number of areas which a project may need,” explained Swan, whose position as chairman will extend through to at least January 2017. “This has been a very useful approach where an enquiry for advisory services has demanded more than just one speciality. New project opportunities internationally, especially, have found this wide and all-enveloping approach particularly attractive. “The business of the members comes from two directions: firstly from the individual members getting enquiries and then networking with others when a project requires a much wider input

than, say, just golf course architecture. For example I’m currently working with Jon Barker and Ian Savage on a project in Northern Ireland, whereas Jon Ashworth, Neil Dainton and Mark Smith have been working together on a couple of public projects. “The other entry point is through the association itself, through our new website – we’re trying very hard now to promote the association – and the members then are able to network together once a team of consultants is chosen by the executive to fulfil a role in a project as its scope might demand.” That executive comprises Swan; John Ashworth, of business advisory firm John Ashworth Associates; Jon Barker, from Adderley Barker, a golf clubhouse design consultancy; Luis Desouza, the founder and chief executive of international software company NFS Technology Group; and Andy Barwell, a director with marcomms specialist the Azalea Group. The diversity of the executive extends into the membership as a whole and Swan believes that the inclusive nature of the association benefits the industry. While on the board of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects he | 23



golf consultants association

WIDER MARKET Sean Noble (left) of Azalea, with colleague and GCA member Andy Barwell, who helps assist the association with its marketing

“golf management has become so complicated in terms of increased legislation, health and safety, employment and environmental law”

24 | GMé December 2015

began a process which would have seen it working with the GCA to take advantage of that diversity, but ultimately it never happened. Swan added: “I’ve always been one for building bridges and holding hands and I think that would have been a really good thing to happen. Unlike many other organisations, in the GCA there is no professional competition, because we’re different disciplines looking to work together for mutual benefit, and it functions really well because of this.” As he heads into the fourth year of his chairmanship of the not-for-profit organisation, Swan looks back with pride on the progress made and looks forward with optimism, not just for the GCA but also for its potential joint ventures with other significant industry players. He added: “We’ve gone from 11 members to 30, so we represent a much wider spectrum of golf disciplines within the golf business, maybe 20 in all, which I think represents a major success. “It needs to be too, because golf management has become so complicated in terms of increased legislation, health and safety, employment and environmental law, for example, that it’s essential to have those diverse skills available. “The more contributions we have from the members the more meaningful the association will be because, as in anything, we are only as good as the weakest link within us.

“Our priority is not to actively recruit members, but if their skill sets widen the opportunity for us to go to the marketplace and offer a better service, then OK. We’re not limiting the number of members, providing we don’t dilute the strength of the association and what we can do. “As chairman I hope for continued expansion to assist golf course developers and golf club operators who need better professional, objective and independent help, to improve how their businesses are structured, and to get better returns and solutions for them in the future. “I also hope we have the opportunity to liaise with other organisations within golf, creating partnerships for our collective benefit and to be able to give improved value and service to the marketplace. For instance I see an opportunity to further our relationships with UKGCOA, and, on a wider basis, EGCOA, IAGTO, GCMA, and BIGGA. “GCA members are able to deliver honest, practical advice and solutions to golf developers and operators globally with an unparalleled and unrivalled breadth of expertise within its ranks. “It’s a tremendously impressive array of expertise, talent and proven experience – there’s so much to offer a potential client, be they a project developer, existing golf club or facility or an allied business in the golf industry which requires help and guidance.” GMé


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pace of play

One voice in the Great ‘Pace’ Debate The pace of play is a hot topic at the moment, so PGA Master professional, Alan Walker, offers some advice on how clubs can curb slow-play out on course.

“Taking over five hours to play 18 holes is not going to encourage more golfers into the game of golf”

ON THE CLOCK... It’s important to keep up with the pace of play

When leading figures at the R&A describe slow play as ‘a cancer’ in golf’, you can be assured that it is an issue taken very seriously by those in power at the Auld Grey Toun. The pace of play is normally focussed upon the player, but as a golf course architect, I and my colleagues have an equal hand in the great ‘pace’ debate. SCENARIO Hole number one is a left to right dogleg measuring 340 yards. The drive is slightly uphill and the landing zone is blind from the tee. To the right of the hole is heavy rough. With the prevailing breeze the hole is drivable across the angle of the dogleg. Hole number two is a 495-yard par five played from an elevated tee to a downhill fairway that cambers right to left. A water feature is located in front of the raised green, which is encased, by a number of mature oak trees.

26 | GMé December 2015

Hole number three was a short but pretty 115-yeard par three hole until the committee decided the course needed more length and increased the hole to 195 yards long. The walk to the new tee is a full 100 yards back up the second fairway. The third green size is relatively small with heavy rough and undergrowth to the right hand side. The golf club is embracing a more environmental approach to their maintenance programme allowing native roughs to be more abundant throughout the course, and there has been little tree work over the past few years. SPEED OF PLAY The above scenario could be the opening three holes anywhere in the world, but as a combination of holes together, with the set-up described, they collectively become a prime recipe for slow play. Blind tee shots slow up play – fact. Drivable par fours with heavy rough on

the slice side can cause speed of play issues – fact. Par fives that can be reached in two shots can slow things down – fact. Water hazards in front of greens that are surrounded by trees can slow play as the golfer clubs up to avoid the hazard and ends up over the green into the foliage. THE PLAYER We are all aware of the time it can take a beginner to become proficient enough to take their first steps onto the golf course. As they patiently go through the grip, address and set-up process in preparation to hit the golf ball, they are already taking too much time for the other golfers behind them. It is a difficult transition from practice ground to golf course. Herein lies the question: is slow play created by the golfer’s pre-shot routines and general oblivion to who or what is going on around them, or is the style, set-up and difficulty of the golf course

pace of play

WAITING TIME Waiting to play your next shot can become frustrating

that once-a-week golfers play on, that causes problems? I contend that the latter is just as much a culprit as the former. DESIGN FACTORS The ever increasing desire to lengthen holes as a result of better golf equipment or the misguided belief that longer holes means a better golf course has resulted in many clubs stretching certain holes right up to the course boundary. The knock-on effect is that in some cases, players have to walk backwards to then turn around to play forwards… all wasting valuable minutes of time. There are schools of thought that highlight the abundance of bunkers on a course as a contributory factor to slow play. My personal research has shown that this theory is not correct and that sand bunker shots are, in fact, the quickest to play, normally requiring the same club and same technique.

One design factor that does slow play is undulating greens that are cut to give maximum green speed. Since the 1970s, green speeds have increased on average from 6.5 on the stimpmeter to 10.5. At these types of speeds it makes it increasingly difficult to lay putts ‘dead’ to the hole resulting in more putts coming up short or past the hole followed by the player marking the ball, replacing it, reading and stroking the ball for a second or third time – all increasing the speed of play of that player or group. GREENKEEPING Greenkeepers are being encouraged to use less water on the golf course and to allow certain areas to become more natural. Less wall-to-wall mowing regimes are now favoured with natural grasses allowed to flourish without regular control. Restricted use of pesticides and chemicals is expected these days, with more

and more ‘regulations’ coming into force, moving golf courses back to firmer, fastrunning and natural conditions. All very commendable directives, but I predict the net result will be even slower rounds of golf. THE ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT Golf course architects have a key role in speeding up the game, and when asked to redesign a course, we should audit the holes to see if there are any which would benefit from a design ‘tweak’, or a different greenkeeping approach. In challenging economic times we need to eliminate any negatives that may be linked to our course. Taking over five hours to play 18 holes is not going to encourage more golfers into the game of golf. It is incumbent on us to play our part in speeding up the game, through our skill and expertise in the ways we design each course. GMé | 27


practice range

“I have even come across some old range ball scarred cars lovingly located in the outfield for general amusement”

LIGHTING THE WAY FORWARD An illuminated practice range, courtesy of Abacus Lighting

A Range of Sustainable and profitable opportunities Bruce Weller, senior member of the EIGCA and director of Weller Designs shares some thoughts on improving the visual and operational aspects of your practice range. Visiting many golf ranges and golf club practice grounds recently has been a pretty depressing experience. An alarming number of outfields have already turned to mud, coupled with rutting and smearing from the ball picking machines, which the owners have to continue to keep using as hand picking is operationally and financially impractical. Add to this some very feeble attempts at grass target greens (no more than lumps) – worse still tractor tyres – poor quality muddy balls, degraded netting and a hotchpotch of targets, nets, flags yardage signs and this uninspiring picture is complete. Unfortunately this is an all too familiar scenario on many practice ranges and grounds, particularly in the UK. I have even come across some old range ball scarred cars lovingly located in the outfield for general amusement. They were actually VWs so perhaps the owners was recycling in some novel fashion or in some way protesting about their environmental credentials!

This does however neatly bring me onto a pet subject of mine, which is not only the dearth of imaginative and good conditioned practice ground outfields, but also the many missed opportunities to create sustainable and operationally more profitable facilities by employing some relatively simple environmental design solutions. Firstly, the issue of mud bound outfields chewed up by ball pickers is a big problem, and likely to get worse given the general assumption that warmer wetter winters will be more common. It’s an obvious solution but re-grading the outfield to shed surface water quickly away from the playing surface has immediate benefits, and solves a lot of drainage issues straight away. This re-grading solution, however, presents two distinct re-construction opportunities to not only create a range outfield that is interesting and exciting to play, but an opportunity to recycle a significant quantity of rainwater for use on the golf course irrigation system.

The natural set up of a range usually allows space to include an irrigation lagoon nearby – usually at its far end – and given that a range outfield can cover two-to-three hectares, then this can equate to harvesting anywhere between 10,000m3 to 20,000m3 of rainwater for the irrigation system each year. I have now designed a number of such schemes, some of which are all gravity fed whilst others involve pump systems which take the shed rainwater from the outfield back to a purpose built lagoon. The way the outfield is remodelled is important, as too often outfields have poorly shaped “target greens” where balls collect at the bases (along with puddles) and due to the density of balls at the base, the constant passing of the ball picker turns it to mud. Similarly such steep sided “lumps” burn off and lose grass in the summer becoming a visual eyesore rather than an interesting target. The best way to re-grade the outfield is to create long rolling sinuous contours, | 29



“The golf range utopia should be one where golfers shouldn’t have to put up with muddy uninspiring outfields”

HARVEST TIME The Drift Golf Club rainwater harvesting plan

to not only provide the interest and targets, but to make ball collection easy, and significantly, allow the shedding and collection of rainwater to be positively directed, fast and efficiently. Many of the new and remodelled range outfields I have designed have been via importing the soil, which usually covers the cost of the works (i.e. new subsurface drainage, new lagoon and loss of earnings during construction period) via the financial royalty for permitting soil to be deposited on the outfield site. However other schemes have been completed via cut-and-fill exercises, and an entire re-turfing of the outfield – with the remodelling described – can be turned around in a little as two months. Some ranges have even created “golf pods” (netting circa 30m from the bays) to allow the continued use of the range whilst works are going on. Disruption to the business can therefore be kept to a minimum. Water harvesting is therefore an obvious, simple and economically efficient way of utilising the outfield whilst also improving its visual and playing appeal. However there are many other ways of raising the standard of the range facility, which also cuts running costs and is environmentally very sustainable. Ground source heat pump systems are a much overlooked approach to cutting energy costs for clubhouse and ranges. Given the main cost with installing such systems, trenching it is relatively straight forward to install the piping.

30 | GMé December 2015

This is particularly cheap if soil is being imported to re-build the outfield, with the haulage lorries straddling the pipes laid on the existing outfield surface and covering the pipes as they go. In this way, expensive trenching is avoided, and an amazingly efficient heat source is created within the outfield. In addition to ground source heat pumps, if a lagoon is being built as part of the water harvesting scheme, then a heat exchange system in the water could also be considered, again to save costs. Golf range bays are also often north/ south orientated (to avoid the setting sun) which obviously means there is a large expanse of roof pointing south for solar panel installation. Gaining planning permission for practice ranges can be difficult, as it conjures up images in the planners/public minds of floodlights, high range bay buildings, high netting etc. However it is a useful “planning gain” to include some or even all of the above measures to mitigate and assist with getting planning approval, quite apart from the long terms water and energy savings that would accompany taking such measures. As regards getting planning approval, anyone seeking such a permission should also consider grass or sedum on the range bay roofs, which is visually more appealing and assists with attenuating rainfall (flood abatement). The use of “robotic” ball pickers and maybe even robotic mowers is becoming more popular and in the long run is more

sustainable and cheaper. Such machines do however require a uniform dry surface to work properly on, and the improvement measures I have mentioned will produce such a surface. These machines also produce far less wear than tractor drawn ball pickers, further improving the quality of the outfield product and golfers experience. I have also come across a number of golf clubs with huge practice grounds, but the members want to use their own balls and therefore perhaps only two or three golfers can use it at a time! By employing the design solutions I have described, the club can not only create a quality experience where the professional can justify the purchase of practice balls by the members (a further revenue), but also have a practice facility that contributes to the irrigation supply through water harvesting and maybe even the energy supply. If this can be done at no cost through the equally sustainable reuse or recovery of imported soils, then it is a win-win situation. So it’s time for many clubs and range operators to take a serious look at their practice facilities. The golf range utopia should be one where golfers shouldn’t have to put up with muddy uninspiring outfields, and it should have the dual function of contributing to the water and energy needs of the business with low impact on the landscape and environment. The opportunities are there to create such a product with only a small degree of disruption. GMé

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la manga club

La Manga Club heading in a New Direction under Ruiz As one of Europe’s largest sporting resorts, La Manga Club in Spain has much to offer. Michael Lenihan travelled to Murcia to meet-up with Eduardo Ruiz, the newly appointed director of golf, to ask what plans the 35-year-old has in store for the golf operation.

32 | GMé December 2015 FLYING THE FLAG Eduardo Ruiz (main picture) pictured in-front of golf administration at La Manga Club, and right, the pin on the sixth hole on the South Course

There can be few sporting resorts in the world that have such a long and prestigious connection with the game of golf as La Manga Club, in Spain. When the resort opened, in 1972, Gary Player became the resort’s first director of golf – evidently in an honorary capacity – with the South African helping to establish the destination during its formative years. Since then, golfing superstars such as Seve Ballesteros and David Leadbetter – who recently opened an academy at the resort – have forged close relationships with the club, while Sergio Garcia can lay claim to some association with the resort, as his parents met while working at La Manga Club. But memorable connections to the resort are not solely the preserve of golfing legends, or the rich and famous. I actually proposed to my wife on the balcony of one of the hotel rooms overlooking the golf course, and, a few years later, returned to spend our honeymoon there. As such, La Manga Club has always held a special place in my heart, which is why, when I previously visited the resort, back in 2012, I was saddened to see just how much the offering had deteriorated – both on and off the course. With three course at La Manga – the South, North and West – together with the five-star PrÍncipe Felipe hotel and countless private dwellings, the resort, which is located in Murcia, was looking tired, uncared for and in desperate need of a cash injection.

Scores of golfers on cheap golf breaks were in residence at the hotel; a hotel which, only a few years before, was regarded as one of the best, and most exclusive properties in Spain. There was an air of desperation surrounding the golf operation, with the need to offer low-cost golfing breaks in an effort to keep visitor numbers up, which may explain why La Manga Club turned to Eduardo Ruiz earlier this year to revive both the quality and reputation of the resort to its former glory. Aged just 35, Ruiz has an impressive CV and can include Finca Cortesin and La Quinta as former employers – his previous role before joining La Manga was golf operations manager at Valderrama. Ruiz actually competed in the same Spanish amateur competition as Sergio Garcia as a teenager – the two are the same age – but chose to embark on a career in golf management rather than as a PGA professional. He explained: “I was playing the Spanish championship as an amateur at the same time as Sergio Garcia, and I was playing off one, and Sergio was handicap plus five. “When I saw Sergio playing golf, I thought to myself that it’s probably much better that I look for another career in golf away from playing, as he was much better than I was – he went on to win the Spanish championship that year by 17 shots,” smiled Ruiz. “As my father and my girlfriend are both greenkeepers, I always had a keen

“When I saw Sergio playing golf, I thought to myself that it’s probably much better that I look for another career in golf” | 33



la manga club SPORTING PARADISE Left, David Leadbetter pictured outside his new golf academy at La Manga Club; below, an aerial view of the five-star PrÍncipe Felipe hotel; right, the 17th hole on the North Course; and below right, Eduardo Ruiz at the World Golf Awards earlier this year

“It’s amazing that we have many golfers that come to the resort for five days and play five rounds on the South and the North, but never play the West”

interest in the agronomy side of golf, and, despite playing to a good standard, I felt that becoming a club professional was not for me, as I preferred to study instead. “So I decided to go to Holland, and undertook my first Masters in marketing and sales in golf management with the support of (clothing company) Cutter & Buck who helped financially. After completing my MBA, I took a role at a golf megastore in Marbella before joining Finca Cortesin in September 2006.” Working on the commercial side of the golf operation at Finca Cortesin, Ruiz grew his knowledge of the operational side of the golf industry, and, after similar roles at La Quinta and Valderrama, he took up the reins at La Manga Club in March of this year, succeeding Gary Silcock as director of golf. Unusually for someone in his position, it’s clear talking to Ruiz that he shares a passion for the greenkeeping element of his role, an area which he feels gives him an edge when it comes to understanding the complexities of course management.

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“If you take a look at my office, I have a lot of agronomy books and I am working every day with the greenkeeping staff,” he explained. And, despite being in his role for less than a year, Ruiz has already set about changing the set-up of the course. “One of the things I have changed is the way in which the grass was being cut,” he said. “In the last five years everything was cut pretty much flat with a lack of definition, so I am looking to grow the rough higher in places. People want fast greens and good fairways, and that for me is important. “I want to create a resort with three courses that are in good condition,” continued Ruiz, “but we are not Valderrama – we are part of a big resort – so we need to ensure that the golf courses are in really good condition, but not too difficult. “Both the North and the South courses are parkland in style, but on the West Course, I am planning to cut all of the rough so it plays like a desert golf course.”

Opinion is often divided as to which of the three courses is the best, but with the West Course recently breaking into the Top 100 in Europe, some would argue – including this correspondent – that its place in Europe’s elite is well overdue. As a test of golf, the West is far more challenging than its more famous counterparts, and if Ruiz has his way, it may well rank as one of the finest in Spain in the years ahead. “Although in the last five years we have lost 20,000 rounds – falling from 143,000 annually to 123,000 – we are still the biggest resort in Europe,” claims Ruiz. “I am happy with 120,000 rounds per year, but I need to split the rounds better between the three courses, because the South course is doing more rounds than the North and the West. “It’s amazing that we have many golfers that come to the resort for five days and play five rounds on the South and the North, but never play the West,” added a frustrated Ruiz.

La Manga Club offers more than just golf

“People that do play the West Course say that it’s an amazing course, so we need to be better at marketing it.” With frequent changes in elevation, the West Course offers a different set of challenges to the North and the South, with the front nine demanding accurate driving to avoid the barrancas (natural storm gullies), while the back nine, up among the hills, are more open but nonetheless challenging. The course also boasts a great finishing hole, with the 18th set high above the course offering magnificent views from the tee. But it’s not solely on the course that Ruiz is looking to make changes. The clubhouse and pro shop are to be renovated in January – the clubhouse dates back to the era when cruise line P&O owned the resort and has been designed to look like the galley of a ship – and changes are also afoot when it comes to the golf operational side of things. Chris Davies, a former Welsh schoolteacher, was director of golf at the Spanish resort from 1989 until he tragi-

cally died in a buggy accident in 2008, and since his untimely death, not too much has changed behind the scenes, which is an area that Ruiz is keen to modernise. “Chris was here for 19 years, which is amazing,” said Ruiz. “It used to be Chris on one side, and the greenkeeper on the other, so it was like having two directors – a technical director and an administration director. The role nowadays is completely different, and when I first came to La Manga I saw ‘Golf Administration’ and I said to myself, what is ‘Golf Administration?’ which is a very old concept.” At the time of Davies’ passing, MariaJosé Blanco, groups and conventions manager, said: “Chris will be hard to replace. He will go down as a La Manga Club legend and will always be here in spirit.” Perhaps, La Manga Club has finally found Davies’ true successor in Ruiz, who has the energy, vision and passion to restore La Manga Club as one of Europe’s premier resorts. GMé

Widely regarded as Spain’s flagship resort, the five-star La Manga Club continues to set the benchmark in activity holidays for sports and leisure destinations across Europe. With an average of more than 300 days’ sunshine a year, the awardwinning venue offers the perfect solution for those seeking an active break, with sports ranging from golf, tennis, football and cycling, to triathlon, fitness retreats and even powerlifting. La Manga Club was named ‘Best Golf Resort in Spain’ for the last four years by readers of Today’s Golfer magazine, won a similar award at the 2014 World Golf Awards, and was voted Spain’s Best Golf Hotel this year. It is also the official overseas training base of the Lawn Tennis Association and an ideal venue for a sporting holiday and for all types of fitness training at any time of the year, with the nearby Mar Menor and Mediterranean Sea perfect for open-water swimming and the surrounding areas providing various routes and terrain for walking, running and cycling in unspoilt Mediterranean countryside. La Manga Club boasts unrivalled facilities including three 18-hole championship golf courses and a Leadbetter Golf Academy – the only one in mainland Spain – a 28-court tennis centre and a 2,000sqm spa and fitness centre. It also offers the choice of a five-star hotel, four-star serviced apartments and townhouses and more than 20 bars and restaurants across an area three-times the size of Monaco. | 35




“Where I really think the golf industry can improve though, and which again can be witnessed in the health club environment, is the approach to integration and retention”

In conversation with Tom Brooke As managing director of Glendale Golf, Tom Brooke is on the front-line when it comes to growing the game of golf across the eight sites that his company operates. A WARM WELCOME Tom Brooke, pictured outside Richmond Park Golf Course

GMé Although Glendale is marking its 25th anniversary this year, many within the golf industry will still be unfamiliar with the company name, so who exactly are Glendale?

Glendale Golf commenced operations in 2002 at a time when the golf industry was expanding in terms of participation and group operators were becoming more predominant in the market place.

TB Glendale is the UK’s leading supplier of green service solutions, including the maintenance of parks and open spaces, arboriculture, landscaping and plant supply. We work predominately with the public sector and currently have contracts with over 50 local authorities, housing associations and private estates across the UK.

GMé How many courses does Glendale Golf currently manage?

GMé With a background predominately in green services, what prompted Glendale to move into golf, and specifically, golf management? TB We have a sister company, Parkwood Leisure, which operates over 90 leisure centres nationally. With a combination of experience within the leisure and grounds maintenance industries it was a logical step for the company to take in terms of expanding its commercial operations.

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TB We currently operate eight golf centres/courses nationally, all on behalf of local authorities. Our first golf course was Edwalton, in Nottingham, which we have operated since 2002. Our portfolio also includes Richmond Park Golf Course in London which we lease from The Royal Parks, and Tilgate Forest Golf Centre in Crawley. We have some fantastic facilities and golf courses that we are now very proud of. Our operations cover the full spectrum of golf management at all of our venues, including clubhouse operations, food and beverage, green fee and membership, golf academies, sales and marketing and greenkeeping. We also have experience of managing a number of course improvement projects at our venues.

AT THE HELM Managing director, Tom Brooke

BLENDED WITH NATURE The new clubhouse at Richmond Park Golf Centre, a Glendale Golf venue

Over the past three years, we have successfully completed the design and construction of six new holes on the Princes Course at Richmond Park, as well as producing a brand new driving range and four-hole academy course. At Tilgate Forest in Crawley, we made improvements to the driving range and we are in the process of completing a full 18 hole re-design and construction programme at Airlinks Golf Course in London. We have also opened new clubhouses at Duxbury Park, Tilgate Forest and Richmond Park.

We could easily adopt a similar approach in golf – for both members and casual golfers – but most importantly I would like the industry to commit to the approach and make sure it’s delivered!

GMé Your early career involved working in the health club leisure sector for Holmes Place, so what experiences and knowledge gained from that sector do you feel can benefit golf? TB Over the past ten years I certainly think that some golf operators have developed a more focussed approach to sales which has been adopted from the health club sector. Where I really think the golf industry can improve though, and which again can be witnessed in the health club environment, is the approach to integration and retention. The customer journey in the health club environment tends to include a personal induction on the first visit and a series of retention initiatives are strategically planned in the first three to six months of membership to encourage increased usage and, ultimately, renewal and retention.

GMé You joined Crown Golf in May 2006 as a general manager. What prompted the move into golf, and do you have a PGA background? TB I had a growing interest in golf and was playing occasionally at the time – although not very well. Sadly my golf hasn’t improved that much since, although I do play a lot more now and I’m extremely passionate about the sport! At the time Crown Golf, like several other operators, were actively recruiting from the health club sector. That’s how the opportunity arose for me. I don’t have a PGA background. I have an honours degree in Sports Studies and Business and worked in sales, including corporate hospitality for sports events and then in health clubs, for a few years before I joined Crown Golf. GMé You won the general manager of the year award at Crown Golf in 2009 whilst overseeing the golf operation at South Essex, so would you say this is your proudest career moment to date? TB It certainly was at the time and probably up until I joined Glendale Golf. When I won the award in 2009 we had made some quite significant improve-

ments at South Essex that year. Prior to South Essex I had enjoyed two successful years at Traditions Golf Course in Surrey, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to win the award as I was one of the youngest general managers in the group at the time. I felt that I was still progressing within the company and learning from those in the group with a lot more experience than me. However, being appointed managing director at Glendale Golf has overtaken that 2009 award as my proudest career achievement to date. Golf management is a very competitive environment, particularly as regards opportunities for group director roles, so personally I feel that it was an important career milestone. GMé You moved to Glendale Golf in October 2013, so after two years, how would you rank your success to date? TB It was certainly a challenging transition from single site to multi-site management: we had to make a lot of tough decisions and changes to the business over the course of the first year, chiefly in terms of personnel – we now have a great team of managers and head greenkeepers at all of our courses. This year has been very enjoyable for us: we have experienced growth in participation, membership numbers and green fees across the company, as well as improved satisfaction ratings in our most recent customer survey. | 37




AT THE HEART OF THE FOREST The second green at Tilgate Forest Golf Centre, a Glendale Golf venue

Knowing the industry trends as they are at the moment, I would say this is a real success, particularly when operating public golf courses where we are under ever-increasing pressure from the proprietary and private sectors in terms of price points and availability.

“Many of the best senior managers, whether general managers or otherwise, with whom I have worked in golf do not have a PGA background”

GMé Growing the game of golf is one of the biggest challenges facing the industry, and with many clubs failing to attract beginners, how was Glendale Golf so successful in the summer introducing almost 1,000 new golfers to the game? TB Quite simply, we agreed a strategy for the campaign and committed to it. Our nationwide ‘Festival of Golf’ in August was delivered and managed brilliantly by the teams at all of our courses. We agreed across the group that the campaign needed to offer more than just a couple of beginner lessons, so we ran events, promotions, junior classes and family fun days with something going on every day throughout the month. Our golf pros also promoted golf in local parks and at community events, giving people the opportunity to swing a club for the first time without even visiting one of our venues. In addition, we strive to ensure our golf courses provide value for money and a great experience for the established golfer. Our philosophy is to provide welcoming and accessible facilities, whilst retaining some of the core traditional values of golf. GMé What’s the biggest challenge you face after being approached by a golf course owner about Glendale taking over the management of their operation?

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TB I would say that owners’ expectations pose the biggest challenge. The local authority sector has actually been very quiet over the past couple of years in terms of new opportunities for management, although we are hoping this will change moving into 2016. We have looked at a number of other opportunities though, both leasehold and indeed to buy, but we are finding at the moment the financial expectations of the owner tend to exceed what would be reasonably achievable in order for us to maintain a profitable business opportunity in today’s golf market. GMé Where do you see the main growth area for Glendale Golf in the years ahead? TB Historically, the business model of the Glendale group as a whole has been in the public sector, largely, and indeed our current group of golf courses are all publicly-owned. However, we are actively looking to expand the golf business and if the right opportunity were to arise in another sector of the golf market, we would be interested in exploring this. GMé Do you feel that to effectively manage a golf operation these days, having a PGA recognised qualification is really necessary? TB I think it can help, but it’s not vital. Many of the best senior managers, whether general managers or otherwise, with whom I have worked in golf do not have a PGA background – and I don’t either! GMé

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medalist golf club

POT HOLING A pair of greenside pot hole bunkers on the remodelled Medalist Golf Course

SOD WALLS The Sod Walls at Medalist have already been tested by extreme intensity rainfall

EcoBunker Goes West November was an exciting month for EcoBunker in the US, as remodelling work on the Medalist Golf Course at Hobe Sound, Florida, drew to a close as Scott MacCallum reports. A dynamic young Welsh company is standing at the top of podium at one of the most prestigious golf clubs in the United States after providing the innovative solution to its bunkering problems. The Medalist, in Hobe Sound, Florida, is back to its best following an extensive five-month renovation project overseen by renowned golf course architect, Bobby Weed, including some of the finest bunkering to be seen anywhere on that side of the Atlantic. The sharp edges and precise revetting are just what you would expect from a links style course, and are the work of Welsh-based EcoBunker and Lepanto Golf Construction. It is only if you examine the bunker faces extremely closely that will you ever know that they are constructed out of synthetic, and not natural, turf. Bobby Weed relied exclusively on EcoBunker to re-establish the sod walls and the re-establishment of the long and strong lines with strategic angles central to the course’s strategy stood out. Medalist now features more EcoBunker material than any course in the United States, using nearly 7,000 square feet of the synthetic material. “We were absolutely delighted to win the contract for one of the most prestigious clubs in the United States and

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we are thrilled with how the bunkers look within the renovated course,” said Richard Allen, managing director of EcoBunker, which pioneers the revolutionary approach of using artificial turf on bunker faces and surrounds. The EcoBunker invention came about as a result of Allen’s profession – he is a civil engineer – and his passion for golf. “In my career I’ve specialised in flood risk and all sorts of drainage challenges,” he said. “The issues of erosion and long term maintenance are key design considerations, and I’ve also had to factor in aesthetics. I regularly work alongside architects in design teams, and there are many parallels with golf course design. “After working as a Greens Chairman, and on Greens Committees for many years, I got the opportunity to address the issue of bunker design and maintenance. “I’d been at the golf club for a meeting and about to drive home. I switched on the headlights and the beam hit a roll of used astro turf and it looked just like the layers of turf in a revetted bunker. “I did some research, and found that there was a lot of waste astro turf being dumped at great cost into landfill, and as it was not biodegradable it made it highly resilient and durable – perfect for our purposes.”

RESTORED CHARACTER The original character of the bunkers at Medalist were restored using the innovative EcoBunker method

And so EcoBunker was born. The Medalist, which reopened at the beginning of November, has benefitted hugely as a result and is now the envy of many other similar golf courses. The Medalist was originally opened in 1995, designed by Pete Dye and Greg Norman, and in its prime the course was regarded as a modern classic, featuring in Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf with a match pitching Norman against Nick Price.

With wide fairways, firm turf and greens open in front to allow for running shots it tipped its hat to courses from the British side of the pond. However, in recent years the course had begun to suffer from the demands placed upon it and the rigours of the Floridian climate. The natural sod wall bunkers, with their sharp edges and clean lines, became victims of erosion. Over time, they were never replaced and the course

slipped into a more conventional appearance. “Over the 15 to 20 years since it was built, the key features of the course just eroded away in the extreme heat and wet of the Floridian climate, and gradually over time, the original revetted, sharp slopes were replaced with much easier to maintain conventional 30 degree grass banks,” explained Allen. The bunker programme was just one element of a full reconstruction | 41



medalist golf club

NATURAL SETTING The Medalist Golf Club offers sensational views across the golf course, and especially from the clubhouse

programme which saw the course closed while new tees, new fairways and new greens were built. EcoBunker’s involvement came as a result of a chance visit to another club, by a Medalist member, who became aware of the bunkers constructed in 2013 by Allen and Llewellyn Matthews at nearby Trump National, Jupiter. Matthews, who is now part of the EcoBunker team, is a master constructor, ex-greenkeeper and a former Walker Cup golfer whose work on EcoBunker’s has gained him respect wherever he has been. “So Bobby and Chris Monti, an associate with Bobby Weed Golf Design and the man who undertook all of the tendering work on the contract, approached us and asked us to pitch for the job,” said Allen. “We were delighted to win the contract, which we secured based on price, the quality and installation assurances that we offered. I think it helped that we had the most experienced construction personnel on our team,” added Allen. As part of the contract, Allen and EcoBunker undertook to combine the early construction with a ten-day training programme for the overall construction team from Lepanto Golf Construction, so that they then had the skills to continue bunker installation once EcoBunker had left the site.

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“Llewellyn went over to The Medalist and built a series of bunkers to demonstrate the construction techniques to Lepanto Golf Construction, who then took the job on and built all the remaining bunkers in the middle of May through to the middle of October,” added Allen. The impact on playability and aesthetics has been dramatic. Some of those old members who have had a sneak preview of Weed’s work have already renewed their membership. Furthermore, Pete Dye, the original designer is highly satisfied by the work carried out there, while it is to be hoped that some of The Medalist’s more renowned members – Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson and Ricki Fowler – are equally delighted with the results. Allen is confident that when the other golf course operators see the superb new bunkering, more opportunities to take EcoBunker into the US will open up. “The construction season in the Southern States tends to be in the summer and we are already talking with architects about working with them next year,” he said. “Bobby Weed is certainly keen to work with us again in the future as he has seen the benefits of working EcoBunker into his designs.” With a Gold Medal already hanging from their neck courtesy of Medalist, Allen and his team can expect more honours to come their way in the not too distant future. GMé


golftell YOUR CHOICE Customer feedback from visiting golfers and members alike should be of importance to all golf club managers

Trustworthy ‘golftell’ tells it as it is... Feedback is vital in any business – either good or bad – so a new site claiming to provide only trusted reviews of your golf operation could be an important step forward in validating customer comments. Daniel Chidley takes up the story. The new free-to-use golftell – a revolutionary golf feedback site claiming to provide ‘trusted’ reviews – has registered more than 400 users within its first few weeks of operation. The reviews of those users’ recent golf experiences already span 11 countries including the UK, Ireland, Spain, Italy, UAE, Turkey, Portugal and Sweden, and within just a short period, golftell is fast becoming the ‘go to’ review site for golfers, providing a valuable insight when searching for inspiration for where to play next, and even for those looking to join a club. The site enables potential visitors to quickly pinpoint a venue’s strengths and weaknesses to ascertain if it’s the best choice for them. Whether they’re looking to entertain an important client or merely searching for the ideal venue for a great day out, golftell can provide them with all the required information. So, if a golfer has ever felt inclined to write to a golf club following a bad experience, or conversely, felt the need to shout from the rooftops about a fabulous day on the links, golftell makes the process extremely easy for them.

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golftell enables golfers to review all areas of their golf experience – from the golf course condition, food quality and general facilities through to the standard of service offered by club staff. Feedback in these areas can be as simple as posting a rating – great, good, average or poor – or the golfer can also add comments to support their ratings if they wish. Posting a review takes from just a few seconds – the choice remains with the golfer. The golftell system is free to use for the golfer and can be accessed by mobile, tablet or PC. What’s more, golftell incentivises golfers by entering them into a monthly draw for a round of golf for four, every two ‘tells’ they submit per month. golftell was built for golfers, by golfers. The engine for this unique and invaluable tool is provided by 59club, Europe’s leading golf-specific, customer-service benchmarking and training provider, and takes much of its inspiration from the systems operated by the company. Unlike less quantifiable feedback sites, the unique system also offers clubs the ability to validate the ‘teller’s’ pres-

“Fake customer reviews have tainted public perception of many sites, yet they still retain the capability of influencing a purchasing decision one way or the other”

ence on the course before the review is made public, ensuring fake reviews are minimised. Simon Wordsworth, chief executive at 59club and a fellow of the PGA, explained: “Review sites have sprung up in many industries in recent years, with, arguably, the most universally recognisable in the travel sector. “The problem with many of them, however, is they are susceptible to manipulation with unscrupulous firms and individuals able to make negative comments on competitor pages, to the detriment of the rival. “Fake customer reviews have tainted public perception of many sites, yet they still retain the capability of influencing a purchasing decision one way or the other, albeit, on occasion, by nefarious means. Trust is key when consulting a review site and golftell can provide that. “In addition, their sole purpose is often to gain the golfers’ data to enable thirdparty resellers to market the venue’s

products, however, since it’s the clubs themselves working in conjunction with golftell to drive traffic to their individual pages there are no third-party sellers here – so trust really is key.” Clubs looking to utilise all of the premium features of the system will be able to purchase an annual golftell PLUS subscription for as little as £250. golftell PLUS enables club managers to validate submitted ‘tells’ to avoid phoney reviews by simply confirming the teller’s booking name, date and tee-time, meaning false reviews are a thing of the past. These club managers will also have the ability to amplify positive feedback by sharing positive ratings on social media, promoting internal offers, and comparing ratings against the industry, leading performers and their chosen competitors. They will also have the ability to interact with tellers, both privately and/or publicly.

Wordsworth continued: “From a venue’s perspective, the ‘ability to reply’ to tellers enables managers to address negative feedback immediately – as there is an instant alert to advise of any new comments posted. golftell is another tool in the armoury to manage and evaluate staff performance. “It can assist in developing revenue streams, and, crucially, will become a key element in the ability to retain the client relationship. “So for all venue owners and managers out there, with a keen eye on service, be sure you are ready: let the ‘tells’ commence.” golftell is just the latest innovation from 59club, which is fast becoming recognised as the industry standard for measuring and comparing customerservice levels and analysing all key revenue streams for golf venues worldwide, and which is committed to the on-going development of club managers and PGA professionals. GMé | 45



SkyTrak has the X Factor for Owners & Operators SkyCaddie’s new SkyTrak claims to be golf’s first affordable professional-standard personal launch monitor and golf simulator. But what can it do for golf club owners and operators? Andy Hiseman tells the story, and speaks to some early adopters in the UK.

46 | GMé December 2015 BLACK MAGIC SkyTrak is extremely portable and can be used at home, on the range or in the clubhouse

Each year, in late January, UK golf club operators and PGA professionals make a pilgrimage to the PGA Merchandising Show in Orlando to seek out hot new products for the year ahead. ‘The Orlando show’, as it is widely known, gives entrepreneurial golf club owners numerous commercial ideas for stealing a march on neighbouring rivals, as well as providing retail product for the season ahead. At the 2015 show, a particularly highprofile new golf tech product – the SkyTrak personal launch monitor and golf simulator – sent a buzz around the exhibition hall. After its debut on the SkyCaddie booth produced stellar reviews and raised eyebrows in equal measure – at £1,695 the SkyTrak is a quarter of the price of its closest rivals – a host of UK buyers put their names down early for one, attracted by the prospect of a low-cost yet highlyaccurate ‘Practice, Play and Improve’ system, good enough for custom-fitting and elite coaching, but also for social events featuring night-time or badweather indoor golf entertainment. A high-profile exhibition appearance closer to home in October 2015 raised

pulses still further, at the Harrogate Golf Show. UK golf operators began licking their lips at the prospect of putting an affordable new proposition in front of local golfers: come to our golf club this evening and play a world-class golf course with a group of friends – in the comfort and warmth of our clubhouse, while we serve you food and drinks! That’s a killer local proposition, and something which most golf clubs have never been able to offer before. A marketing X Factor, indeed. “SkyTrak enables golf clubs to install a reference-quality golf simulator in their clubhouse, and to invite golfers to play on rainy days or after dark,” said SkyCaddie’s Jacqui Surman, speaking at the product’s UK media launch at The Belfry in September 2015. “The potential to build social events around SkyTrak is a significant factor in its growing success. “SkyTrak will also be popular with golf professionals who are looking to introduce accurate launch monitor technology to their golf lessons and customfitting sessions. “But most of all, SkyTrak is for the golfer.

“SkyTrak enables golf clubs to install a reference-quality golf simulator in their clubhouse” | 47




“Golfers were initially apprehensive about accuracy, but we found its numbers matched those which people had experienced on Trackman, which is way more costly” IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS The breadth of data available is extensive

“Relatively affordably, it means you can have a high-end high-definition golf simulator at your own home, and being so portable you can even take it to a friend’s house or set up group events yourself.” The first SkyTrak units arrived in the UK in November, with the initial shipment of several hundred units already pre-sold. Head PGA professional Tom Atkinson, at Heswall Golf Club on the Wirral, spoke after becoming one of the first UK customers to receive and install SkyTrak at his club. “In just the first week I used SkyTrak to do a wedge gapping fitting, and to entertain a group of golfers with a ‘Nearest The Pin challenge’ when the course was temporarily closed. We’ve already sold one SkyTrak to a member, with another group pledging to club together to buy one for shared use. “Golfers were initially apprehensive about accuracy, but we found its numbers matched those which people had experienced on Trackman, which is way more costly. “The graphics are simply stunning. It is small and neat as a unit, and we easily hooked it up to our big TV with a Lightning cable. We had no problem running the WGT Golf sim software, which looks incredible and very lifelike, and the shot info appears on-screen almost instantly. “Also, as there are no cameras to set up, it’s a piece of cake to switch it for a left-hander to use. It’s an incredibly good piece of kit which we will use a lot this winter, let alone during the season. I already feel that SkyTrak is adding value to our memberships at Heswall, which is absolutely crucial these days.”

48 | GMé December 2015

Tom Field, head professional at The Wychwood Golf Club in the Cotswolds, is another early adopter who predicts frequent SkyTrak sessions at his club in 2016. “In the first week or so, I would say that we’ve sold nine extra sets of golf clubs because we had a SkyTrak on hand, so it’s been a revolution already in that aspect. “It is a very good selling tool. One great thing – from a retail point of view – is that it clarifies what you are saying to a customer while selling equipment. The SkyTrak data isn’t so complex that the golfer can’t understand it, which is what I have seen with other far higher-priced launch monitors, but it lacks for nothing in terms of what you actually need to know. “I already view our SkyTrak as essential for our custom-fitting operation here. “Trackman is very desirable, but is far too expensive for a business like ours, and its data goes over some people’s heads. As for GC2 and Flightscope, I feel that SkyTrak does what they do, equally as well, but at a fraction of the price. It is very affordable, and also very accurate – so I don’t feel that it is compromised by its relatively low price point. “We are also going to use the simulator functions, particularly when the weather is bad... ‘Bring the guys down to the golf club, we’ll turn the heating on, and let’s all play an exotic golf course on a horrible winter’s day!’ “Too many golfers get out of the habit of visiting the golf club during spells of bad weather, and I think SkyTrak will turn that around. “It will help us to expand the business, as it means that our golf club can offer a buying and entertainment experience

which the internet cannot offer – let alone other golf clubs nearby,” continued Field. “I can see us using SkyTrak a huge amount in 2016.” SkyTrak displays real results from a golfer’s real golf game onto a PC or compatible iOS device, and both options can be mirrored onto a TV monitor. A look at its features list reveals why, at this price point, it has been received so well by the industry. Using photometric technology it measures actual ball speed, launch angle, back spin, side spin, side angle, spin axis and total spin immediately after impact, plus carry distance, offline distance and total distance. A joint venture between SkyCaddie’s parent company SkyGolf, and digital technology company SportTrak, SkyTrak’s technological pedigree is sound, and a partnership with leading golf course simulator software provider WGT Golf gives SkyTrak customers the instant ability to host Longest Drive and Nearest The Pin contests, plus full 18-hole experiences at world-famous courses such as Pinehurst No.2 and Bandon Dunes, plus dozens of others. SkyCaddie is also integrating SkyTrak with several other golf simulator providers, promising a huge range of golf courses to play, available via a selection of affordable annual subscription plans, in the near future. With hundreds of SkyTraks already in place at golf clubs and in living rooms across the UK (with another shipment due around the turn of the year), SkyCaddie looks to have pulled its latest – and possibly greatest – golf technology rabbit out of the hat. GMé




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18/11/2015 12:05 | 49


signing off

“I struggle to feel too much sympathy for the guy, in much the same way as I find it difficult to warm to him”

Williams deserves little sympathy from caddies and golfers alike Steve Williams’ book, Out of the Rough, would perhaps have been better titled 12 Years a Slave – at least according to the author. You may recall the New Zealander spent that many years as Tiger Woods’ caddy, a period of time during which he was conservatively estimated to have earned more than $8.8 million. In addition, like slaves of old, he travelled the world – though not in the bowels of a clipper – and stayed in (presumably) four and five-star hotels. Kunta Kinte he ain’t. I struggle to feel too much sympathy for the guy, in much the same way as I find it difficult to warm to him. You may remember, Williams told his fellow caddies at an awards dinner that his excessive celebration at an Adam Scott win was aimed at Woods and was designed to “shove it right up that black ****hole”. He seems a nice guy doesn’t he? Williams was also disappointed that, in publicising his book, his publisher misrepresented him by focussing on his “slave” remark. He said: “It’s disappointing that they chose that one piece of the book. I don’t agree that it should have been used. It’s one word, one sentence, out of a whole book.” What’s really disappointing Steve, is that you couldn’t thank your lucky stars that you’d spent more than a decade working with one of sport’s biggest names and recouped more money than most of us – caddies included – can hope to see in a lifetime. And that, having realised how lucky you were, you couldn’t just retire to a sheep farm somewhere with your $8.8

50 | GMé December 2015

BACK IN THE DAY Steve Williams (left) with Tiger Woods before the pair split after 12 years working together

million, kept shtum and enjoy a pleasant retirement. But just as cream rises to the top, the other stuff also displays its true colours and, in the hope of earning more money and keeping himself in the public eye, Williams penned his story, which will, hopefully, soon be coming to a dump bin at a Works store near you. I appreciate that Woods is no angel, but at least he had some discernible talent. Sorry Mr Williams, but I fail to see how you could imagine any of this would endear you to a golf audience which already holds you in only slightly more esteem than somebody who performs wheelspins in a golf buggy on a green in the middle of the night.

“I didn’t have any sympathy for him,” Williams said in the book. “I believe you’re in charge of your own actions and I have no sympathy for people who get addicted to drugs or gambling or sex. People make choices in their lives...” And you chose to write this Steve, so pardon us if you don’t get the sympathy you clearly think you deserve. GMé

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