THE LEADING BUSINESS MAGAZINE FOR THE PAN-EUROPEAN GOLF INDUSTRY
Donald Trump’s $2 billion golf development in Scotland has rarely been out of the news since the US tycoon applied for planning consent page 18
excellence in motion
The new RXV golf car from E-Z-GO is once again leading the industry in innovation. Just ask Arnold Palmer
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issue 60 may 2008
Dress Code is out of fashion so let’s move on! Do you frequent restaurants where they won’t let you in without a tie? Or do you always put on a black tie to eat dinner in the style of a character in a PG Wodehouse novel? Unlikely given we’re in the 21st century. You’re much more likely to pull on a pair of denims and a designer label shirt before setting off for the local Michelinstarred gaff. Chances are you’d balk at being told you had to wear a jacket and tie to eat at most restaurants – so why is it that so many courses still insist on upholding the traditional code of dress?
to maintain several hundred years of tradition and turn away a punter with a wallet full of cash merely because he’s decked out in a pair of Wrangler’s? Given what some of the current crop of professional golfers are quite happy to wear on tour, why should a pair of jeans at the local club raise such a chorus of disapproval? And would you really have the courage to turn away Tiger Woods were he to turn up at your club to play in one of his trademark collarless shirts? Such regulations are coming more and more under the microscope and have
5 With the launch of the RXV, E-Z-GO have a new golf car that’s high on innovation.
20 Where there’s muck, there’s brass, especially when we’re talking landfill.
“why is it that so many courses still insist on upholding the traditional code of dress?” Bizarrely many clubs still insist on maintaining the tradition on the course while allowing people to wear denims and casual shirts in their fine dining restaurants and bars. If it has its roots in the class structure – and let’s face it golf more than any other sport still has to face that accusation – it’s time to move on. If only the most expensive attire should be allowed on the course then what’s wrong with a pair of Gucci jeans and a designer T-shirt? That would set its owner back about three or four times the cost of a pair of chinos and a polo shirt which are seemingly perfectly acceptable in both the restaurant and on the course. Surely it can’t be as simple as that. But at a time when the majority of golf clubs are in desperate need of more people through the doors can they really afford
even spawned an action group headed by author and columnist Tom Cox, whose Secret Golf Society was launched at the London Golf Show in April. He predicts part-time membership deals, relaxed dress codes and no more reserved parking spaces in all but the most exclusive clubs. Be warned – the new generation are out there and they want to play golf. And they’re not prepared to take no for an answer. GME
23 Lodewijk Klootwijk, the man behind the European Golf Course Owners Association.
30 Michael Lenihan firstname.lastname@example.org
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With the ‘Credit Crunch’ really starting to bite, we look at the best way to raise new funds.
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MAY 2008 GME 3
Crown restructures as Weir continues development plan Crown Golf, Europe’s largest golf course owner/operator, has announced an important change to its senior management team. Founding director, John Weir (pictured) has stepped back into the role of chief operating officer for the Berkshire-based company which has 33 golf venues in the UK and more than 50 courses. He takes over from CEO Peter Manby, who left the company at the end of February to pursue an opportunity in the hotel sector. Said Weir: “Peter has had a positive effect upon the company during his Padraig Harrington's first venture into course design at The Marlbrook near Clonmel, Ireland, has been put on hold. The owners, the Kent family, have responded to the downturn in the economy by stepping back from the planned construction schedule on their estate. Membership of The Marlbrook was pitched at €15,000 and the project was launched in May 2007. Set in the heart of the Golden Vale, The Marlbrook is a 500-acre 18th century estate overlooking the River Suir. Harrington was delighted with the majestic backdrop for what he hoped and still hopes - will be a stunning golf course.
time with us and we wish him well in his return to hotel management.” Crown Golf has stepped up the development of its extensive property portfolio and as a result is looking for a new CEO in the UK to optimise both ongoing operations and the property portfolio. Added Weir: “On the trading side of the business, we continue to be encouraged by the positive start to the year. With the company re-defining its strategy to incorporate the property opportunities available to us, we are looking for a strategically-led CEO to maximise the potential of
the expanded company over the next few years.” Crown Golf is owned by the privately held Australian investment company Bennelong Group Pty Limited. Crown Golf was established in 1994 and grew through merger and acquisition to become the third largest owner/operator in the country at the time. In 2004, Crown Golf acquired American Golf UK from American Golf Corporation and NGP Realty Sub, making it Europe’s largest golf club owner/operator. The Crown Golf courses are regionally spread from
Ad in the Hole campaign expands worldwide Building on the success of Ad In The Hole which was used at the Quinn Direct British Masters last year, agreements are about to be signed for their use on both The China and Asian Pro Golf Tours.
Talks are also under way for the use of Ad In The Hole on The PGA Champions Tours in the US. David Bainbridge managing director of AITH (UK) said: “Although Ad In The Hole was originally designed
Longshaw takes the helm at IGRM Respected hotel and golf industry professional, Michael Longshaw, has been selected to spearhead the strategic launch of International Golf and Resort Management (IGRM). The new company was formed to fill an opening in the market for management services to golf facilities, integrated resorts and residential developments.
4 GME MAY 2008
Longshaw, who takes up the position of CEO at IGRM, makes the move from CCA where he served for 14 years overseeing the operation of the company’s UK and European properties while guiding it through a period of unprecedented growth into the luxury golf club and resort market. During his tenure he was responsible for the success-
ful redevelopment of Brocket Hall, the launch of the London, Berlin and Moscow Capital Clubs and the establishment of CCA as market leaders in Russia. At IGRM Longshaw will employ his experience of the international hotel, resort and leisure industries to deliver management and operational expertise to luxury facilities while estab-
Merseyside in the North down to Portsmouth in the South and St Mellion in Cornwall, which is currently undergoing a £100m redevelopment, which will see the return of the English Open. The hotel, which is more than 30-years-old, will be replaced by a new four-star building with 80 bedrooms. for long term branding, it is just as suited for on course branding for the title sponsors in their Pro-Am Days and Corporate days. “In the coming weeks , a new commercial director will be coming onboard, and he will be selling the benefits to courses in the UK.” Already in Scotland, Steve Robertson has been appointed to cater exclusively for the Scottish market. DeVere is also offering Ad In The Hole as an option for the many corporate golf days that they have at their eight venues across the UK. As Bainbridge continued: “Ad In The Hole is a very important product for golf courses throughout Europe as it generates all important extra revenue from an area within the golf club which to date has not been utilised.”
lishing the brand and building a global business. Longshaw said: “We are currently in the final stages of negotiations for long-term management contracts with several prestigious developments in continental Europe and Africa, whose owners share our ambition to create superior resorts not yet experienced outside of the US.”
on the cover
First new E-Z-GO RXV fleet delivered in Europe Golfsocieteit De Lage Vuursche near Den Holder in the Netherlands is the first golf club in Europe to take delivery of the new E-Z-GO RXV golf car, launched in January.
motive-type suspension; easier to maintain and gives the club a greater return on their investment.” The E-Z-GO RXV represents a major step forward in golf car technology.
“E-Z-GO continues its tradition of innovation making the game of golf more enjoyable for everyone that plays”
A fleet of ten electricpowered vehicles has been delivered to the club by Duchell b.v., the long established E-Z-GO distributor for the Netherlands. Duco van Oosterhout, president of Duchell said: "We are delighted to have completed the first delivery of the new RXV into Europe. “It is a great golf car and very easy to sell against the opposition once you have explained the economics to golf course operators. “It is more efficient due to its AC motor; more comfortable because it has auto-
The new vehicle is expected to deliver exceptional value to golf course operators and owners through reduced energy and maintenance costs, and an unsurpassed experience for golfers through best-in-class power, control, comfort and safety. The RXV is available in either electric and petrol models, whilst the existing TXT model – introduced in 1995 and the best-selling fleet golf car in company history – will remain a key component in the E-Z-GO portfolio.
Ransomes Jacobsen West Road Ransomes Europark Ipswich IP3 9TT United Kingdom TEL; (44) 01473 270000 FAX; (44) 01473 276300
“The RXV is a game changer for the golf industry. It takes the golf car to a whole new level,” said golf legend Arnold Palmer, who has built more than 300 golf courses worldwide and whose company manages many outstanding facilities. “E-Z-GO continues its tradition of innovation making the game of golf more enjoyable for everyone who plays. “I am proud of my longtime association with E-ZGO and look forward to working with them for many more years.” GME
MAY 2008 GME 5
The Kaya Eagles Golf Resort in Belek, Turkey, which opened in November last year, has selected Ransomes Jacobsen as their preferred supplier for course maintenance machinery and E-Z-GO for golf cars. Formby Hall Golf Resort and Spa in Merseyside, which is set to become home to the UK’s first PGA National Residential Golf Academy, has appointed Matthew Allen-Chillman as head of golf with immediate effect.
Royal Antwerp returns to former glory
Royals Antwerp, the second oldest golf course on the continent, has undergone an extensive facelift to restore it to its classical best. Owners have spent €150,000 on the restoration and upgrading of the historic Championship course, which was originally designed by Willie Park Jnr in 1888. Belgian architect Dimitri van Hauwaert spent ten weeks over the winter with Andrew Jeffery of Golf Tech rebuilding 65 bunkers and re-modelling the layout to return it to a more classical style. Works included the removal of redundant bunkers and re-shaping and sanding of bunkers, fine finishing, turfing and reinstatement of heather areas including dunescaping. Van Hauwaert said: “The existing bunkers had
completely lost their shape and form with several being totally out of position penalising only the poorly hit shot. “They had lost their shapes through minor adjustment and normal-edging maintenance over the years so that the actual sanded area had expanded or exploded outside of what was the original bunker edge.
Golfers who become a member at a Crown Golf club this season will be able to enjoy up to 50 per cent off golf in France and Spain - after the company agreed a reciprocal playing scheme with two major European golf course operators. A project to supply thirty four AFT 45 trenching machines to Agricultural colleges across Algeria, is the culmination of close co-operation between AFT Trenchers and a partnership of Belgium and German agencies specialising in the reestablishment of basic infrastructures through education. Patshull Park Hotel, Golf and Country Club, in Wolverhampton, has found an environmentallyefficient way to keep its golf course in tip-top condition. As part of a £180,000 refurbishment, the club is harnessing water from an underground spring on the estate to provide drinking water for its new greenkeeping facility.
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Carden Park opens lavish new £500,000 clubhouse Carden Park Hotel, Golf resort and Spa in Chester, one of the two De Vere Deluxe resorts, had the grand opening of its stylish new clubhouse on Sunday April 20.
A number of well known celebrities from the region celebrated the opening by taking part in the Celeb-Am golf tournament that was held on the Nicklaus Championship course.
“This also led to a lot of unnecessary maintenance and extra expense. The club wanted a classical look so we have now introduced uneven faces on the bunkers with fescue grasses that will not be mown. “I’m very happy and what we have created is something that is quite new to Belgium.” Aside from the opening of the luxury new clubhouse, the day raised around £2,000 for Cancer Research. Hamish Ferguson, general manager, Carden Park said: “It’s been a fantastic day and I’m sure one that will live long in the memory for everyone who took part.” The £500,000 upgrade to the clubhouse features brand new saunas for the locker rooms, the installation of six new 50” HD plasma screens and new look dining areas. Daniel Hodson, director of golf and Leisure at De Vere said: “It has been a wonderful day for everyone involved at Carden Park and De Vere. The clubhouse is fabulous. It has everything you would come to expect from a top golfing resort.”
Speculation mounts over Ingol
Lancashire’s richest man has cast doubt over the future of his Preston golf club. Speculation is mounting that Trust Inns, which is owned by multi-millionaire Trevor Hemmings, could reduce Ingol Golf Course from an 18-hole course to just nine, making way for housing.
According to the Lancashire Evening Post, Hemmings’ official spokesman said the Blackpool Tower owner was “reviewing his options” concerning the course. He said: “The course is not conducive to golf and the business is a loss-making one. But nothing is signed or decided at this moment.”
Local councillors and people living near to the course have vowed to “fight tooth and nail” to stop any new development in its tracks. The move comes a year after Trust Inns first raised fears over the future of the course after they scrapped the members’ only club for a pay-as-you-play course.
Spanish Success for Greens Mowers Ransomes Jacobsen’s Spanish distributor, Green Mowers has reported two significant sales successes at Caldes International Golf Course and the Real Club de Golf Sotogrande. The Caldes International Golf Course is situated 35km from Barcelona in the beautiful mountains of Montbui. Sergio Verano, the club’s operations manager, has
purchased ten electric E-ZGO TXT buggies. Founded in 1964, Real Club de Golf Sotogrande is one of Spain’s foremost members’ clubs, and was designed by Robert Trent Jones. As with Caldes, the Sotogrande club has selected electric buggies from E-ZGO as their preferred choice.
Equipment scheme for new golfers Potential new golfers no longer have to worry about buying golf equipment if they want to try the game following the announcement of a new scheme aimed at making the sport more accessible. A Sport England grant of £72,000 has been awarded to the England Golf Partnership for the purchase of equipment for golf development programmes aimed at bringing more people into the game.
The money will buy sets of Tri-golf and Golf X-treme equipment for youngsters in schools, together with half sets for men and women, and left handed clubs. The equipment will then be put to good use through School Development programmes, City Taster sessions and golf club activity organised by 20 individual County Golf Partnerships. Richard Flint, EGU/EWGA golf development manager, said: “Research has shown
that the second biggest barrier to taking up the game is the cost of golf equipment. “People are naturally reluctant to have to spend money before they have even had a chance to try golf. This initiative is aimed at removing that barrier. “People of all ages can now go along to one of our inner city days, or a taster
session at their local golf club and know they won’t have to worry about having their own clubs.” County Golf Partnerships will loan the equipment to golf clubs who have been awarded GolfMark status, the national scheme that recognises junior and beginner friendly golf facilities.
Marine Golf Club, Germany
GolfTech GmbH Golf Course Construction and Maintenance MD: Andrew Jeffery GolfTech GmbH, PO Box 1106, 25961 Westerland/Sylt Germany +49 (0) 173 571 8631 firstname.lastname@example.org
MAY 2008 GME 7
New Owners plan further upgrade of Les Bordes Les Bordes estate in France has been bought from its Japanese owners by a prominent group of international businessmen. The group, led by Tony Jimenez, has purchased the prestigious venue for an undisclosed sum from Kosaido International and promised to further enhance the facilities at the resort. Twelve holes are shaped and construction will be completed this year at Forest Hills Golf Club, a new design from Arthur Hills/Steve Forrest and Associates (AHSF) that will serve as centrepiece to Russia’s first golf resort-hotel development. The developer behind this $200 million project is the Protcion Company, which also developed one of Russia’s few existing clubs, Moscow’s Pestovo Golf and Yacht Club. In addition to a five-star hotel, resort golf club and state-of-the-art practice facility, Protcion director Oleg Kustikov plans to sprinkle luxury secondary vacation homes along Forest Hills’ perimeter which is just 45 minutes from Moscow city centre. Construction of the hotel will coincide with golf course grow-in; both are scheduled for grand opening in 2010.
8 GME MAY 2008
The course, which was designed by architect Robert von Hagge, is consistently rated as the best course in Europe alongside Ryder Cup venue Valderrama and considered by many to be among the top five in the world. Now the new owners, Les Bordes Holdings, have announced that they intend to charge von Hagge with
the task of upgrading the course further and continuing its meticulous maintenance schedules to maintain its world rankings. They also plan to completely upgrade one of the other two 18-hole courses on the estate to rival the prestigious first Les Bordes course. In order to successfully manage the ambitious upgrade schedule, Les Bordes has brought in sought after development manager Mark Vickery, whose previous record includes managing developments at Royal Westmoreland, Sandy Lane, Disney and Goodwood. Jimenez said: “The purchase heralds a new dawn for the estate. “Les Bordes Holdings is delighted to have acquired this exceptional golf facility and is committed to investing and expanding the estate’s facilities to the standard that this exclusive property deserves. “We intend to build upon Les Bordes’ undisputed reputation as one of the very best golf resort destina-
tions in the world,” continued Jimenez. “As a matter of course in all of our developments we seek the involvement of only the best professionals. We have entrusted the management of this prestigious project to the hands of Mark Vickery. “Mark’s international pedigree and track record in multi-faceted projects of this kind is well proven having successfully managed major golf developments for Royal Westmoreland, Sandy Lane, Disney and Goodwood. “We have been extremely fortunate in securing the purchase of this special and unique estate. Les Bordes is truly a hidden gem and represents the pinnacle of the golfing experience. “A chance such as this very rarely presents itself. We are delighted and very excited about this opportunity.” Les Bordes was designed by von Hagge for Baron Marcel Bich, founder of the Bic pen empire, and his Japanese trading partner, Mr Yoshiaki Sakurai. The course opened in 1986.
It’s Back to the Floor for Thierry The Club Company is to roll out its latest fundraising challenge after it not only raised money for charity, but also proved a successful team building exercise. In a Back to the Floor meets Hell’s Kitchen experiment, senior management staff left their desks and donned restaurant uniforms for the day to prepare and serve a three-course dinner for members. Led by CEO of the company, Thierry Delsol, ten members of staff, worked from 9.30am to 11pm to prepare a menu offering a
choice of nine dishes for 50 discerning members and their guests. The diners then paid as much for the meal as they thought it was worth. “The day was a great experience and an opportunity to work as a team outside of our comfort zone. “We all had a lot of fun but also had to deliver a special experience to our members. All was done with immense spirit. “The money raised to support the charity was a superb reward for our efforts,” said Delsol.
Residents block Doncaster’s plans
Campaigners have taken a swing at plans to shift a Yorkshire golf club on to a popular greenfield site - by applying for ‘Town Green’ status. A newly-formed action group has applied to the local authority’s legal department in an attempt to block the development
of Doncaster Town Moor Golf Club’s new clubhouse. The preferred site in Bessacarr has already won the approval of Doncaster Council as part of largescale plans to redevelop the former Belle Vue football ground - where the golf club is located - into a modern residential zone.
But campaign spokesman Colin Kingston says residents are determined to fight the ruling: “To develop this field would be absolutely disastrous for this area. We just want the field to stay.” A moratorium preventing greenfield development was lifted by the authority in February.
Toro’s top Student returns from US jaunt Toro’s Student Greenkeeper of the Year 2007 has recently returned from an eight-week educational trip to the US. Avon Bridges, 27, won the trip after beating off stiff competition in his regional heat and then from seven fellow greenkeepers in the national finals held at BIGGA House last year to take the prestigious title.
Having completed a sixweek residential turf management course at the University of Massachusetts, Bridges is now back at work as head greenkeeper of Luton Hoo Golf Club in Bedfordshire. Bridge’s trip also included visits to Toro’s headquarters in Minneapolis and the Golf Industry Show which took place in Orlando.
SkyCaddie en-route to map Europe SkyCaddie GPS, the official rangefinder of the PGA, has completed mapping some of the world’s most famous golf courses including 2010 Ryder Cup course Celtic Manor and 2011 Open Championship venue Royal St Georges.
With more than 2,100 courses now mapped in Europe and having become the PGA’s official distance measuring device, SkyCaddie starts the Summer seeking to strengthen its position as the world’s leading GPS rangefinder. In recent weeks the company’s ‘course enablers’ - the team of professional mappers
who walk every inch of a course to create a bespoke SkyCaddie GPS footprint has also mapped The Duke’s, Duchess’s and Marquess’s courses at Woburn; the Old Course and Cashen Course at Ballybunion; and the flagship Majlis Course and Nick Faldo-designed Wadi Course at The Emirates Golf Club, Dubai. And The Belfry, Wentworth and all 12 courses at Turkey holiday hotspot Belek -
including the Montgomerie Course at Papillon Golf Club - have also been painstakingly measured. Jackie Hitchcock, of SkyCaddie Europe, said: “We’re absolutely delighted to announce that those prestigious courses have been mapped - and there are more in the pipeline.” SkyCaddie has now mapped 80 per cent of the UK’s courses, with the aim of reaching 90 per cent by the end of May.
MAY 2008 GME 9
Ransomes Jacobsen’s Malaysian distributor, Tractors Malaysia, has delivered new Jacobsen mowers to one of the most prestigious resorts in the country - Glenmarie Golf and Country Club including two LF3800 fairway mowers and two AR250 rotary mowers. A new owner has been found for a successful golf club close to the M1 in Bedfordshire. Caddington Golf Club, near Luton, developed into a well established business by its previous owner, was bought for more than the guide price of £1.25m by McGees.
Toro and Marriott sign partnership
Toro and Marriott International have signed a worldwide partnership agreement that will see Toro machinery and irrigation products supplied to all Marriott golf properties outside the US and Canada until at least 2012. The new deal will benefit the Marriott hotel and resort group’s existing 28 golf properties outside the US and Canada, plus all its new developments across the globe. “This is a significant step in Toro’s partnership with Marriott,” comments Toro’s corporate accounts manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Andy Brown. “As a partner, we are a comprehensive resource working at every level of the business, from corporate
strategic planning to professional service at local level via our network of 107 international distributors.” Stephen Follett, director of golf operations for Marriott UK, added: “Marriott is the largest golf resort operator in the world and it’s essential that all our properties are
The Tytherington Golf and Country Club in Cheshire has appointed Mark Law as the new general manager, who previously held a similar position at Esporta’s Lancashire Health and Racquet Club for 18 months. Golfplan-Fream, Dale and Ramsey have broken ground on 18 new holes in the exclusive resort town of Bodrum, Turkey. Golfplan has designed more than 160 courses in 26 different countries, but this project — slated for a spring 2009 opening — will be the firm’s first in the emerging golf destination of Turkey. MJ Abbott has been appointed by St Andrews Bay Development Limited to carry out extensive remedial work to the Torrance Course at Fairmont St Andrews. The re-modeling has been designed by US architect Gary Stephenson, founder of The Linksmen Golf Design Group.
10 GME MAY 2008
Bob keeping score as he aims for a world record Golf scorecard collector Bob Davies is attempting to set a new world record as the first person to obtain a scorecard from every country that plays golf.
“I currently have scorecards from 222 different countries in the world,” said the 65-year-old Scot, who lives on the east coast of Australia.
maintained to the highest standards. “Toro is well known throughout the world as the leading supplier of quality golf course maintenance equipment and we look forward to seeing all our courses benefit from this partnership.” “I have scorecards from countries including, Antarctica, Diego Garcia, Tristan Da Cunha, Nepal and Bhutan to name just a few, and I am now concentrating on building my European collection. “I have scorecards from every country in Europe except for Montenegro, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Albania and I was hoping that clubs in Europe might be willing to send me a sample of their scorecard so as I can add their card to my collection.” Any club that wishes to help Davies expand his collection can do so by contacting him at the following address: Bob Davies, PO Box 584, Woolgooga, NSW 2456, Australia.
Plan to return links back to nature
A marine ecologist wants to see a Sussex links course given ‘back to nature’. Littlehampton GC’s links course should be allowed to revert to a saltmarsh, says Prof Brian Morton in his recent book on the history and ecology of the town’s beaches and river. Relocating the course, with the possibility of attracting lottery funding and using
a top designer to create a championship level facility, would be a bold step towards regenerating Littlehampton's west bank area, he says. The restored saltmarsh and the many thousands of visiting birds it would attract would in turn bring large numbers of tourists and ornithologists to Littlehampton, creating jobs
and boosting the economy, claims Prof Morton. “It is more valuable to the people of Littlehampton as a nature reserve and educational centre,” he said. “You would have perhaps 500 people a day going round the marsh to see the wildlife, rather than a few hundred members of the golf club.”
www.dreamshotgolf.com For further information please contact Jenny Stevenson on 01789 207378
Preparations on course for the Open at Birkdale
Fairway mowers supplied by Ransomes Jacobsen dealer, Burrows GM, are being used by Chris Whittle and his greenkeeping team at Royal Birkdale as preparations for The Open Championship gather pace. The Club Company has announced the completion of a £85.5m refinancing with Anglo Irish Bank. The Club Company was acquired by Boundary Capital and Management for £96m in June 2006 with the support of a group of high net worth investors and Anglo Irish Private Banking. The re-financing will provide funding for a 20 per cent cash distribution to investors and will provide £6m for re-investment into the club network. This fresh investment will top-up the £10m invested in club facilities since Boundary’s acquisition of the group. As part of the re-financing, The Club Company has completed a demerger of its property and operating interests within the overall deal.
Whittle has been using the two-wheel drive version of the Jacobsen LF-3400 light fairway mower for the past few years and his current pair of machines will be supplemented by a further three from Ransomes
Jacobsen’s tournament support fleet as the prestigious event in July gets ever closer. “I’m absolutely delighted with the performance of these machines; they have performed boringly well,” he said. “They have been extremely reliable and the quality of cut is superb, wet or dry.” The R&A have stipulated that the fairways will be cut in one direction only, once every day from tee to green, with all clippings boxed off. The five machines will drive in staggered formation down each fairway to achieve the required finish. Royal Birkdale has seen many alterations over the past couple of years with only holes seven and 12 remaining in their original configuration.
Ecosolve expands in Europe
Drill’n’Fill aerator’s reputation as a problem solver in turfcare is spreading across Europe. Koln Golf und Landclub (Cologne) recently took delivery of their own Drill’n’Fill from Ecosolve. The recent sale broadens Ecosolve’s growing development in Europe in response to the growing popularity of the aerators. All over the continent, golf clubs are using the equipment to tackle previously
insurmountable aeration issues. The machine’s ability to create 12 inch deep hollow tine-like ducts and backfill them simultaneously has enabled remedial treatment to be used to cure major problems of poor drainage rather than to rebuild. Koln is delighted with its purchase, having seen good results at Gut Kaden Golf Club in Hamburg,
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Munchen Eichenreid Nord in Munich and various courses in Holland. “This club aspires to present a course in prime condition,” said Rolf Henrich, chairman of greens at Koln. “We appreciate that investment must be made to achieve that, but if we can avoid greens reconstruction, there are major benefits to finances, membership, playability and smooth running of the club.”
Cheers for best bar award
The Shropshire Golf Centre, part of the Burhill Golf and Leisure Group, has won a prestigious bar merchandising award from the UK’s leading brewer Scottish and Newcastle. The ‘Best Visually Merchandised Bar’ award recognised The Shropshire’s bar for its outstanding cleanliness, friendliness of
staff, signage, promotional displays and use of different types of glasses. The award was made to James Lever, general manager of The Shropshire Golf Centre who said: “It is a great accolade to the food and beverage team at The Shropshire that we have been recognised by the very best in the drinks business.”
Landfill plans angers Basildon members Campaigners fighting to stop Basildon Golf Course being reshaped using thousands of tonnes of rubble have taken their fight to Parliament. Basildon Labour MP Angela Smith led a parliamentary debate on the
Bunkers have been removed, refurbished or moved with eight new ones created to bring the total up to 123. “I won’t be changing my maintenance regime, it will just become more intense in the final weeks leading up to The Open.” “We’ll mow the greens at 3mm, twice in the morning and once again in the evening; tees and surrounds at 6mm daily; the fairways will be maintained at 9mm, with the semi-rough at 30mm. “I have ten permanent staff and I will supplement those with 12 experienced greenkeepers from local clubs. “We'll be working from 4am until 10pm and we’re really looking forward to it with increasing anticipation.”
decision by the Environment Agency to allow building waste to be brought on to the course. Protesters against the scheme fear there will be up to 12,000 lorry loads of rubbish taken to the site, over a six-month period.
Smith is angry at Basildon Council for allowing the company Jack Barker Ltd to reshape the course’s contours with 120,000 tonnes of rubble. Members have vowed to keep fighting the decision to allow the course to be
reshaped and have raised £14,000 to fund a full judicial review. In April, a High Court judge ordered a review into the controversial decision to allow thousands of tonnes of rubble to be brought on to the course.
Part of the Exclusive Hotel chain, The Manor House Hotel and Golf Club is situated in one of the most beautiful locations you’re ever likely to find. No wonder then that films such as Stardust and Wolfman have been filmed there. Publisher Michael Lenihan visited the Castle Combe club.
Keeping the Wolf from The Manor
While glaziers reinforce fifth-storey windows at the headquarters of international finance companies in preparation for the fall-out (literally) of the wellpublicised credit crunch, many in golf will be saying simply ‘welcome to our world’. Little pockets of recession have been eating away at the industry for as long as we can remember. On the majority of occasions it’s not been quite as bad as the ‘experts’ predicted but the consensus seems to be that a storm is on the way. While many have seen that as a harbinger of change, others are resolute in the fact they don’t have to slash entrance fees and subscriptions to survive. Shrewd business acumen and a satisfied client base is a solid platform for stability even in times of the tumbling pound. One such is the Manor House Hotel and Golf Club at Castle Combe, Somerset, which, when it’s not playing host to the stars of the forthcoming remake of the classic 1941 Claude Rains’ movie Wolfman - which it was when GME visited - is already in fine shape and prepared for any consequences subprime mortgages can throw at it. General manager Paul Thompson has been with the hotel for four years following a career in pure hotel management and he believes a degree of exclusivity is a good economic defence. He explained: “If we lost more than five per cent of our membership each
year we’d get worried and that, for us, in terms of a standard across the industry, is really good. “We have a very, very high entrance fee and subscriptions are a big ‘ask’. So in the south-west we are the most expensive club you’ll come across. That has done a number of things: because of that we’ve built, over the years, a very stable membership, who see it as an investment versus something that is quite transient. “If you look at the entrance fee charged by the majority of our competitors - and then the subscriptions you pay - actually when the bill comes through for renewal, it’s quite an easy decision not to pay it; to lay off or look for another club. “The problem with that is that other clubs’ memberships are very transient, so you’re actually building up a ‘churn’ of membership. Some lose as much as 40 or 50 per cent of their membership each year. “To be a member of that sort of club environment is a very different proposition to ours, which is more long term these members are going to renew, there’s no debate about it. Providing we satisfy them of course. They see it as a long-term investment. “So our membership isn’t transient; it builds year on year.There are enough ‘factions’ to cater for the age groups you might wish to join.There’s enough there for new members not to feel excluded but equally we’ve not got this wash every year.
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“We manage hotel and golf together but in my mindset quite differently. It would be wrong for one to become dependent upon the other. They complement each other very well.”
The Manor House Castle Combe Near Bath Wiltshire SN24 7JW England TEL; (44) 01249 782982 FAX; (44) 01249 782992 EMAIL; email@example.com GENERAL MANAGER; Paul Thompson (above) COURSE MANAGER; Paul Bishop CLUB FOUNDED; 1992
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“There is some real panic in the industry about membership. Some have slashed their entrance fees and taken some fairly dramatic actions to try to deal with it. That’s where the business is at in their cycle. “Our membership is set so that if tomorrow we were to walk away from a fairly hefty entrance fee to something much more low grade, then firstly, we would jeopardise our relationship with the existing membership; and secondly, we’d end up in this transient bun fight which everybody else is in. “What we’ve got is a fairly mature product where the golfing experience gets better year on year - our membership demands that. Our objective with the club is to make it a members-only environment, but we’re six or seven years away from achieving that. “So we have a balance of membership and corporate, along with hotel and visitor green fees. That balance we manage well as we can’t afford to upset the membership. “We manage hotel and golf together but in my mindset quite differently. It would be wrong for one to become dependent upon the other. They complement each other very well. And there will occasions during the year when an event will take over the whole hotel and the whole golf course. And that works brilliantly. “But in this day and age we need to be far more resilient. At the moment we’re talking about what would happen if there are bad times ahead. But we have a number of market segments here so we’re actually only looking at a couple which would go down where others would continue to perform. “We know the membership we have will stay pretty loyal during a recession period, but the corporate golf would go down. So we would have to look at other markets to stabilise that.”
Last year around 20 per cent of rounds came from corporate golf for which there remains a big demand despite other courses suffering because of last year’s inclement weather. In total Manor House enjoyed 26,000 rounds in 2007, which, when the weather wasn’t particularly good, is an encouraging figure. The course is generally regarded as a good challenge. And for those interested in such figures the time for the average round is three hours, 15 minutes. So has Thompson had to make any substantial changes to achieve this strong market position? He said: “I was really lucky when I first came here that I had a really strong pro, Steve Slinger, who’s now running our sister property Mannings Heath. Steve had the technical knowledge of the course so he was very good at bringing me on so that I understood about good definition, various chemicals, good greenkeeping practices and the golfer’s perspective. “We’ve been very lucky at the Manor House. The current group has owned it since 1992 and since then the level of investment has always been consistent regardless of what was going in terms of membership or corporate guests. “The course, as it stands today, has benefited year on year from that and we’ve always had the view that I could stop spending on the course tomorrow and for about 12 months the average golfer wouldn’t know the difference. “There would be enough to keep it going but you would be sowing a legacy for the next 24 months... three years... four years. Manor House has been consistent in its investment which has enabled us to keep our product distinguished from local competitors. “What we’ve been able to do, which I don’t believe our competitors have, is consistently invest in the course - which has always had a magnificent topography - to ensure the standard of presentation
and the quality of what is underfoot has remained solid. And that’s a reputation we’ve been very discreet about, but which has paid off over the years in the terms of the golfing experience. “So there was nothing much broken with the course when I got here. It was performing well and has continued to perform well and we continue to exceed the expectations of our golfers. From that point of view it’s very pleasing. It’s a good team up there - very consistent.” Not surprisingly for a club whose membership needs to be - shall we say on the affluent side, the main demographic of members is the 40-60 range. As Thompson pointed out, outside pressures are much more likely to play a part in the decision of the younger element. “There’s an easier conversion at the 40-60 age than earlier than that. People can move at the drop of a hat in their working environment. We’ve had some challenges with our junior and ladies sections to grow those over the past two years. We offer a good competitive package for juniors so it would be worrying if it continued for a third year.” Thompson employs one member of staff full-time merely to sell memberships, which - in the same way members view their subscriptions - is seen as a long-term investment. “We had one new member join last month who had taken two years to convert,” explained Thompson. “That’s a lot of work but it paid off.”
Manor House is keen to maintain certain standards from both its members and its visitors. “We nearly had a heart attack when we dropped the long sock rule,” explained Thompson. “But we do enforce the dress code, but I wouldn’t say it’s easy. Golf is only a reflection of society. Every committee meeting we have an example of where the etiquette or dress code hasn’t been observed. I think the jury’s out. “ When we dropped the long sock rule half the membership thought it was great the other half thought we’d opened the floodgates. We’re in a compromise situation. Where we’re at seems to please most people. We’re in an all-right place at the moment.” And so is Paul Thompson. Happy in his role as general manager at a club which is seen to be leading the way for others. But, like the hotel he manages so studiously, the Stratford-upon-Avon born, 34-year-old won’t sit back and take any thing for granted. So a new role may not be far away. “It would be difficult to leave the golf knowledge alone. I’ve worked with some good people here who’ve taken time to educate me in what we’re doing and how we do it. To walk away from that piece of knowledge would be a mistake. “But equally I’m very passionate about hotels and I feel there are enough hotels and golf courses married together in this country to keep me going for a little while.” GME
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Donald Trump is rarely far from controversy, but his latest $2 billion development has eclipsed any of his earlier escapades. Mark Alexander reports on the events leading up to next month’s public enquiry. Few golf developments have attracted the kind of media furore that has accompanied Donald Trump’s plans for the Menie Estate in Aberdeenshire. In fact, it’s unprecedented. The ongoing debacle has set alight fevered debates about large-scale golf projects and has sparked a political rumpus that has rocked the Scottish Government. The drama surrounding the US tycoon’s bid to build two championship golf courses, a clubhouse, golf academy, turf grass research centre, luxury hotel, 950 holiday apartments, 36 villas and around 500 homes on a 1,400acre stretch of Scotland’s northeast coast has been enthralling.
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In fact, the twists and turns stretch as far back as October 2005 when Jack McConnell - then Scotland’s first minister - met Trump in his New York HQ. McConnell couldn’t have foreseen the controversy that would eventually surround the US$2 billion golf development and in April 2006 went so far as inviting the mogul to become a part of a network of overseas-based friends of Scotland chosen for their valuable experience and willingness to help the country. McConnell said: “Donald has shown a real passion for Scotland. He is a globally recognised figure who can help us to promote Scotland. I am delighted that he has taken up my offer. This is a good bit of business for all concerned.” Early that month The Menie Estate had been revealed as the location for Trump’s super resort.
A month later McConnell became the first politician to be criticised for getting too close to the flamboyant tycoon. Fast forward a year and it’s all change. In May 2007, Alex Salmond became the first Independence Party leader to be voted as Scotland’s First Minister. He also became the MSP for the Gordon district which includes the Menie Estate and therefore precludes him from any involvement in the planning process.
By the end of the year, Le Sueur was showing the Trump team around ahead of their acquisition, and despite his best efforts was replaced by Tom Fazio. “I really couldn’t believe anything like it existed,” Fazio said of his first visit. “This property has acres of dunes ranging from several feet to 100 feet in height. They look like they are thousands of years old.The key here is not what we’re going to do, but what we’re not going to do.”
“Because I am who I am and my mother is Scottish, between you and me, I’m going to get it.” At this stage Trump’s dream of creating the greatest golf course in the world seemed to be progressing smoothly. But events were soon to take a turn for the worst. Plans for the Menie Estate started out modestly enough. The previous owner, Tom Griffin, wanted to create a single golf course connected to a country house hotel. The American businessman had bought the land for £25,000 more than a decade earlier after it had lain empty for a number of years. After investing heavily in its restoration, he wanted the place to become self-sufficient. “He bought it when it was run down and the house was just a shell,” says Richard Le Sueur, an Edinburgh-based golf course architect who Griffin initially approached to draw up plans for the estate. “He spent a huge amount of time and money restoring it [but] he wanted the estate to run itself. He started talking about a golf development which was a fairly obvious move for an estate of that size with a big chunk of links land.” Le Sueur says the initial plans were relatively humble. “His brief was fairly loose. He talked about a relatively smallscale development with one golf course, a pocket of housing and possibly a hotel. My job was to look at the whole estate and design the best possible golf course using pretty much whatever I wanted.” Although Griffin’s plans were reserved in comparison to Trump’s, he was still acutely aware of the controversy that the development would attract and had proactively surveyed the land. “He spent years getting reports done by environmentalists and dunes experts,” says Le Sueur. “He took a very softly, softly approach and wasn’t in any hurry to get planning. So when I turned up he had plenty of information for me to start putting a design together.” Le Sueur completed a routing in June 2005 after a series of visits to the site. “I was up there a lot longer than normal partly because it was a complex job to come up with the best course but also because I was enjoying myself too much; it’s the ideal site which doesn’t come along that often.”
In fact, Fazio didn’t get a chance to do much. When it became clear that Trump’s ambition was to create a links golf course that could host an Open, Martin Hawtree was called in to develop Fazio’s routing while the American returned to the US. Crucially, Hawtree had worked with the R&A on Open Championship links courses in the past. He said: “I am intrigued by balance in the composition of a golf hole, trying to ensure that the wider landscape surrounding a hole, in the case of this project towering dunes, is fully balanced by great playing interest within the fairway and green.” The initial designs were submitted to Aberdeenshire Council on November 27, 2006. As 2007 drew to close, the council’s Formartine area committee approved the plans by seven votes to four. Nine days later, the council’s infrastructure committee threw them out on the casting vote of the Lib Dem chairman Martin Ford who was later sacked as committee chairman. Three days after the council’s rejection, the finance secretary, John Swinney, attended a function at one of Trump’s country clubs in the US and a day later Salmond met two Trump aides in a hotel in Aberdeen in his capacity as a MSP. Amid the surreptitious meetings, Scotland’s chief planner decided to “call the plan in” thereby ensuring the affair would be assessed by ministers, a move that reportedly George Sorial, the managing director of international development for the Trump Organisation, had initially proposed. By February, Swinney announced the affair would be considered in a public meeting. “Given the nature of the application and the considerable public interest,” he said, “it is important that the process to examine the issues is as efficient, transparent and inclusive as possible. For those reasons I have determined that there should be a public local inquiry.” The inquiry will begin on June 10, although Trump believes it’s already in the bag. Speaking to Vanity Fair late last year he said: “Because I am who I am and my mother is Scottish, between you and me, I’m going to get it.” GME
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With many clubs desperate to make ends meet in a difficult economic climate, extreme measures often need to be considered. Mark Smith delves into the sensitive subject of landfill.
Landfill? Not such a rubbish solution There is considerable merit to the saying “there’s money in muck” when it comes to improving UK golf venues these days. Perhaps imported “inert spoil” may be a profitable solution for your own venue. In this article I highlight some key issues for you to consider: the benefits, why it works financially, pitfalls to avoid and getting permission to go ahead. So what is “inert spoil”? Basically it is excavated soils and rubble from local building sites that the Environment Agency classifies as non-contaminated. The soils and rubble are therefore suitable for recycling by tipping them onto a nearby golf course to create interesting contours rather than having to transport them to a registered landfill site for specialist disposal. Golf venues can benefit in a variety of ways. Most notably the financial rewards can make the difference between a project being economically viable
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or not. Given the current tough trading climate this is a welcome scenario. Schemes can vary greatly from small scale: such as solving drainage problems in low-lying areas, providing mounds between fairways for safety, creating a par three course, recontouring a driving range or practice ground, perimeter bunding for external security etc; to large scale projects such as building a golf course from scratch on bare land or totally revamping a poor quality existing course. Why It Works Financially Haulage companies will pay you for the right to tip inert spoil on your golf course. Typical rates are anything from £30 to £100 per lorry load (exc VAT). With the correct paperwork, golf courses are exempt from charging Landfill Tax whereas registered landfill sites are not. This is a major advantage as it makes your golf venue potentially more attractive to a haulage operator compared to a registered landfill site. The actual rate paid depends on the local supply/demand situation and haulage distance. If building sites are producing large quantities of spoil and there are few local venues that can take it then tipping gate prices rise and vice versa.
In addition, the shorter the travel distance, the more loads a haulage contractor can shift per lorry per day thus increasing its revenue. Long distances also mean higher fuel costs.These factors along with the Landfill Tax exemption influence what a haulage company can afford to pay you to take its spoil. To give you an idea of the financial sums involved, small scale schemes might need anything from say 1,500 to 4,000 lorry loads of spoil for the reshaping works. 3,500 loads at a gate price of £60 per load produces a spoil revenue of £210,000. If the average delivery rate is 50 lorries per day then the importation process lasts between three and four months. A large scale scheme might involve 50,000 lorry loads or more. 50,000 loads at a gate price of £60 per load produces a hefty spoil revenue of £3 million. If the delivery rate is 75 lorries per day then the importation process should take around two-and-a-half years. Out of the spoil revenue you need to pay for various items.You therefore have to evaluate the “risk/reward” balance by considering the likely gate revenue, the cost of shaping works and manning the site, finishing works, choosing reliable advisers and contractors, disruption to the existing business and the ease and cost of obtaining planning consent to name but a few. However a major benefit is that, if handled correctly, the physical improvements via the spoil importing exercise should be self-financing and cash positive. There are however, a number of pitfalls to avoid. Contamination Even a handful of contaminated loads found on site can be very expensive to remove and the Environment Agency has strong enforcement powers including shutting your scheme down.
The contamination risk is not a major issue if you choose your spoil supplier with care. Make sure that they have a strong track record in the business and ideally stick to a single supplier. Be prepared to have a regular contamination testing programme and be “open book” with the Environment Agency. Conflicting objectives There have been examples of “dodgy muck shifters” pretending to create golf courses which in reality were little more than landfill sites. They brought spoil on site in vast quantities as quickly as possible with little regard to the quality of the golf course they were creating. In some cases the golf course was not even finished with the developer clearing off to sunnier parts with a pile of cash never to be seen in the UK again. As it will be your golf course and your land, your objective should be to carry out the development to a high professional standard so as to increase the value of your asset. You therefore need to choose your project team carefully to ensure that they share your objectives. Disruption Don’t underestimate the impact of a spoil scheme on your existing trade. Whilst you generate substantial income from the spoil you may have to close certain parts of your venue whilst you carry out the works resulting in a loss of profits. Good scheme design and careful planning can minimise these losses. Cash transactions Never allow cash transactions on the gate. It is a recipe for disaster.You need trustworthy staff checking the lorries coming into the site and you need to keep a proper “paper trail” of spoil deliveries, at what time, the lorry registration number, where the material came from etc.
You then use the paper trail to calculate the revenue that the haulage contractor owes you and to satisfy Environment Agency checking requirements. Getting Planning Consent This is often the biggest hurdle to overcome since the planning process these days is rarely straightforward. The planning application as a minimum is likely to require a design and access statement, a plan showing the proposed contours, a cross section plan and a landscaping plan. As well as providing the above information a key question is whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is needed. This is because Environmental Impact Assessments can be expensive to produce given the amount of detail that they may require. For example you may be asked to investigate and report on the effects of some or all of the following impacts which may result from your proposed scheme: landscape and visual, flora and fauna, archaeological, noise, traffic, soils and geology, water resources, air quality, planning policy amongst other things. It is up to each relevant planning authority to determine whether an Environmental Impact Assessment is required. If it is then you can ask the planning authority to provide you with a scoping opinion that gives formal guidance on what specific detail you need to provide as part of the planning application. A vital additional component of the statutory consent process is obtaining formal exemption from the waste management licensing regulations. The Environment Agency is responsible for issuing the exemption certificate. This exemption means that spoil deposited on the site is not subject to the Landfill Tax levy. If you feel that you might like to explore the possibility of importing inert spoil to improve your golf venue and require further information, then I would be delighted to discuss your specific needs. I can be contacted via the property section at www.ppcgolf.com or on the number advertised below. GME
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Lodewijk Klootwijk is the driving force behind the European Golf Course Owners Association - an expanding network of owners and operators across mainland Europe. Pete Simm caught up with one of Europe’s most influential leaders.
The Flying Dutchman Cyndi Lauper once famously sang in her own inimitable way Girls Just Want to Have Fun. That is exactly what Lodewijk Klootwijk is doing as he sets about his mission of establishing the European Golf Course Owners Association (EGCOA) as one of Europe’s major influential bodies in the golf industry. For someone who didn’t have a clue what he wanted to do as a career when he went to university, Klootwijk hasn’t done too badly. The Dutchman’s main aim has always been to have fun in life, right from studying for a Business Studies degree at university and his first job at a golf course in 1989 through to his present position as director of the EGCOA - and it has held him in good stead in life so far.
“I started playing golf at the age of 14 but got a student job at a golf course because I needed some money for beer when I was university,” explained Klootwijk. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I went to college, but I had one aim and that was to have fun in the thing I was doing. “I stumbled across golf and I had so much fun. It challenges me and it inspires me. I have some success now and then, I meet lots of good people and that makes me happy. “I started working in 1989 and I was very young. I wanted to find out how it worked and it’s still an industry that I enjoy. It’s exciting finding out other people’s troubles and problems and finding a way forward. “I work with people that I like in a fun and inspiring atmosphere and I get to travel to lots of places as well. Not many people can say that in their workplace.” From his humble beginnings, Klootwijk learned every aspect of golf and the business and development side of the game,
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managing several courses before accepting the challenge of helping launch the EGCOA in 2004. It may only be in its fifth year, but the organisation is growing bigger with every year as its influence spreads and it represents more and more of the continent’s golf course owners. Klootwijk said: “My first real job was when I became a manager at a golf course. It was a financial challenge so it was a good challenge. I had to be creative in surviving, I did a lot of business planning and development in golf and I have taken things on from there. “We had 250 courses and nine countries on board when we started the EGCOA but we want to be as big as possible and if we want to have influence then we have to have a lot of members. “We now have members in 17 countries and represent more than 600 courses and that is continuing to grow. “We have two new owners in the Czech Republic and Lithuania and they have both applied for membership. Nine national associations - Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Slovenia and Portugal - are already members while we are talking to other national associations. “The EGCOA is getting bigger with every year and I think our responsibility and one of the biggest goals is that we try to promote change in golf.” It is this challenge that really excites Klootwijk, and you feel a real sense of responsibility when he talks about the problems in the game - especially the casual golfer - and the way he proposes to tackle them in the future. But at the heart of his ideas remain the three main principles that the EGCOA have adhered to rigidly since they came into being - namely to look after the interest of the golf supply side of the golf industry on a EU level; to professionalise and improve the golf business and to grow it as well. “The big change in golf is what will happen over the next five to ten years,”
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said the 41-year-old, who lives in Amsterdam with his girlfriend and first child. “The major strategy in golf used to be for members only. Now, though, the growth in golf isn’t just memberships because the new generation of golfers don’t need to be a member to play the game when they want. “I would term this group ‘floating golfers’. The aim for us is to help our golf courses try to attract them because when you have a lot of members it can be quite easy. “It is quite a challenge to make these ‘floating golfers’ play at your course and the important thing is that we shouldn’t get sucked into the discount golf spiral. That would be bad. What we need to do is try to change attitudes. “There is an oversupply of golf courses at the moment, especially in countries such as England and France. France has particularly suffered for the last ten to 15 years and that’s also bad for golf. “What we need to do to ensure the growth of the game is to find the best structure to take golf forwards. I feel that maybe the EGCOA has the biggest possibility to promote change. That’s a very strong message to have and I feel that we can promote it.” Klootwijk is convinced the key to this is to produce and share as much knowledge as possible so the golf industry can be educated in the best ways to take the game forward. With a view to this, the EGCOA have formed several high-profile partnerships with other governing bodies in the sport including the European Golf Industry Association, Club Managers Association of Europe, European Institute of Golf Course Architects, Federation of European Golf Greenkeepers Association and Golf Environment Europe. Klootwijk was one of the leading speakers at the Golf Business Conference in Warsaw last month while, prompted by the success of the Golf 20/20 program in the US, he will present the findings of the
first Golf European Economic Impact Study to the EGCOA’s annual conference in Berlin in November. He said: “Education is an important part of our goal to provide more professional standards in the golf industry. “Some countries in Europe are more successful than others so what we are going to do is compare them all to find the right model for discussion. We are not afraid to be critical in our findings because this is essential if you want to get change in golf and get discussion. “We have been inspired by the Golf 20/20 programme in the US to start a golf benchmark study so we can continue our research in Europe, not just now but in the years to come which is very important to show the progress we are making. “We are doing that with the help of five other bodies. The PGAs of Europe will be coming on board with us soon as well and we have been very keen in getting these patrons in because we have to work together and co-operate with each other to spread the message. “Central Europe is an important target for growth and I think we can supply them with a lot of information and knowledge, not only in running the courses but also in investment for the future. “There are still some courses being built in other countries such as Spain and Holland and all knowledge is vital. For example, if France had had the information that’s available now they would not find themselves in the position they are in. Courses were built in the wrong places.” And Klootwijk also believes there is room in the future for EGCOA members and national associations to work together with their country’s federations for the good of the game - as the Dutch are already doing. He added: “In Holland, we have a golf federation and we co-operate with them in a very good way. The way I see the situation is the EGCOA meeting the supply of golf with the courses and the federation the demand with the golfers. “It’s a very good relationship, it’s unique and I think it’s a logical and very good role model which could be the model for the future.” Now that sounds like it could be a lot of fun. GME
Cutting edge irrigation bigger business than ever For many years, the golf irrigation market has been dominated mainly by Toro and Rain Bird - with Hunter bringing up the rear. Now, with John Deere entering the fray, Neville Johnson takes a look at what is on offer now we have a new player on the scene.
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February this year was the sunniest, driest on record. Since then a wettish March and a very showery, even snowy April meant the ground became pretty saturated and summer grass got off to a lush start. May’s warm sun and consequent evapotranspiration - or ET in greenkeeping speak - will by now be burning off all that free water, so you can bet your bottom dollar golf clubs will readily be pressing the irrigation system buttons. But times have changed in golf’s water cycle. You only have to look at the R&A’s definition of sustainability - surely now the most used word in course management - to know why the days of simply turning the taps on when things get a bit dry are long gone. Optimising the playing quality of the golf course in harmony with the conservation of its natural environment under economically sound and socially responsible management in terms of water usage means going easy, keeping strictly just to what is needed. The key word is control and that’s where technology steps in, along with an array of big name products. The big but - no pun intended - for use of water on the course these days is the effect of the overall turf management programme. Best practice advice - and it’s even coming from the irrigation product manufacturers - is aimed at cutting the volume. Aeration, drainage, nutrient input, mowing height: in combination these all contribute to greenkeepers needing less of it to keep a course in good playable condition. There’s the promotion too of deep-rooted fescue grasses for fairways and tees. Research into water saving virtues of newer grass types is on-going,
but the jury - though still out - is likely to return a favourable verdict quite soon. The environmental clamour for judicious use of water will not go into reverse. Yet golf course irrigation continues to be big business, and getting bigger. Ironically because clubs have to be water prudent and efficient to a much higher degree, it’s high tech irrigation set ups that help them achieve it. So less water actually means more irrigation. When a manufacturer of mowers and other turf care equipment as significant as John Deere joins the party it says as much. With apologies to Rain Bird et al, they now sit alongside Toro in terms of vying for both ‘wetting it and cutting it’ business. One distinguishing feature is that John Deere has decided to add the word Golf as well as Irrigation - to the name of its new enterprise. Toro on the other hand can claim they have been ‘doing’ irrigation products since 1962 - before it was even called Toro. John Deere moved into the irrigation market in the US in 2006, and at January’s BTME announced it was making its range of sprinkler heads, rotors and such like available to courses in the UK and Europe via selected dealers. The manufacturer is the official equipment supplier to the PGA Tour, so it will be interesting to see what inroads it makes in the irrigation sector. Among what’s on offer now to course managers and head greenkeepers from John Deere is a line of internal replacement assemblies, comprising stainless steel rotors that the company says fits into a number of sprinkler heads made by other manufacturers. A club obviously doesn’t need to be locked into a single brand system - far from it these days. Mix and match irrigation set-ups? Not yet perhaps, although it’s interesting to see that integrating fittings does work. Head greenkeeper at Newark Golf Club in Nottinghamshire, Graeme Macdonald, fitted ten new John Deere
sprinkler heads across two greens in spring last year as a trial run well ahead of the range’s launch over here. Apparently he wanted some extra sprinklers to match his existing system, but was having trouble getting hold of them and the fittings themselves were also causing problems. He had wanted to make changes to some of the greens and Derbyshire irrigation consultants Irriplan happened to mention that John Deere was soon to be offering irrigation parts and could supply replacement heads to fit. He says he installed them himself, had no trouble with them ever since, and will be replacing more heads around the course this year. At the BTME launch John Deere said that it planned to introduce a full irrigation package into Europe in the not too distant future.
Specialist firm Irritech was called in to manage the project and selected the new decoder system. The installation contract went to East Sussex firm Lakes and Greens. Work began last September and was completed in six weeks. Keeping the course open throughout installation was a priority and the installers opted for mole ploughing rather than trenching to ensure this. Interestingly, this is the only golf course in Britain within the grounds of a royal palace, and where any excavation was necessary. Hampton Court’s course manager is now operating and programming a whole-course watering plan on screen from the comfort of his office. He also has a hand-held remote control to start the system when he is out on the course - keeping a closer eye on the mowing perhaps!
“At the moment though it’s Toro and Rain Bird that have the lion’s share of irrigation hardware” This would include advanced control, sensing and communications systems, so putting them in the running with Toro, Rain Bird and the like for total installation supply via contractors or direct to courses. At the moment though it’s Toro and Rain Bird that have the lion’s share of irrigation hardware and software, each offering full-blown computerized systems to clubs. The latest gizmo from Toro Irrigation is its Golf Decoder Controller, which came on the scene last year. Toro said its introduction was to bring aerospace control of irrigation to the golf course at an affordable price. As a stand-alone set-up it can help a greenkeeper run up to 200 water stations: in conjunction with Toro’s PC-based SitePro it means up to 3200 can be controlled, as well as a pump station and sensors. When setting up a new irrigation system a contractor can install decoders as far away as 4.5 kilometres from the central station using a single 2-wire 2.5mm cable. Toro claimed that its GDC was especially useful for clubs regularly renovating or lengthening holes. Heads could be added with minimum hassle, it said. Irrigation was seen perhaps to be keeping pace with the techno advances of the game itself. A course that upgraded its irrigation set-up recently and went for Toro’s latest GDC/SitePro system is Hampton Court Palace Golf Club, owned by Crown Golf. Existing irrigation at the 112-year old Thames side course in the grounds of Henry VIII’s royal palace was getting wasteful. According to the club’s general manager Guy Riggott, 40 per cent of the water used was lost.
28 GME MAY 2008
Irrigation equipment is a big investment, so getting it right is going to be critical, not just when you install it, but for many years to come. So with water becoming increasingly expensive, it’s good news to learn that the new rotors from Rain Bird use 23 per cent less water than other systems, last up to ten times longer under the harshest conditions, and have the best coverage to deliver a more playable course. Rain Bird has recently tested its new Eagle rotors against its closest competitors in a series of field and laboratory tests, and the results have surprised even Rain Bird’s own researchers. The purpose of this test was to measure the retraction and extension reliability of rotor heads on the golf course, simulating acceleration of typical on and off cycles in extreme conditions over long term use. Testing was stopped after 660 cycles without an Eagle Rotor failure, while all other competitors’ rotors failed much sooner. Standardised Rain Bird testing procedures were used consistently on all rotors, and a ‘standard’ sand mix was applied to cover the top of each rotor to a depth of one inch, in order to test the flushing action of all rotors under extreme working conditions. All tests were conducted in accordance with the Irrigation Association document Recommended Audit Guideline dated April 2007. When John Deere does get up and running with its full range of irrigation kit, the wooing of golf’s end-users and those that recommend and install will surely intensify. Branding and brand loyalty in particular may play a big part. The hard sell is on. Less water maybe, but more seeking to help make it go a long way. GME
How to survive the ‘Credit Crunch’
For over 20 years, Textron Financial’s Golf Finance Division has been recognised as the industry leader in golf lending. To date, the company has provided over US$5 billion in golf course and equipment loans across the globe. National sales director, Jerry Hinckley, offers some advice about raising credit in a tough financial market.
The recent credit shock and financial meltdown in the US capital markets has had an impact on golf course and golf club owners around the world. While golf owners, as with other business, have grown accustomed to having cheap and plentiful funding sources for facility purchases and expansion, the contraction or ‘de-leveraging’ in the financial system has forced owners to seek new sources of financing, or rush to raise capital from partners, friends and sometime from family members. This tight credit market has also been joined by a quickening inflation rate where costs of labour, energy, food, and chemical products have soared. The ‘double hit’ of both higher credit costs and inflation on costs of goods and services used at golf courses will be revealed on financial statements later this year. In addition, many new development projects may be put on hold a while until the economic outlook becomes less worrisome. For larger, multi-course owners, debt costs can play a large role in the success or failure of their businesses. Larger companies typically use debt as a tool to enhance returns and also to acquire more properties. As noted above, the tighter credit markets have resulted in both higher rates to borrowers and also less available debt at any price. With smaller and more expensive loans, multi-course operators who were planning an expansion may put these plans on hold.
Some owners, who have secure lines of capital or strong lending relationships will be able to continue to acquire courses.
30 GME MAY 2008
For the strongest operators, the tight credit markets may drive course prices down and this may prove to be an opportunistic time to buy. Single course operators, or family operations, traditionally have avoided debt. In years past, as single course operators stood on the sidelines and watched companies acquire numerous facilities, they have worked on a pay-as-you-go basis. While this may have limited the number of opportunities to buy additional courses over the years for such investors, they may not be as highly leveraged as many of their industry peers and, as a result, would be in a better position to ride out the current economic global storms. With an eye for running a tight ship, these owner/operators may well be the best positioned to acquire troubled courses in the near future. A critical strategy for both multi-course operators and single course operators given our current economic realities should be to develop new financing relationships. While an operator may not need a loan today, having the ability to borrow much needed funds for a major repair or new course purchase is essential. With many banks and large financial institutions rethinking their lending relationships due to losses in subprime or other financing ventures, golf owners should not think their lender will always be with them - many lenders have stopped financing golf projects or have gone out of business altogether. In order to help keep a number of options open, golf operators need to familiarise themselves with both basic and complex financing programs that may be in the market today. A key to establishing a financing relationship is to create financial data and a business plan that is easy to understand and covers specific points of interest a lender will have in determining if financing can be provided.
â€œIf you are dissatisfied with your lending options, seek out lenders that specialise in golf and understand the market. They are few and far between, but they do exist.â€? The golf business often is not an industry that banks have dedicated staff to serve. Rather, the owner must play the roll of customer and educator in obtaining financing. Having an updated business plan is an important step in staying on top of maintaining strong financial ties with lenders. It is important to note, this effort does not necessarily increase operating costs, but it will take a few hours a year to compile and keep the information updated year after year. The business plan will be particularly helpful from a lenderâ€™s perspective if it tries to identify risks in the business and how the owner is addressing these. These include, competition, pricing, expense levels, management issues, etc. The other important factor in keeping financing relationships up-to-date is to contact your lender at least once a year to discuss if they are still making loans to golf courses and wish to continue holding your particular loan. If not, this may be a problem for you and your property in the future as a
result of you choosing to remain with a lender who may not understand your business or long term financing needs. In addittion, your decision may well leave you with considerable refinancing risk in what is already a tight credit market. If yes, you should request the current lending terms to see if you could restructure your loan to improve your rate or extend your term. If you are dissatisfied with your lending options, seek out lenders that specialise in golf and understand the market. They are few and far between, but they do exist. As you move forward during these challenging times, golf operators will be more successful in handling the new issues relating to financial turbulence by staying on top of the latest news in the banking world, and know where they are with their lender. If possible, having more than one financing option in place will help to make sure the business can keep moving forward, even as credit markets remain challenged. GME
MAY 2008 GME 31
Widely acknowledged as the market-leading supplier of GPS-based systems to clubs world-wide, ProLink Solutions have recently parted company with European distributor Elumina Iberica. CEO, Larry Bain, details the advantages of GPS, and just what ProLink has to offer your club.
Europe still key for ProLink There’s a simple reason why Global Satellite Positioning systems – better known as GPS – have become so popular at golf courses around the globe. Put simply, GPS presents a win-win proposition for golfers and course operators. My company, ProLink Solutions, based in Arizona, US, are the world’s leading supplier of buggy-mounted GPS systems, and has driven the growing global acceptance of the devices. In fact, ProLink will soon announce new distribution agreements in France, Spain and China. By raising the standards for reliability and service, introducing innovative features and technology, and producing a quantifiable return on investment, ProLink has made GPS a necessity rather than a luxury item - and earned a reputation as a trusted partner to courses and resorts worldwide. Of course, it all starts with the golfer. Players using ProLink GPS enjoy numerous benefits that enhance their experience. In a recent survey conducted at upscale courses, 88 per cent of golfers said the presence of ProLink GPS made their rounds more pleasurable. ProLink’s 10.4-inch screens mounted to the roofs of buggies feature colourful, realistic and richly detailed graphics of each hole. The system provides precise measurements to hazards, landmarks and flag placements, so golfers don’t waste time searching for markers and ending up with inexact distances for their efforts. ProLink GPS reduces guesswork, which can lead to lower scores and a brisker pace of play.
32 GME MAY 2008
Likewise, the system lets golfers order food and beverage items before reaching the clubhouse at the turn, shortening the time spent between the ninth green and tenth tee. ProLink GPS even serves as a safety device; the pro shop can send inclement weather alerts via the screen, and golfers may relay an emergency message should health issues arise on the course. This feature literally saved the life of a man in Hawaii earlier this year. Golf courses, in turn, realise improved efficiency and revenue gains through multiple streams. Offering this first-class amenity and player aid allows courses to increase their fees incrementally. While pace of play naturally picks up thanks to the distance measurement feature, management can also monitor each group’s movement and send alerts to those that fall behind. Quicker round times - as much as 30 minutes on average at some courses mean additional foursomes on the course each day. And golfers playing ProLinkequipped courses are more likely to make repeat visits due to the enhanced experience. Through the on-screen menu functions, food and beverage managers may post daily specials and promote highmargin items, boosting sales by up to 30 per cent. In fact, golfers are more likely to purchase costlier, cooked-to-order meals rather than a simple snack since their wait time is reduced or eliminated. Pro shop sales and merchandise promotions can also be broadcast onscreen. Management may also utilise the ProLink system to monitor buggy fleets and optimise operations using fully integrated, Windows-based workstations. Buggy battery levels and other wear and tear indicators are readily available.
Robust back-end reporting through user-friendly software yields a multitude of course statistics, all designed to raise the bottom line. One of the ProLink system’s most useful tools is its proprietary tournament software, called ScoreCast. Designed in co-operation with the PGA of America, ScoreCast provides a Tour-like experience through real-time, on-screen tournament leaderboards. The system has proved a tremendous draw for event planners looking to deliver a top-notch outing for tournament participants - increasing revenue for courses featuring ProLink. ProLink courses have found that they can return over 200 per cent annually on their investment in the system. Incremental revenues more than pay for the cost of leasing the system. The value proposition, along with ProLink’s dependability and quality support, makes installing ProLink GPS a very sound financial decision. This is evident in ProLink’s world-class roster of course partners. Those using ProLink include a pair of former Ryder Cup hosts, the K Club (Ireland) and Valderrama (Spain), 2003 Presidents Cup site Fancourt Hotel and Country Club Estate (South Africa), and a bevy of top-flight clubs and resorts
throughout the US, Mexico, Asia and the Middle East. More than 700 courses globally now rely on ProLink as a trusted partner, counting on the company to provide a superior product and support. Half of ProLink’s workforce is dedicated to customer service, support and assistance. As its global presence grows, so does ProLink’s success in attracting major advertisers to its media network. Advertising produces an increasing portion of ProLink’s revenue, which it shares with course partners participating in the program - further offsetting system costs at little or no expense to the course itself. Eager to reach the affluent audience using the ProLink system, powerful brands including Cadillac, General Motors and FedEx have placed ads on the screens. Studies have shown the promotions to be remarkably effective as golfers viewing these ads - kept static and silent so they don’t distract from play - exhibit recall rates in excess of 70 per cent. ProLink has quickly earned a reputation as a force in the digital out-of-home media segment, one of the fastest growing advertising categories. In 2007, ProLink was granted membership in the Out-ofHome Video Advertising Bureau, and entered a partnership with ABC, which sells ads on ProLink’s screens.
While ProLink can boast of its innovative marketing platform and having more than twice the installed courses of all competitors combined, the company continually searches for ways to enhance its products and services. ProLink recently established a Strategic Advisory Board to provide expert advice on a range of topics to bolster its industry-leading technology, golfer-friendly system, customer support and internal operations. The first member of the Strategic Advisory Board is longtime PGA Tour standout Brad Faxon. A 25-year Tour veteran with eight career victories, Faxon’s playing experience, knowledge of golf, and extensive network of associates and contacts will prove invaluable in helping ProLink further distance itself from the pack. That’s just one of many new developments at ProLink. Courses that sign on with ProLink typically stay for the long haul. In 2007, ProLink enjoyed a renewal rate of approximately 90 per cent among those whose leases were due. Given ProLink’s preferred status among the world’s elite courses, clubs and resorts, it’s no surprise the company posted record revenues last year. The future looks equally bright. ProLink has proved itself a necessary component of any successful golf facility by making the game more fun for players and more profitable for course operators and owners. GME
JACKS BARN, COMMON ROAD, SHELFANGER, NORFOLK IP22 2DR Telephone: 01379 641651 Fax: 01379 640866 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.watermation2000ltd.co.uk
MAY 2008 GME 33
the last word
“He was at the show to launch GolfBall3000, which is, would you believe, a 3,000km car rally culminating in a golf tournament at La Manga.”
A road race to the finish; Oh and a spot of golf
Golf may still have a reputation as a sport stuck in the 19th century – but there are still plenty of people looking to drag it kicking and screaming into the 21st. Anybody who was present at the fourth annual London Golf Show in April, would have witnessed that for themselves. And I don’t just mean the modern clothes; the ‘Who’s Your Caddy?’ t-shirts or the latest threepenny-bit shaped driver. Some people are really having a go at giving the game a modern marketing twist – and all power to their elbow I say. None more so than a young man I got chatting to by the name of Jonathan Ashworth. He was at the show to launch GolfBall3000, which is, would you believe, a 3,000km car rally culminating in a golf tournament at La Manga. What a way to encourage people to get involved with golf! Apparently this is a golfing version of something called the GumBall3000
which is a 3,000km rally with an entry fee of £60,000! I had visions of the film Cannonball Run and was hoping to lock horns with Roger Moore, Jackie Chan and Captain Chaos. But the entry fee for the golfing version is a lot more modest at under £800. And it seems certain to attract petrol-heads and golf junkies. I wonder how that idea would have been received at Augusta National, where they’ve only just really come to terms with the invention of the internal combustion engine. Seriously of course it’s not autoism the powers-that-be at the home of the Masters are often accused of but merely racism, sexism and the infinitely lesser misdemeanour of simple elitism… That’s why I was astonished that officials at the Georgia club had decided to place a virtual suggestion box on the Masters website, encouraging people to provide suggestions on how to get more people playing the game. Young Mr Ashworth could post his idea there but it would probably be outnumbered by the plethora of
suggestions put forward by Martha Burk. I just hope the person responsible for sifting through the suggestions wasn’t a prissy old Southern belle of a spinster – “Why Mr Redneck. Would you looky here at the quaint old words. What on earth does **** mean?” I hope her medical insurance is up to date. Here’s my suggestion – and it can be read without causing Scarlett O’Hara to live up to her moniker. Why not chill out a bit? Why not slacken those noose-tight rules, such as the one of which Tiger Woods’ caddie Steve Williams fell foul? So he walked a few holes without wearing his cap… For heavens’ sake. Not everyone wants to wear a sweaty old cap in the heat of the day. I know I don’t. A caddy uniform. I ask you. As long as he doesn’t turn up in a tshirt with ‘Who’s Your Caddy’ emblazoned on it, where’s the problem? So that’s my suggestion – let’s respect the tradition and history of the game, but without being a slave to it. And perhaps that might, just might, encourage a few more people to give it a try. GME
David Bowers email@example.com
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