GMé | February 2016

Page 1


On the cover...

With improved design and increased power efficiency, the new RXV from E-Z-GO will leave the competition feeling a little flat


£6.50 Issue 106 | February 2016

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

Stephen Gibson, chief executive of Wentworth, talks exclusively to GMé about the changes, both on and off the golf course, at the prestigious venue





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On the agenda february 2016 36


Gibson under fire at Wentworth

Wentworth has had its fair share of press recently, and not all of it has been positive. In an exclusive interview, GMé talks to chief executive, Stephen Gibson about the future plans.


Close for Winter?

The cold shrill of winter can be a headache for many golf operators, and with wetter winters seemingly more commonplace, how viable is it for some clubs to remain open?


Brand values at Titleist

Having worked for two of the biggest brands in golf, brand director for Titleist, Matthew Johnson, shares his views on the current state of the industry.


The Flexibility to PlayMore

As the UK’s first online flexible points-based membership scheme, PlayMoreGolf aims to help private and proprietary golf clubs increase membership revenue.



Nice one, Centurion!

With the new clubhouse finally nearing completion, the Centurion Club is set to take its place amongst some of the finest golfing venues in the UK.

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from the publisher

“It’s not looking great if you’re a low handicap Anglican Bishop with a portfolio of Hong Kong investments”

Prospects not looking good for golf, economy, church & China Maybe it’s because everybody has suddenly started to look a lot younger to me these days – not just policemen, but also Major winners and golf club managers – but it seems that everything is in decline so far in 2016. We continue to be told that golf is not being played by as many people and, in January, I spotted a report in the Daily Telegraph – I get it for the wordsearches – that Church of England attendance has hit a record low. Apparently Sunday attendance has slumped by 22,000 to 765,000 as older worshippers die and nobody takes their place on the pews. Much to the chagrin of the Archbishop of Canterbury, just 1.4 per cent of the population of England now attend Anglican services on a typical Sunday. The reports said: “Even the Church’s preferred ‘weekly’ attendance figures, which include those at mid-week or extra services, has slipped below one million for the first time ever.” I’d like to claim they were all out playing golf but, sadly, that does not seem to be the case. And, if reports are to be believed – and they wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true, surely? – we look to be heading into a massive global depression worse than that of 2008, with China at the vanguard. It’s not looking great if you’re a low handicap Anglican Bishop with a portfolio of Hong Kong investments. Particularly if you’re also a member at Mission Hills.

4 | GMé February 2016

IS THIS SEAT TAKEN? Rows of vacant pews are starting to emerge in church

But maybe the Telegraph report does actually have some relevance to our sport. Maybe the reason it gives for low attendance at church could actually be one of the main factors in the decline of golf participation, namely that people who have been playing the game for years are dying and aren’t being replaced by the younger generation. Or, for that matter, by the not-quiteyounger-but-not-yet-retired generation. If that’s the case it merely reinforces the argument that we need to attract more people of all generations. Let’s get the mums and dads playing as well as the youngsters they bring along on a Saturday morning or during

half-term. Put out some special deals to attract the 30 and 40-somethings who may not yet have felt the desire to play. Yes, I appreciate it’s not a new idea, but neither is the Church of England, and if that feels the need to put out a rallying call, golf should not be afraid to do likewise. GMé

Michael Lenihan


Hold the front page Featuring superior performance and increased energy efficiency, the new RXV from E-Z-GO reaffirms its position as the world’s most technologically advanced golf car, bar none.

“We’ve incorporated feedback from our customers to develop an improved RXV that capitalises on its performance with a host of upgraded features that enhance operational efficiency”

Cover sponsored by Ransomes Jacobsen (44) 01473 270000

6 | GMé February 2016

E-Z-GO has introduced the next-generation model of its popular RXV golf car, equipped with a revolutionary combination of AC power and IntelliBrake™ technology for superior performance and increased energy efficiency. The RXV’s AC Drive technology is up to 25 per cent more efficient than the DC technology traditionally used in electric golf cars, and provides a powerful, consistent and reliable ride on all types of course terrain. Introduced in 2008, this pioneering technology delivers superior energy efficiency, increased power and longer run times between charges. In fact, the RXV maintains 97 per cent of its speed when climbing hills and has best-in-class acceleration. The electric RXV’s patented IntelliBrake system encompasses two technologies: a motor brake that automatically slows the vehicle when traveling up or down steep slopes, and a parking brake that automatically engages when the vehicle stops. This system also delivers full-time regenerative braking, redirecting energy back into the vehicle’s batteries whenever the brakes are applied, recharging the batteries during use and further extending the vehicle’s energy efficiency and range.

It captures 21 per cent more energy per round than its nearest rival in the premium fleet golf car market. “The RXV has proven its reliability to golf facilities around the globe by demonstrating superior operational efficiencies through its AC Drive and IntelliBrake technology,” said Nick Brown, international corporate accounts manager of Ransomes Jacobsen who distribute E-Z-GO in Europe. “In this next-generation vehicle, we’ve incorporated feedback from our customers to develop an improved RXV that capitalises on its performance with a host of upgraded features that enhance operational efficiency and golfer experience.” The RXV has been updated to give golfers an exceptional on-course experience, with a sleek, modern design, featuring fade-resistant automotivequality paint, an integrated front bumper designed to withstand impacts up to five mph and side and rear bumpers to provide all-around vehicle protection. The redesigned rear body maximizes storage space, whilst the interior has been designed to enhance the on-course experience, featuring contoured, ergonomic seating, larger dash storage, and an optional USB port to power smartphones and electronic devices. GMé

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Toro extends agreement with the European Tour until 2018 The Toro Company has renewed its multi-year partnership with the European Tour, continuing a successful 15-year relationship. The partnership includes the European Tour, Senior Tour and Challenge Tour across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, reflecting Toro’s position as the market leader in golf. “After a full market analysis, we are proud to see Toro come out on top and be selected by the European Tour as the best partner to meet their needs,” said Andy Brown, corporate account manager for Toro’s International business. “There was, as always, significant competition, but the quality of Toro products combined with local dealer support and the fact that most European Tour venues are existing Toro customers, we believe was a key differentiator.” Toro turf equipment and irrigation products will continue to assist the European Tour in the presentation and playability of the courses to provide the best possible conditions for players, promoters, sponsors and the watching public. With a large majority of the European Tour venues already using Toro machinery and irrigation equipment, the extended deal means that most operators will be able to use additional machines without the need for extensive training. “The contract, which runs from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2018, signals

the start of the next era between the Tour and Toro,” commented Darren Redetzke, vice president of International business for Toro. “Toro has very similar goals to the European Tour in that we are constantly focused on innovation, sustainability and pushing the boundaries. “Together, we are committed to helping grow the game among players and fans, and we are truly delighted to be asked to pair up again and extend our strong, long-standing relationship even further into the future.”

Rain Bird adds to sales team

Valderrama sold, as new owners plan to develop second course

Rain Bird have strengthened their golf sales team with the joint appointments of Jimmy Sandison and Joakim Ström. Sandison has joined the Rain Bird team as golf area sales manager for the UK, Ireland and Iceland markets, having previously spent ten years working for Watermation, and more recently, KAR UK, where he was national sales manager responsible for developing sales in the landscape, golf and sports field industry. He will be supported by another person acting as a golf sales specialist. Ström has joined the Rain Bird team as golf area sales manager for the Scandinavian market – Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark – and joins with more than 20 years of international experience in distribution channel management and project management. Stuart Tate will continue his main position of European golf specification manager, working in close co-operation with all European architects and irrigation consultants.

8 | GMé February 2016

(L-R) Andy Brown of Toro, with Keith Pelley and David Garland of the European Tour

The clubhouse entrance at Valderrama

Valderrama, host venue for the 1997 Ryder Cup in which Seve Ballesteros lead Europe to a famous victory, has been sold in a deal valued at €40 million. Zagaleta Limited – a UK subsidiary of Grupo la Zagaleta Holding, headquartered in London and the owner of the luxury resort and gated community by the same name in Benahavis (Malaga) – acquired the Valderrama Group last month. The deal includes other assets besides the world famous Valderrama Golf Course, in Sotogrande, San Roque (Cadiz).

Commenting on the new deal, which was signed in December, Keith Pelley, CEO of the European Tour, said: “Having our golf courses prepared and presented to the highest standard is an essential part of providing the best possible playing experience for our members, which is one of our key priorities. “Toro’s products and equipment play a vital role in us achieving this, so we are delighted to extend our long-standing relationship with them to help ensure these high standards continue to be met.”

In addition to acquiring the golf course, the deal also includes the real estate project known as Valderrama 2, located nearby in Castellar. The development of a new ‘Championship’ Golf Course is included as part of the Valderrama 2 project, and the residential project will follow the same model and philosophy as the residential and services business already developed over the past 25 years by la Zagaleta in Benahavis and Marbella. The project will represent an investment into the area of €200 million over the next ten years. Commenting on the acquisition, Jacobo Cestino, managing director of La Zagaleta Group in Spain said: “This transaction confirms our position at the forefront of the high-end luxury property market as well as connecting us to one of the world’s most prestigious golf brands. “The company has not discounted the possibility of acquiring other luxury and lifestyle brands over the medium term.”


Junior golfers jump at chance to play at Oceânico

In brief... Bertram Rope, the great, great, great grandson of the founder of the Ransomes business back in 1784, recently visited Ransomes Jacobsen’s manufacturing facility in Ipswich as the guest of managing director Alan Prickett. “As a family we are delighted that the company founded by my great, great, great grandfather is still thriving over 200 years later,” said Rope. In reply Prickett said: “I am delighted that we have re-established links with the founder’s descendants; they have an open invitation to visit us, any time.” Danny Willett, celebrated his triumphant season-end by installing a new Huxley Golf putting green into his purpose built practice studio at his home near Sheffield. The Yorkshireman, who turned pro in 2008, ended the 2015 European Tour season with an official world golf ranking of 20th and he finished second in The Race to Dubai after taking a share of fourth place at the DP World Tour Championship. A scheme to build up to 1,000 homes on a West Midlands golf course faced with closure could be scuppered as the local council has not earmarked the site for housing in its new development plan. Bloor Homes wants to redevelop the North Worcestershire Golf Club site, but has been met with opposition from local residents who fear the new families will place a huge strain on roads and public services. Plans have been unveiled to turn a former Scottish Borders golf course into an upmarket holiday estate. Rutherford Castle Golf Club closed down in 2015 due to falling membership and developer Richmond Wight Estates bought the 200-acre site near Carlops, with a view to transforming it with 300 luxury lodges, a dry ski slope, and leisure and equestrian centres.

Entries are now open for the eighth edition of the Oceânico World Kids Golf Championship (OWKG) – and the appeal of a professionally-run international ‘tour’ event for juniors is proving more popular than ever. Last year’s tournament attracted a record 142 competitors, and 2016 already looks set to eclipse that figure. The three-round stroke play event runs from July 25-29 at the Amendoeira Golf Resort on the Algarve in Portugal, with tournament rounds played on the Oceânico Faldo and Oceânico O’Connor Jnr courses. With all the trappings of a professional tournament, such as international television coverage, live scoreboards, rules officials, ‘tour’ dress standards, a glamorous prize giving function and world ranking points for the older categories, it’s no surprise that the entry list is filling up fast for this R&Asanctioned event. As ever, entries are coming in from as far afield as Asia, while junior national squads from Portugal and Guernsey will be there to gain invaluable competitive golf experience. The unique OWKG concept combines a serious golf tournament open to both genders and ages from seven upwards with a fun, family-friendly event.

The under-10 players will play only nine holes per day, and the younger golfers are also encouraged to let a parent caddy for them. There are five age categories, and handicaps can range from positive numbers to 36 in the junior divisions. Oceânico Group chairman Christopher Howell commented: “This tournament is such an exciting one for both us and our competitors. There’s nothing quite like it in the world of golf, where juniors can travel to a competitive international golf tournament that has real gravitas and a keen competitive element, while at the same time enjoying a family holiday in Portugal and getting their parents involved in the fun.”

Some of the participants from 2015

Goodwood recruits dynamic duo to golf team

(L-R) Gary Beves and Chris McDonnell

Two new managers have joined the Golf At Goodwood team. Chris McDonnell has joined as academy manager – assuming leadership of Goodwood’s tutorial assets – while Gary Beves has become membership manager, aiming to ensure that those who join Golf At Goodwood receive an unrivalled golfing experience. McDonnell became a professional golfer at the age of 25 and was 2014 Great Britain and Ireland PGA Club professional champion.

McDonnell said: “I am very pleased to be finally here at Goodwood, and I’ve received a very warm welcome from members and staff. The opportunity to be a part of such a unique place is very exciting and I’m looking forward to working with the energetic and enthusiastic team. “My main goal for the academy is to give golfers a fantastic facility to learn and practice. Combining my experience of golf facilities around the world and the Goodwood values, I want to deliver a unique academy experience that will be the South of England’s preferred venue for golf learning and development.” Gary Beves, who previously spent six years at Goodwood working as part of the golf operations team, added: “It is a huge privilege to have been given the opportunity to come back and work at this fantastic venue. “For me the main aim as membership manager is to ensure that our members feel that they have someone that they can engage with and approach at all times.” | 9




Scotscraig pro scoops top TGI honour as PING claims supplier award Craig Mackie, head PGA professional at Scotscraig Golf Club took the top honour at the TGI Golf Partnership awards night when he walked off with the Partner of the Year title. The annual event, this year staged at The Belfry, brought together Partners of golf’s leading retail services group and influential figures from the golf industry to celebrate those who had excelled over the last 12 months. Mackie, who has been a Partner of TGI Golf since 2005, saw off competition from fellow nominees Ryan Pudney (Mundesley), Paul Stevenson (Portadown) and Richard Lambert (Crosland Heath). The 37-year-old from Tayport is a fully committed Partner, attending every one of the group’s events in 2015, including travelling as first reserve for the Ashworth Cup, where he supported his teammates as they took on rivals Foremost. He said: “Thank you to all the TGI Golf Partners, the staff and our suppliers who have all been extremely supportive. All Partners are worthy of this award, it’s difficult out there for everyone, and so to win is an incredible honour. “Without the support of TGI Golf and the staff, business would be a lot harder, we are all incredibly thankful for their hard work, professionalism and ‘can do attitude’.” Eddie Reid, TGI Golf managing director, who sat on the judging panel along

with senior management and the group’s Retail Consultants, added: “Craig fully deserves to join this illustrious list of Partners who have won this award. He embraces everything TGI Golf has to offer. “He has been a true ambassador for the group, encouraging any PGA professionals he is connected with to join TGI Golf and make the most of the same benefits he has.” PING claimed its second Supplier of the Year crown having collected the award two years ago. It was the only double winner on the night as the PING

Honorary role for Alliss

On your marks! Get ready for golf...

Centurion Club has announced that the ‘voice of golf’, Peter Alliss, has taken up a new role as honorary vice president at the St Albans based private club. Renowned for his charismatic and unique style of broadcasting, Alliss was one of the top golfers of his era before moving into television, and has since forged a hugely successful career setting the tone for golf commentary worldwide. “We are absolutely thrilled that Peter is now part of the Centurion family,” said Scott Evans, managing director, Centurion Club. “He represents all that is good about golf to so many people, and is hugely experienced and accomplished. “Whilst we are a club that is for the 21st century, we are still rooted in the traditions of the game, and Peter embodies this better than anyone.” Alliss added: “It is a real privilege for me to take up this honorary position at such a splendid club as Centurion. The course is beautiful and a real test, but a thoroughly enjoyable one.”

A Staffordshire club is tackling one of the biggest issues facing golf – by advising its players on a new scheme to help them get a move on! With slow play often cited as a reason for not enjoying a round of golf – despite the sport’s many health and social benefits— Lichfield Golf and Country Club has launched a campaign aimed at cutting the amount of time it takes for 18 holes of golf. ‘Ready Golf’ sets down a series of guidelines to help players speed up their play without detracting from the pleasure of their round. At its core is the principle that each player, within a group, hits their shot as soon as they are ready and it is safe to do so. Simon Joyce, Lichfield’s director of golf commented: “This initiative allows us to keep play moving and also keep the enjoyment of play high. It highlights the slower players, giving our marshals a clearer indication of who to approach out on the course.

10 | GMé February 2016

Craig Mackie (right) is presented with his award by 2014 Partner of the Year, Mike Bradley

G30 picked up a second successive Product of the Year award. Steve Carter, PING European sales director, collected the award saying: “In 1959, when PING started, the PGA professional was at the heart of the business. While the industry has evolved since then, our support of pros remains very strong. “We appreciate everything that you, as PGA professionals, and TGI Golf as a group, do for us and we will focus on everything we do to ensure we earn your support, year after year.”

“Players, of course, must still prescribe to the Rules of Golf, with this just being a slight tweak to the sport’s traditional etiquette with the player ‘taking the honour’ still being the main focus of attention. “If someone says you need to play faster, it does not mean you need to abbreviate or eliminate your pre-shot routine; it just means to better manage yours and your group’s time between shots.”

Simon Joyce

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Ladies’ Golf Union announces merger with the R&A The Ladies’ Golf Union (LGU) and The R&A are to proceed with a merger of the two organisations. Following an extensive consultation exercise, agreement has been reached on the merger of the two St Andrews-based bodies with the process due to be completed in the coming months. The LGU organises a series of prestigious championships and international matches including the Ricoh Women’s British Open and the Curtis Cup and the merger will be an opportunity to further develop these world class events. An announcement was made in February 2015 that a potential merger between the LGU and The R&A was under consideration, and since then, discussions have taken place between the respective Boards and the LGU’s shareholders — England Golf, Scottish Golf, the Golf Union of Wales and the Irish Ladies Golf Union — and there has been unanimous support for the proposal.

Trish Wilson, the chairman of the LGU, said: “The LGU has a long and proud tradition of supporting women’s and girls’ golf. Funded by the lady golfers of Great Britain and Ireland, the LGU has positioned golf as a game for all women and

Barra turns to crowdfunding

Girls’ golf set for participation boost as new campaign ‘rocks’

A crowdfunding campaign has been launched to help save the Isle of Barra Golf Course, the most westerly in Great Britain. The course, in the Western Isles, is looking to raise £20,000 – a figure that must be matched should the course wish to continue operating – in order to build a clubhouse. Built in 1992, Isle of Barra’s nine-hole layout features stunning views across the Atlantic Ocean, with visitors travelling from far afield to play the unique course, which is maintained by volunteer members and where the method of payment is via a donation box. But membership numbers, for which an annual fee of £75 is paid, have dwindled to as low as 15 from a high of almost 70, while junior members are being kept away because of a lack of on-site facilities. Member Murdoch MacKinnon explained that the only form of shelter available is a steel container where all the machinery is kept. He said: “The golf course will definitely close unless we get a clubhouse. We’ve kept putting it off over the years but now we’re in a panic situation where we have to do something. “With the climate we have up here, the weather can change in an instant so we need somewhere that visitors can take shelter and have a cup of coffee, and we’re positive that if this did happen, we’d see our membership go up.”

Girls’ golf is about to get rocking with the launch of a campaign in nine English counties to encourage new players. The campaign, entitled ‘Girls Golf Rocks’ is all about attracting beginners to have fun, learn a new sport, get active and play alongside friends – with no pressure. Girl golfers from county squads will act as ambassadors to share their enjoyment and inspire other girls, aged five to 18. Currently, figures show that only one per cent of golf club members are girls, with an average of just two per club. When ‘Girls Golf Rocks’ was trialled in

12 | GMé February 2016

Ricoh Women’s British Open competitors with the R&A clubhouse in the background

girls. My gratitude is due to our shareholders for their foresight and support in this move. I would like to thank the chief executive of The R&A and his team, and the foresight of his predecessor, for their initiative and conviction.”

Essex last summer, 90 youngsters were inspired to try the game. Of those, 40 went on to take a four-week coaching course; 30 played in the par three competition and six became golf club members. Lauren Spray, the England Golf Women & Girls’ participation manager, said: “Girls Golf Rocks sets out to focus on the fun, social and friendship aspects of golf rather than just the playing and coaching side and we’ve had brilliant success. The ambassadors have been fantastic — they all love golf and they’re sharing their enthusiasm with our new players.”

Ambassadors for Girls Golf Rocks (photo Leaderboard Photography)


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09/10/2015 14:40:00 | 13



PGA Merchandise Show a real hit with Foresight Sports Golf coaches and teaching professionals at every level are following household names such as Butch Harmon and Martin Hall by switching “in ever greater numbers” to Foresight Sports’ launchmonitor and analysis technology – that was the conclusion from last month’s PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando. And, not surprisingly, therefore, the team from Foresight Sports Europe, which travelled Stateside for the four-day extravaganza, reported it was the most successful show they’d experienced. The company’s stand featured a massive curved widescreen Foresight simulator – driven by the company’s Game Changer 2 (GC2) and Head Measurement Technology (HMT) – which showcased the new, ground-breaking FSX software, designed to offer the most realistic graphical golf environment yet, blurring the lines between virtual and real courtesy of its 4k output, and which is now available across Europe. Tom Jarrett-Kerr, Foresight Sports Europe’s marketing manager, explained: “The FSX 3D-modelling engine is the most technologically advanced on the market and takes gaming, fitting and coaching to a whole new level, containing, as it does, a host of new features and advancements.

The front page of the FSX2 interface

“In gaming mode it allows the golfer to challenge up to seven real or virtual players, or test skills against other golfers across the globe, in events such as nearest-the-pin or longest drive. And its data capture is second to none for practice, with constantly updated reporting and analysis, integrated video swing analysis and an all-new, intuitive user interface. “And, when fully integrated with a new My Performance account, FSX offers cloud-based online performance analy-

sis, while storing skill-building, competition and game score results.” Foresight also announced the launch of the ground-breaking One-Dot HMT enhancement. Available now via a firmware update, this step-change allows HMT to track critical club data using just one dot – though the four-dot system still functions perfectly for those professionals or fitters wishing to measure every available element of club delivery.

Royal visit signals start of Mayor blocks clubs relocation Richmond’s 125th anniversary A city mayor has ploughed into a debate over the potential relocation of a private club to a pay-and-play venue, insisting “I will simply not allow it”. The Mayor of Liverpool, Joe Anderson, has vowed to block any attempt by Woolton Golf Club to move to the city’s last remaining pay-and play course, reported the Liverpool Echo. Sixty-nine per cent of the membership voted to sell the Doe Park club to wealthy property developer Eric Grove for a potential housing development. But Anderson says he will prevent any attempt by the club to take over at Allerton, which still operates on a municipal-style basis. The Mayor, who contracted the running of Allerton to the Maghull Club in November 2014 as part of a 25-lease arrangement, promised: “There is absolutely no question of us allowing it to become their own private members club. I will simply not allow it.” His words were echoed by Jonathan Large, director of golf at Allerton Golf Course, who described Woolton’s wish to switch their private club to Allerton as ‘nonsense.’

14 | GMé February 2016

Princess Alexandra helped The Richmond Golf Club launch its 125th anniversary celebrations at the prestigious London club. Her Royal Highness was guest of honour as the club staged a Founders’ Day reception on Friday, February 5 – the exact date when the club was formed in Richmond’s Greyhound Hotel back in 1891. More than 200 members and guests joined the Princess for the glittering black-tie champagne reception in The Richmond Golf Club’s Grade I listed Georgian clubhouse – with the highlight of the evening coming with the unveiling of two specially-commissioned paintings of the clubhouse by renowned artist Ken Howard RA OBE. Princess Alexandra received rapturous applause as she revealed a painting depicting the clubhouse in summertime, with the other picture showing the clubhouse in its full winter glory being unveiled by Howard. To help round an unforgettable evening off in style, guests were treated to a special one-off performance from members of The Stage Golfing Society –

HRH Princess Alexandra

which has been based at The Richmond Golf Club for the last 68 years – as they humorously re-enacted some of the most notable events in the club’s illustrious history. Jeremy Williams, captain of The Richmond Golf Club, said: “The event was a great success and I would like to thank everyone for all their hard work in providing such a memorable occasion to launch our anniversary celebrations. “We’re very proud to be able to continue our close association with the Royal Family in such an important year for the club.”

picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a new position for Dr Kyle Phillpots, who heads up a new education role at The PGA.







In brief... Course architect Tom Doak has been appointed to advise on the facilities at the National Golf Centre, the home of England Golf at Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire. General manager, Richard Latham, commented: “In our opinion Tom Doak is one of the most accomplished architects in the world today and we feel that renovating/refining a national treasure like the Hotchkin Course requires expert opinion. We are huge admirers of Tom’s work and are confident that his input will be invaluable.” The Grove is renovating all 90 bunkers on its 7,152 yard course, and also enhancing drainage on 13 holes, in preparation for hosting The British Masters supported by Sky Sports, later this year. The work will see the installation of a Blinder liner system into 18 sand traps to improve drainage and safeguard original design features, whilst a program of sand exchange will be undertaken across all 90 bunkers. Nick Pink, who has held senior roles with leading sports organisations, has been appointed as chief executive officer of England Golf, effective March 14, 2016. For the past four years, Pink has been the European manager for the International Cricket Council (ICC), charged with implementing a global strategy to increase participation and financial growth across 33 national federations. The Renaissance Club has appointed Stephen Walker as its new director of marketing & hospitality, with immediate effect. Prior to this appointment, Walker was director of sales and marketing at Turnberry, where he led the sales team with responsibility for all marketing, sales and events. Jerry Sarvadi, managing director of The Renaissance Club said: “I am delighted to welcome Stephen Walker to The Renaissance Club.”


Dr Kyle Phillpots, who has helped establish The PGA’s training programme around the world since joining the association in 1999, took up a new role last month as PGA executive director – education, global development.


Marriott Hotels has signed English European Tour professional Daniel Brooks as a Brand Ambassador. Under the terms of the one-year deal, Brooks will wear the Marriott logo on both the front of his cap and his right sleeve.


Hamptworth Golf and Country club has appointed Ian Hugglestone as general manager. Previously secretary of Salisbury and South Wilts Golf Club, Hugglestone is keen to help new owner Carl Faulds grow the business.


Following its grand opening in December last year, Al Zorah Golf Club – the UAE’s newest championship golf course – has announced the appointment of Martin Dewhurst as its first head PGA professional.


Paul Lawrie was the 2015 recipient of the PGA Recognition Award for his outstanding contribution to golf, with the Scot collecting the honour at The PGA’s annual fundraising lunch at the Grosvenor House hotel in London.


Burhill Golf Club, the flagship venue for Burhill Golf and Leisure (BGL), has appointed Ben Rosser as its new head professional, effective March 1. Rosser previously spent 11 years with BGL at the neighbouring Hoebridge Golf Centre. | 15



company profile DRIVING STYLE The Grismont family on Driving Irons

Exquisite Grismont... Power & Beauty Hand-crafted in Paris, the Grismont range of bespoke driving irons have been created specifically for the discerning golfer in mind, offering high-end golf club operators a niche USP when it comes to custom-fitting. Article by Andy Hiseman.

Company Profile sponsored by Grismont (33) 662 643955

16 | GMé February 2016

Evoking the magnificence and mystery of ancient Asian sculptures and Arabic architecture, the exquisite 3D-printed Grismont driving irons are new for golfers in 2016. Hand-crafted to order in Paris, these limited-edition golf clubs are the brainchild of 26-year old golf equipment designer Clément Pouget-Osmont. Having made custom clubheads for his friends from his Paris apartment, the young businessman embraced his passion for golf by subsequently conducting a thorough two-year development and testing programme which revealed explosive performance characteristics to match the clubs’ hautecouture visuals. Three exotic models are available in the initial Grismont range: ORI, which takes its visual cues from the Mashrabiya, a traditional Arabic latticework window design which dates from the Middle Ages; CÉS, inspired by ancestral Asian sculptures; and AIR, a stunning see-through model which reinvents the back of a modern golf club, pushing 3D-printed golf technology to a new limit.

Expert Paris-based ‘digital designers’ Linlin and Pierre Jacques worked with Pouget-Osmont to apply these evocative designs to Grismont golf equipment, ensuring that the startlingly-original aesthetics did not compromise the clubs’ fairway-splitting distance and control properties. The 3D printing production process enables Grismont to create incredibly detailed shapes with extreme precision, producing a micro-welded clubhead inherently stronger than traditional cast irons. Golfers would be excused for thinking that these extraordinary-looking clubs are blades, but the ornate Grismont clubheads actually contain a gameimprovement cavity which adds forgiveness to the power, making them suitable for golfers of all handicaps who prefer the muscular feel and increased control of a driving iron to the more high-flying characteristics of a utility or hybrid club. Although Grismont’s stainless steel clubheads are available in standard 1-iron (17 deg), 2-iron (19 deg) and 3-iron (21deg) lofts, the company can also custom-build the irons to order in

ORI The ORI range, modelled on a traditional Arabic latticework window design

CES The CES range, which is inspired by ancestral Asian sculptures

AIR The AIR range, the see-through model which reinvents the back of a modern golf club

any loft from 15 to 25 degrees, to suit a golfer’s wishes. All clubs are available in Right Hand and Left Hand configuration. With a UK demo day programme still in development, golfers currently order their Grismont irons via an online customisation platform, where model, head colour, loft, setup and Grismont grip can be specified, as well as a choice of third-party shafts. Once the golfer has chosen an exact online specification, the clubs are then built to order by Grismont 3D printing technicians at the firm’s Paris headquarters. Golfers can also send a video of their swing to Grismont, enabling technicians

to construct clubs exactly matched to the individual. “Just as every golfer is different, and indeed just as the sport of golf itself is ever-changing, we believe that the field of golf equipment design should fundamentally embrace new thinking, and the possibilities which new technology makes possible” said Pouget-Osmont. “At Grismont we have combined disruptive technology with hand-crafted design expertise to produce a new generation of custom-made golf equipment for golfers who want something exclusive and amazing to behold, but who also want to stand on the tee knowing that the club in their hands fills them with incomparable confidence.

“We believe that Grismont will appeal to individuals who, like ourselves, prefer not to buy off-the-shelf, instead looking for performance technology which also allows an expression of art, individuality and intrigue.” ORI and CÉS models are available in a variety of colours including a Classic Metal finish at £1,200 per club, a Copper finish at £1,900 per club, and a Gold finish at £2,300 per club. The AIR is available in a Classic Metal finish only at £1,400 per club, with trade prices available upon request. Delivery time from placing an order is roughly three weeks, including free delivery in Europe and a five-year customer care programme. GMé | 17



wentworth club

Gibson reigns supreme as Wentworth comes under fire In an exclusive interview with GMé, chief executive of The Wentworth Club, Stephen Gibson, talks to Scott MacCallum about the widely publicised changes to the membership structure, the impact of the new Chinese owners, and the plans to redesign the three courses.

18 | GMé February 2016 FRONT AND BACK Stephen Gibson pictured outside the front of the clubhouse at Wentworth (main picture) and right, the view from the rear terrace overlooking the practice putting green

The Wentworth Club in Virginia Water, Surrey, is one of the most iconic golf clubs in the world and certainly one which features on most ‘Must Play’ lists of club golfers. And the great thing was that while Wentworth oozed prestige and quality it was open to anyone lucky enough to have the (not inconsiderable, granted) money for a green fee, or be wellconnected enough to be invited to one of the many corporate golf days hosted by the club. It gave everyone at least an opportunity to walk in the footsteps of the golfing legends who had all played the West Course, or perhaps find yourself standing at the bar beside one of the many television personalities who were members of the Club. However, that chance to feel the knees knocking and palms sweating as you tee up at the first on the West Course in front of the famous Bernard Gallagher statue will now be reserved to only the very few following a decision of the new Chinese owners, Reignwood Group. “Wentworth has always been known as an exclusive club in the past, but in reality it wasn’t exclusive at all,” said chief executive Stephen Gibson speaking exclusively to GMé. “It was prestigious, yes, but nobody was excluded from coming to the club, apart from at weekends when it has always been members only. In future it will be members’ only Monday through Sunday.

“We won’t be having any corporate golf days in future and the club will purely be for members and their guests. In effect, we are returning to what the Club was originally set up to be, which was to be a club for the local residents,” said Gibson, who was promoted to his new role last year. While that will be manna from heaven for other prestigious clubs with whom Wentworth previously competed for the lucrative corporate golf market, it is not such good news for those existing Wentworth members, for whom enjoying the delights of exclusive Wentworth membership will come at an eye-watering price. At an AGM late last year the members were informed that, as of March 31, 2017, the annual membership fees would double from £8,000 to £16,000. Furthermore, members wishing to retain membership would have to pay a lump sum of £100,000 for the privilege – for new members that would be £125,000 – up from the current joining fee of £15,000. In China, golf is seen very much as an elitist sport for the wealthy, with joining and membership fees such as those to be imposed at Wentworth – and which are considered eye-watering in Europe – much more common place. However, Gibson insists it is Wentworth’s ‘Britishness’ that attracted the new owners to invest and not the desire to create a little bit of Beijing in the Home Counties.

“Wentworth has always been known as an exclusive club in the past, but in reality it wasn’t exclusive at all” | 19



wentworth club

“Reignwood has bought the club because of its British heritage. It is all about retaining that heritage and making sure they build on what is here”

TALKING POINT The approach to the 18th green on the West Course

“Reignwood has bought the club because of its British heritage. It is all about retaining that heritage and making sure they build on what is here and make it a better facility, and at its heart a British club,” explained Gibson. “We are the only club in the UK which is on TV for a week every year – until 2007 it also hosted the annual televised World Match-Play Championship – so it is difficult for us to stay under the radar. “That said, anything which is purely for members is only communicated to our members and no-one else, but if other people want to talk about Wentworth then that is their prerogative. “From our point of view, private information is for members and they are the only people who we will share it with,” added Gibson. What it perhaps does highlight is the difference between a genuine members’ club – owned and run by the club’s membership – and proprietary clubs which are owned and run as a business and where members do not have the same rights and ability to influence club policy. Those who do remain members, and those who are attracted to the exclusive nature of the club and the chance to mingle with like-minded high achievers, will be able to bask in opulence unmatched at all but the very top Golf and Country Clubs in the world. All three of the 18 hole courses – the world famous West Course, the beautiful East Course and the younger Edinburgh Course will be given major make-overs – while the practice facilities will also be revamped along with the tennis facilities, spa and clubhouse.

20 | GMé February 2016

The West Course was transformed only seven years ago when the previous owner, Richard Caring, commissioned Ernie Els – himself a resident on the Wentworth Estate – to give the course a radical make-over. Visually stunning the course received mixed reviews from both the professionals who played the BMW PGA Championship and the regular club golfers, many of whom deemed it too challenging. Changes were made, particularly to the 18th, which boasted a raised green over a man-made creek to make it more enticing to players hoping to reach the par-five in two, but with new owners in place keen to protect the interests of its membership, the course will be softened, again under the guidance of Els. “We are going to make it a more playable course for the regular member, and that is one of our main focusses,” explained estates manager, Kenny MacKay. “At the moment it is a real punishing struggle to get round. We are going to make it a more playable golf course and then toughen it up for the BMW PGA Championship by adding green speed and a few other tweaks.” The new changes will be started immediately after this year’s BMW PGA Championship, and will be completed ahead of the same tournament in 2017. While the feat of reconstructing the course six years ago within the same schedule was remarkable, MacKay explains that the new changes are even more significant, although the 18th will not be returning to the old style version of pre-2009.

“Everyone wants to try and hit the green, whether that be in two or three shots, and it is the big talking point when people are back in the clubhouse,” he added. Wentworth has been the home of the European Tour for over 40 years, and the Reignwood Group are happy to continue with that arrangement, especially with the Tour owning their land and offices behind the Wentworth clubhouse. “We have a great relationship with the Tour,” explained Gibson. “I’ve met with the new CEO, Keith Pelley, on a number of occasions – he lives on the Wentworth Estate – and he is fully on board with everything we are doing, and everything we are doing to enhance the BMW PGA Championship.” So where does Gibson think The Wentworth Club will be in five years’ time, and how does he cope with the pressure from the new owners? “I’d like to think that we have a very similar membership to the membership we have today,” he said. “I don’t think that we will have anyone in European golf, or perhaps even globally, able to challenge our status as the best golf and country club. “We want always to be a members’ club and to appeal to the people who live on this estate and in this area. That’s where we are heading and our owner is totally dedicated to making this club absolutely the best he can. “The aspiration is to be the best of its type in the world. “As to pressure, Lee Trevino had more pressure when he was playing for three dollars, with two dollars in his pocket,” smiled Gibson. GMé

World's Golf Course Designer of the Year

World's Best New Golf Course


close for winter

Close for Winter? Fore and against The cold shrill of winter can be a headache for many golf facilities. As Mark Alexander finds out, how they cope can range from shutting up shop to resourceful marketing.

The beginning of the end of winter is just around the corner, and no-one is more relieved to see it than the legions of greenkeepers around Europe. Over the last few months the relentless rain and wind has seen many clubs hit by a series of weather-related blows that have crushed the limited green-fee income over what is typically an unpredictable period. With flooding being the main culprit, Richard Jacques summed up the mood in his Christmas blog to the members of Malton & Norton Golf Club in North Yorkshire. “This period is usually a quiet one but this year has been far from quiet. “From 10am on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and the next 48 hours we received around 100mm of rain. This is an unbelievable amount of water in such a short period.” As the club’s head greenkeeper, he had never witnessed a winter like it. “To put it into context; it’s a quarter of the total rainfall for the previous 11 months. The course simply could not take that volume of water. I had never seen the devastation of flood water in my previous 18

22 | GMé February 2016

years. Even the wettest year on record, in 2012, did not have such volume in one period of rainfall.” From inside the clubhouse, the effects of the rain were just as palpable. “It’s been one of the worst we’ve had,” says the club’s managing secretary Richard Jagger. “It is quite a regular occurrence because our bottom nine are just next to the River Derwent so it floods regularly. But this year was probably the worst ever.” Despite having 27 holes from which to devise a composite route, the club had no other choice than to shut the course during the height of the flooding over Christmas. “It is a quieter time of year, but it did have an effect on our green fee income, our bar income and a lot of secondary spend,” he admits. But the team at Malton & Norton aren’t ones to let the weather get the better of them. With the course closed, the team set about completing the refurbishment of the clubhouse and communicating the goings on to the members and visitors alike. “We have a three-pronged attack,” Jagger explains.

BLEAK MIDWINTER Storm clouds gather above the clubhouse at Castle Stuart (main picture) and above, a snowy outlook at Kingsbarns GIRL TALK A coupe of senior lady golfers share a joke on the green

close for winter

“Richard does his greenkeeping blog which he updates regularly, I send out regular emails to our members and visitors through our database, and we send out updates via social media using our Twitter and Facebook accounts. “Our members want to play, but they are thankful for the updates. With modern technology, we can take photos and keep them up to speed with what’s

happening, and they appear to appreciate that.” As a members’ club, Malton & Norton is duty bound to offer year-round golf, weather permitting. While this isn’t always possible, the club has an ongoing investment programme to improve drainage and, as importantly, has a policy for keeping its members and visitors informed.

An all-year round operation is as much about communication as it is about drains and ditches. At the other end of the scale, Kingsbarns Golf Links in Fife shuts its doors for four months over winter. As chief executive Alan Hogg explains, it’s a business decision based on delivering the highest possible standards and avoiding the worst of the weather. | 23



close for winter

“We make a conscious decision not to do any offseason business because you want to keep your reputation intact”

WINTER RETREAT The new clubhouse at Trump International which remains open all-year round

“We concentrate on trying to get the golf course in pristine condition so we can maintain our pricing policy throughout the season providing a highly maintained golf course in the best possible Scottish weather,” he says. The four-month rest period enables the Kingsbarns team to complete jobs such as bunker-revetting and top-dressing fairways without disrupting play. “At Kingsbarns you’ll never see ongoing maintenance work where GUR or new drainage means you have to miss a hole which you might see at some facilities because of the all-year-round play. They’ve got to do it at some point.” It is a strategy that only a pay-and-play course could accommodate, and then only at the top end of the market. “We make a conscious decision not to do any off-season business because you want to keep your reputation intact,” says Stuart McColm, general manager at Castle Stuart Golf Links, which closes down between November and March. “We’ve always found it better to get the staff refreshed after a busy season.” While most of the staff at this year’s Scottish Open venue enjoy a four-month hiatus, the full-timers take three months off, attending a half-month debrief at the end of the season and a fortnight warmup before Castle Stuart reopens. McColm says they opt out of the Working Time Regulations and therefore can fulfil their full annual hours quota in nine months rather than 12. “You’re going to get scuff marks, so we spruce up the building and tidy things up. We come in fresh,” says McColm.

24 | GMé February 2016

“It’s the same with the golf course. We’re charging the money so we’ve got to deliver a product and a service. If you beat your building up and beat your golf course up, it’s going to be impossible to deliver that service 12 months a year. It gives everyone a focus – for the eight months we’re doing it, we’re going to do it to the best of our ability.” To the east, another high-end property tackles the winter issue with similar restrictions, but with one significant difference – the clubhouse stays open. “Our new clubhouse opened in June 2015 and we quickly identified that it was providing a valuable service not only for golfers, but for the wider community who were using our brasserie-style clubhouse restaurant for dining and events,” explains Sarah Malone, executive vice president at Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen. “Our food and beverage offering has become renowned in the local area – people love relaxing and dining in the clubhouse.” The idea of keeping the clubhouse open while the course is closed may appear counter-intuitive, but as Malone points out, it has its advantages. “This allows us to establish a wider customer base that generates business all year round,” she says. “We are not solely reliant on seasonal golf-related clientele. Our customer mix is very diverse with families, couples and corporate clients dining in the restaurant and booking the private dining areas for celebrations, banquets, product launches and such like.”

This all-year-round premise relies on having facilities that corporate and drop-in diners want to use. While the new clubhouse at Trump International Golf Links clearly meets the grade, other clubs may require significant investment or at least an appreciation of the service levels and quality demanded by nongolfing clients if they are to capitalise on this market. Of course, surviving the winter months doesn’t simply come down to devising a tantalising menu or making the unpalatable decision to shut down for four months. For most clubs, thinking latterly is the only option and in Staffordshire a joint initiative has done just that. Golf Express promotes nine-hole golf at golf clubs across the county with each offering nine-hole green fees and providing opportunities for golfers to keep playing during the winter. Launched ahead of the first storms of the season, the initiative is part of an England Golf project to trial innovative ways of increasing participation and golf club memberships. “People tend to play less golf in the winter – but we’re confident this won’t be the case in Staffordshire,” explains Gareth Shaw, Staffordshire County development officer. “Golfers in the county can reap the health and well-being benefits of winter golf. It’s the perfect tonic for boosting energy.” The initiative, which is little more than a marketing exercise, is innovative because it relies on collaboration and communication, which is sometimes all it takes to beat the winter blues. GMé



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golf in morocco

“The quality of the golf is the equal of anything in southern Europe, and it has a huge heritage in the game – there have been golf clubs there for more than 100 years”

Souk it and Sea. A mix of Morocco Michael Lenihan was invited to experience golf in Morocco, and he discovered a destination perfectly suited to club pro’s looking to take members away for a coaching break. CHAOS REIGNS A traditional souk in Marrakech (above) is a chaotic, but must-see experience whilst visiting the city, and (top) the tricky par-three at Royal Palm Golf Club

26 | GMé February 2016

“Last year I stood up here and explained how Morocco had 29 golf courses which can be enjoyed in yearround sunshine. Twelve months later I can stand here and say that Morocco now has 37 golf courses of which we are very proud.” These were the words with which Amine Boughaleb, the director of the UK & Ireland Moroccan National Tourist Office (MNTO), addressed the competitors at the grand final of the Morocco Matchplay, powered by HowDidiDo, which was fought out at the Sofitel Essaouira Mogador Golf & Spa, in February. And, speaking with several of the golfers at the event, your correspondent can confirm that to a man – and woman, as the grand final included a mixed pairs’

event – they all praised Morocco to the skies as a perfect winter golf destination for those of us travelling from the much harsher climes of northern Europe. The matchplay finalists played their four-day competition on the challenging Gary Player-designed Golf d’Essaouira Mogador, while we hacks also got to enjoy Assoufid – recently ranked the best in Morocco by Golf Digest magazine – and Cabell B Robinson’s very enjoyable Royal Palm, in Marrakech, which allowed us to echo and supplement the sentiments of the 32 competitors. Five years ago, GMé carried a feature on golf in the Kingdom of Morocco which reported that the boom in the country came about as a result of an initiative instigated by His Majesty King Mohammed VI, at the beginning of the

MOROCCAN LINKS Mazagan Golf Club, Morocco

1990s, which was designed to turn tourism into the second biggest contributor to the country’s GDP by the end of the 21st century’s first decade. That tourism still provides only around eight per cent of GDP now is probably down to the prevailing political climate of the past few years and certainly not what’s on offer. Morocco took the title of Africa’s best golf destination in the 2015 World Golf Awards and the aforementioned Assoufid was on a shortlist of five for Africa’s best golf course; while Mazagan Beach Resort, in El Jadida – 120 miles north-west of Marrakech – was shortlisted for Africa’s best golf hotel. The quality is certainly there. And, while I’m not party to the reports winging in and out of the Foreign

& Commonwealth Office on a daily basis, I can confirm I felt perfectly safe throughout the trip. In my experience the Moroccans are a very welcoming, friendly and helpful people, and, at the golf clubs and hotels, this manifests itself in exceptional service which seems natural and not enforced. It’s not their fault that elsewhere on the continent instability is rife. There is, indeed, much to recommend golf in Morocco, not least for club professionals looking to take members away for a week’s sunshine coaching. Holtye Golf Club’s Neil Clarkson, who also acts as HowDidiDo’s academy coach, has been taking golf schools abroad since 1994 – so he knows a bit about the ideal destination. He explained: “From the perspective of somebody who’s been to southern

Europe a lot over the years, certainly, in winter, from November through to February, the weather is an important factor. It’s a little bit warmer and drier in Morocco, for essentially the same flight time, 30 minutes more at the most. “The quality of the golf is the equal of anything in southern Europe, and it has a huge heritage in the game – there have been golf clubs there for more than 100 years. “Cost is also a factor; relatively speaking you get quite a lot of ‘bang for your buck’ in Morocco, plus, with the regular easyJet flights, it’s no more expensive to get there than it is Spain or Portugal. “Culturally, there’s different stuff to do in the various regions; different types of golf courses in different areas. Royal Dar Es Salam, where we played the | 27



golf in morocco

SNOW DROPS Assoufid Golf Club, featuring spectacular views of the snow-capped Atlas Mountains

“Morocco is an undiscovered gem in that while we were there, there were very few people on the course or the range”

28 | GMé February 2016

Matchplay last year, for example, was very different to where we were this year. “The service is second to none too; they’re French-speaking and many can converse in English, so communication is not an issue. And finally it’s just so much quieter there than in southern Europe or Turkey. Morocco is an undiscovered gem in that while we were there, there were very few people on the course or the range. It’s ideal for a golf school. “I’m actually heading back out there in November, that’s the plan. I’m talking about it with my pupils now.” The MNTO is making a concerted effort to lure European golfers to a country which offers year-round sunshine via short-haul flights – less than three-anda-half hours from the UK and Ireland. Morocco celebrated its golfing centenary in 2014, with the first greens, designed by British architects Ken Cotton and Frank Pennink, laid out at Royal Country Club de Tanger (Tangier). It’s now one of five courses in that historic coastal city, having been joined by Cabo Negro Golf Beach, a 1976 Hawtree design, reworked by that man Robinson; the coastal Enrique Saenger design at Golf Port de Lixus; Vijay Singh’s Al Houara Golf; and Golf Tamuda Bay, a Nicklaus Design course. The majority of golf courses, not surprisingly, are centred on Marrakech, the country’s fourth largest city and a major tourist draw, owing to its magnificent ‘souks’ or Berber markets. There are currently 14 courses, mainly located in

what’s become known colloquially as Marrakech’s ‘golf district’. The best known are Assoufid; the Kyle Phillips-designed Al Maaden, Golf Digest’s number three in Morocco; Domaine Royal Palm; the Samanah Country Club, a Nicklaus Design; the 27-hole Royal Golf Marrakech, dating from 1923; and the Robert Trent Jonesdesigned Palmeraie. And there is, reassuringly, a wide range of hotels and riads catering for all budgets in the sprawling city. The ‘cultural’ offering includes nine courses in Casablanca; the famed Royal Golf Dar Es Salam, in Rabat – home to the Hassan II Golf Trophy until 2011; three in Fes; and Mazagan and Royal Golf El Jadida in, fittingly, El Jadida-Mazagan. Agadir, the ‘Moroccan sun’ sector, has another five including Golf du Palais Royal, which is now home to the above European Tour event; and Golf Digest’s fourth pick, the 27-hole Golf de l’Ocean. With plenty of available land, an enviable climate and a desire from the very top to get people playing – both tourists and Moroccans – it is not surprising that plans are currently in place to have more than 40 courses in operation by 2020. Maybe the final word on the suitability of Morocco should be left to coach Clarkson. He added: “Morocco’s not lacking anything southern Europe has from a golf school point of view, but you’re a little bit further south in the depths of winter and, ultimately, it’s a little bit warmer.” GMé

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R&D Research and development features prominently throughout Titleist’s ball manufacturing process

PERFECTLY FORMED Each individual Titleist ProV1 and ProV1x golf ball is meticulously crafted

In conversation with Matthew Johnson Having worked for two of the biggest brands in golf, brand director for Titleist, Matthew Johnson, shares his views on the current state of the industry and the latest technology.

GMé With your early career spent working for drinks giant Diageo, you joined TaylorMade-adidas golf as head of marketing in 2003, so what prompted the career change, and did you have an interest in golf prior to joining the company? MJ Diageo was a fantastic place to spend the formative years of my career as I was able to learn about marketing, brand management, and sales whilst working with some of the biggest global brands. As a keen sportsman, I had always wanted a career in sport and at that time had taken up golf, as my rugby and cricket days were coming to an end. I was approached about a possible sales role – which was not what I wanted to do at that stage – so I decided to discuss my career plans with the MD at that time, and ideas about how the golf industry could benefit from my FMCG knowledge and experience. A handful of interviews and discussions later, and my career in golf had started. GMé After leaving TaylorMade-adidas golf, you spent a year away from the industry, before returning as brand director EMEA for Titleist, so what tempted you to return to golf? MJ A year out of the industry was a very positive thing for me, as it gave me the time and space to realise what I liked

30 | GMé February 2016

about the industry, and my thoughts about what my role in golf should look like. As Titleist brand director, I would describe my role as total brand management with responsibility for sales, marketing and ultimately the P&L within our region. GMé Having worked for two of the biggest brands in golf, how does working for a ‘golf-only’ brand such as Titleist, compare to working for a brand which is a smaller subsidiary of a global sporting giant? MJ Any organisation needs to have its own culture, strategy and philosophy, and I think it is natural for different brands in the same industry to have their own way of doing things. My philosophy here is to ensure that your strategy and tactics are authentic to your brand. At Titleist, we have a long history of being closely associated with the on course professional, and being a pure golf brand works really well for us, it is a perfect fit. Our strategy is based upon making the best performing products in the world, validating that performance via the best players at all levels of the game, and ultimately helping dedicated golfers of all abilities to shoot their best scores. GMé Covering the EMEA region, you must visit a fair number of golf clubs

ON THE BAG Matthew Johnson pictured on the practice range at Titleist’s custom-fitting facility at St Ives

each year, so what’s your take on how the industry is shaping up at the moment? MJ My personal view is that many people inside and outside of the golf industry are too quick to take a negative view of the game, and yet there is so much to be positive about. I do visit a lot of clubs and pro shops through the year, and I see some amazingly dedicated people and teams that have developed their business to be

very golfer centric and as result they are being successful. Like most things in life, the people that put in the effort and strategic thinking, are the one’s that end up getting the rewards. I like the fact that there is a focus on the pace of play right now, and if I had a blank cheque book, I would develop a network of par-3 courses at existing clubs to offer a shorter format that helps beginners and people with less time, but would also hone the skills of golfers who want to play a full 18 hole round.

GMĂŠ As a brand, Titleist has always worked closely with the PGA pro at clubs, but with more owners and operators bringing the pro-shop operation under their direct control, do you feel that you may need to take a different approach in the future? MJ I mentioned earlier that Titleist has a long history of working with the on course professional, indeed in the early days of the Titleist Golf Ball, it was sold exclusively through on course profes- | 31



“Ultimately it’s all about trust – in the products, and in the Titleist brand”

MIND THE GAP New SM6 Vokey designed wedges

TRIAL AND ERROR Titleist’s trial centre programme

sionals, as we believed in the need to offer expert advice and guidance on choosing the #1 ball in Golf, coupled with the fact that golfers in general will shop where they play and practice. Whilst ownership of golf retail might have changed since the 1930s, we still believe in the need for expert advice, guidance and even validation by golf professionals, whether that happens on course, off course or on a driving range. We saw a renaissance for the on course channel in 2015, and this reflects the hundreds of professionals and trainees that are helping golfers improve their game at their home club.

custom-fit session, and do you see this area of the business growing in the years ahead?

GMé What is your viewpoint that some brands might be launching too many new products too often, without tangible improvements? MJ At Titleist, we have a brand promise of only launching a product when it is significantly better than the product that came before it. We believe the process of developing, validating and launching our golf balls or golf clubs takes at least two years, and are therefore happy with this launch strategy and commitment to developing products that will help golfers shoot their best scores. We believe that Titleist fans and our customers appreciate this approach and consistency. GMé What percentage of Titleist clubs sold are now made-to-order following a

32 | GMé February 2016

MJ It is little known fact that every club that we sell is made to order in our St Ives headquarters, whether that club is sold from the racks in a golf shop or is a custom fit order. The clubs that we do sell “off the shelf” are simply the most common specs we receive from our custom fitting network. So I could argue that every club we sell is a custom product, especially as more and more golf professionals offer custom fitting and are investing in facilities such as launch monitors or swing studios to offer the best possible service. Custom fitting is one of our core strategies at Titleist and we are dedicated to providing the best tools to help our customers and golfers choose the right golf balls and clubs. Our most recent example of this would be our trial centre programme, where we allow golfers to take a full set of Titleist clubs onto the course and play with them in their own time and space before deciding to book a custom fitting appointment. GMé From a marketing perspective, in your opinion, what sets Titleist apart from any other golf brand? MJ Ever since the brand was founded, Titleist has had a long-standing commitment to creating the best performing golf balls and golf clubs in the game, to

help golfers of all abilities shoot lower scores. This starts with the very best golfers in the world and we use this pyramid of influence strategy not as a marketing story but as means of validating our products. This philosophy is based on a rigorous process of research and development, to accompany the precise manufacturing systems that we have in place across the world, which we feel combine perfectly to give golfers that trust in the consistent performance and quality of all our products. We then also have a great relationship with our network of PGA professionals, who we provide with all the latest product education and fitting tools, to ensure that they can help each and every golfer find the best Titleist equipment to suit their game. For example over the next two months we will be visiting over 1,000 customers as part of our dedication to product training. Ultimately it’s all about trust – in the products, and in the Titleist brand. GMé How often do you get out and play, and are you a member anywhere? MJ I am a member at Gerrards Cross Golf Club and play off nine, which I am working on bringing down. I try to play once a week during the peak season, but during the winter I am spending more time with my family and have recently started coaching an under 8’s Rugby Union team where my son plays. GMé

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flexible membership

PlayMoreGolf launches Flexible Membership As the UK’s first online flexible points-based membership programme, PlayMoreGolf aims to help private and proprietary golf clubs increase membership revenue by up to 50 per cent over three years, as Tim Franklin explains. All of the latest market figures suggest that the majority of private and proprietary-owned golf clubs are facing a decline in membership numbers due to more competition, a perceived lack of value and an ever-increasing number of people engaging with golf in nontraditional formats such as pitch and putt or par-3 short courses. It is clear therefore that ‘standard’ memberships are no longer meeting the requirements of a rising number of – typically younger – golfers, who are increasingly finding it hard to commit to playing golf regularly enough to justify a full club membership. Recognising the specific requirements of this growing group of golfers, PlayMoreGolf launched in November 2015, with the aim of changing the way golf memberships are undertaken and appealing not only to the transient golfer, but also to avid club members who enjoy the social side of club life as much

34 | GMé February 2016

as playing, by providing golfers with more choice and flexibility. PlayMoreGolf is the brainchild of the team that created the hugely successful De Vere Club, which launched in 2010 and attracted more than 18,000 new members to 12 golf clubs in just four years. Its success was based on many of the golfers buying into the fact that they were able to enjoy the benefits of a single club membership, combined with the flexibility of being able to play throughout the network. This flexible approach to golf memberships was the key to its success and has provided the foundations for the PlayMoreGolf membership programme. “Back in 2010 we felt that the time was right to create a ground-breaking model to help golfers whose needs weren’t being met by the traditional style of golf membership and as a team, we learned how to create and administer

the country’s most successful flexible membership scheme,” said Jamie Carroll, director at PlayMoreGolf. “The De Vere model was, naturally, limited to the clubs within the group, but we have utilised the experience to develop PlayMoreGolf, which is designed to be a more inclusive programme. “It means hundreds of clubs throughout the UK can join and benefit from increased flexible membership numbers and revenues, while simultaneously improving the experience for golfers. “We believe the more inclusive nature of PlayMoreGolf will not only encourage people back into the game – and get newcomers started – but also see them retained within the game over a longer period of time, particularly young and occasional golfers,” added Carroll. The real key to PlayMoreGolf’s appeal is its simplicity for both golfer and club. For the golf club, a bespoke partnership is developed, enabling each venue to FLEXIBLE LIFESTYLE PlayMoreGolf offers choice and flexibility, to a whole generation of golfers who are currently not members of a golf club

“Rather than replace ‘traditional’ memberships, PlayMoreGolf is designed to sit alongside clubs’ existing packages”

structure the relationship in a way that maximises the cost-effectiveness for its business. Then, once established as a participating club, PlayMoreGolf will connect golfers online as members, which has an immediate impact on revenues. For the golfer, membership starts at £325 per year and despite only paying a small initial fee, the scheme allows members to nominate a ‘home’ club, which gives them the same benefits as full-members. Having become a PlayMoreGolf member the golfer is given a minimum of 100 points – 80 to be utilised at the pre-agreed ‘home’ club and 20 reserved for rounds at other participating clubs throughout the PlayMoreGolf network. Clubs simply need to determine how many points are redeemed for a round and, once a member’s points run out, they can purchase more and continue playing. At the end of each year when a member renews, any unused home points can be carried forward, free of charge. However, the programme is not designed to simply replace ‘traditional’ memberships with new ‘flexible’ members, as Carroll comments: “Nothing beats the feeling of belonging to a club and the more people feel they belong, the more they will play and enjoy the game.

“Rather than replace ‘traditional’ memberships, PlayMoreGolf is designed to sit alongside clubs’ existing packages with the aim of appealing to the broadest number of golfers and providing a compromise between flexible and traditional memberships in order to maximise the amount of members and revenue for the club. “With the De Vere Club for example, while it added more than 18,000 new members, the programme only saw up to three per cent of the ‘traditional’ members migrating over to the flexible scheme,” continued Carroll. “The detailed strategic plan we have designed for any venues looking to partner with PlayMoreGolf will ensure the transfer from ‘traditional’ memberships is kept to a minimum.” In addition to the opportunity to increase member numbers and the detailed strategic plan, one of PlayMoreGolf’s biggest draws for golf club managers is the opportunity to take advantage of a series of bespoke support packages. “One of the key benefits of becoming a PlayMoreGolf partner is that a golf club will be provided with a complete sales, marketing and support plan at the start of the relationship,” explained Carroll. “This package includes sales training, member acquisition marketing campaign support, a fully integrated customer rela-

tionship management (CRM) programme and a web-booking engine that directly interfaces with the club’s booking requirements, all of which are designed to add real value to our partner clubs. “This complete sales and marketing support package ensures any additional administration tasks for the partner golf club are negated, while also enabling the venue to track each of its members effectively, safeguarding them against membership migration.” The challenging climate the industry faces at present has forced many clubs to reassess their membership packages and despite only launching at the end of 2015, the programme has already been well received within the market. A variety of clubs up and down the country are already seeing the potential benefits of providing a more flexible approach to memberships. Having previously worked with the team, De Vere Venues have recently announced that it is now a PlayMoreGolf partner, with locations such as Staverton Park, Wokefield Park and Wychwood Park joining the network. In addition, Selsdon Park Hotel & Golf Club – which is part of the Principal Hayley Group – Henley Golf & Country Club, Ullesthorpe Court Golf Club and Henlle Park Golf Club have also decided to become part of the ever-expanding network. GMé | 35



bridgestone EXPOSURE Sky Sports Golf’s Sarah Stirk interviews leading UK amateur and Challenge Tour star Jimmy Mullen, who will compete in the Bridgestone Challenge at Heythrop Park

Bridgestone treads into golf sponsorship The tyre division of Bridgestone is backing professional and amateur golf, as Paul Heming discovers. Bridgestone UK’s tyre division is embarking on an exciting golf sponsorship quite unique to the UK tyre industry, featuring a European Tour event partnership, the resurrection of a high-profile English tournament and a nationwide amateur competition with up to 1,900 golf clubs. The tyre manufacturer has unveiled a three-pronged association with golf, which will not only engage with thousands of amateur players across England, but will also include the reintroduction of an England-based Challenge Tour event after a three-year absence. As part of the announcement, Bridgestone’s holistic package of golf sponsorships includes becoming the Official partner of the European Tour’s British Masters event – supported by Sky Sports – from October 13-16, which this year will be hosted by Luke Donald at The Grove. In addition, Bridgestone will headline sponsor the Bridgestone Challenge – a Challenge Tour event to be held at Heythrop Park between August 25-28 – as well as the creation of the Bridgestone DriveGuard Trophy, a Bridgestone amateur championship in association with England Golf, reaching up to 1,900 clubs and 650,000 players. The decision to embark on a high profile golf sponsorship represents a significant change from more commonplace sports partnerships in the tyre industry, with Bridgestone keen to create a stage for amateurs of all abilities to realise their dreams and play the game on the highest stage.

36 | GMé February 2016

Such an incentive was crucial in Bridgestone’s decision to enter the world of golf, as the tyre manufacturer attempts to engage with players in a tangible way that will live long in the memory. Bridgestone decided to embark on a golfing journey after a successful foray into the sport in 2015, where a tournament for amateur players yielded great exposure and significant interest in the company’s premium products. This year will see an extension of this event in partnership with England Golf, with golf clubs across England invited to introduce the Bridgestone DriveGuard Trophy onto their calendars between March, April and May. The competition will be free to enter and accessible to golfers of all ages and handicaps and is open to men, women and juniors. It has been named after an innovative new range of Bridgestone tyres called DriveGuard, which allow drivers to maintain control after a puncture and safely continue for 50 miles and speeds up to 50mph, or a safe destination to organise a replacement. Each club winner will go on to play in regional DriveGuard Trophy finals in June and July, with the triumphant golfers in the regional finals going on to play in the pro-am of the Bridgestone Challenge event itself in August. And to link the sponsorships perfectly, the winners of the Bridgestone Challenge pro-am will then win a trip to the British Masters, supported by Sky Sports, to play in the official pro-am with

“We have identified huge potential from the world of golf and are extremely excited to be entering into a series of sponsorships covering such a broad range of the sport”

PRESS CALL Assorted dignitaries at the announcement

DRIVEGUARD A car fitted with DriveGuard tyres at Heythrop Park

FLAG HAPPY Heythrop Park in all its glory

some of the biggest and best names in the sport, in October. Bridgestone’s north region consumer sales and marketing director Farrell Dolan said: “We have identified huge potential from the world of golf and are extremely excited to be entering into a series of sponsorships covering such a broad range of the sport. “We also feel that the core values that underpin the sport are synonymous with our own, most notably that of respect, integrity and excellence. “We will be engaging with hundreds of amateur players who will already be familiar with our brand and we have structured our sponsorships to actually give them an opportunity to play at the very top of the game. “To be able to leverage our innovative new DriveGuard category of tyres through this sports sponsorship is also

great news, as we are able to amplify the product to a captive and vibrant new audience. Not only this, but the exposure we will generate from our British Masters, supported by Sky Sports, partnership and English Challenge title sponsorships is vast, the latter of which will be making a welcome return to the golfing calendar after a three year absence.” Jamie Birkmyre, European Tour director of championship management, said: “It is fantastic news that Bridgestone are becoming a partner of the British Masters supported by Sky Sports. “The tournament was a huge success on its reintroduction to The European Tour last year and it is a real coup to be able to enjoy the backing of the world’s largest tyre and rubber company. “We are looking forward to what promises to be a similarly exciting week in October when we visit The Grove.”

Alain de Soultrait, Challenge Tour director, said: “We are delighted to be able to partner with Bridgestone and are excited to be bringing the Challenge Tour back to England, aided by the support of England Golf. “The Challenge Tour offers the best way for talented young golfers to develop their professional game and a large number of our recent success stories have been English players. “Major Champion Justin Rose and Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter both came through our ranks, and the commitment Bridgestone are showing to encourage the growth of the game in England will hopefully lead to similar success stories in future years. “There is no better place for talented youngsters to come and be inspired than the Bridgestone Challenge in August,” concluded de Soultrait. GMé | 37



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woodland management

SHADY BUSINESS The location of trees on golf courses can be of significant importance, not just for golfers, but also course managers who need to maintain shaded areas

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Friend or Foe... Are trees good for your course? As an expert in trees and woodland management, John Nicholson, offers an expert opinion on whether or not trees and shrubs are good or bad for your golf course. Trees are now an integral part of many golf courses, often forming the landscape in which golf is played. For generations, golf course architects have used trees to help frame holes increasing the challenge and difficulty of the course. When planted on the boundary, trees can screen unsightly views or can provide seclusion within an urban landscape, although care must be taken to ensure that the trees harmonise with the landscape. Their scale, size, texture, colour and shape should always be considered if the landscape is to appear natural and beautiful to the eye. In addition, trees can safeguard neighbouring properties or afford protection

to tees and greens, and in cases where the land undulates, trees can indicate the location of a fairway or green. They can also be used to give the impression that a fairway is narrower than it actually is, or can frame a view to a green. Trees are a part of nature that seems to please everyone, and are often therefore regarded as sacrosanct. However, trees and indeed woodlands, do require management, especially given the naturally mobile regenerating of woodland, and consequently a balance needs to be achieved in which a sustainable woodland can flourish. The appropriateness of trees to a landscape needs be assessed before any

planting takes place, or whether past planting is appropriate, and it’s important to ascertain whether the land in question is to be asserted as Parkland, Heathland or Links. In the case of links, it is questionable as to whether trees should be there at all given the stereotypical nature of links courses. That said, trees do afford protection to boundaries in a much more sensitive way than perhaps netting, so trees may be appropriate on certain perimeters. The problems trees cause to both links and heathland is dependant on the fertility of the soil, together with the exposure to light and air – trees and shrubs cast shade, reduce airflow and enrich, so | 39


“It is often suggested that by removing trees, the water table will rise and the course will become a mud bath. In actual fact the opposite is true”

GORSE BUSH Gorse at Ganton Golf Club

conflict is always inevitable, although it can be managed. It’s also important to keep-in-mind that trees are a natural part of heathland, and in fact, heathland is defined as ‘woodland in transition’, whilst heather is a plant, naturally found within clearings in a forest. Consequently if you are trying to maintain a heathland or a links style course, then you will need to control the regeneration of trees, and especially pioneer species. The other main threat to heathland and links is gorse. Gorse was introduced to the UK in the Middle Ages from Spain, and was imported to plant on poor quality agricultural land in order to increase fertility and to provide fodder for livestock. The new growth would be collected and made into a porridge that was high in nitrogen before being fed to the livestock. Gorse naturally fixes nitrogen from the atmosphere and transmits it to the soil causing enrichment, which in turn creates an ecosystem more suited to trees as opposed to heathland. Gorse spreads aggressively not only through seeding but also from the roots, and grows very quickly forming a new source of seed. Other invasive species include Sea Buckthorn, Blackthorn, Hawthorn, Cherry Plum and Damson, all of which are dependent on the soil type and Ph level. As a result, management is therefore required if the landscape and agronomy of the course are to be protected.

40 | GMé February 2016

As previously mentioned, trees can proved a very positive contribution to the landscape, but trees and woodland require management not only to ensure a sustainable landscape but also to safeguard the agronomy of the golf course. When woodland is restricted in its movement, it adopts a heliotropic edge where the trees on the perimeter become one-sided looking for light, and as a result, the tree then puts all its energy into growing in one direction. This creates rapid encroachment into the playing area, often resulting in tees effectively being reduced in size as players naturally favour the unimpeded area of the tee. This concentrate’s wear on a small area stressing the grass sward and creating compaction. The negative aspect of trees is that they cast shade and reduce airflow, whilst predisposing the grass sward to disease. Roots then compete for water and nutrients, and surface roots can damage expensive machinery. Trees planted in the wrong place can channel wear into small areas often in walk offs and can adversely affect the strategy of a hole. It is often suggested that by removing trees, the water table will rise and the course will become a mud bath. In actual fact the opposite is true, as trees remain dormant throughout winter when rain fall is at its highest, and the improved light and air from removing trees would increase transpiration, helping dry out the surface area.

Trees will normally find the best source of water, and it is not uncommon to discover field drains are often blocked by roots. Harry Colt was the first golf architect to actively use tree planting within a layout. Colt was also the father of strategic golf design, and was reluctant to use trees as he considered that they created a strong three-dimensional hazard that does not allow for an adventurous recovery shot to be attempted. Thus eliminating the skill of the better player. Also, as trees are living entities with a finite life expectancy, if the strategy of a hole revolves around a tree, the strategy will ultimately be lost when the tree dies or has to be removed due to disease. Trees are often planted to stop the better player attempting a brave line of play, and this removes the strategy that was originally intended, creating a one-dimensional hole with the balance between risk and reward overturned. So are trees friend or foe? Well, trees and woodland in the right location where they do not adversely affect the agronomy or strategy of a course, can have great benefits to the landscape as well as the ecological value of the site. They can also, in the wrong location, cause more harm than good, which is why it’s important to ensure that your trees form part of your course management programme. Trees and woodland should frame the golf course, whilst enhancing its natural beauty and playability. GMé


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centurion club

Centurion Club building for the future A week before Christmas, Michael Lenihan paid a visit to the Centurion Club to witness, first-hand, building progress on the long-awaited new clubhouse.

“The uptake of the memberships tells us they like the concept of what we’re trying to aspire to”

FLAG HAPPY (LR) Michael Duffy, sales and marketing manager and Ian Jackson, clubhouse manager

While the majority of golf clubs – and indeed the golf industry as a whole – tries to rid itself of its ‘exclusive’ image, one club in Hertfordshire is bucking the trend and embracing its exclusivity. And Centurion Club, in Hemel Hempstead, certainly seems to have found a niche for itself, with a good number of members already signed up, even before the clubhouse is completed. Certainly, club manager Ian Jackson did not feel the absence of the ‘social hub’ was too much of a hindrance when the club first opened for business in July 2013. He explained: “Not having a clubhouse did not impact on membership in the early days, as we mopped up the golfers who were looking for a better test of golf, close to home. Further down the line, we did have a slight delay on the clubhouse, which may have dented the confidence of people looking at us who wanted the lifestyle element as well as the golf.

42 | GMé February 2016

“But as word got out that it was a great, challenging golf course and slightly different in its styles – a little bit of Woburn, a little bit of Bearwood Lakes, a little bit of London Club, all rolled into one – people were keen to come and have a look at it. “In my opinion, delaying on the clubhouse has probably impacted on membership a little bit. But once we started the clubhouse it quickly became apparent there were a lot of people sitting out there waiting to see a structure go up. Membership sales soared.” Steelwork for the clubhouse went up in August and it should be ready for its official opening on July 1. Three months after work on the clubhouse began, Michael Duffy – formerly of Wentworth – joined the staff as sales and marketing manager. Jackson added: “Until Michael came on board we’d never really had a person with experience behind them in a posi-

tion to get hold of the sales and marketing. Previously the club sold itself.” It ‘sold itself’ in five different membership categories: Senate; Centurion; business; corporate; and international. Senate membership is available by purchasing a share in Centurion Golf plc. Only a limited number of 100 are available and they cost £50,000 – plus another £15,000, if you wish to include life membership in the deal. Senate members may also nominate two family members as social members. Centurion membership involves the purchase of a certificate, at a cost of £8,500, and these may be traded back through the club once all 480 available memberships have been sold. It also incurs an annual fee of £2,500, much like a ‘traditional’ golf club membership. Duffy has been impressed with the take-up, particularly as no active marketing had taken place before his arrival in November.

WOOD FOR THE TREES The opening hole, which can be played as either a par four or five, is reminiscent of Woburn

He said: “We’re 50 per cent sold on our share-based Senate membership. We have a total of 480 Centurion memberships to sell, of which 150 are already sold. And we have also sold a few corporate, business and international memberships. Those memberships had been sold without any activity whatsoever. “Senate membership is an option to buy a share in the business, to which you can attach life membership – you have to be a shareholder to have a life membership. Not only are you investing in the business but it’s backed by the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme. That’s a one-off payment with life membership of 99 years. “Centurion, or certificate membership, is a certificate you purchase which is tradable only back through the club, so it’s not a joining fee as such. People don’t see that as lost money. And certificate holders pay an annual fee like a normal membership.

“Once all 480 Centurion memberships are sold, should anybody wish to join as a Centurion member they will have to find a certificate that is for sale. In a few years it might be worth, say, £15,000 and the member will get 75 per cent of the value when it’s sold. All 480 need to be sold before they become tradable. “The uptake of the memberships tells us they like the concept of what we’re trying to aspire to. Indeed, probably 25 per cent of the Senate shares probably started life as a Centurion member and then upgraded.” Part of the attraction is undoubtedly the forthcoming restaurant overseen by Michelin-star chef Jeff Galvin, who started working at a small restaurant run by Antony Worrall Thompson before working his way up via the Savoy and Nico Ladenis’ Chez Nico to open Galvin Bistrot de Luxe with his elder brother Chris. Other Galvin restaurants followed and Galvin La Chapelle, in Spitalfields,

received a Michelin star. Now, the Essexborn chef will bring his unique style to bear at Centurion Club, much to the delight of those already working there. “There are very few clubs that can boast a restaurant overseen by a Michelin-starred chef,” added Duffy. “That will bring in non-golfers and ultimately what we’d like to see is those people becoming social members of the club. “With Jeff and the restaurant, Galvin@ Centurion, we will get into a lot of the gastronomy press. And that gives us an angle to sell based on a quality dining experience.” The new clubhouse will also feature meeting rooms, and the long-term vision of the owners is that it will contain spa and leisure facilities as it continues to grow with the aim of attracting families. Jackson added: “(Managing director) Scott (Evans) will look to develop the leisure facilities so it effectively becomes | 43



centurion club

IMPRESSING QUALITY An artists impression of how the new clubhouse will look, once building work has been completed

“There maybe an option to reroute some holes but there’s no planning permission in place. The MD will never be happy, he’ll always have the vision to push it on.”

44 | GMé February 2016

a golf and country club, just 40 minutes from London. “It’s called Centurion Club, not golf club – we don’t want to be classed as a golf club. What we are developing here is a facility for families, whether it’s a country club or a Center Parcs-style destination based around golf. It’s that style of concept we’re trying to achieve. “Those who are joining are golfers. Those people who have joined have bought into the vision of what the club is going to become. And they are very active golfers. As we develop, when the clubhouse opens, there will be people who join for that experience too,” continued Jackson. “There are a number of people here who are new to golf and want somewhere that gives them this experience. For at least ten members, this is their first golf club and handicap. “A lot of people are nervous about going to a traditional golf club. As we’re rising as a new facility they’re comfortable starting with us. It’s a great community out there. “We already have international members from Russia and the Middle East, and reciprocal arrangements to build our profile. The owners are keen to have luxury lodging or dormy-style accommodation but are not looking to develop a hotel.” Originally a landfill site, the golf course was designed by Simon Gidman, and has the potential to be expanded with the owners having an option on 98 acres of adjacent land.

Jackson explained: “That’s key to moving the development forward. There maybe an option to reroute some holes but there’s no planning permission in place. The MD will never be happy, he’ll always have the vision to push it on. It’s refreshing and exciting.” The outstanding golf course is complemented by a short-game area – originally the second hole of 19 – with a range at the back of the putting green, with the layout designed so that members do not have to wait on the first tee. Duffy added: “It works well because you can stay on the range warming up, look down to the first tee and hit balls until it’s your time to step on the tee. “In five years’ time, as the course matures, it will certainly be one of the finest in the UK. The clubhouse facilities, restaurant facilities we will have, there’s nothing like it in this area. “We have a high percentage of decent golfers. The golf course was set for fun; it has seven par-fives, and the idea was for players to always be in the game and not get beaten up by the course. The low handicapper is looking for birdies and eagles, and off the back tees it’s a good championship course. “Customer service is key to us. It’s all about the experience to the member and member’s guests. It’s important they go away from here and they’ve had value for money and a good overall experience; it’s not just about the golf course.” Yes, it’s exclusive; and, yes, it’s not affordable to the majority. But that’s just how Centurion Club wants it. GMé

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09/02/2015 18:46 | 45



Golf has no defence against Flooding As Scott MacCallum reports, warmer winters appear to be bringing more rainfall, and in-turn, flooding has become more widespread on golf courses. But what can be done to help combat Mother Nature, if indeed anything?

The Christmas and New Year period will forever be remembered for the awful flooding experienced by certain parts of the United Kingdom. The sight of homes and business submerged in several feet of muddy water was heart wrenching and the clean-up for the unfortunate victims could stretch for many months. But how quickly can golf clubs recover from such experiences and is there anything that can be done to ensure that water damage is minimised and the viability of the club protected? One man who regularly deals with a flooded golf course is Master Greenkeeper Greg Evans who is course manager of Ealing Golf Club, in North London. Evans’s course sits on the River Brent which regularly breaks its banks flooding the course up to half a dozen times a year.

46 | GMé February 2016

Knowing the importance to a golf club of remaining open in all but the most extreme of circumstances, Evans has developed a range of actions designed to ensure that Ealing offers its members as much golf as is practically possible. “We always try to make sure that we have at least nine holes open,” he said. “It makes sense to plan your drainage programme to create a nine-hole loop so you can still get golfers through the door. “There is nothing worse than a members’ club with no-one there because the course is closed. Course managers do understand the business side of golf and play an important role in keeping the business ticking over.” Evans’s main focus is to ensure that the tees and greens remain open. “If you can get them in play you can always keep the course open, even if it

PREFERRED LIES? Datchet Golf Club in Berkshire under water (above) and main picture, Blackburn Golf Club bursts its banks

GIRL TALK A coupe of senior lady golfers share a joke on the green


means turning a par-4 into a par-3 when the fairway is flooded. My view is that mats are only used as a last resort.” The design of many older courses is not conducive to dealing with the level of rainwater and flooding that much of the country has been experiencing in recent years. “Our old greens were designed in preirrigation times and as such were built

to hold water. We find that there are pressure points – low spots on the green – which, when it rains heavily, tend to build up into puddles and then spreads over the rest of the green. “So I’ve done some contouring on those spots so that we can get the water off those areas of the green quickly. It’s quite easy to do by using a turf cutter and taking out a section of the green

and doing a little soft contouring, and perhaps putting in an additional drain,” explained Evans, who added that Ealing is built on 40 metres of London clay meaning that water doesn’t go down, it can only be encouraged to move sideways! “We have done quite a bit of gravel banding to move water towards and into our existing pipework so it can be | 47




SUNNIER TIMES The course at Ealing Golf Club during dryer, sunnier times

“We are sometimes cutting rough in December and January which we’d never done before”

48 | GMé February 2016

moved off the course. It all helps speed the clearance of flood or rainwater and produce a drier golf course quicker.” Evans is a great believer in traffic management to protect the course from damage and he employs tricks to keep golfers away from the points of the course which are prone to becoming muddy and damaged. “One thing I would say is to employ your traffic management early. October, November and December are very wet months nowadays, and if you don’t manage where golfers walk you can come back to the course after a weekend and find a mud path. Golfers will always take the direct route even if it is through mud and it just makes it worse and worse. “I get my guys to think about how a golfer gets from A to B and think about pin and tee positions. It might be you should put the pin right at the front of the green and move the next tee forward to keep away from the wet patch at the middle or back. Or it could be the opposite is the best option. I don’t see enough of that sort of thinking on the courses I see.” If a course has been damaged Evans sees nothing wrong with enrolling the very people with most to gain to help with the clear up operation. “Our worst flood was last August – three days before our major golf week – so I put out an email to the members asking for help, with 20 agreeing to help rake up the debris.

“They had a real positive attitude because they were all playing that week and wanted the course to be as good as it could be.” One piece of kit which Evans has found particularly useful has been the tractor mounted blower which has enabled him to blow debris into collection points which saves time with the clear up, or blow it back into adjoining woodland. During his greenkeeping career Evans has found a real shift in the seasons which has had an impact on his course management and how he staffs them. “Spring is now cold and dry and goes up until May or June when it then gets very warm and mild up until Christmas – we’ve almost gone back one or two months. We are sometimes cutting rough in December and January which we’d never done before. “It means that you must be careful to have the staffing numbers and not to release your seasonal greenkeepers too early as you must have the staff to be able to go out to cut and maintain the course when previously it wasn’t needed to the same extent.” Evans has one final plea, or tip, for club golfers which would help with the condition of the golf course. “These days everyone wants a trolley, whether it be a powered one or just a pull one. In the winter the course just can’t handle it so if those golfers who can, carry their clubs in the winter, that would be great.” GMé


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29/01/2016 10:10 | 49


signing off

“With the changes in handicap rulings, some in my social circle have been quick to adopt the new 36 allowance”

Paying the penalty for handicap change as well as loud trousers... When I was an adolescent, 36-24-36 was deemed almost the perfect figure for a young lady – in which, you can imagine, I had quite an interest. Now, in my 53rd year, instead, it’s the handicaps in my irregular three-ball. With the changes in handicap rulings, some in my social circle have been quick to adopt the new 36 allowance, although others bemoan the fact it makes life more difficult for them as low handicappers. While those who have yet to fully embrace the sport can see the benefits to like-minded souls who may, even now, in our relative dotage, take up the sport. Almost inevitably, when this comes up in conversation – as it often does when a 36-handicapper records 44 Stableford points – discussion turns to other changes which might have been made, especially for the occasional social round of golf which I enjoy so much. One of mine was that I should be allowed an extra shot for every stone I am heavier than the lightest member of the group. Being of a larger girth it’s not easy to swing the club in the acceptable manner and, therefore, in a sport which prides itself on a handicapping system which levels the playing field, this should be taken into account. And, yes, I know I should go on a diet and adopt a healthier lifestyle (yadda, yadda, yadda), but it doesn’t happen overnight, and, in the meantime, I’ve got Stableford points to soak up. Another idea put forward was that penalty shots should be applied to anybody wearing any garment which is deemed ‘not sober’.

50 | GMé February 2016

LOUD AND PROUD A young Rickie Fowler sporting his trademark orange outfit

The proposer, a man whose wardrobe consists entirely of conservative golf apparel, demanded this be applied when a young colleague turned up on the tee looking like a ‘Poundshop Rickie Fowler’. “Loud is not proud,” he insisted. “I don’t want to walk the fairways with somebody who looks like they’ve just stepped off stage in a Shakespearian comedy.” Points should also be docked for wearing metal spikes – surely no excuse for that in this day and age?; carrying clubs you obviously can’t use; and – controversial this one – wearing anything unbecoming of one’s age. I think the idea was to stop one of our group, a man in his late 40s, from dressing like a young Ian Poulter.

But who lays down the rules as to what constitutes suitable attire for one’s age, I asked inquisitively. For example, as I approach my 53rd birthday, what should I be wearing? “A coffin?”, came the suggestion. Apparently there’s also a movement to apply penalty shots for anyone who floors a playing partner with a putter. GMé

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