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GMé

On the cover...

The all-new Jacobsen Truckster XD leaves the competition grounded with improved clearance, comfort, power and load capacity

Inside...

£6.50 golfmanagement.eu.com Issue 102 | June 2015

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

Following the report published by the R&A on the pace of play, GMé takes an in-depth look at the findings to see how clubs can speed things up


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contents

On the agenda june 2015 26

22

Masters delight for O’Malley

After announcing that the British Masters is set to return to Woburn later in the year, general manager Jason O’Malley, discusses its return.

26

Aldous steps down at Ufford

A local builder by trade, Colin Aldous, chairman of Ufford Park in Suffolk, is set to retire this month, handing the reigns over to his daughter Tarnia.

32

R&A reports on Pace of Play

42

Equality in No Man’s Land

The timing of the recent R&A report into the Pace of Play has been warmly welcomed by all within the industry, including GMé publisher, Michael Lenihan.

Equality for women in golf has been welcomed by many golf clubs, including a couple of ladies-only clubs who have now welcomed Gentlemen into the fold.

22

46

Scottish Amalgamation

The amalgamation of the SGU and SGLA may well be long overdue, but it could represent a new swathe of commercial opportunities for others to follow.

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

42

Publisher Executive editor Contributors Subscriptions

Michael Lenihan David Bowers Michael Abbott, Mark Alexander, Ben Edwards, Samuel Frederick, Vanessa Gardner, Tony Hawkins, Scott MacCallum, Aidan Patrick To ensure your regular printed copy of GMé, delivered six times per year, subscribe online at www.golfmanagement.eu.com View our library online at issuu.com/portman

ISSN 1368-7727. Printed by The Manson Group.

18 twitter.com/gme

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the publisher. Whilst due care to detail is taken to ensure that the content of GMé is accurate, the publisher cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.

It is assumed that any images taken from sources which are widely distributed, such as on the Internet, are in the public domain and are not subject to copyright. © 2015 Portman Publishing and Communications Limited.

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golfmanagement.eu.com | 3

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GMé

from the publisher

“Peter Dawson and the R&A’s own ‘controversies’ would be just a drop in the FIFA ocean by comparison”

FIFA crisis turns the spotlight on sports governing bodies There have been occasions during the 18 years I have been publishing GMé that I have been openly critical of the R&A. It has made errors; it has failed to move with the times; and there have been issues which I believe the governing body has failed to address. Having said that, I have been reminded of the wise words my grandmother often opined: “Be careful what you wish for…” Grammatically it may be lacking in something as it ends with a preposition – and I had to work hard to convince the sub-editor here to run with it – but it certainly rings true as I write, as newspapers and 24-hour news channels are full of the corruption scandal at football’s governing body, FIFA, and the ultimately successful demands for its re-elected president Sepp Blatter to stand down. Blatter, it is often forgotten, was the preferred candidate of the English FA when he took up office as FIFA president in 1998. FA mandarins preferred the Swiss to the then UEFA president, Swede Lennart Johansson – and, surely, if they could have their time over again, the FA would vote differently. Blatter has a habit of saying and doing the most incredibly crass things, among them: saying women’s football would rise in popularity if the players wore skimpier clothes; interrupting a minute’s silence for former South African president Nelson Mandela; and claiming that Latin American countries would applaud Chelsea captain John Terry for having an extramarital affair.

4 | GMé June 2015

TEFLON COATED Sepp Blatter, embattled out-going president of FIFA

And the awarding of the FIFA World Cup – with the Olympics and the Ryder Cup, one of the world’s three biggest sporting events – to Russia in 2018 and to Qatar in 2022, has been shrouded in controversy, claim and counter-claim. Yet he has been re-elected four times. The man, at best, is a loose cannon; at worst, well, make up your own mind there. But at last it would appear he’s not, as we may have felt, 100 per cent Teflon coated. Peter Dawson and the R&A’s own ‘controversies’ would be just a drop in the FIFA ocean by comparison and golfers’ concerns are minuscule compared with those of football fans.

Human rights issues, slave labour, the FBI, corruption, even ‘organised crime’… currently they all go hand-in-hand with the mention of FIFA and its showpiece event. Things in golf may not be 100 per cent perfect, but we really should be grateful for what we have. GMé

Michael Lenihan lenihan@portman.uk.com


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GMé

ransomesjacobsen.com

Hold the front page Boasting a fresh, modern design, with an increased approach angle and payload capabilities, the Jacobsen Truckster XD is set to drive the competition into the ground.

“The feedback was unanimous: they told us they wanted a truck with more capacity, power and comfort. Nothing on the market was able to fulfill their needs properly”

Cover sponsored by Ransomes Jacobsen (44) 01473 270000 sales@tip.textron.com

6 | GMé June 2015

Jacobsen has launched the all-new Jacobsen Truckster XD heavy-duty utility vehicle into the UK and European sector. Serving as a replacement for the venerable Cushman Turf-Truckster – the turf industry’s original heavy-duty utility vehicle – the all-new Jacobsen Truckster XD sets a new standard for capacity, power, strength and comfort. The new Truckster XD boasts a massive, class-leading 1,610 kg standard payload capacity, supported by the toughest load bed in the industry, with steel up to 75 per cent thicker than comparable boxes and 20 per cent more volume. Two class-leading power units are available: the diesel version, more commonly used throughout Europe, with 24.8 hp and 71.5 nm of torque and the petrol model, which is used predominantly in the Americas and Asia-Pacific, providing 32.5 hp and 70 nm of torque. The new Truckster XD was built to handle the daily rigours on the golf course, therefore the Jacobsen engineers have put a priority on comfort, giving the operator area 25 per cent more room than the competition. “When we started this project, the first thing we did was ask hundreds of superintendents, greenkeepers and sports turf managers what they wanted from a

heavy-duty utility vehicle,” said Richard Comely, director of global product management at Ransomes Jacobsen. “The feedback was unanimous: they told us they wanted a truck with more capacity, power and comfort. Nothing on the market was able to fulfill their needs properly. “Based on the extensive field testing and feedback we’ve received over the past year, we’ve delivered exactly what turf professionals asked for. “We have two main goals with this new vehicle: to make turf managers’ jobs easier and to satisfy their unmet needs,” continued Comely. “When you look at what is currently available on the market today, there’s nothing as tough, powerful or comfortable as the Jacobsen Truckster XD. As a result, we believe it will serve as a game changer in the heavy duty utility vehicle category.” One of the biggest advantages of the new-look Jacobsen Truckster XD, is the increased approach angle, allowing for easy operation in the toughest of turf conditions, allowing the Truckster to glide over undulated turf. A full range of accessories and attachments will also be available with kits enabling the retrofitting of existing and competitor equipment. GMé


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GMé

news

PGA extends Mission Hills agreement as it looks to build the brand in the Far East The PGA has cemented its relationship with the world famous Mission Hills resort in China by agreeing to extend its branding license with the Donnguan based PGA Golf Academy. The PGA Golf Academy at Donnguan is one of the best equipped in the country, staffed by a team of PGA professionals, and complements the resort’s worldwide reputation for excellence. Andy Kelly, director of academies at Mission Hills, welcomed the new agreement, saying: “We are pleased to continue the relationship between The PGA at the Mission Hills Golf Academy Donnguan which sees two iconic brands coming together to develop the game of golf in China. “I can confidently say that there is no one else in China investing more time and resources to developing the game of golf than Mission Hills, we strive to lead by example and set milestones in the industry along the way.” The agreement with Mission Hills reflects the PGA’s strategy to grow its brand in the growing Asian golf market and will further enhance the status of the increasing numbers of PGA members employed in the region. China is the fastest growing nation in the world where it is reported that 20 million golfers are set to be playing the game in 20 years time. The agreement will help enhance the increasing number

of opportunities which are expected to open up for PGA professionals whose skill and expertise will be in wide demand. The PGA’s Matt Davies is based at Mission Hills overseeing international development and helping PGA pros establish and develop their careers with more than 40 already working in the country. Guy Moran, the PGA’s head of property and development, met with Tenniel Chu, vice chairman of the Mission Hills Group to sign the agreement.

Monifieth clubs set to merge

Ruiz takes up new role at La Manga Club

Four historic golf clubs – all located in the same Scottish town – may soon become one, after each suffered drastic drops in membership during the last few years. Monifieth Golf Links, which dates back to 1845, Broughty GC, dating from 1878, Ladies Panmure GC and Grange Golf Club – all based in Monifieth – have a combined membership of fewer than 1,000 and members are being surveyed on their views on the options facing them – one of which would be full amalgamation. The town’s local newspaper, The Courier, stated that “total membership has dropped almost a third in the last decade and fears have been expressed about the implications of a continued fall. “Golf club membership has fallen over many years and the Monifieth clubs have not escaped the problems of having to make ends meet with fewer regular customers.”

8 | GMé June 2015

Tenniel Chu, vice president of Mission Hills (left) with Guy Moran, of the PGA

Eduardo Ruiz

Eduardo Ruiz has been named as the new director of golf at La Manga Club in Spain. Ruiz has a proven pedigree and growing reputation in the industry having worked at a number of venues in Spain including Finca Cortesin, La Quinta and, most recently, 1997 Ryder Cup host Valderrama where he was operations manager. The Spaniard joins a list featuring some of the most famous names in the game to be associated with La Manga Club including South African legend Gary Player (the resort’s first director of golf), the ’King

“The PGA has a fantastic relationship with Mission Hills,” said Moran after signing the agreement. “To have the PGA brand at such a world-renowned venue reflects our determination to help grow the game in China with PGA Professionals leading the way in bringing through the next generation of golfers and coaches. “The Academy has superb facilities and we are delighted it will be carrying The PGA brand and helping further establish golf and job opportunities for our members in China.”

of Golf’ Arnold Palmer (winner of the 1975 Spanish Open and re-designer of its South Course) and the late Severiano Ballesteros — the resort’s touring professional from 1980-85. Ruiz said: “It is a great honour to have been chosen to join the best resort in Europe, and a venue that is famous across the world for its golf and sporting heritage. “La Manga Club is a place that I’ve always admired and respected. I’ve been privileged to have worked at some of the best golf venues in Spain where I have gained some invaluable knowledge and experience, and I’m looking forward to the new challenge and playing a key part in the continued success of Europe’s top golf, and sports, institution. “With the new golf academy and practice facilities, number of new and established golf events that we’re holding and improving the level of service to our customers even further, we have some very exciting times ahead.”


news

Sörenstam visits Estonia to oversee design plans

In brief... The Belfry Hotel & Resort has extended its partnership with Club Car, after taking delivery of 80 Precedent i3 vehicles. Ian Knox, director of golf at The Belfry, said: “Here at The Belfry, we always want to align ourselves with leading brands that aim to provide the ultimate golfing experiences, and Club Car certainly fits that profile.” The future of Dartmoor’s historic Wrangaton Golf Club has been secured following its sale to nearby Bovey Tracey Golf Club for an undisclosed sum. Begbies Traynor were appointed liquidators of Wrangaton (South Devon) Golf Club Ltd in January, after the club experienced declining membership. Formerly competitors, the two clubs, now under the same ownership, will be able to provide members and visitors with a much enhanced golfing experience. StayPrime Global has appointed Jerry Kilby and Benjamin Baron Rodrigues to the Board of Management for StayPrime Global. Hugh Bishop, CEO of StayPrime – the Dubai-based independent provider of GPS vehicle management solutions for the golf and leisure industry – announced that due to the continued growth and global expansion of the company, the Board had invited Kilby to join as global sales & marketing director and Baron to join as chief technology officer. England Golf and Mytime Active, one of the UK’s largest pay-and-play golf course operators, have announced a new partnership to support the drive to grow the game. The partnership supports the aims of the England Golf strategic plan, Raising Our Game, which calls on all who care about the game to work together to create a brighter future for golf, including more players, more members and stronger clubs.

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Annika Sörenstam, widely regarded by many as the greatest female golfer of all time, visited Estonian Golf & Country Club, Tallinn, last month as plans for her first course design in Europe take shape. The ten-time major champion, who amassed an unprecedented 89 tournament victories in a 15-year career, is designing a new course to complement the venue’s existing Sea Course. Construction of the new course at Estonian Golf & Country Club, a member of the European Tour Properties network, is part of a major development to create a family leisure resort and spa, including a 150-room hotel, overlooking the Gulf of Finland. Sörenstam is working closely with European Golf Design (EGD), the golf course design company of the European Tour and IMG, with groundwork scheduled to start in 2016. Sörenstam said: “This is a naturally beautiful landscape, reminiscent of where I grew up, and it’s a privilege to be asked to design a golf course here. My approach to course design is to capture the natural character of the landscape, blending golf holes into the surrounding environment. “My goal is to create a versatile course that can be enjoyed by players of any age and skill level, using a variety of tees,

landing areas and approaches. Ultimately, I want it to be both a strategic challenge and a memorable experience, whether you are an elite player competing in a tournament, or a young golfer enjoying a family holiday. “Estonian Golf & Country Club’s plans for a leisure resort that is family friendly shows great vision and I’m excited to be part of a project that I believe will attract visitors from across the Nordic countries, Europe and beyond.” The new 18-hole course will replace the existing nine-hole Stone Course at Estonian Golf & Country Club, and will complement the championship Sea Course, which in 2011 hosted European qualifying for the Omega Mission Hills World Cup, the final of which was staged at the Chinese resort which also boasts a Sörenstam-designed course.

Annika Sörenstam

Mentmore Golf & Country Club call in the administrators

Mentmore Golf & Country Club

Mentmore Golf & Country Club, Buckinghamshire, has announced that it ceased trading with immediate effect. In an email circulated to members in June, director Matthew Bees said: “It is with deepest sadness and regret that Mentmore Leisure Golf & Country Club can no longer sustain and run this business. “Three years ago the Halabi Family Trust paid and cleared all outstanding debts and restructured the club, as well as injected substantial capital in order for

the club to operate similarly under the general manager, Clinton Moore, who has also operated this club for the previous four years following the retirement of the Club Company. “The golf club industry has suffered immensely in the last few years, since the financial meltdown, and indeed I have learnt that many prominent golf courses in the region have suffered failing revenue. “The low cost of membership is not justified with the high overheads of the upkeep of the buildings and maintaining the good quality of the facilities. We have done our utmost to provide the best facilities possible, but regretfully could not increase the membership numbers or fees as this would have adversely effected membership numbers. “Additionally, a large reduction in footfall, revenue and members spend over the last few years has increased the pressure on the business to a position where the model is untenable.” Begbies Traynor (Central) LLP have been appointed as administrators.

golfmanagement.eu.com | 9

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Donald Trump opens new clubhouse at Trump International Scotland Donald Trump officially opened the new clubhouse at Trump International Golf Links, Aberdeen, Scotland, this month. Since opening the championship golf course in July 2012, guests have been serviced in a temporary facility but can now enjoy the splendour of this permanent clubhouse. Designed with both golfers and non-golfers in mind, the new clubhouse provides a range of luxury facilities including restaurant, bar, shop, lounge, private dining and event space, locker room and snug areas. Sarah Malone, executive vice president of Trump International stated: “Our highly acclaimed championship golf course has attracted tens of thousands of golfers from around the world, and we’re delighted to now offer a world class clubhouse with luxury facilities to complete the visitor experience.” Andrew McNair, director of the architectural firm Covell Matthews added: “Mr Trump had a clear vision to create a clubhouse that embraces the existing vernacular style as exemplified in MacLeod House, the architectural centre-piece of the golf resort. “The new clubhouse boasts traditionally detailed slate roofs, rubble granite walls and feature sash and case windows.” Billy Burgess, project supervisor, Douglas and Stewart added: “It has been

The new clubhouse at Trump International Golf Links in Scotland

a pleasure to be involved in this unique project and we are very proud of what we have achieved. Despite the ambitious timescales, we delivered the project on time and on budget. In doing so, we have created an iconic building that will be here for years to come and enjoyed by many.” The new Brasserie restaurant is a comfortable, relaxed environment at the heart of the clubhouse. With beautiful rich walnut, leather seating, warming fireplaces and floor-to-ceiling windows offering stunning views of the Great

Dunes of Scotland, guests can enjoy a range of classic dishes and familiar favourites all created using local produce. In the North wing, The Snug is a cosy retreat featuring deep, oxblood leather chairs and an enormous fireplace perfect for indulging in a wee dram and ideal for intimate, private dinners or events. The shop is a new premium retail experience not just for golfers — featuring the latest designer pieces for fashion that looks as good off the fairways as on plus a new and exclusive range of Trump sweaters and hoodies.

Formby Hall put Yeates returns ‘Home’ to new up for sale role at Fairmont St Andrews Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa has been put up for sale by its owner, the Maghull Group, with a multi-million pound price tag. The Merseyside-based owner has not disclosed the exact asking price but the facility’s last set of accounts showed a turnover of more than £7.1 million. Maghull has tasked commercial agents from CBRE with finding a buyer for the resort which is located on England’s Golf Coast, and which is set in 183 acres of parkland. Shaun Skidmore, senior director at CBRE, said: “Formby Hall Golf Resort & Spa is an exceptionally highly regarded resort with strong commercial appeal and the potential for considerable growth, particularly if the development opportunities are exploited. “The resort is being sold unencumbered and offers a purchaser the potential to either partner with an international brand/operator or continue trading successfully as an independent resort.”

10 | GMé June 2015

Fairmont St Andrews has appointed Amy Yeates to the position of director of golf at the five-star resort at the Home of Golf. Sussex-born Yeates, 30, will be responsible for the entire golf function at the resort and brings to the role extensive sales and operational experience gained in the last ten years. A PGA professional, with a BA in sports management, Yeates began her career at The Belfry before moving back to Kentucky, in the USA — where she had completed her degree — to work as tournament co-ordinator on the 2008 Ryder Cup. She returned to the UK in 2008 to take up the position of golf business development manager, for Exclusive Hotels’ Mannings Heath and Manor House golf clubs, before heading to the Home of Golf in 2010, for a similar role at the Old Course Hotel & Spa. And she has spent the last four years back down south as assistant manager at the prestigious Goodwood Estate.

She said: “This was a great opportunity for me to head back to the Home of Golf. It’s an exciting role at a very exciting time, with the Open Championship in St Andrews this summer, while the new owners here at Fairmont St Andrews have some amazing plans for the venue. “I’m looking forward to playing a part in what will be a very busy and successful summer at the resort.”

New director of golf, Amy Yeates


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Golf and greenkeeping at their very best at TPC Sawgrass Amazing, incredible, life changing… just a few of the words used by British and Irish greenkeepers to describe their experience as part of this year’s John Deere TPC Sawgrass Volunteer Programme, organised in association with BIGGA and GCSAI. Five BIGGA members and one GCSAI member from Ireland recently returned from the trip of a lifetime to the TPC Sawgrass course at Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. They had won the opportunity to join the maintenance team that helped to prepare the course for the 2015 Players Championship, won by Rickie Fowler after a three-way play-off. The Players Championship volunteer force is made up of over 2,200 people that make the event possible each year, assigned to one of four divisions: player services, spectator services, volunteer services and facilities. The six UK and Ireland winners joined the greenkeeping team at the legendary

The John Deere volunteer programme delegates from BIGGA and GCSAI at TPC Sawgrass

US venue for the entire duration of the Players Championship on the PGA Tour, and even had the opportunity to attempt to hit the island green on the course’s legendary 17th hole, which was achieved by Mike Ellis and Michael Burgin.

“The easiest way to describe my whole TPC Sawgrass experience would be to say truly amazing,” said Burgin from Normanby Golf Club in Scunthorpe. “This was golf at its very best and I feel privileged to have been a part of it.”

Booth picks-up Ambassador Council seeks delivery partner award from Troon Council chiefs in Wirral are making another attempt to hand over the borough’s municipal golf courses to an outside organisation. It follows an abandoned effort last year when the authority joined up with neighbouring Cheshire West council in a bid to jointly offload council-owned golf courses as part of a cost-cutting plan. A new report placed before the council’s ruling cabinet recommends the authority again tries to find a “delivery partner” to operate the courses in Wirral. According to the council there are 17 golf courses in the borough – ten of which are privately owned, ranging from Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, through to the municipal courses owned and operated by the council. The authority now hopes its courses could be taken over, although the Hoylake municipal course is to stay in council hands. The municipal golf courses in Wirral were subsidised to the tune of £330,000 during 2014-15, yet according to council figures they were used by just 74,689 golfers, the lowest since 2011 when there were 111,944, despite the Open being held at Hoylake. The cabinet report says this fall in use of the council-owned golf courses last year was “surprising” and the authority “would have expected to see a significant upward trend in participation following a global event.”

12 | GMé June 2015

Abu Dhabi Golf Club is celebrating after its leader and director of club operations, Paul Booth, was universally acknowledged by Troon Golf as its global ‘Ambassador of the Year’. The esteemed accolade is presented to the associate that most embodies the unfaltering passion and dedication for golf club management that year, campaigning Troon brand values at each and every call. Booth’s recognition, after bring selected from over 10,000 Troon ambassadors worldwide, underlines his unwavering determination to offer golfers, and non-golfers alike, the very best in service and hospitality experiences.

The accolades were hosted at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler, Arizona, and Booth, who was unable to collect his prize in person, said: “I can’t do what I do, without the teams and the people that work with me, whether at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club or Abu Dhabi Golf Club. “I’ve got two mentors in the room, in DJ Flanders and Mark Chapleki; I thank you both very much for everything you have done for me and continue to do for me. Finally, I would like to thank the team that is here today for all of their support and look forward to placing this trophy in pride of place at the club.”

Paul Booth with his trophy at Abu Dhabi Golf Club


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golfmanagement.eu.com | 13


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news

Largest indoor golf centre outside London opens with six screens Located near Milton Keynes, iPlayGolfUK has opened a major new weatherproof golf attraction which has a wow factor rarely seen in the sport. The country’s largest indoor golf simulator complex outside London is now fully open, and boasts six huge screens on which you can play over 70 of the world’s most famous golf courses, without getting wet. The 6,400 sq foot iPlayGolfUK indoor golf centre has a team of PGA golf coaches on hand to give lessons to golfers of all abilities including complete beginners. There’s also a relaxing café and a golf store stocked with everything from small essentials to the latest golf apparel and major-brand golf equipment. Its six Foresight GC2 simulators, each with additional Smart Camera system, pack awesome graphical power to produce stunningly-clear and fluid images, but it’s not all about playing the world-famous courses (of which there are dozens, including Pebble Beach and 2016 Ryder Cup venue Hazletine). There are also a myriad of less-serious challenges such as Crazy Golf, Nearest The Pin, Fairy Tale Golf, Pitch and Putt, Long Drive and Smash The Windows to tempt you and your golfing mates into spending quality time at iPlayGolfUK.

Its club-fitting team, led by PGA professionals Danny Poulter and Greg Tilbury, offer a large independent golf custom-fitting facility, equipped with two Foresight HMT Systems plus a SAM Puttlab system to produce all the launch monitor data needed for the perfect fit,

Errant tee shot proves costly

Westwood opens new Academy at Close House

A golfer has been told to pay £10,000 in damages to another player after hitting him with an errant tee shot – despite calling out ‘fore!’ after slicing the ball. Stewart Muir was told by a judge his mishit on the ninth hole of Bellshill GC, in Lanarkshire – which, ultimately, struck fellow golfer John Ure on the 10th fairway – presented a “foreseeable” risk of striking another golfer. Ure sustained a head injury following the incident in March 2013 and raised an action seeking compensation against Muir. And a hearing at the Court of Session in Edinburgh ruled in his favour and accepted liability had been established. Lord Brailsford said that, in the circumstances, the risk of an errant shot creating a danger to a person in Ure’s position was “reasonably foreseeable”. One of Muir’s playing partners had already struck a drive which prompted a warning cry of ‘fore!’ before he teed off. The judge maintained this should have alerted Muir that the group Ure was playing in was in range of an errant drive.

Close House has announced the opening of a new PGA Golf Academy in its continued commitment to provide the ultimate golfing experience. The Academy, which was officially opened by Close House European touring professional Lee Westwood, reflects the North-East venue’s continued dedication to offer the very best in golf tuition, practice facilities and custom fitting. The opening also coincided with the fifth annual Have a Heart charity golf event, which this year raised in excess of £350,000 for the Children’s Heart Unit Fund. A host of celebrities from the worlds of racing, golf, television and sport played a round of golf on Close House’s much acclaimed Colt Course and then enjoyed a gala dinner and auction. The academy’s facilities will include a floodlit driving range, designated long and short game practice areas, a SAM PuttLab analysis system and a high performance custom-fitting centre with the use the Flightscope ball-tracking radar system.

14 | GMé June 2015

The lounge area at iPlayGolf

with most of the major brands available to buy. “We’re excited to be fully open,” said Neil Wilcox, managing director, “and we can’t wait to welcome people to our golfing heaven, where you can play for real in a virtual world.”

Lee Westwood at Close House

Close House owner, Graham Wylie, said: “This is an exciting new addition to the facilities here at Close House and means we are now able to offer the latest teaching technologies to those wanting to learn and improve. “We are passionate about providing the best possible golfing experience for both our members and our visitors, and the opening of the new academy will enable our instructors to deliver tuition through the use of the very best facilities.”


picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a new role for Gary Silcock at Gleneagles, venue of last years Ryder Cup.

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In brief... Stoke Park, in Buckinghamshire, is to be the official English ‘home’ of the World of Leading Golf (WLG) until at least 2017. Previously known as Leading Golf Courses of Europe, WLG is an international community of member golf clubs fully committed to upholding the very highest levels of quality, and it is currently in the process of awarding national ‘home’ status to individual venues in each member country. Lumine Golf & Beach Club continues to set the benchmark in creating a welcoming environment to play the game by signing an exclusive deal with the PGA of Belgium and PGA of Holland, to become their official winter home in Spain. The partnership will also promote Lumine’s Pro Group packages to over 800 PGA professional members in Belgium and Holland, coming on the back of rich praise from hosting winter training camps of leading National Golf Federations; Austria, Denmark and Czech Republic earlier this year. Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa has just completed the installation of the StayPrime Elite Pro+ GPS golf cart fleet management system at its property in Andalucia, Spain. Francisco de Lancastre, the director of golf at Finca Cortesin said: “We are delighted with the partnership and installation of the new Stayprime Elite Pro GPS system at Finca Cortesin.” A property developer is seeking permission to build 71 new homes at a Scunthorpe golf club. New plans for Ashby Decoy GC have been submitted to North Lincolnshire Council by Persimmon Homes (Yorkshire) Ltd and are now being considered. The developer is also seeking permission for access, landscaping and infrastructure in a re-submission of an earlier application made last year.

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Gary Silcock, has been appointed as director of golf at The Gleneagles Hotel. Silcock, who left a similar position at La Manga Club, Spain, earlier this year, has previously held management positions at The Belfry and PGA National Ireland.

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Forest of Arden, a Marriott Hotel and Country Club, has announced the appointment of five new staff within its golf operations team, including Fraser Liston who will assume the role of director of golf.

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The Aspiration Group, a UK-based company with expertise in organising golf events of all kinds, has appointed Silverstone’s former head of sales, Amanda Macchi, to the role of group sales and marketing director.

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John Deere turf equipment dealer Godfreys has appointed former Hayter sales and marketing director, David Sturges – who has just served out his year as president of the Agricultural Engineers Association – as CEO.

4

Rory McIlory picked up another medal haul at the European Tour’s annual awards dinner. The Northern Ireland ace picked up a cleansweep of PGA medals all relating to his victory in last year’s Open Championship at Royal Liverpool.

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Director of club operations at Saadiyat Beach, Scott McCaw, is celebrating once again after picking up a series of accolades at the annual 2015 Troon Leadership conference, hosted in Arizona, USA, last month.

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company profile CORE STRENGTH Demonstration day at Stowmarket Golf Club, Suffolk with core samples extracted from a green

Deep Thinking with Terrain Aeration Temporary greens are one of the biggest complaints from members playing golf in the winter, but with a little foresight and planning, there is a way in which greens can be kept open, all-year-round. Article by Tony Hawkins.

Company Profile sponsored by Terrain Aeration (44) 01449 673783 terrainaeration@aol.com

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Golf course greens and fairways, as well as trees, need a healthy root structure and nutrients in the soil to promote growth. Compaction and waterlogging all too often are the cause of problems on the course, and a method to restore a natural soil structure is required, without disturbing the ground surface. Many golf courses have turned to deep aeration treatment, in conjunction with a programme of routine surface aeration, as the best combination of long-lasting rejuvenated soil, producing a healthier sward and strong root growth. Great Salterns Golf Club, Portsmouth, Kircaldy Golf Club, Scotland and Coptheath Golf Club in Solihull – to mention but a few – have all turned to Terrain Aeration, the specialist ‘trouble shooters’ to relieve waterlogged soil, cure compaction panning and aerate turf. The Terralift ‘Airforce’ system meets all the requirements using air to fracture and fissure soil, inject dried nutrients and allow stressed roots to breath and flourish, and was recently used at Southport and Ainsdale Golf Club to contribute to the end of year maintenance, at the behest of course manager, Tony Rimmer.

The Terrain Aeration machine was used on the greens to hammer a hollow 3.8cm probe into the soil to a metre depth, and then inject dried, milled seaweed on the tail end of the air blast that’s applied. The engine and air compressor unit are left off the green so there is less weight and fewer wheels on the grass while making the machine more manoeuvrable. The compressed air is fed by an umbilical hose, with the air pressure constantly regulated so that the operator can see the top surface move upwards slightly. It’s a dramatic sight to see the earth move. “The members of the club were fascinated by the process,” said Rimmer, “and they were in disbelief that the greens were up and running again after the treatment.” Seeing the earth move, the operator knows that the soil has been fractured from one metre depth back to the surface, which is essential to the process. Amazingly, the earth settles back down and the seaweed sticks to the fractures and fissures created by the main air blast. Eventually this will swell and contract with the moisture content in the soil.


terrainaeration.co.uk

EASY DOES IT In use at Newport Golf Club, South Wales

KEEPING IT LOCAL At Stowmarket Golf Club, Suffolk

GOING DEEP At Little Aston Golf Club

This ‘breathing’ effect helps keep the fissures open longer to enable the soil to rejuvenate naturally. The probe is then withdrawn and the process repeated at two metre spacing on a staggered grid pattern, while the greenkeepers follow behind to backfill the probe holes with aggregate and top dressing. The treatment will aid, in the long term, the aeration and ventilation, allowing air and water to percolate into the root zone. Aerating the soil down to a metre, results in stronger root growth and an altogether healthier sward. Terrain Aeration have also been hard at work in South Wales too.

Newport Golf Club is fairly flat and sits three hundred feet above sea level, and it is in the winter that four of the wettest greens are most likely to be put out of use. As a result, Terrain Aeration were called in to treat these in a day-long trial. The greens are believed to be of the original profile with clay cup construction, and despite the resulting impeded drainage they looked good with a deep green colour and very dense sward. Closer inspection though revealed evidence of plugging, where the golf balls have failed to bounce and have buried themselves in the wet and soft turf, despite regular pencil tining.

Dense red clay was encountered at about 700mm which was penetrated after a short period of hammering, whilst dried, milled seaweed was injected to maintain aeration. As the surfaces of the four greens were very delicate, only an eight bar pressure was used throughout the operation, producing a ripple of movement but leaving the greens undamaged. The greens were back in play shortly after, with the whole process taking just two hours per green, and before they were even finished there was a noticeable improvement to the firmness of each green. GMé

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interview

IN THE BEGINNING Michael Abbott, pictured in 1965, hard at work on his first tractor

DISNEY FAIRYTALE In 1992, at Euro Disneyland, where MJ Abbott installed the landscape irrigation system

In conversation with Michael Abbott Michael Abbott turned a part-time grass cutting business into one of golf’s most respected drainage and construction companies inside 50 years.

GMé Fifty years in business is impressive by anyone’s standards so casting your mind back to the beginning, what prompted you to start your own business in 1965? MA I left the family farm at 20 years old and got a job as a tractor driver and stockman in Tisbury, Wiltshire, which came with a house. I married at 21 and stayed there for about three years. In 1962, I joined a local agricultural and plant hire contractor – FA Willan – and the owner decided to retire and sell up in early 1965. I had already started a part-time grass cutting and landscaping business in the evenings and weekends, as I decided that I did not want to work for anyone else, so I went to their retirement sale and bought a few items of plant, and started full-time on my own in a rented yard at East Farm Cottages in Dinton, only about a mile from where the business is based today. GMé Things must have been pretty tough back then, so did you have any help getting the business off the ground? MA My mother gave me £1,000 and my wife, Aslaug, made this and the other money that we had saved suffice to survive. It was very hard in the early years, we both worked long hours and there were few holidays.

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GMé The first 25 years of MJ Abbott Ltd was spent mainly in drainage – an area which you still specialise in – but it’s the move into golf which GMé is interested in, so what was your first golf project and how did that job come about? MA The first 25 years of the business was spent in general agricultural contracting, farm water supplies and agricultural land drainage. In 1985 MJ Abbott Limited was incorporated, and in 1991 we went to Euro Disney (now Disneyland Paris) to install the landscape irrigation system, and we were on site until it opened in April 1992. In 1991 we also carried out our first irrigation installation works on a golf course, at Long Sutton in Somerset. Our first major golf construction and drainage works were at Bowood in Wiltshire, where we started our working relationship with the Ryder Cup player and renowned golf course architect, the late Dave Thomas. The original plan was that we would carry out just the drainage works, but once on site Dave Thomas could see the skills we had and we ended up helping with the construction works as well. The relationship with Dave Thomas continued throughout the 1990s, and we worked together at Donnington Grove in Berkshire, and then to complete the PGA Course at The Belfry in 1995.

FATHER FIGURE Michael Abbott, who has passed the day-to-day running of MJ Abbott onto his two sons, Adrian and Jonathan


mjabbott.co.uk

In 1997 we carried out remodelling works to the Brabazon Course at The Belfry in preparation for the 2001 Ryder Cup, which was postponed to the following year after the terrorist attacks in the US on September 11, 2001. GMé MJ Abbott is now regarded as one of the leading golf course construction companies in the industry, so how many golf courses has the company built since becoming involved in the sport, and how far afield have you worked?

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MA The company has been involved in construction, renovation, drainage or irrigation works on at least 300 golf courses, including six of the courses on the current Open Championship rota and a number of other major tournament venues. Besides the UK, we have worked in the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, France, Germany and Slovakia, and we have even sent a machine operator to help on a project in New Caledonia in the South Pacific.

GMé Do you have a particular favourite project? MA My favourite projects have been the Celtic Manor Resort and The Grove. We have maintained an excellent relationship with both clients, carrying out many projects over the years besides the main golf construction works. GMé Looking back over 50 years, what would you say was your proudest moment in business?

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interview

“We believe design work should be undertaken by a professional golf course architect, whilst a good project manager is also important to coordinate the project”

SUNNINGDALE Installing irrigation at Sunningdale Golf Club, 1997

THE GROVE The 17th green at The Grove, one of Michael Abbott’s favourite projects

MA The receipt of my own personalised company brochure for my 70th birthday, with all the associated comments from family and staff. It was a lovely gift, and one that I have treasured.

GMé Building golf courses is a specialist job so what’s your view on clubs undertaking course alterations themselves, rather than employing the services of a professional company?

GMé The business is named after yourself, Michael John Abbott, but with your two sons – Adrian and Jonathan – now involved, did you never think to rename it MJ Abbott & Sons? MA Until now I can honestly say this has never been mentioned. I would have no problem with this idea, but I think Jonathan might because of the cost of changing all of the signwriting – we have 75 vans and over 500 items of plant with my name on!

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MA Obviously I would prefer them to employ a specialist company such as ourselves as we have a wealth of experience following the projects that we have completed over the years. We believe design work should be undertaken by a professional golf course architect, whilst a good project manager is also important to coordinate the project – but we can provide this as part of our service. GMé Are you still actively involved in the day-to-day running of the company,

or are you now retired from the business entirely? MA I retired from running the operational side of the business in December 2004, but I still design and estimate all of our farm drainage works, and some water supply, civil engineering and general foul drainage works. I only work 50 hours a week now. GMé Do you play golf or have any interest in the sport? MA I have never played golf but I do have a great interest in the sport, especially viewing well designed and constructed courses and facilities. It’s a great industry to work in, with some great people too. GMé


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profile

“The idea of the British Masters returning to Woburn emerged from a conversation between the club’s owner, The Duke of Bedford and the Tour’s executive director, George O’Grady”

Masters Delight for O’Malley at Woburn After announcing that the British Masters is set to return to Woburn later in the year, Scott MacCallum met with Woburn general manager, Jason O’Malley. NO TURNING BACK Ian Poulter jovially takes offence to Jason O’Malley turning his back on him

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It has created the backdrop for some of the most memorable moments in British and European golf, and thanks to an initiative between the European Tour, Sky Sports and four of the country’s highest profile golfers, there will be another chapter written in the history of Woburn Golf Club. Woburn has been synonymous with the British Masters since the late 1970s, but hasn’t hosted the tournament since 2002 when Justin Rose pipped his close friend Ian Poulter to win. Now thanks to Poulter and Rose, together with Lee Westwood and Luke Donald, the British Masters has once again secured a place on the European Tour schedule with the Buckinghamshire course being the first of four English venues to host the event later this year.

Poulter has been associated with Woburn for many years, and has been the club’s Touring professional for the last 11. He uses the club as his home from home while not at his US base in Florida, and he never misses a chance to promote Woburn whenever and wherever he is playing. “The idea of the British Masters returning to Woburn emerged from a conversation between the club’s owner, The Duke of Bedford and the Tour’s executive director, George O’Grady, early last year,” explained Woburn’s general manager, Jason O’Malley. As those talks progressed, so did the idea of harnessing the talents and popularity of the four English superstars, each of which has an attachment to a particular venue.


woburngolf.co.uk

RISK AND REWARD The short par 4, 12th hole on The Marquess Course, could present an interesting dilemma for Tour pro’s

“Getting the support of the four really helped to drive the project forward and added both momentum and glamour,” said O’Malley. In recent years, the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth has been the only English-based tournament to have an annual slot on the European Tour, and therefore, with Woburn accessible to so many parts of the country, it is anticipated that golf fans will flock to the Marquess course which will offer superb viewing to so many of its majestic holes. The galleries will definitely be guaranteed thanks to Sky Sports Thursday – a promotion which has seen the broadcaster give away 15,000 tickets for the opening day.

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“A tournament in October will present its own challenges in terms of course preparation and daylight hours,” added O’Malley. “Our greenkeeping team of 35, under the leadership of our courses manager, John Clarke with the help of volunteers, will be extended to 70 throughout the week to ensure the courses are prepared to the highest possible standard. “We are already developing plans that involve temporary ‘floodlighting rigs’ run from our utility vehicles, so we can light up greens in the dark enabling us to commence cutting before sunrise.” Woburn has hosted 16 British Masters and currently hosts the European Seniors’ Tour for the Travis Perkins

Masters on the Duke’s Course. In addition, the Marquess Course is one of only four courses in the country selected by the R&A as a final qualifying venue for The Open through until 2017. Next year will mark the 40th anniversary of Woburn, and the club will have plenty to celebrate when it stages the Ricoh Women’s British Open. However, it is Woburn’s development as a regular golf club over the last ten years which makes O’Malley particularly proud: “You would say that the four days of the British Masters this year will be the most important on Woburn’s calendar, and I agree with that,” he said. “But I also know that the other 51 weeks of year are when we do our day

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profile

IN THE SPOTLIGHT (LR): Charley Hull, Paula Creamer, Simon Sasaki of Ricoh, Jason O’Malley and Shona Malcolm of the Ladies Golf Union attend a press conference to announce Woburn as the venue for the 2016 Women’s British Open

“We want Woburn to be a place where the entire family wants to come”

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job and that, in a way, is more important than the tournament. “The Masters will put Woburn’s star out there shining brightly, and people will hopefully want to come and play here after visiting or seeing the tournament on Sky Sports, but we have to back that up by ensuring quality when people do come,” explained O’Malley. “We are looking forward to hosting the British Masters and to the exposure that Woburn will receive, but it is important that we achieve the ideal balance between visitor and member rounds. “Unlike the majority of golf clubs in the UK, we currently have a very strong membership with a healthy intake of new members and attrition being at its lowest,” said O’Malley, with real pride in his voice. O’Malley and his team work extremely hard to make Woburn more than just the weekly ‘fix’ of golf for the keen player – of which there are plenty – with more than 100 category one players holding a handicap at the club. There is something for everyone at Woburn, with a big emphasis on encouraging greater family participation with initiatives to encourage beginners from adults and juniors alike. The Tavistock short game facility opened recently – which was designed by one of the Duke of Bedford’s friends and former Ryder Cup star Manuel Pinero – was designed to ensure that it could be flexible, whilst also catering for beginners enabling them to have fun whilst learning the game.

“It’s great when you hear someone mention that one of our professionals has been into the local primary school,” added O’Malley. “We want Woburn to be a place where the entire family wants to come, and we have made great strides in that direction which in-turn, benefits all areas of the club financially. It also adds to the friendly atmosphere.” O’Malley firmly believes, albeit admitting to a possible degree of bias, that Woburn is the best 54 hole venue in the country. “There are some fantastic three course venues in this country, with some outstanding golf courses, but Woburn is the only one to have all three if its courses ranked in Golf World and Golf Monthly Top 100 courses in the UK and Ireland. “The Marquess Course not only looks superb with so many holes flanked by the arrow straight huge pine trees, but offers the sort of challenges which, like the Duke’s Course, sorts the men out from the boys. “The list of Woburn winners reads like a Who’s Who of world golf and includes major winners Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Lee Trevino, Nick Faldo, Ian Woosnam, Sandy Lyle, Henrik Stenson, Karrie Webb, Patti Sheehan, Laura Davies and Justin Rose. “I would hope that whoever picks up the trophy in October, may be a Major winner, or someone who will win a Major,” said O’Malley, adding that he wouldn’t mind the home favourite and tournament host to be that man. GMé


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GMĂŠ

colin aldous

Colin handing over to the Next Generation at Ufford Park A local builder by trade, Colin Aldous, chairman of Ufford Park in Woodbridge, Suffolk, is set to retire this month, handing the reigns over to his daughter Tarnia. Michael Lenihan travelled the short distance to meet-up with Aldous prior to his retirement.

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uffordpark.co.uk FAMILY VALUES (L-R): Son-in-law, and director of golf, Stuart Robertson, daughter, Tarnia Robertson, wife Shirley Aldous and Colin Aldous. Below, a view of the practice putting green and first tee

When Colin Aldous bought Ufford Park out of receivership in 1991, little did he realise that it would be almost a quarter of a century later before he was able to relinquish control of what became a very personal project. Aldous, 70, has walked away from the 90-bedroom hotel and golf course, which is set in 120 acres of historic Suffolk parkland, in Woodbridge – at least that’s the official line. For the chairman retains the same passion for golf now that encouraged him to move from property development into golf course ownership nearly 25 years ago. And he will certainly still be seen at the club – on the course, if not in the boardroom. He said: “I’m still going to play even in retirement. I’m a regular player; I play with the seniors most of the time. I might still be involved on the committee side…” Back in 1990, Aldous, a non-golfer, was looking to find something he could do together with his son. He explained: “This started off as learning to play golf as something to do other than work. My son was at university and we’d not got an awful lot in common because he’s an academic and I’m a blue-collar worker primarily, so we thought we’d learn to play golf together. And so we’d have something to enjoy with our families as the years went on.” Having visited Ufford Park – among many other local courses – to get lessons, Aldous, who had been develop-

ing property locally for more than 20 years, learned that a consortium was being put together to buy the struggling club. “The first thing we heard was a local consortium had bought it and was looking for members. I told them I was interested in getting involved in the development and within hours I’d had my hand bitten off. But I quickly became aware that none of the five members of the consortium was able to pay the deposit, so I backed out. “It was a year from coming here for lessons, looking at it and getting excited about it, to buying it. It’s been a family business from day one. “The attraction was the land, no question about it; the land, in my opinion, is one of Mother Nature’s beauties. Certainly for Suffolk, you wouldn’t get a piece of land more suited to a golf course – that I know more about now than I did then – in terms of natural contours, spring-fed ponds, views (there are no pylons in sight); other than old churches and houses all you can see is nature. “That is what got me buzzing in the first place, having made a living out of buying land and developing it in Woodbridge for the previous 20 years. I fell in love with the land; the building was very good quality and I thought with my skills as a builder I can finish this off and have somewhere to invest the

“The attraction was the land, no question about it; the land, in my opinion, is one of Mother Nature’s beauties” twitter.com/gme

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colin aldous

money I’d generated over the previous 20 years. “It was never my intention to develop the land for housing – the land, as it is, is full with the golf course. There’s no scope for squeezing in other buildings into that and that’s one of the beauties of it. Apart from developing the business in the building there were no plans for elsewhere on the site.” The pragmatic Aldous admits it hasn’t always been smooth sailing, but he – and his family – have achieved the ambition of making Ufford Park a sustainable, long-term business. His wife Shirley has been actively involved in the business, and it is their daughter, Tarnia – who is married to director of golf Stuart Robertson – who is now in charge of the operation. “I’ve always been a bit of a gambler,” added Aldous, “but I wouldn’t dare do now what I did then. If I made up my mind to do something come hell or high water I’d make it happen. But, with hindsight, I wouldn’t dare to do what we’ve done on numerous occasions.

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“We stretched ourselves to the point of breaking on numerous occasions over the last 25 years. “We’ve always been looking to build up a sustainable business, and quickly realised the hotel was going to be the primary business. That’s where the biggest investment is but without getting that right the rest of it can’t work. The bedrooms are the biggest earner. But the hotel and course go together. It’s been said by my management team on many occasions that ‘your priority is the golf course not the hotel, because we earn the money and you spend it,’ he laughed. “We’ve never scrimped on the investment – sometimes we haven’t been able to put in as much as we’d have liked – but because I’m the golf nut in the business that’s always been my priority and I’m always looking ahead. “We have a very well established management accounts system with which we’ve set budgets for all different departments and the budget for golf expenditure has been set at a sustainable level. We’re now at a level where we

want to be and there is nothing major to be done. We do a lot of tweaking as all the time you’re looking to enhance… but it’s all budgeted for. “The golf operation itself has been difficult, but we’ve improved our golf turnover year on year for the last two years. Members are coming in, we’re gaining more than we’re losing, and the numbers are growing. Members are an important part of our business; they are ambassadors for what we’re trying to do here. “When we first opened there were a lot more members looking for opportunities, and we filled that pretty quickly. The membership has been pretty stable throughout the 20 years – and we’ve never attained what we felt was the maximum. We’re very conscious that members and hotel guests need to go together – but our members don’t have any trouble getting on the golf course. It’s a planned balancing act.” When talking about members, the conversation with Aldous inevitable turns to the current hot topic of VAT in


uffordpark.co.uk TAKING A BACK SEAT Left, looking back down the 8th hole; right, pictured with wife Shirley and daughter Tarnia; and below, pictured in 2010 after recording a hole in one on the par 3, third

“the hotel and course go together. It’s been said by my management team on many occasions that ‘your priority is the golf course not the hotel, because we earn the money and you spend it’”

golf, about which he’s been outspoken previously. “I think Viv Saunders (who champions proprietary clubs in the debate) has made some inroads; somebody has to do something. But it still hasn’t come to any satisfactory conclusion. “We did have a period here where we had a separate company for the golf so we could treat ourselves like a members’ club and eliminate the VAT on membership. But it lasted a year; it’s how I got most of my white hair – and 13 months in they cancelled it saying it could not apply to any club with ‘commercial influence’. But any golf course has ‘commercial influence’. “Our subscription is cheaper than a nearby members’ club but 20 per cent of it goes straight to the taxman. It’s illogical! So without the whole business mix we have we would not have been able to invest in the golf course like we have. “And it’s the proprietary clubs, in general, that are bringing through the youngsters. We’re looking longer term, trying to invest in the kids.

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“It has been said that there’s no money in that, but I’m not money motivated; you have a longer-term vision – when you get to my stage of life you want to leave something behind, something that benefits other people. That comes back to the satisfaction of making a difference. “We have a big junior section here – it’s like Piccadilly Circus on a Saturday and Sunday morning out there. My passion is to grow golf and grow golfers. It’s such a fabulous all-embracing family game for all the generations. “I recently went to St Andrews with my son, my son-in-law and my grandson, and you can do that, play seriously and the handicap takes care of the varying abilities. And I would like to see a lot more effort made to promote golf as a family activity. “If you haven’t got time away from the family to play golf, take the whole family to play golf – that’s my philosophy.” Ufford Park formerly hosted EuroPro Tour events, but the days of professional tournaments at the venue are sadly no more. And reflecting on that brought

Aldous on to the topic of the gulf that is growing wider between professional and club golf. He added: “Professional golf is too detached; it’s out of kilter with club golf. We can’t host the EuroPro Tour anymore – they were last here in 2007 – because they hit the ball too far. “Our third green is apparently a danger, according to health and safety, off our first tee. All of the pros are hitting consistently 275-300 yards so they’ve only got to be five degrees off line and they’d be landing on the third green. “They should do something about the distance. It costs a lot to buy and develop land for golf and the first 300 yards is now for nothing… Like most courses these days, there isn’t the yardage out there to host professional events.” He may regard the passing of professional competitions at Ufford as a sad loss – but it isn’t a regret. “I don’t have any regrets really; maybe I would do different things differently, but overall I’ve loved being here. It’s been just like a second home.” GMé

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practice facilities

Can your club Profit from Practice With more golf clubs throughout Europe installing dedicated practice facilities, Vanessa Gardner examines the growth in all-weather, synthetic surfaces. We are all well aware that participation in golf is at its lowest level for over a decade with survey after survey confirming the cold hard facts. However, a recent study by Sports Marketing Surveys Inc signals opportunities for the sport to grow. For the second consecutive year, female participation has risen, as has the number of ‘avid’ golfers – who play at least once a week – so what’s the key to capitalising on these promising signs? Firstly, work to convert new golfers who may be using driving ranges into golf course users; and secondly, prevent the loss of more infrequent players, says the report. Adopting a new fun, flexible and family-oriented approach is seen as the key to this; a methodology endorsed by Andy Roberts, in his interesting article Golf – a game in decline or changing for the better? In this, he says that golfers are evolving and the game needs to keep pace with them, offering options for people to engage with golf in different ways.

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There’s been a change in golfing culture in recent years whereby practising is becoming as important as completing a round. Perhaps this is a result of exciting talented young role models like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Charley Hull who’s a rising star in the British women’s game. Or, perhaps this is because practice is something that can be done without a great deal of rallying others and forward planning and importantly, in less time too. Enabling today’s time-poor younger golfers to participate at any level is undoubtedly the key to securing the future of the game. One thing’s for sure: forward thinking managers are aware of this trend and are investing in practice facilities as an essential element of their club offering. Paul Huxley, director of Huxley Golf, has definitely seen a peak in interest for his company’s range of all-weather practice surfaces. He commented: “It’s clear that there has been a change in people’s habits and golfing culture whereby prac-

tice has increased in importance. People used to turn up just in time to change for tee off, but now it’s common to warm-up and fine tune elements of your game before taking to the course. “As a result, we’ve seen an increasing demand for high quality all-weather practice facilities – both tees and short game areas – which are proving to have commercial benefits, as well as helping greenkeepers and delighting golfers.” Ten years ago all-weather practice tees were unheard of. Yet, Huxley Golf allweather installations have proved a great success at Gleneagles, Royal Troon, Royal Lytham & St Annes, the Els Club in Dubai and The Hong Kong Golf Club as well as at numerous traditional members’ clubs. At St Andrews Links, three state-ofthe-art all-weather bays form part of the Home of Golf’s prestigious Golf Academy. They are designed to enable efficient coaching on all aspects of the game through an innovative approach which incorporates multiple surfaces into each bay.


huxleygolf.com PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club (left) celebrated its centenary with a Huxley Golf short game area. Right, the improved practice tee facilities for The Castle Course at St Andrews, and the innovative multi-surface teaching bays at St Andrews Links Golf Academy

“for both clients and coaching staff, the all-encompassing practice bays are tremendously beneficial”

Steve North, director of instruction at St Andrews Links, realised the opportunity to create better outcomes for his clients and improve efficiency. He commented: “For both clients and coaching staff, the all-encompassing practice bays are tremendously beneficial, enabling us to teach all aspects of the game in one place, giving us the flexibility to respond to individual client needs in all lessons. “As well as being more convenient and rewarding for our clients, completing a whole session in one place means that we don’t lose momentum or waste valuable time during lessons, helping to ensure that we can keep up with demand.” Another trend is to create all-weather short game practice areas. These are becoming popular at proprietary golf courses, teaching academies and ranges, but the concept is also being embraced by well-established clubs. Brokenhurst Manor Golf Club recently celebrated its centenary with a specially commissioned Huxley all-weather short game area. “We invited our members to come up with ideas to mark our centenary, and practice facilities came top of that list,” said club manager Neil HallamJones. Created using a variety of Huxley Golf tournament quality surfaces, the short game area provides a comprehensive yet

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low maintenance all-year practice zone comprising a large golf green complete with six holes and practice tee for iron play, with the club already working towards installing additional facilities. Club professional Kevin Saunders remarked: “As professionals, we understand just how important the short game is in the game of golf: that ‘hundred yards and in’ is always talked about! “Here at Brokenhurst Manor we have a facility which is unrivalled locally and I have already seen the benefits. The response the player gets from contact with the ball and turf is very realistic, and the spin control achieved when the ball lands on the green is as if playing to a grassed summer green. “The surface responds like a top class firm green but without the pitch marks or divots to contend with!” Whether a members club or a proprietary club, providing facilities to encourage engagement with golf through practice offers several commercial advantages. First and foremost, all year round practice areas turn under-utilised space into revenue generating zones. Second, they can help to prevent members from drifting away at the end of the season and not renewing their subs by encouraging continued play. They could also attract new members who wish to practise and ‘try out’ a club before launching fully into club life.

Finally, they should generate the potential for additional year-round income streams. For members, the ability to have access to practice and coaching regardless of the weather and the amount of time available can be a big draw. And of course, there is considerable value for greenkeepers too by virtue of the extremely minimal maintenance required for top quality all-weather surfaces. Paul Huxley had this to add: “We’ve certainly never advocated digging up natural grass greens and tees on muchloved golf courses and replacing them with artificial grass. However, whilst there has always been a high demand for alternative ‘winter tees’, many courses are realising the commercial opportunities to be had by installing quality all-weather surfaces in innovative ways. “I would stress, however, the importance of choosing a surface that has been specifically designed for the job. Twenty years ago, few greenkeepers would contemplate allowing artificial turf anywhere near their golf course – and they were right. “Today it’s a different story. There are now plenty of examples where the right specification of all-weather turf for golf, correctly installed and used in the right place, has been a big help in keeping standards up and helping to generate much-needed income.” GMé

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GMé

pace of play

R&A report unveils Pace of Play Results Although clearly not prompted by Michael Lenihan’s comments on slow play in the April edition of GMé, the timing of the recent R&A report into the Pace of Play has been warmly welcomed by all within the industry, as Samuel Frederick explains.

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pace of play ON THE CLOCK Kevin Na (pictured right) who has earned himself a reputation on Tour for slow play

It would be a very cheap jibe to say that the recently published R&A report on ‘pace of play’ has taken a lot longer to appear than it should have… so we won’t. Nor would it be true, but we don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good gag. The data in the report – which actually covers a fair bit more than just the issue of slow play – was being collected right up until March, so the turnaround is more applicable to the defending British Speedgolf champion George Scott than Kevin Na. And, what’s more, it’s worthy of consideration because the data sample is impressive. The survey received more than 56,000 responses from golfers in 122 countries between September 2014 and March 2015 – and its premise was to determine the impact slow play was having on the sport. Crucially, for the industry moving forward, one of the biggest talking points came from a demographic group which is crucial to the future of the sport. A total of 21 per cent of 25-44 yearolds, who had said they were never happy with pace of play, felt that golf would need to be as much one-and-ahalf hours shorter for them to be encouraged to play more often.

And 19 per cent of the 8,468 respondents in that age group admitted they would welcome the opportunity to play nine holes more often as an alternative format. Overall, 70 per cent of golfers reported that they are largely happy with the duration of their rounds, although 60 per cent admitted they would enjoy golf more if it was able to be completed in a shorter time frame. In every region covered – except GB&I – the most common time for a round of golf was between four and four-and-ahalf hours. Only in GB&I did respondents suggest the modal time was somewhere between three-and-a-half and four hours – and as one wag in the office observed: “That’s probably the time they want people to think they go round in…” Amazingly, 9.6 per cent of respondents in Asia said it took between two and twoand-a-half hours to play in their favoured format, while, at the other end of the scale, 2.8 per cent took longer than five-and-a-half hours – presumably they broke for lunch on the way round. That’s quite a difference. The quickest mean time, in GB&I, was 3hrs 44mins, while, at the other end of the scale, Australasia and Latin America

“Everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as much time as they used to. So you maybe try some way of speeding the game up” twitter.com/gme

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GMé

pace of play

“This survey is the first step for us in examining, in detail, the wide range of issues currently affecting participation in golf”

SETTING THE BENCHMARK A golfer waits patiently for the fairway to clear ahead

both had the longest mean time of 4.09… a difference of just 25 minutes. Even world number one Rory McIlroy has weighed in to the debate on slow play, when, at the tail end of last year, he called for a faster version of golf in a bid to increase participation rates, particularly among the young. In a BBC radio interview he said: “Everything’s so instant now and everyone doesn’t have as much time as they used to. So you maybe try some way of speeding the game up. “People enjoy watching the game but gone are the days that you could spend five or six hours on a golf course. I don’t think they... (the sport’s ruling bodies) would be against it, especially if they wanted to get participation levels up. “I don’t think they need to alter tournament-play formats – I think that works very well. It’s the grass roots... definitely not at our level.” Not surprisingly, the R&A survey – in a real ‘bear in woods’ moment – reported that the two biggest factors preventing people from playing golf are work (34 per cent) and family commitments (29 per cent). But the real elephant in the room – the time taken to play a round – was the third most (un)popular reason for not playing, with 16 per cent citing it as a reason. There were also other factors quoted which affected people’s participation: alternative hobbies (12 per cent); cost of play (seven per cent); difficulty of play (one per cent); and cost of equipment (one per cent).

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When it comes to splitting those elements by age demographic, not surprisingly, the over-65s are not unduly concerned about work commitments – their primary concern was family commitments, and understandably so, given the rise in the number of extended families helping with childcare these days. A marked increase was noted for respondents over 75 citing the difficulty of play – yet it still only ranked fifth factor even within this sector. However, for those in the 12-to-17 bracket, the most common hurdle to overcome was, indeed, work commitments (several respondents in this age range added comments that this included educational commitments) and time taken to play. The majority of respondents expressed a preference for 18-hole play; indeed, the only region in which this dropped below 90 per cent was continental Europe, where more than one in seven said they preferred to play nine holes. And this is reflected in the number of nine-hole courses under construction on the European mainland. So we should not be surprised to learn that the highest proportion of respondents who indicated they would enjoy golf more if there was more opportunity to play nine holes, was also continental Europe (23.1 per cent). In GB&I, the preference for nine holes was expressed only by 3.1 per cent – and only Africa (2.5 per cent) and Australasia (2.3 per cent) were able to report even less enthusiasm for the shorter version.

Many causes for issues with pace of play were suggested by respondents, with ‘poor etiquette’, ‘pre-shot routines’ and ‘bad play’ the top three reasons cited. In North America, however, the top reason was ‘players using tees which are too difficult for them’ and this comes 4th within Asia. Congested courses were ranked higher than starting gaps being too small, although it is far from inconceivable that the two are related. Course difficulty, green speed and hole locations were not ranked highly as perceived causes of pace of play issues. Duncan Weir, executive director – working for golf at The R&A, said: “This survey is the first step for us in examining, in detail, the wide range of issues currently affecting participation in golf. “There is plenty of anecdotal evidence available but we conducted the survey to obtain accurate data on how much of an issue pace of play is for golfers and to give us an insight into what they see as the main factors contributing to slow rounds. “We feel that the next step in this process is to engage with our partners throughout the golf industry to look at these findings and invite them to contribute their views to these important discussions. Our forum later this year will provide the opportunity for these discussions to take place.” The R&A distributed the survey through its affiliated bodies around the world and it was offered in six languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese and Spanish. GMé


BRAEMARGOLF ST ANDREWS

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GMé

benchmarking

“engaging with 59Club has allowed us to get a far more detailed picture of the actual guest experience”

FINE FELLOW Simon Wordsworth of 59Club

Measuring Feedback the 59Club way Ben Edwards talks to 59Club founder and Fellow of the PGA, Simon Wordsworth, about managing customer expectations. Poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling – he of the Just So stories and Jungle Book, not the chap with the cakes – once wrote: “And what should they know of England who only England know?” His inference being that, when one has limited views it clouds judgments and can lead to misunderstanding. And that, in essence, is what 59Club does for its clients – it removes the limited view and allows a more worldly perspective of one’s own environment. It is understandable that one takes pride in one’s own golf club and understandable too, to a certain degree, that one may feel everything is as good as it can be. But that perception is often borne of misplaced confidence. One is – as the buzzword gurus would have you believe these days – too close to the product. The basic premise, therefore, of the 59Club service is to show venues as others see them not as they are perceived internally. This ‘warts and all’ approach highlights not just the bad, but also areas where the venue is performing well. The ultimate objective is to provide an indispensable management tool, which measures, improves and, then, maintains standards of customer service, leading to increased visitor and member retention

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and a boost to customer satisfaction, revenue and profit. As many as 90 per cent of customers admit they are dissatisfied with the levels of service they receive in the golf and leisure industries. Further statistics indicate that most would gladly pay to play or join another club which provides better levels of customer service, even if the facilities were not as good. So customer service has to be at the forefront of a venue’s strategy when conducting business. 59Club was created to highlight this and to raise standards. Its unique benchmarking tool allows not only analysis of one’s own service standards, but also compares those results to the industry standard, elite performing clubs and competitor venues of choice – providing a valuable way of measuring performance in the marketplace. The company was launched in 2007 by Simon Wordsworth, a Fellow of the PGA, who utilised his many years’ experience in the golf and leisure industries – including 14 years at The Belfry, the last three as director of golf, which saw him involved in three Ryder Cups – to create what Wordsworth claims to be Europe’s market leader in customer service analysis and training.


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AND THE WINNER IS... (LR): Dan Walker from the BBC, Alan Mackenzie of Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and Simon Wordsorth

Wordsworth, who was awarded the title ‘young entrepreneur of the year’ in 2007, explained: “At the heart of our operation is an established and dedicated team of professionals who all bring a vast amount of experience from the golf, leisure and events industry, most of whom have worked at senior management or director level. “This knowledge affords us a true understanding of the sector’s business needs and the difference customer service excellence can make to a brand’s reputation. We are able to illustrate, in a purely objective manner, that what general managers believe – or want to believe – about their venue may actually be at odds with how it is viewed by the most important judges of all, its clients. We help them see beyond their own perception. “And our success with clients shows that the mechanic we have works, not just in highlighting which areas of the business are performing well or badly, but also in the way those facts can be used to help train staff and chance things for the better moving forward.” The effect 59Club can have on a venue’s performance is clear – and is not lost on its clients, who are quick to praise the service they receive and the tangible benefits it brings. David Shepherd, the director of golf at Monte Rei, explained: “Our 59Club tests provide us with real measurable

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data which we can use to review our own progress, measure our managers and review our market position. The data is thorough and objective and re-enforced with recordings and pictures making it unarguable. “Since working with 59Club we have reviewed policies and made changes to our customer service in areas of the business in which we previously thought we were strong. For Monte Rei, customer feedback is vital and encouraged; however, customer feedback from a 59Club tester, in the detail it is provided, is invaluable. “It is a true reflection of what we do and what we deliver, and forms the basis of our roadmap to continue to improve.” Every year, 59Club recognises the top performers in its programme with a number of awards, and, earlier this year, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club’s Alan Mackenzie was awarded the title of ‘golf manager of the year’ – one of four accolades handed out to the Dubai Golf group. And Mackenzie is another who has seen his venue reap the benefits of 59Club’s model. He said: “Prior to working with 59Club we had been obtaining feedback from our members and guests through members surveys, direct interaction and guest comment cards. However, engaging with 59Club has allowed us to get a far more detailed picture of the actual guest experience.

“The work we have done with 59Club has identified our strongest areas and star performers, in addition to highlighting areas for improvements. “On occasions the results have demonstrated that some of the areas where we thought we were strong, were actually those where improvements could be made and vice versa. We have used the feedback and results to implement changes within the club to enhance our service levels even further, in what is a very competitive environment. “It is great to have a bench-marking product available that has been put together by fellow industry experts. 59Club knows what is important to the journey of the customer and focuses on these aspects. Everything covered within each report is relevant and useful.” And Collingtree Park general manager, Phil Jones, is another admirer of the service: “I think 59Club is an excellent tool to have at one’s disposal. Still being fairly new to the club I feel there is still room for improvement and, by using 59Club, we have been able to determine areas in which we are good and some areas where we need more attention. “One of the big bonuses for us was that it highlighted areas where we have the opportunity to engage in more upselling. We fully intend to embrace and utilise 59Club as a valuable tool to both improve and expand upon our customer service.” GMé

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GMé

john greasley

“The market has improved greatly over the past two years and we have invested heavily in a replacement programme for our machinery”

Family Milestone for John Greasley This year marks the 30th anniversary of John Greasley’s association with golf. Aidan Patrick talks with father and son, John and Charlie, to talk about the past and the future. SHAPING SUCCESS Main picture, part of the investment in new JCB machinery by John Greasley, and above, the 16th hole at Touquet La Mer Hole, post construction

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The golf course construction industry has seen its fair share of casualties over the years, as the golf industry has endured the ‘boom and bust’ periods over the past few decades. Perhaps then, it is even more of a milestone for a company that specialises only in golf, to be marking its 30th anniversary this year. Founded in 1985 by John Greasley, the company, which today still bears his name, completed its first nine-hole course with architect Martin Hawtree on a reclaimed chemical tip in Widnes, Cheshire, for Halton Borough Council in 1985 – in 1976 Greasley had built the original nine-hole course with Hawtree at the same location, working in partnership with another contractor. The company has seen many highs and lows during the past 30 years, and has witnessed the boom times of the 90s together with the difficult trading years after the global crash of 2008. Having never expanded beyond its capabilities, and having always remained in total control of the company, Greasley has been able to react and successfully navigate through the good and difficult times as he explains.

“The market has improved greatly over the past two years and we have invested heavily in a replacement programme for our machinery,” he says. “With our commitment to working safely as a CHAS accredited company, we also recently achieved ISO 9001 Quality Management and ISO 14001 Environmental Management Certification to demonstrate our capabilities to clients.” New build golf projects are few and far between at the moment, especially in the UK, so Greasley is proud of the fact that his company has started work on a new nine-hole course at Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire. Construction works started in April and it is due to be seeded down in early August. “SSE – owner and operator of Ferrybridge ‘C’ Power Station – made a commitment to secure replacement playing facilities for the members of Ferrybridge Golf Club after part of their previous course was required to provide space for a new Multifuel power station,” explained John Greasley. The project, which has been designed by Simon Gidman, has unearthed some interesting archaeological finds, includ-


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FATHER AND SON Charlie (left) with father, John Greasley

ENGLISHMEN ABROAD The reconstructed, 9th green at Furesø Golf Club, Denmark, designed by Tom Mackenzie

ing a Roman chariot which was found nearby during the A1 M construction, adding to the history of this particular site. “We first became involved in the project with SSE back in 2012, when we were commissioned to replace the power company’s existing nine-hole golf course,” explained Gidman. “SSE were in the process of enlarging their premises to incorporate a new Waste to Energy plant, and the old course had been given up so that excavation materials, some 50,000 m3 of subsoil and 8,000 m3 of topsoil, could be stored on the site; the planning gain being that this material was to be taken across to the site to form the new course, and not hauled up and down the main roads. “The detailed design of the course was heavily influenced by both planning conditions – we weren’t allowed to move any topsoil for fear of archaeological damage – and of course the fact that we needed to incorporate a vast amount of subsoil onto the site. “The site in many ways demands a cut and fill approach rather than one based purely on fill, and much of the design has centred on trying to merge the proposed with the existing so that the existing site contours are not unduly disturbed. “Much of the groundworks are finished now and the course is shaping up very well. A lot of care and attention has been paid by the machine shapers to developing the detail on the plans – in particular the greens and surrounds – and these

will be a major feature of the new course when it opens in 2017.” Another project where John Greasley Limited has been working on, is Verulam Golf Club, Hertfordshire. Designed by James Braid, the course was formally opened on April 27, 1912 by captain, Samuel Ryder – who’s idea of a match between British and American golfers became the Ryder Cup. “The origin and background to the project stemmed from the club’s ambition to revert the course bunkering back to the James Braid style and design, in conjunction with solving the issues faced by many clubs with regards to bunkers,” said Charlie Greasley. “Being on a hoggin/gravel subsoil the club suffered with large quantities of stone contaminating the bunker sand along with having a mixed array of large, steep, high sand faced bunkers that were both a maintenance headache, unfair to play out of and inconsistent – the project brief was therefore threefold. “Firstly to re-position/reconstruct all bunkers to the original Braid layout and design, with slight amendments to suit the modern game, including the filling of those no longer applicable. “Secondly, to create bunkers free from stones with uncontaminated sand that plays consistently, and thirdly to reduce the overall sand area and maintenance/ reinstatement requirements, particularly after periods of heavy rain. “We were selected as the preferred contractor based on a combination of price, previous project portfolio and abil-

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ity to offer the installation of our proprietary ‘HyLine’ bunker liner as part of the package. “During the autumn of 2013, a total of 32 bunkers were reshaped and lined on the back nine holes, with the work on the front nine completed at the end of 2014. A total of 58 bunkers have been refurbished or constructed during both phases of work.” The work has proved a great success with Verulam Golf Club with general manager, Robin Farrer saying: “The bunker project started with an early consultation between an architect and members of the golf club, and following the award of the contract, daily consultation on site with the John Greasley team. “The interpretation of the plans were first class, and the advice and construction techniques used resulted in a consistent and outstanding visual bunker presentation throughout the course, which has received praise from members, visiting societies and guests,” added Farrer. However, it’s not just in the UK that John Greasley has earned a reputation as one of the industry’s leading golf course construction companies... Europe is also starting to sit-up and take notice. Last year, the company completed a 27-hole rebuild of greens, surrounds, bunkering and tees at Fureso Golf Club, Birkerod, near Copenhagen, Denmark, with the substantial alterations designed by Tom Mackenzie of Mackenzie and Ebert, resulting in a dramatic improvement.

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john greasley

BEACHED BALL The HyLine Bunker Liner, complete with drainage channel, before sand is installed

“I have been very impressed with the long term performance of the liner in terms of having consistent, stone free bunkers that do not suffer with any significant wash out”

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The intensive programme was achieved by three teams, each working in parallel with each other, and carry ing out the stripping, earthworks, shaping, drainage, rootzoning and re-soiling operations. A further team of finishers followed behind, carrying out the cultivation, final preparation and seeding, with the course fully open for play this month. The La Mer Course, at Le Touquet in France, is another course which has benefited from the attention to detail on offer from John Greasley Limited. “This fabulous links course was built in 1931 by Harry Colt, and is ranked as one of the best 100 courses in Europe,” said John Greasley. “Many aspects of the course had either changed, deteriorated, been reconstructed or damaged over the last 70 years, so the long term strategy is to restore this course to its original Colt design full glory, and help restore its rightful position as one of the leading courses in Europe. “Holes 11 to 16 have been totally rebuilt over the last two years with new greens constructed, new tees integrated within the dunes along with re-bunkering and reshaping to the fairways. “The majority of features are being re-turfed to ensure they are open for play next Spring,” continued Greasley. The works are being supervised by Patrice Boissannas with Frank Pont, the golf course architect, responsible for the design changes.

Four years ago, John Greasley Limited undertook its first HyLine Bunker Liner installation at Farleigh Golf Club, Surrey, so GMé asked course manager, Michael Mann, if HyLine had stood the test of time. “We installed HyLine to over 100 bunkers on 18 holes of our 27-hole parkland course during the summer of 2011,” said Mann, “and I have been very impressed with the long term performance of the liner in terms of having consistent, stone free bunkers that do not suffer with any significant wash out. “After the four year period I have not seen any depletion or change in the colour, playability or drainage performance since the bunkers were originally reconstructed.” Mann’s main maintenance cost is the labour required in daily raking and the occasional topping up and re-distribution of sand within the bunkers, and over the 18 holes installed with HyLine, Mann’s maximum annual sand requirement is between 20 and 30 tonnes. “The first nine holes of our 27-hole course were lined with inverted turf,” added Mann. “The sand in these bunkers has been heavily contaminated with the lining turf naturally breaking down and mixing with the bunker sand, where as our HyLine bunkers appear and play very differently.” As golf contractors go, father and son, John and Charlie Greasley are set fair for another number of years working on courses all over Europe. GMé


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golfing equality

Embracing Equality in No Man’s Land As Scott MacCallum reports, equality for women in golf has been welcomed by many, including a couple of ladies-only clubs who now welcome Gentlemen.

The decision of some of the old traditional golf clubs of the UK finally to open their doors to women members has been welcomed as an, albeit, belated agreement to enter modern society and embrace equality. While the Princess Royale may not have the golfing pedigree of her younger brother and Past Captain of the R&A, the Duke of York, her membership of the R&A will no doubt see her bashing balls on the excellent St Andrews Links practice facilities in a bid to be in shape to join him for, the inaugural R&A Mixed Foursomes. That day may be some time off and very much dependent upon the rate at which lady members are added to the R&A roster. However, a start has been made and while it may surprise her slightly, Princess Anne will go down in history as being in the vanguard of women’s rights and at the forefront of the lady golfers’ march across the Swilken Bridge and through the front door of the legendary R&A clubhouse.

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It is true that there are some lady golfers who would rather the status quo remained and that they could carry on enjoying their current rights at their reduced membership fees, but overall, the fact that men and women – husbands and wives – can take as much out of their golf club memberships as each other must be a good thing. And if you include their children, UK golf clubs may start to become much more like their continental cousins and be havens for families to enjoy their golf and the company of each other, much more than has been the case in the past. For golf clubs struggling to balance budgets at the end of the year, that must be a very good thing. But there are certain golf clubs for which this new enlightened approach has had a knock on effect. Sunningdale Ladies’ Golf Club and their sister club, Formby Ladies in the North West, were formed as a direct consequence of women not being able to enjoy their golf to the same extent otherwise.

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


golfing equality

Both clubs have their own courses and clubhouses with Formby Ladies’ operating on the same magnificient stretch of land as Formby Golf Club – Sunningdale Ladies’ is slightly more removed from Sunningdale Golf Club but both are blessed with wonderful courses on which to play.

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“The founder of Sunningdale Ladies’ was Ernest Villiers, a member of Sunningdale, who was possibly approached by TA Roberts – the pioneer of both clubs – to form Sunningdale Ladies’ to ensure that the ladies would have a golf course of their own that would be independent of Sunningdale,”

explained club manager, Samantha Lamb, on the great efforts of two men to give women golfing opportunities at a time when the simpler solution of opening golf to both sexes was never going to be on the table. Both SLGC and FLGC have had a male membership for some time, but the

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golfing equality

WORLD NUMBER ONE Lydia Ko from New Zealand is currently ranked the world’s best female golfer

“Our club rules have been corrected to reflect the voting rights of the Gentlemen members and their involvement in club matters”

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Associate Membership which Formby offered to members of Formby Golf Club fell foul of discrimination legislation in 2010 and had to be abolished. “Our club rules have been corrected to reflect the voting rights of the Gentlemen members and their involvement in club matters,” said Lamb, a keen golfer of 24 years standing, who has seen first hand the inequality of the game at club level. “I have experienced the male dominated world of golf and also experienced the changes here at SLGC which is the reverse of that.” But despite the recent moves, Lamb is not totally convinced that the change to equality has been embraced by the game. “I do feel that the change to long-term members’ traditions may not have been welcomed. I personally believe in equality and don’t see why ladies and gentlemen should be treated differently at golf clubs. There was many a time I played as a junior in mixed events where I was separated from the rest of the group due to ‘bar restrictions’. “There was also one club I played at in Scotland, where the Gentleman’s Locker room consisted of Plasma TVs and leather sofas while the ladies locker room was sparse with a single wooden bench and a one cabinet of metal lockers for handbags!” she recalled. The knock on for both Sunningdale and Formby Ladies’ Golf Clubs is that their names do now appear to be a little anachronistic, but while the issue has

been discussed at Sunningdale Ladies’, at least, the name remains. “We did have a debate and a vote about changing our name but it was decided to stay as we are,” explained Lamb. While coming up with another name which would retain the essence of Sunningdale Ladies – and not merge too closely with its world famous brother – the reasoning behind the decision was fairly straightforward. “Many of the members here felt that with such a colourful history and reputation with Royalty, we would lose our history if the club were to change its name.” Lamb is very much in favour of the more enlightened approach which is now being adopted, not just for golf, but right across sport. “When equality in sport was highlighted in 2010, I think it has been a great boost media wise for women in sport in general, and in particular golf. There is a lot more publicity around for women than when I was growing up and it is increasing year on year. “Thanks to social media I feel that now there is no place for clubs to hide if they are still following discriminative traditions.” It is extremely unlikely, if not unlawful, for a ladies golf club to be launched today, but while both Sunningdale and Formby are products of a time long past, the world of women’s golf and equality in general probably owes them a debt of gratitude. GMé


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scottish amalgamation

“There were companies who felt it wouldn’t be right to sponsor a male-only governing body. With golf being pretty high profile on that front, I guess it became more of an issue”

Scottish Golf thrives in Joint Initiative The amalgamation of the SGU and SGLA may well be long overdue, but it could represent a new swathe of commercial opportunities for others to follow, as Mark Alexander reports. RAISING A GLASS Ross Duncan of the SGU (centre) pictured with Graham Baird of Belhaven and Neil McRae of GolfKings toasting a deal

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It’s been a busy week for Ross Duncan. Not only has there been the build up to the Amateur Championship at Carnoustie and Panmure, but the Scottish Golf Union’s marketing and sponsorship manager has also co-ordinated a series of high-profile announcements confirming a number of headline sponsors that should boost the organisation’s profile, as well as its coffers. Posing on a sun-kissed beach with representatives from long-term sponsor Belhaven and the SGU’s official travel partner GolfKings, Duncan seems relaxed especially with a pint in his hand, but this has been a week in which the transformation of Scotland’s national body has been consolidated through a flurry of press calls and media columns. “It’s been hectic,” he admits.

It is symptomatic of a frenetic time for golf in Scotland. Earlier this year, the members of the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association (SLGA) voted to amalgamate into a unified governing body which will officially come into being on October 1. It’s been a long time coming, but the immediate aftershock of this seismic vote (which effectively created Scottish Golf Ltd) has been an upsurge in interest from sponsors and partners. As if to prove it, Duncan’s seaside appearance was a publicity stunt to announce that the final of the Belhaven Best Scottish Club Handicap Championship will take place at the Regnum Carya Golf & Spa Resort in Belek with flights provided by Turkish Airlines; yet another new partner.


scottish amalgamation

BETTER TOGETHER David Law and Laura Murray (above and opposite page) helped to promote the proposed amalgamation of the SLGA with the SGU

“Our policy has not changed – we’ve always been very proactive,” says Duncan. “Very occasionally we’ll get prospective sponsors coming to us, but most of the time it is up to us to go to the market and identify brands that are relevant to us, or brands that have spent money in or around sport and golf that we feel fit our profile. “It has never been a scatter-gun approach – it has always been relatively targeted.” He admits that while the SGU’s preemptive approach was borne out of necessity rather than design, the success of the policy in the past was limited by the organisation’s male-only stance. “We were the last sporting governing body in Scotland to have a split, and that certainly didn’t look great from the

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outside looking in, all be it we worked very closely with the SLGA,” he said. “There were companies who felt it wouldn’t be right to sponsor a maleonly governing body. With golf being pretty high profile on that front, I guess it became more of an issue. Golf as a sport was always up there as a target.” The historic vote that brought Scotland’s amateur golfing bodies together was certainly necessary and unquestionably overdue, but it is worth remembering the idea of bringing the Home of Golf into line with most other countries was rejected as early as four years ago. Like many things in golf, change didn’t come easily. When change did come, its arrival caught the eye of Brian Mair the then secretary of the PGA in Scotland.

“It was pretty historic,” says the SGU’s new commercial manager. “The amalgamation was a huge attraction for me. It was an opportunity to get involved at the very beginning. If I was going to join, what better time to join than now.” He continues: “In my new role with the SGU, I will be out there working with existing and potential partners. When you’ve got a great product it makes everyone’s life so much easier. “And now the amalgamation has gone through, I think being out there talking to partners about aligning themselves with golf in Scotland, which encompasses both men and women, is very attractive.” With less than two weeks at the SGU, Mair is already exploring the commercial possibilities of the new united front. In 2013/2014, the SGU’s turnover stood

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scottish amalgamation

BEACH PARTY Ross Duncan of the SGU (centre) pictured with Graham Baird of Belhaven and Neil McRae of GolfKings down on the beach

“To put it bluntly, I guess the interest of many existing partners would have waned if there had not been an amalgamation”

48 | GMé June 2015

at £4.27 million with 61 per cent of that being generated from sources out-with subscriptions. In fact, it was a record year for sponsorship with nearly £400,000 generated from its numerous partners. With a newly combined company in the offing and Mair on board, you can only assume this annual-report record will be short-lived. For all the possibilities associated with the merger – and there are many – Mair is also equally aware of the perils of inaction had the vote not been passed. “To put it bluntly, I guess the interest of many existing partners would have waned if there had not been an amalgamation,” he said. “The implications of the amalgamation not going through, well, I shudder to think what the consequences of that would have been. In terms of attracting new sponsors, it would have been nighon impossible. And it’s not just partners but also government support that was at stake, so politically it was important that it went through. Put it this way, I wouldn’t be sitting in this seat if it wasn’t for the amalgamation.” With the votes cast and the historic result announced, it wasn’t just the SGU’s new employees that were sitting up and taking notice. Potential sponsors were also reassessing possible partnerships with Scotland’s newest golf organisation. “They saw it as good news all round,” says Duncan. “We have had a couple of sponsors who have been aware of the

change and thought it would be a good time to speak to us because we were becoming a new company. We’re at the dawn of the new era.” The fact is, the amalgamation of the SGU and the SGLA not only provides a guilt-edge opportunity to reassess and rebrand Scotland’s governing bodies, it also presents an attractive conduit to a larger, unified market that Duncan believes could potentially benefit his members at club level. “From a commercial point of view, it’s an opportunity to become more appealing,” he says. “The numbers we talk about are joint numbers – 220,000 male and female golfers. Our audience remains the same, but [the unification] presents an opportunity to appeal to the female market generally. At club level, it’s a different market. “A lot of golf club sponsorships are with local companies so it’s a different approach, but if clubs have more women playing then it’s a bigger local market, so hopefully it will help. It depends on the skill set at that particular golf club if they will be able to take advantage of it.” The amalgamation of the SGU and SLGA was inevitable. Like the wave of technology that is engulfing us through social media and mobile devices, the merger was inescapable. It may have been rejected before but the tide of change is gaining momentum and this historic move may show others that inertia is simply no longer an option. GMé


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signing off

“The thing I’m most angry about is that I didn’t have the thought of combining two of my passions and inventing it myself”

Football & Golf. A match made in heaven? My dear, grey-haired old mother used to say – before she was confined to a home for the elderly and infirm as PG Wodehouse would have described it – that she was born 50 years too early. It was a common refrain and it came about because of her love for football. For Beryl Robins, as she was then – born 1926 – was, unusually for the day, a football fanatic. She was a regular on the terraces at Fratton Park to watch her beloved Pompey, was there when the team paraded the league championship trophy in consecutive years – yes, you read that correctly: Portsmouth, back-to-back title winners 48/49 and 49/50 – and even travelled to away games with friends. But the reason for her chagrin was that in her day it was not easy for women to play football; sure she kicked a ball around occasionally with the local lads, but there just weren’t the women’s teams around to play proper organised games. Fast forward 60 years and her dear, grey-haired old son now has the same feeling about Footgolf. Now, you may not have seen Footgolf in action, but I’m sure you have heard about it. Basically, it’s golf, played with a football, and kicked towards a larger hole. Many golf complexes have been quick to embrace the concept on spare land as an extra revenue earner; some have even turned over second courses to the sport completely. It’s gaining popularity exponentially – and this 52-year-old, with arthritic knees, poor eyesight and around eight stone of surplus weight, wishes he was young enough to take part.

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BEST FOOT FORWARD Footgolf is growing in popularity

Sadly I can’t entertain the thought of swinging these great tree-trunk legs without the prospect of the lower parts becoming detached as the knees pop like the top of a Pringles can. Yet, were I 30 years younger, I’d be perfecting my technique as I looked to force my way into the minds of the national selectors. I even had the skill set required – as a goalkeeper I was quite adept at kicking the ball long and high in the vague direction of a team-mate. Clearly I would have been long off the tee, but I may have struggled on the green with the 10-yard pass… which in a wonderful segue brings me back to many of those who’ve worn the shirt of Portsmouth Football Club in the last few years.

If you’re young(ish), fit (ish) and with a fet(ish) for wearing bright golf clothes, I suggest you give Footgolf a try. It might even be of benefit commercially for you. But do you know what? The thing I’m most angry about is that I didn’t have the thought of combining two of my passions and inventing it myself. What a buffoon! GMé

David Bowers editorial@golfmanagement.eu.com


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