GMé | May 2017

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On the cover...

Built by Southwest Greens Construction, Golf Up near St Tropez, France, marks a new era in synthetic course construction


ÂŁ7.50 Issue 113 | May 2017

The essential business magazine for every golf course owner, director of golf, CEO and general manager operating a golf facility

Into his second year at the helm of The R&A, Martin Slumbers talks about the future development of the game, as well as the Open Championship


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On the agenda may 2017 42


Aspire to become world-class

An idea to create a collection of the world’s finest golf courses, resorts and properties was hatched a number of years ago, but has taken time to bring the concept to the industry.


A word with Martin Slumbers

Succeeding Peter Dawson as chief executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers shares his opinions on the development of the game, as well as The Open.


Lateral Thinking


Armitage Riding High

As chairman of the GCA, Howard Swan along with some of his colleagues, offers some views about how the game might develop in the years ahead.

With the countdown to the 2018 Ryder Cup truly underway, GMé catches-up with Paul Armitage, general manager at host venue, Le Golf National outside Paris.



Housing and Golf can co-exist

The UK government’s long-awaited Housing White Paper, published in February, contains some encouraging news for golf landowners according to Andrew Lloyd-Skinner.

GMé a shortened form of Golf Management Europe 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 |


Publisher Executive editor Contributors

Michael Lenihan David Bowers Miklós Breitner, Andy Hiseman, Scott MacCallum, Kevin Marks, Liz McLaren, Martin Slumbers, Howard Swan, Aston Ward, Jane Withers


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ISSN 1368-7727. Printed by The Manson Group. © 2017 Portman Publishing and Communications Limited. 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 is taken to ensure content in GMé is accurate, the publisher cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.


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from the publisher

“it’s not the viewing figures per se that concern me, rather the impact the unavailability of televised golf has on the future of the sport”

Pay TV monopoly threatens the future development of golf I enjoyed watching golf on TV. I use the past tense deliberately because I won’t be able to view any more golf as I have cancelled my Sky TV subscription simply because my wife and I no longer watch enough TV to justify the spiralling costs. In this edition, R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers responds to a GMé question on the benefits of signing away golf to the pay-TV companies and his response seems to indicate that the possibility of The Open being broadcast by the BBC in the same way that it covers The Masters is unlikely. Viewing figures show that far fewer people watched live coverage of last year’s Open on Sky than did the BBC highlights show. That peaked at 1.5 million viewers, while Sky’s biggest audience on Sunday was 922,000 on Sky Sports 1 and 264,000 on Sky Sports 4. And, for a more dramatic comparison, look at the BBC’s live coverage of the final round from St Andrews in 2015 which peaked at 4.7 million. The year before that, when Rory McIlroy lifted the Claret Jug at Hoylake, viewing figures were even higher at 5.5 million. But it’s not the viewing figures per se that concern me, rather the impact the unavailability of televised golf has on the future of the sport. If kids aren’t watching, they won’t be interested. That’s the bottom line. Golf is not a sport you can play in the street, like children of my generation played football. They need, somehow, to be engaged by the sport and not every-

4 | GMé May 2017

THE CAMERA NEVER LIES Golf needs to be viewed by as many TV viewers as possible

body, clearly, can afford to subscribe to satellite broadcasters. And there remains little point in looking at innovative new approaches, such as the European Tour’s laudable GolfSixes initiative if, without terrestrial TV coverage, it fails to reach the wider, younger audience it’s trying to target. I do appreciate that the money is important to golf – as it is to all sports – but surely there is a compromise? The Masters simulcast worked really well. Those without Sky Sports could still be entranced by the drama that unfolded – and what drama. Without that BBC coverage, many would have been unmoved by Sergio

Garcia’s stunning victory – it would have been just another statistic in the morning’s newspaper. Instead, millions witnessed it; social media was buzzing. Surely the same arrangement could be made available for a number of other events, particularly the GolfSixes and The Open? GMé

Michael Lenihan

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Hold the front page Built by Southwest Greens Construction, Golf Up in the south of France opened to widespread acclaim last month and could just possibly revolutionise driving ranges, worldwide.

“Our maintenance costs are much lower than natural turf golf developments and it makes golf an affordable game for more people”

Cover sponsored by Southwest Greens Construction (34) 616 582 787

6 | GMé May 2017

In the south of France is a brand new golf development which might just be the most significant thing to have hit this notoriously traditional sport since the arrival of the gutta percha ball. Golf Up, in Grimaud, set in the Gulf of St Tropez, offers a superb pitch and putt course good enough to tantalise the ambitions of any potential new golfer, and a 250 metre long driving range and training areas which offer golfers of any ability the chance to hone the swing to a level which breeds confidence for the next Monthly Medal. But the key thing about Golf Up is that the entire site is developed with synthetic turf, which ensures perfect playing conditions for visitors and a low cost base and guaranteed playability in most weather conditions for the operator. Robert Roussille is the man with the vision to take golf from a natural grass environment and replace it with synthetic turf which, as a result of intense research and development, is now able to give bent and fescue and poa annua a real run for its money. “The benefits of modern synthetic turf systems are huge. Our maintenance costs are much lower than natural turf golf developments and it makes golf an affordable game for more people,” explained Roussille.

“I am very keen that young people learn the game of golf and our training academy is geared to children and to those people keen to try golf.” Having made the decision to use synthetic turf systems for Golf Up, Roussille put a rigorous tendering process in place to ensure that what was destined to be a much examined golf development was built to the highest possible standards. Southwest Greens Construction won the contract and the 40,000 square metres of synthetic turf systems – spread over both the pitch and putt course and the driving range – was opened to the public on April 1, last month. “Southwest Greens Construction impressed me from the start,” added Roussille. “They are very much the industry leaders and we worked together to ensure the best possible outcome – including the addition of robot ball collectors for the driving range – which are a wonderful innovation and reduce both the loss of balls and labour costs, both key elements in being able to offer cost effective options for our visitors.” Golf Up may be the blueprint for future golf developments, not only in France but all over the world and Roussille may have secured his place in history along with that gutta percha ball! GMé

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The Dye London is granted full planning permission A new 18-hole Tour-style golf course, The Dye London, was granted planning permission last month. The news means that celebrated US golf course architects Dye Designs – famous for designs at Sawgrass, Kiawah Island, Whistling Straits, Crooked Stick, Harbour Town and many other worldfamous locations – will be bringing their unique brand of creative golf course design to the UK for the first time. Located in north London, The Dye London will thrill the capital’s golfers with a layout designed to excite and inspire all golfers, from beginners to elite level. Memorable experiences and spectacle will be provided by trademark Dye Designs features such as an island green on the short 7th hole – The Dye London’s tribute to the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, where from the tee golfers will enjoy a breathtaking vista of London’s iconic city skyline. Another notable feature will be a large lake, shared by both the 9th and 18th holes, which will create a fearsome challenge at the conclusion of both nines – and great views from the clubhouse terrace. The golf course will be over 7,000 yards in Tour configuration, but will offer multiple tees for all golfers. The planning application was submitted by the Menai-Davis family who, in 2007, opened The Shire London near

Barnet in north London, which features the UK’s only Seve Ballesteros golf course. “This is a key moment for golf development in the UK, and we are delighted,” said Tony Menai-Davis. “We are looking forward to bringing Dye Designs’ stunning vision to life at a new facility which will delight all golfers, and which will also bring new visitors to the area from across the UK and Europe.” The Dye London will be designed by golf architect Perry Dye, the eldest son in a family whose contributions have

England Golf get up to speed

The Wisley celebrates 25 years by signing new deal with Toro

England Golf is partnering with British Speedgolf to promote the fast and fun version of the game as part of its Golf Express campaign. The partnership supports the aims of both organisations to get more people playing golf by attracting them with shorter, quicker formats of the game. Golf Express is England Golf’s national campaign to encourage busy people to play more often by promoting 9-hole golf and other short formats. Speedgolf also sets out to appeal to people who love golf but can’t find the time to play with work and family commitments – and who enjoy running and having fun. It offers a faster, more athletic version of golf, where a player can complete a full 18 holes in under 80 minutes, or nine holes in under 40 minutes, by jogging between shots. The challenge is balancing the running pace with the ability to quickly and accurately play shots to get the lowest score possible.

8 | GMé May 2017

Perry Dye (left) designer of The Dye London, with his father Pete Dye, founder of Dye Designs

John Lockyer (centre) from The Wisley

This year, The Wisley Golf Club celebrates its 25th anniversary and longstanding 25-year relationship with Toro, which is now set to continue thanks to a new five-year agreement with Turfcare specialists and Toro distributor Reesink Turfcare. “The club has always had a good relationship with Toro in its 25-year history,” says director of greens John Lockyer, who heads up a 39-strong greenkeeping team.

become an integral part of the history and tradition of golf course design and construction. “My design team and I have been working on The Dye London golf course project over a period of five years,” he said. “This special project, a familyowned Dye Designs Championship golf facility that will be open to the public, located close to one of the world’s great capital cities, will attract golfers from all over the globe. “We cannot wait to bring this project to fruition.”

“We’re currently deciding what our first order under the new agreement will be, but it is likely to be mowing equipment and sprayers.” With a high agronomic profile, having previously worked for the STRI and Roehampton Club, Lockyer joined The Wisley 18 months ago to drive high standards on the greens and fairways; a feat he has been able to achieve with help from Toro machinery. “I have a 26-year career in greenkeeping, through which I’ve managed many different fleets, but I still come back to Toro,” he says. Although the club has a long history using Toro, Lockyer says he and his team still assessed the competition when the time for renewal arose. “We looked carefully at competitive machines and did trials to ensure we’re getting the best in for the job. We found Toro to outperform others with what they could offer in terms of cost, performance, reliability, support network, and depth of product range,” he explained.


R&A and USGA working on a single world handicap system

In brief... Las Colinas Golf & Country Club has installed Trackman 3e technology, offering visiting golfers the chance to benefit from the same performance analysis used by the very best on the PGA and European Tours. “We’re really excited about our Trackman technology and look forward to helping golfers with technology used by some of the world’s very best players,” said Robert Mitchell, head PGA professional at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club. Royal Norwich Golf Club has completed the sale of its land to developer Persimmon for £17 million. The sale, which has been planned for number of years, will see the current site eventually being redeveloped into housing, while the golf club will relocate to Weston Park, following the acquisition of their existing course from Weston Park Golf Club. IMG has been appointed to provide pre-opening, marketing and management services to Cam Ranh Links Golf Resort, which is located a short drive from the popular resort city of Nha Trang, Vietnam. Slated to open later this year, the Greg Norman designed 18 hole course is part of the first phase of a large upscale development set on a 800ha site with 5km of ocean frontage set on Cam Ranh Bay. Club Car has expanded the territories of two of its most trusted and successful European distributors. Club Car’s current supplier in Sweden, Epton Trading AB, will extend its networks into Norway, while Cart Care Company, the German distributors for the brand, will take on responsibility for Denmark. The move follows both suppliers receiving the business’ coveted ‘Black and Gold Distributor status’ in 2016.

The R&A and the USGA are working with golf’s handicapping authorities to develop a single World Handicap System for the game. More than 15 million golfers in over 80 countries presently have a handicap, which are administered through six different systems around the world. The aim of the proposed handicap system is to adopt a universal set of principles and procedures that will apply all over the world. An extensive review of existing handicap systems administered by Golf Australia, the Council of National Golf Unions (CONGU) in Great Britain and Ireland, the European Golf Association (EGA), the South African Golf Association (SAGA), the Argentine Golf Association (AAG) and the United States Golf Association (USGA) has been undertaken. Golf organisations from different parts of the world have also been engaged with the current handicap authorities for the past two years to help shape the proposed system, which takes into account the many different golf cultures and most common formats of play. Research conducted to date has also reviewed systems and best practices inherent to handicapping, such as course rating and administration. A joint committee led by The R&A and the USGA has been formed, including

representatives from each handicap authority as well as the Japan Golf Association and Golf Canada. The joint committee plans to announce its proposals later this year. Martin Slumbers, chief executive of The R&A, said: “We have been concerned for some time that many golfers find the handicapping landscape to be complicated and can be frustrated when it is not always applied in the same way in different parts of the world. “We are working closely with the existing handicapping bodies to benefit from their insights as we try to formulate a system that will be easy to understand and can be applied consistently on a global basis.”

Handicaps could soon be revised

Foxhill’s new locker room refitted by Millerbrown

The new locker rooms at Foxhills

Visitors using the newly refurbished men’s visitor changing rooms at Foxhills Golf will be greeted by what is probably the most contemporary changing area in the UK. The turnkey project, which was undertaken by Millerbrown, included two built-in showcases to display cosmetics and gifts as well as keyless digital locks on each locker.

Director of golf at Foxhills, Chris Fitt, said: “The refurbishment of our men’s visitor changing rooms are part of ongoing investment by the club in golf, ensuring our members and visitors receive the best experience possible both on and off the course. “In the last two years, this has included a pro shop refit and the men’s member locker rooms upgrade, as well as course improvements. Our goal was to create a modern and spacious feel which allows the traffic to flow around the locker room, enabling us to cater for busy periods whilst maintaining a spacious feel. “Millerbrown’s consultation process was pivotal in producing an excellent result – we wanted a synergy between the outdoors and indoors and they tapped into this by creating a distinctive green and brown colour scheme. “Uniquely, our lockers are named after typical golf phrases with the intention of creating some light-hearted banter before the start of the round. We are delighted with the result and the feedback has been nothing but positive.” | 9




Crown Golf has the foresight to install SkyTrak at 22 venues nationwide The UK’s largest golf club operator, Crown Golf, has installed SkyTrak launch monitors at 22 venues after a successful year-long trial at several of its clubs. SkyCaddie will also be supplying each venue with a Net Return portable net to enable indoor custom-fitting and golf simulator facilities in the venues’ function rooms and golf academies. SkyTrak, which is part of the SkyCaddie product family, is the first personal launch monitor of its kind, offering a realistic and real-time golf practice and play system which connects wirelessly to iPad or PC. Initial SkyTrak trials took place at seven Crown Golf venues throughout 2016, under the supervision of Sam Pleshette, group retail manager at Crown Golf. “At the trial clubs our staff used SkyTrak in 90 per cent of club fittings and sales – most of which were indoors – so it proved itself emphatically. “Not only did SkyTrak contribute to sales, but it also helped to engage staff with their customers, particularly with members, and it was this factor – as much as its ability to drive equipment sales – which convinced us that SkyTrak was the right solution across all of our venues.” Crown Golf had been looking to upgrade its custom-fitting offering across all venues, and Pleshette added:

“SkyTrak’s price made it interesting, and its performance, ease of use and portability, the quality of its data, and most of all the positive response we received from our members during the Cams Hall test proved that it was right for us.” The remaining SkyTraks were delivered group-wide in early 2017, where they are managed by the golf development professional at each venue.

FootJoy set to walk the walk

Expansion on the cards for Promote Training

With the year’s first Major inspiring golfers to take to the fairways, FootJoy is ensuring that momentum continues by launching its season-long FJ Walk of Champions campaign. Launching in partnership with popular golf GPS and scoring app, Hole19, the FJ Walk of Champions initiative sets out to inspire golfers to play more golf this season, rewarding them with a host of fantastic prizes from the brand. To take part, golfers across the UK & Ireland simply download and sign-up to the free Hole19 App which automatically logs golfers’ steps, as well as calories burnt, as they play. An in-app leaderboard will record golfers’ progress so they can see how they fare against fellow golfers, with those who walk the most steps winning a host of FootJoy goodies. Russell Lawes, FJ marketing manager, said: “We want to encourage more golfers to get out onto the course this season and we think golfers will love the competitive element of the FJ Walk of Champions, no matter how well or badly they play!”

Promote Training, the golf industry eLearning company, have received new funding to drive a massive expansion. All of Promote Training’s courses are tailored to managing golf businesses and have been written by people who have all worked in golf club management. Thanks to the additional investment in the company, Promote Training have announced their plans for the roll-out with additional courses throughout the year. The new courses cross a broad spectrum of golf club management subjects, with the qualifications covering subjects from marketing in golf, to human resources and data protection. These are all in addition to the current eLearning courses that have already been released on key profit drivers and operational subjects. Commenting on the expansion, David Reeves, co-founder of Promote Training said: “It was obvious to us by late 2015 that there was a real appetite for learning in the golf industry – in particular eLearning that can take place at home or work, and at a pace that suits the delegate.

10 | GMé May 2017

PGA professional Jason Murray using SkyTrak at Pine Ridge Golf Club in Surrey

SkyTrak has initially been used as a custom-fitting solution, but Crown Golf also plans to involve it in more coaching applications, as well as in indoor golf entertainment situations aligned to its member and golfer engagement strategy. “SkyTrak gives our customers a great fitting experience, and it also has the potential to keep people at the golf club even in bad weather, or at night.”

“In addition to our ‘Certification’ courses that are over 20 hours of study each, we will be launching our shorter ‘Module’ portfolio which are on very specific practices to managing a golf business. “This compliments our ‘Essentials’ series, all of which are bite-sized courses designed for all personnel working in golf clubs, including subjects such as health & safety awareness and customer service in golf. “The growth from eight to 34 courses has been achieved through hard work over the winter, dedication and the golf club management experience of the founders of Promote Training.”

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La Manga Club set to play host to fourth annual World Golf Awards World Golf Awards has revealed that La Manga Club resort in Spain, will host its Gala Ceremony 2017 at the end of this year. The most prestigious awards programme in the golf tourism industry will take place at the five-star venue in Murcia, from November 23-26, 2017. Attendees will be welcomed to Spain’s flagship resort for three action-packed days of networking events, dinners and exclusive golf experience activities. The highlight of the event will be the red-carpet World Golf Awards Gala Ceremony on Saturday 25 November, where golf tourism figureheads and market leaders from North America, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa, Central & South America and Australasia will gather together at La Manga Club’s Hotel Principe Felipe for the 2017 winners to be announced. “The team and I are beyond excited to be bringing the World Golf Awards to Spain for the first time,” commented Chris Frost, World Golf Awards managing

The Principe Felipe five-star hotel at La Manga Club

director. “We look forward to welcoming industry leaders and luminaries to La Manga Club, Spain’s most exclusive sports and leisure resort, in November and I know it will be a weekend to remember.”

José Asenjo, general manager of La Manga Club, added: “It’s a great honour and privilege to be chosen to host the World Golf Awards for the first time, in what is a landmark year for the resort as we celebrate our 45th birthday.”

Colliers go nuts Jacobsen renews long-standing for The KP Club partnership with GEO The KP Club, a 180-acre luxury holiday and golf resort in Pocklington, Yorkshire, has been sold for the first time through global real estate advisor, Colliers International, to the Darwin Leisure Property Fund, owner of 20 park resorts across the UK, which operate under the Darwin Escapes brand. The property has been developed to provide a boutique holiday park comprising 34 lodges of exceptional standard, two restaurants with breath-taking views of the rolling countryside, and an 18-hole championship, par 70 golf course over rolling parkland terrain. Colliers International’s Richard Moss, Head of UK Parks Agency at Colliers International’s Leeds office, who handled the sale, commented: “The parks and leisure resorts sector has been very active so far in 2017 and Darwin’s continued investment into the industry illustrates the continued strong demand for UK holiday and leisure businesses. “Furthermore, it signals the buyer’s intention to grow its business in the North of England. The previous owners created a trading platform of the highest quality, making The KP one of Yorkshire’s most well regarded holiday and leisure destinations. “I have no doubt that under Darwin’s ownership, it will continue to thrive and be the setting for many more memorable customer experiences.”

12 | GMé May 2017

Jacobsen, a Textron Specialized Vehicles brand, has announced the renewal of its long standing global partnership to advance sustainability across golf with GEO (Golf Environment Organization). GEO, the international not-for-profit organisation dedicated to sustainability in golf, provides practical tools and expert support to help golf unlock and celebrate its social and environmental value. “As a founding partner in the highly valuable work GEO undertakes, we are thrilled to be able to demonstrate ten years of commitment to golf and sustainability,” said Andre Andrade, director, international golf sales for Textron Specialized Vehicles Inc., which designs and manufactures Jacobsen equipment. “As the only international supplier of turf equipment to hold the coveted ISO 14001 standard for our Environmental Management System – and as a leader in fuel-efficient and hybrid machinery coupled with our efforts to prioritise recycling on-site – we are extremely proud to be able to demonstrate our commitment to the environment as well as having our name alongside GEO. “As a direct result of this we know just how important a sustainable business approach is to our customer’s reputations and profitability, as well as long term industry growth,” Andrade said.

“From the start, Jacobsen have shown truly unique and outstanding leadership and commitment to support golf, and other sports and amenity sectors in this field,” said GEO CEO Jonathan Smith. “It continually goes above and beyond, whether it’s in its own internal operations and innovation, or in education, capacity building and solutions. “We are very proud to be able to represent them as a founding partner, and look forward to continuing to drive sustainability results with them on the ground around the world of golf.”

Andre Andrade (left) with Jonathan Smith

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Finca Cortesin plans for the future following appointment of Girbés Finca Cortesin, a three-time host of the Volvo World Match Play Championship, is preparing to write a new chapter in its evolving history following the appointment of Miguel Girbés as new director of golf at the prestigious Spanish golf resort. Girbés will bring a wealth of experience with him to his new position at the deluxe Andalucian venue after spending the last seven-and-a-half years in leading roles at PGA Catalunya Resort in Girona. The Spaniard, who took up his post earlier this year, arrives at Finca Cortesin at an exciting time with the exclusive resort undergoing a significant investment programme in 2017 designed to maintain and enhance its five-star facilities on and around the golf course. Among the many improvements taking place, an ambitious green renovation project will see the introduction of a new, environmentally-friendly, UltraDwarf Bermuda grass – the first golf course in Spain with this variety. In addition, work will be carried out to improve the quality of the bunkers on the par-72 layout, while the renovation programme will also include an upgrade of Finca Cortesin’s driving range and state-of-the-art Jack Nicklaus Golf Academy, and the purchase of a new fleet of Club Car buggies.

Girbés said: “To be given the chance to oversee the development of one of the biggest names in European golf is a great honour and I’m very excited about the challenge that lies ahead. “Finca Cortesin already has a deserved reputation for delivering outstanding facilities and service to its guests, and I believe that the improvements that will

Praia D’El Rey upgrade hotel

Highspeed Group moves forward after Acumen acquisition

Guests at the Praia D’El Rey Marriott Golf & Beach Resort can look forward to enjoying an enhanced five-star experience when they visit from this spring after the top Portuguese resort completed a significant upgrade of its hotel facilities. The award-winning venue has implemented a major refurbishment programme to key areas and facilities in its 177-room Marriott hotel in readiness for marking two key dates in its evolving history this year. As well as celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer, Praia D’El Rey is also set to open a second, links-style, 18-hole championship golf course, West Cliffs Golf Links, in June. Among the improvement work that has taken place over the winter, the hotel’s lobby, public areas and corridors have all been completely refurbished and redecorated. In addition, a number of the guest and meeting rooms have been upgraded while the resort health club’s indoor pool has also received a facelift and been modernised.

Acumen Waste Services Ltd has completed the acquisition of Highspeed Group Ltd, including all subsidiary companies, staff, headquarters and waste transfer and treatment facility in Keighley, West Yorkshire. The acquisition of Highspeed will complement Acumen’s existing national waste management infrastructure, whilst also developing the ClearWater and Waste Away brands. Co-managing directors of Highspeed Group, David Mears and Andrew Vincent, are being retained as consultants by Acumen to ensure a smooth transition of ownership. Commenting on the deal, Kris Sutton, finance director of Acumen said: “We’re proud to be able to welcome the Highspeed team and their customers to Acumen. Andrew Vincent, David Mears and the team can be justifiably proud of what they have achieved with the business.” David Mears added: “Andy and I have developed the business over the last 16 years, taking us into new markets, and we wanted to ensure that any new owners would share our vision for the business.

14 | GMé May 2017

New director of golf at Finca Cortesin, Miguel Girbés

take place over the coming months will help elevate the customer experience to an even higher level.” Opened in March 2009 and set across a vast 532-acre estate, Finca Cortesin, which hosted the Volvo World Match Play Championship in 2009, 2011 and 2012, is regarded among Europe’s most exclusive golf and lifestyle destination resorts.

The Highspeed team at BTME

“Acumen have demonstrated those shared goals, and we can now look forward to our retirement in due course,” added Mears. Established in 1994, Acumen is a leading provider of Industrial Site Services and Waste Management Solutions. Remaining privately owned, Acumen supplies innovative techniques to deliver technically robust, cost-effective results whilst upholding the highest levels of health and safety, integrity and customer service.

picture gallery

In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a new place of work for director of golf, Chris Reeve, who swaps Foxhills for The Belfry.







In brief... As it approaches its tenth anniversary celebrations this summer, The Shire London has welcomed Thomas Bjørn, European Ryder Cup Captain, as Honorary Captain for 2017-18. The 46-year old Dane will represent the golf club, which is located near Barnet in Hertfordshire, as momentum builds towards the 2018 Ryder Cup, due to be held at Le Golf National close to Paris, France. PGA Catalunya Resort’s five-star Hotel Camiral, located just outside Girona, has been accepted as the latest member of the esteemed Leading Hotels of the World, a curated collection of independent and distinct luxury hotels. The first element of a three-year, €53 million development plan, Hotel Camiral opened in 2016, endorsing the venue’s commitment to becoming a world-leading lifestyle destination. Troon has been appointed to provide full scale golf course management services to the eagerly-anticipated Oaks PGA National, just outside of Prague, Czech Republic. The partnership will mark Troon’s first involvement in the country, and the latest addition to its growing list of highly-acclaimed facilities. Oaks Prague also becomes only the third Troon Privé venue in Europe, following Aloha Golf Club in Spain and England’s Centurion Club. The CMAE has launched what it claims, is the most comprehensive club and golf benchmarking study ever undertaken in Europe. Delivered by Global Golf Advisors, its aim will be to measure vital operational performance metrics and industry-wide trends against which clubs can benchmark their own performance. CMAE president, Marc Newey, said: “For too long, Europe’s club leaders have gone without access to comprehensive and reliable industry benchmarking data.”


The Belfry Hotel & Resort has appointed Chris Reeve as its new director of golf. Reeve, who held the same position at Foxhills Club & Resort, succeeds Ian Knox who has joined European Tour Properties.


Ian Timberlake, who has more than 20 years’ experience in the golf industry, and specialises in executive search and selection services, has become the latest industry figure to join the increasingly influential Golf Consultants Association.


Steven Orr has become the youngest ever recipient of PGA Master Professional status. Littlehampton-based Orr, aged 40, is director of coaching and development at the Cranfield Golf Academies.


Frilford Heath Golf Club has announced the appointment of a new golf manager, Daniel Blesovsky, who brings over a decade of experience having previously held roles at Hanbury Manor and Woburn.


Royal Norwich Golf Club has appointed one of the most respected golf course and estates managers in the country, with the appointment of Peter Todd (centre) as estate manager to oversee the development of its new course.


Million Dollar Holdings, a brandnew company that is offering a range of golfing products and services, is delighted to announce the appointment of Paul Homewood as its new sales and business development manager. | 15



pgas of europe STEPPING OUT On average, golfers walk almost 12,000 steps during an 18-hole round of golf

The Benefits of Golf & Health As Aston Ward of the PGAs of Europe explains, the health benefits of golf are widespread, and with a little foresight, your club could help spread the word whilst helping staff to interact closer with members and visitors alike.

GMé Media Partner The PGAs of Europe is an association of 36 National PGAs with a collective membership in excess of 21,000 golf professionals across Europe.


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Everyone in golf is in agreement – more golfers are good news for the sport. But to get there then it requires some joined up thinking from all of golf’s stakeholders. These stakeholders include your very own army of members/visitors to your facilities and the students that PGA professionals teach, and leveraging this band of merry golfers can help golf’s cause, as well as your own. The Golf & Health Project has identified many health and well-being benefits that come from taking part in the sport, so we’ll use these as a basis for getting your army on-board and spreading the gospel of golf. So, first off, you want to try and get all of your staff involved – you all need to be aligned with your plans and also embody exactly what you are after from your ambassadors. They need knowledge and information in order to reflect what you want to portray. Every staff member that could have an interaction with a client or customer (and even those who might not) can be educated with top-line information about the benefits of golf to different demographics’ health and wellbeing, such as why golfers, on average, live five

years longer than those who do not play the sport, regardless of age, gender, or socio-economic status. In 2006, a study found an average of 11,948 steps are taken per 18-hole round of golf, exceeding the commonly recommended daily amount of steps for health. Short, sharp bits of info that they can be armed with when speaking to people about the sport and why they should get involved. GOLF AND HEALTH Create some resources, or utilise those that the Golf & Health Project have on their website that you can use on noticeboards around your facility, or in your pro shop for example, that show the benefits of the sport. Posters, infographics, leaflets, etc. are great items to get in front of people. Having on-site information is the first step – then you need to get people engaged with the materials so including a section in regular email blasts to your databases can help support your actions and activities and can also allow you to share great examples of how golf is benefitting people in various different forms such as news items, feature articles or videos.

DIABETES A reduced risk of contracting diabetes

LONG LIFE Golfers live, on average, five years longer

WELL-BEING Golf has mental health and wellness benefits

A great way of getting the message out there would be to build a team of ambassadors from your facility with people from key demographics represented. A good place to start could be with you in the middle as the group leader and include a couple of members of staff from around the business along with a couple of males and females from differing ends of the age spectrum. Ideally these people will be the opinion leaders from the facility – when these people speak or act, others pay attention. You could also expand this by asking people from specific demographic groups you would like to focus on – for example, a specific age range of people that you want to come to your facility more often.

Either way those individuals you pick should be willing to join in with the activity and embody the message you are trying to get across. They can act as on the ground troops for your armies to infiltrate their demographics and get the messaging out there, educating others and spreading the word. Once you have a team of ambassadors who are exemplifying your message then you need to activate them and leverage their knowledge, peer groups and influence within them. For example you could have your more ‘youthful’ ambassadors promote a fun day or charity fair at the facility to their social groups and make sure that the event is on their level and of interest. Or you could record some interviews or write a short blog post using your

ambassadors as case studies to show how their social, mental and physical health might have benefitted from playing. This could go on your website, blog and shared on social media and you could even contact your local media to see if they would like to use the information in a piece about golf’s health benefits. A key thing here is to have a bit of a brainstorming session with your ambassadors to come up with ideas that will help educate your clients or members but also appeal to their own demographics to get involved. Once you have some ambassadors on your side then they can be a really useful asset to you to help promote the benefits of the sport as well as your own facility and services. GMé | 17



Aspire to become a world-class golf facility The idea to create a collection of the world’s finest golf courses, resorts and properties was hatched a number of years ago. However, as Liz McLaren discovers, it has taken time to bring the idea to the market. The World’s Premier Golf Destinations

18 | GMé May 2017

Formulating an over-riding phrase that encapsulates the world’s best has been a task tackled by wordsmiths for generations. Defining that phrase to encompass a sophisticated, cosmopolitan or cultured experience that goes well beyond what is expected, is an elusive anomaly that routinely confounds and frustrates. It is, after all, important to know what is meant by first-rate so that other lesser experiences can be measured against it. If we don’t know what is meant by worldclass, how are we supposed to separate true greatness from mere excellence? As hard as it may seem, Michael Lenihan, managing director of Portman Publishing & Communications, believes he may have finally found a way after a number of years of soul-searching.

“For years, a lot of golf courses were referred to as championship courses; now it’s world-class,” he says. “The phrase is used an awful lot, but aspiring to be a world-class venue and actually achieving that high standard are two, different things entirely. Portman publishes GMé, and now – a collection of the world’s premier golf courses, venues and resorts. “There are four fundamental aspects to being world-class, and the course is first and foremost,” explained Lenihan, who has been publishing GMé since 1997. “I’ve learned a lot over the last 20 years publishing this magazine, and I’ve met a lot of golf course owners and managers, many of whom place a lot of emphasis on the clubhouse, which ATTENTION TO DETAIL Right, practice balls presented in the form of a pyramid on a grassed driving range, and below, clubhouse dining is an important criteria

“There are four fundamental aspects to being world-class, and the course is first and foremost”

although important, has to be secondary to the course. “It’s not solely about the design of the course, which can be highly subjective and contentious, but more the presentation and conditioning that should never come into question.” To meet the strict entry criteria of, prospective member clubs must demonstrate uncompromising standards across four key areas, whilst demonstrating that the visitor experience is truly world-class, an area which is of particular importance to Lenihan. “I’ve lost count of the number of golf facilities that I have visited over the years, that fail to deliver on the visitor experience or ‘journey’ – for me, not enough emphasis is placed on this important element of the golf operation. “Facilities such as Monte Rei and Kingsbarns have it spot on, but they are the exception not the norm, and when golfers are paying top-dollar for a golfing experience, it’s so important to ensure that all aspects of their visit is worldclass, and not just what takes place out on the course. “So besides the four key areas that clubs need to meet in order to be invited

to join, the overall visitor experience has to be fundamental to the application.” With the first criteria for entry the course presentation, the second is concerned with the practice facilities. “World-class venues should always have a grass range – climate permitting – and preferably offer premium range balls presented in pyramids, complimentary refreshments on tap and club cleaning before and after your round. “A starter on the first tee is also important to ascertain the guest’s handicap and level of ability,” said Lenihan. “Most clubs these days have at least three to four tee boxes, so it can be beneficial if the starter can spend a little time with the guests before their teetime, and suggest the appropriate tees to play from ensuring that the round is as pleasurable and enjoyable as possible. “If you’re a mid-handicapper, you’ll probably not going to enjoy the round off the back tees quite as much, especially if you end up losing a few balls – the last thing you want is to be beaten up by the golf course.” And then there is the clubhouse and F&B offering. “The changing facilities need to be welcoming and feature quality wooden lockers, complimentary toilet-

ries and Wi-Fi, fresh towels and possibly even a shoe shining service. “Food and beverage, although important, is not key, as ultimately, visitors are going to the facility to play golf. It is important however, and why it’s ranked fourth in the criteria for entry.” He continues: “It’s the finishing touches that don’t necessarily cost a huge amount of money but make you feel you are somewhere a little bit out of the ordinary.” According to the R&A, there are 33,161 golf facilities in 208 of the world’s 245 countries. Not all are world-class. In fact, very few can make that lofty claim. Identifying the very best exponents of golf provision and bringing them together for mutual benefit, Lenihan explains, was one of the key driving forces behind the initiative. Indeed, the concept of was hatched a number of years ago to satisfy a need for global co-operation between golf facilities of a similar size and stature by bringing them together under a single, resolute portfolio. “I’ve been thinking about this since 2015, after a visit to Monte Rei,” he says. “I didn’t want to make a knee-jerk reaction and go into it blindly, which is | 19



FIRST IMPRESSIONS The visitor journey begins at the reception desk

“If you are invited to join, you will know that you are one of the very best golf facilities in the world”

20 | GMé May 2017

why I have taken quite a lot of time to ask people’s advice and to find out what they think should be, and even if there is a need for it. A few people have been very supportive, and a few people have been more objective. The vast majority of people have said there is a need for something like this for independent clubs who are not part of group.” In addition to a lavish coffee-table yearbook which will have a global reach, will have an extensive online presence and provide member clubs with individually designed logos for marketing purposes. But what will make stand out aren’t the membership benefits or marketing opportunities. According to Lenihan; it’s the credibility of the scheme and its reach. “If you are invited to join, you will know that you are one of the very best golf facilities in the world,” says Lenihan describing the benefits. “It will also be the power of the marketing that will come with it, which will be huge. “Interestingly, during my research, one general manager I spoke to said that one of the reasons why he wanted to join, was that he could see from a marketing perspective that this would attract a lot of high calibre golfers that want to play the best golf courses in the world.” Geographically, will be an all-inclusive affair incorporating clubs from around the world. “It needs to be global. It can’t be just European,” Lenihan insists.

“People want to travel to play golf around the world. Asia is far more accessible these days – travelling further afield to experience different cultures and the way golf is played; it’s all part of the experience.” In its first year of operation, it is anticipated that will be limited to a maximum of 16 clubs, with roll-out beginning at the start of the 2018 season. By limiting the number of golf properties invited to join, Lenihan hopes to create an exclusive club that is restricted to only the very best. “I have heard this time and time again; general managers are almost more concerned with who else is in the portfolio than how to join,” he says. “They don’t want to be associated with, what they feel are, inferior golf venues because it devalues their brand and, by default, “That is why I have to be extremely selective about who is invited to join, and ensure that I work closely with the CEO, general manager or director of golf appraising each application, ensuring that only the world’s best are accepted.” The idea of identifying the very best properties and venues is based around the idea of pulling together the world’s elite golf courses under a single banner. It will rely on a global vision, unwavering principles and Lenihan’s determination to make it work. Most of all, it will rely on the very best golf properties coming together to realise the potential of this new and painstaking prepared concept. GMé

Only the world’s best need apply* The launch in 2018 of aims to elevate the ‘elite’ golf venues around the world, into a unique and exclusive club... a truly venue. *For entry criteria, and membership enquiries, visit The World’s Premier Golf Destinations

A collection of the world’s premier golf courses, destinations & resorts



“There is no doubt golf and other sports face a huge challenge in persuading people in today’s busy world to get out and play”

© Getty Images

In conversation with Martin Slumbers Succeeding Peter Dawson as chief executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers shares his opinions on the development of the game, as well as The Open. READY FOR ACTION Chief executive of The R&A, Martin Slumbers, in action on the first-tee on the Old Course, and above, attending a press conference at last years Open Championship at Royal Troon

GMé With a background in investment banking, what skill sets and experience have you brought to the golf industry? MS I spent 30 years working in the city in various roles and it taught me many things which have stood me in good stead for moving into this role. Perhaps the biggest thing I have taken with me, is that to stand still is to go backwards, particularly in today’s world where everything is evolving so quickly. It is important to recognise changing cultural, social and economic trends and adapt to them. You also have to embrace technology and accept that it is integral to the way we live. That is certainly true of business, and I believe it applies equally to sport. I have been really impressed with the knowledge, skills and commitment of those I have met so far in the golf industry. It is incredible how many people give generously of their time for love of the sport. That wouldn’t happen in the business world. GMé You replaced Peter Dawson as chief executive of The R&A in September

22 | GMé May 2017

2015, so how did you learn of the position? MS I heard about it first through an agency, and as I soon as I learned about the role I wanted to apply. Golf has been part of my life for a long time and I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to apply for this sort of role at an organisation with such a key role to play as The R&A. I felt I had a lot to offer and enjoyed the interview process, but I was surprised and delighted to be offered the role. I was fortunate to spend six months in a handover with my predecessor Peter, and saw at first-hand what a tremendous job he had done in taking both The R&A and The Open Championship forward. GMé What’s the most enjoyable element of your role and how much time do you spend at St Andrews? MS My wife and I have moved to a house just outside St Andrews, and we are really enjoying living in such a beautiful part of the world. St Andrews isn’t just the home of golf, it is a university

© Getty Images

CHAMPION GOLFER Henrik Stenson of Sweden lifts the Claret Jug following his victory during the final round on day four of The 145th Open at Royal Troon

town with a rich history and is a real draw for tourists. I love the energy of the place, and with such a fantastic golf offering in and around the town I have been spoiled for choice. I have relished the opportunity to get to know the team at The R&A and am learning a lot from working with them. I don’t think many people appreciate the wide and varied work carried out by The R&A across governance, championships and development. Completing our recent merger with the Ladies’ Golf Union was a very important milestone and I’m excited about the potential for developing the women’s sport. GMé You’re also a member at Worplesdon in Surrey, so are you involved with the committee, and do you help GM Chris Lomas in any capacity? MS I thoroughly enjoy being a member at Worplesdon and have many good friends there, but it is a place to relax and unwind for me. I try not to get involved in the running of the club – Chris and his team do a wonderful job.

GMé The R&A works around the world to help develop the game, so where have you seen the greatest success in growing participation?

GMé Ball and club technology is continually evolving but with tour pro’s now able to drive the ball 400 yards are we close to a limit on development?

MS There is no doubt golf and other sports face a huge challenge in persuading people in today’s busy world to get out and play. We have to recognise that society is changing, but there is an enormous amount of good work being done in different parts of the world to promote participation. One of the biggest projects we support on an annual basis is the Golf Foundation, which gives thousands of children here in the UK the opportunity to play golf. We have supported the Faldo Series, which brings youngsters into the game across the world since its inception, and we are also involved with the Annika Invitational in Latin America and support the HSBC junior programmes in China and Hong Kong. I think these are all positive examples of what can be achieved and we would like to do more to stimulate growth in the sport.

MS Obviously we are continuing to monitor the distance issue closely. People tend to have strong opinions on the issue and we are committed to publishing the figures each year to give people accurate and up to date information. I look at this issue through two lenses: what the data tells us and the balance between technology and skill and judgement. At the moment, neither of those criteria suggest action is required, but of course that may change in future. GMé The Open Championship is played at St Andrews every five years, but with so many strong venues on the rota, is it time for the Home of Golf to stage The Open every ten years? MS Not at all. The return of The Open to St Andrews is always special. The first Open I attended was in St Andrews in 1984 and I have very fond memories | 23




“The way people consume live sport is changing rapidly, and it is becoming less and less the norm for people to sit down and watch hours and hours of live sport continuously”

IN CONTROL Martin Slumbers

of watching Seve win with such style - I have a picture of his celebration in my office. I was also struck by the wonderful atmosphere at my first Open in this role in 2015, and seeing just how much it meant to the late Arnold Palmer and the other great Champions to be here. We are fortunate to have such a fantastic range of courses that host The Open, but there is undoubtedly something extra special about St Andrews. GMé Many – including this magazine – believe that for golf to reach the widest possible television audience, The Open needs to be broadcast simultaneously on both free-to-air, and subscription channels, much like The Masters coverage over the weekend, so could this be a viable compromise moving forward? MS We have two tremendous broadcast partners in Sky and the BBC here in the UK. The way people consume live sport is changing rapidly, and it is becoming less and less the norm for people to sit down and watch hours and hours of live sport continuously. We wanted to adapt to this changing landscape and reinforce The Open’s appeal among younger audiences, in particular. The combination of live coverage on a dedicated channel, with the ideas and innovation that Sky has brought to the coverage, and two-hour

24 | GMé May 2017

© Getty Images

prime-time highlights on the BBC is compelling. We believe that by offering fans a broad range of ways to watch and interact with The Open through broadcast and digital we can further enhance the Championship’s position as one of the world’s great sporting events. GMé What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the game of golf at the moment? MS For me, the biggest challenge is getting more families playing golf. People lead such busy lives today and have so many competing demands for their leisure time that it is difficult to cut through the ‘noise’. That value-for-time proposition is so important, and I believe that golf needs to do more to promote itself as a sport for all the family where parents can spend the time with their children in a healthy and enjoyable pursuit that they can all enjoy. I think it is also one of the key ways of encouraging more women to take up the sport. GMé Unlike other sports, golf is somewhat fragmented, so do you ever see the time when the entire industry will come together, under one, all-encompassing body, to represent golf as a whole? MS One of the things I learned in business is that you have to operate in the

here-and-now, and in golf, things have evolved in the way they have for good reason. There are a lot of bodies involved in administering the sport, but they all have key roles to play and do so efficiently and effectively. There is a tremendous amount of respect and goodwill among the key organisations, and I think you saw the fruits of that in the coming together of so many bodies to secure golf’s return to the Olympics. We certainly place huge value on our relationship with the USGA in governance terms and with the Tours and the other bodies involved in running the sport. GMé With a handicap of two, did you ever consider becoming a PGA professional? MS I certainly harboured youthful ambitions at one time, as I think any boy or girl who takes up a golf club does. When I was younger I had a great passion for running, and golf took a back seat when I went to university. I do love competing though, and have relished the opportunity to play at club level over the years. It was thanks to a PGA professional, who gave coaching to kids at my local club, that I took up golf in the first place, and I have the utmost respect for the role they play in encouraging participation in the sport. GMé



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customer experience

Reality of Measuring Customer Experience Miklós Breitner, CEO of Golf Business Monitor, discusses the customer experience, and how best to ensure that your club is measuring for the correct parameters.

What is changing within golf, is that the focus is shifting more towards the ‘end-to-end’ visitor journey

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Many golf club owners are clueless as to why golfers are leaving their golf club – or not returning – despite clubs investing in the food and beverage operation, or redesigning the golf course, so where does the problem lie? In the connected economy, customer experience has a significant role to play these days, since people tend to share their experience’s – good or bad – via social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. These comments stay on the internet for perpetuity, and after a while, build a public perspective of your operation based on visitor feedback. The Innovation and the Earned Brand survey, which is published by marketing firm Edelman, reports that 90 per cent of customers expect brands to innovate with societal impact in mind. Furthermore, customers want to get real, contextual value where and when they demand it the most. That is why it is important that golf clubs think about the mobile mindset, and how to use mobile technology to provide essential information about their golf club, whilst personalising offers for services such as membership, and products within the pro shop. These experiences are not created alone by the golf club, but together with the customer, and these co-created experiences form the basis for a golf club’s brands image with outstanding customer experience often leading to increased revenue. The customer experience is a sum of each engagement a person has with your golf club, at every touch point, throughout the customer cycle.

In 2013, Syngenta published a survey entitled Growing Golf in the UK to gauge what factors are important to golfers for all ages. Among the top five expectations for new golfers, four were related to customer experience demands, namely: friendliness of members; comfortable with the golf course and its surroundings; golf club is welcoming regardless of gender and friendliness of staff. In this survey, we also find that 34 per cent of respondents would recommend the golf club if they found the golf club staff helpful and accommodating. Since these experiences are associated with a series of emotions, they often lead to the most influential and effective form of advertising, with meaningful and shareable experiences becoming the new forms of marketing. Without positive experiences, there is no opportunity to establish customer loyalty or advocacy, so how can golf clubs provide favourable customer experience? In my opinion, I would make a difference between the experienced golfer who comes to a golf club, and a total newcomer to the sport. Although they have the same or similar needs, both come with different attitudes and expectations, so as a result, their customer journeys will be different. What is changing within golf, is that the focus is shifting more towards the ‘end-to-end’ visitor journey (that shapes the customer’s view of the business) rather than simple touch points. Customer journeys include many things that happen before, during, and after the experience of your experience in the golf club.

SOCIETAL IMPACT Free WiFi at clubs, with access to social media networks should be more commonplace

Journeys can be long, stretching across multiple channels and touch points, often lasting days or weeks – we should understand that golfers rely heavily on the shared experiences of like-minded people to guide their actions. To improve customer experience, golf clubs must develop an understanding of the fractured, real-time customer journeys that connected consumers undergo to foster personal and shareable experiences. Therefore it is important to provide free WiFi on the golf course and in the clubhouse as well. Golf clubs need to create and cultivate meaningful experiences for their customers, and this starts with designing a more intuitive and efficient customer journey that works the way connected consumers want to work. Thanks to developments in technology, customers are becoming more empowered as they find new ways to ignore touch points. We should therefore keep in mind this when planning the possible customer journeys for golfers, as well as existing and potential members. The results from investments in a more dynamic customer experience are more meaningful customer engagements and a notable competitive advantage. With this complex customer journey unfolding, great marketing, products and services are not enough to win.

To attract and keep connected customers, golf clubs must plan for shared experiences. Connected customers influence other connected customers who embark upon a similar journey, and if the experiences people have fail to result in a positive journey, there is little hope for preference. And, without positive experiences, loyalty or advocacy will never happen. Golf clubs must use customer intelligence to make sure that they understand and optimise these shared experiences. Achieving customer-centricity in our golf clubs, requires internal transformation that includes empowering employees to improve those experiences and relationships. Those golf clubs who want to achieve high levels of customer experience, should perform a set of sound business practices including strategy; customer understanding; design; measurement; governance and culture. All golf club operators, irrespective of size or stature, should start to solicit feedback from customers about their experiences in your golf club, as well as your golf course and amenities. The implementation of a Net Promoter Score could be a good starting point to gauge customer satisfaction. In the era of ‘connected customers’ the new Key Performance Indicators of

social customer service are advocacy; referral; reviews; positive endorsements and loyalty. You can be more proactive and collect insights from customers via email, social media monitoring or even mining calls. Your employees can provide you with valuable insights about their experiences with customers and their role in delivering customer experience, as having a more customer-centric staff that understands and appreciates the needs of your customers is essential. I also recommend introducing a mystery shopping regime, to better understand, and experience what your customers are going through when they are in your golf club. To measure customer experience is to measure customer perceptions, and you will get these insights by asking visitors about how satisfied they were with various aspects of each experience that you are measuring. When you adopt measurement practices, you will know how your customers felt about the experiences you provided and what are the drivers of a good, or a bad experience. You will also see how customer experience quality is affecting business results. These measurements will provide the foundation of your future customer experience initiatives. GMé | 27



golf consultants association

Lateral Thinking in the game? As chairman of the Golf Consultants Association, Howard Swan along with some of his colleagues, offers some views about how the game might develop.

“Without wishing to sound like a grumpy old man, maybe golf’s just too difficult to master in a short time”

MR CHAIRMAN Howard Swan, chairman of the Golf Consultants Association

We’ve heard for a long time how our beloved game is not progressing, not growing, not thriving – both in terms of participation and financially – despite it reappearing in the Olympic Games last summer after 112 years in the wilderness. We hear it is not developing because it takes too long to play in the modern world of increasing family and work-time pressures, so those who might want to swing a club simply can’t afford the time to do so. Or it is too expensive; or it is non-inclusive; or it is not welcoming enough; or it is too traditional; or not attractive enough to the young… some, if not all, might be true. However, most of us on its inside will argue that it is the tradition, the history, the sportsmanship, and the behaviour associated with the sport that makes it great. It is, of course, a difficult game to play: there’s no ball the size of a football, no weapon as large as a foot, a tennis racket, or a cricket bat – though I appreciate we do not try to hit a moving ball. Without wishing to sound like a grumpy old man, maybe golf’s just too difficult to master in a short time – and in today’s world of instant expectation,

28 | GMé May 2017

instant gratification and decreasing patience that’s simply not good enough for many youngsters. Maybe those who are wanting to begin on the path to hitting the little white pill need to have the learning process made less onerous. But a simpler form of the game is just one potential solution. There are many thoughts as to how we can reverse the trend of non-participation – if, indeed, it is a genuine trend; for, one argument goes, it is impossible, given the number of non-member golfers who play frequently, to determine accurately any such trend. GCA member John Bushell, managing director at Sports Marketing Surveys Inc, has studied those who have any involvement in the game. He said: “The facts are clear. There is a much greater involvement in golf than is stated if you just look at those playing on a full-length golf course. “These ‘golf actives’ are people who may find their involvement through driving ranges, golf simulators, adventure golf, or even through golf computer games – as well as on a golf course. “Just more than a fifth of adults in GB&I – and also a fifth of youngsters

aged six to 17 – have had some active involvement in golf in the last 12 months. These golf actives’ have been exposed to the sport, have some real understanding of what the game is about and have experienced the thrill of clubon-ball – even if this experience is not at a traditional full-length course.” Bushell added: “Also, when you look at the profile of these ‘golf actives’, it shows how much more gender-inclusive the sport is compared to the male-only story normally portrayed in the media. In fact, 33 per cent of these adult ‘golf actives’ were female and 41 per cent of youngsters taking part were female. In total, there were 11 million ‘golf actives’ aged six-plus in GB&I. “Golf is not broken: it does not mean there are not challenges, but as a sport, that can be played in many forms from six to 96, it delivers significant social and active lifestyle benefits.” As an industry, we can’t simply shrug our collective shoulders and say ‘we need to work harder to get more people into golf’. The Golf Foundation, among others, tries very hard indeed. How about the argument that we need more – or different style – facilities?

PITCH AND PUTT Young golfers learning how to putt

More ranges; shorter courses; beginners’ courses; and less focus on 18 holes being the accepted norm… Topgolf is a good example of how a derivative of the sport can drive people into the more mainstream version. There is also a school of thought that suggests the game’s ruling bodies soften their approach to the rules and regulations and how they are imposed upon the modern playing population. Maybe, just as the pure form of cricket has evolved from the five-day test to the 50-over games and the much-vaunted T20 blast, golf should look to doing something in a similar vein. Certainly, the European Tour thinks so, with the introduction of GolfSixes – but I’m not sure that will, necessarily, attract more people to participate in the game. Leisure industry consultant John Ashworth, an executive member of GCA, has assessed the performance of the golf market place and sees the need to change, so that some recovery is made and financial sustainability is achieved. He said: “The business model of too many clubs focuses exclusively on golf – and golfers are typically male of middle age and above.

“For them, golf is a pastime for midweek mornings – if they are retired – or weekend mornings, if they are in employment,” said Ashworth. “It is no surprise that those are the times when a club’s course and clubhouse are busiest – nor, that at other times, there is a notable absence of activity. Making the game of golf itself more attractive – quicker or easier to play, for example – to a wider audience can only ever be a part solution. “We need more outside-the-box thinking: what business are we in? Is it golf? Sport? Entertainment? Play? Health and well-being? Retail? Eating out? “’Stick to your knitting’ is a mantra that may appeal to the traditionalist, but only in exceptional cases will it ensure the future financial viability of most golf clubs. With clubhouse buildings, acres of outdoor open space, car parking, on-site catering and so on, clubs could do much more to broaden their appeal to a wider market and breathe new life into their facilities.” In recent years we have seen the advent of ‘adventure golf’ and feature golf parks, street or urban golf, Disc Golf and, perhaps, most successfully,

FootGolf, as people try to see how the game can be made more appealing to a wider population and families. Some may argue that the latter is really an alternative form of football, but its financial performance is pretty impressive. Most existing facilities which had the chance – with a par-three course, for example – had put a FootGolf course alongside the ‘regular’ layout and great numbers of players have flocked to try it. In many ways, however, a stand-alone course offers better opportunity. Take the FootGolf Chester example: nine holes which were opened as one of many which owner Bell Developments is looking to lay out. Mike Bell, a director with Bell Developments, has been able to witness just how impressive the take-up has been at the new course and how the demand continues to impress. He said: “We opened the doors in May 2016. We had designed and built – in a remarkably short time – a nine-hole par-three course which has turned out to be the perfect size, with a great mix and variety to attract our footfall, and we are expecting it to be playable all year round. | 29



golf consultants association

FUN, FUN, FUN Adventure Golf for all the family

“They will attract the complete beginner and will probably involve some form of golf putting course that can be played by the whole family”

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“Since opening we have welcomed more than 15,000 players of different ages and genders. From kids’ parties to OAPs; stag and hen dos; corporate teambuilding events; and schools,” said Bell. Burhill Group Limited (BGL) – which has ten golf centres and 22 facilities in the UK – has focused much of its developmental activity on establishing a wide range of golf-related attractions on each site so creating a stepped provision to meet the changing and increasing demands of those who play or wish to play the game. Adventure golf parks, ranges and academies, short courses, and FootGolf courses are all essential parts of the BGL evolution, sitting alongside more conventional nine and 18-hole golf courses. Colin Mayes, chief executive at BGL, explained how his company are planning for the future. He said: “The game of golf has been in existence for more than 200 years, so is not going to die. One of the overriding issues is no matter which way we look at golf, it is a game of skill that takes time to learn and to make progress with. It is also fundamentally a game of fun best enjoyed in the company of others. “So taking these fundamentals BGL’s focus will be on great facilities, but with special attention to those who want to learn the game and develop their skills. They will attract the complete beginner and will probably involve some form of golf putting course that can be played by the whole family.

“Again the focus will be having fun with a golf ball and a putter. “The facilities will have a family focus and a real ‘open-for-all’ policy – comfortable places in which people are happy to spend their leisure time,” added Mayes. “Where appropriate we will also offer a wider health and well-being offer, which might include health and fitness facilities such as swimming pools and a spa – all with flexible memberships options. “In an increasingly busy world those that offer peaceful enjoyment will be winners, but we need to keep in touch with customers and demonstrate we listen to their views and opinions and, importantly, act upon them. “Above all it needs to be a place that puts customers having fun and enjoying themselves very high on its agenda, thereby making it a place they want to return to. “It all seems pretty simple, but we all know delivering it is far from that, or else everybody would be doing it.” Some, of course, may consider some of this sacrilegious to the pure, traditional form of the game. But, in order to make this great game of ours more successful, played by more and enjoyed by more, of any age, of either gender, without intimidation and with real feelings of welcoming and embracing newcomers, we need to change. We need to think more laterally, become more flexible and adapt to the present marketplace – and that is what will help us succeed in the next ten years. GMé

Golf construction experts Golf course construction Remodelling & renovation Grow in & maintenance Artificial surfaces Drainage & irrigation systems +44 (0) 1722 716361 • | 31



DRIVING FORWARD Paul Armitage, pictured far left, with Club Car

VIVE LA FRANCE Flying the flag at Le Golf National

Armitage riding high at Le Golf National With the countdown to the 2018 Ryder Cup truly underway, Michael Lenihan spent the day with Paul Armitage, general manager at host venue, Le Golf National outside Paris. The reasons people find themselves with a career in golf are many and varied: they may follow in a family tradition, like the Allisses; others are inspired by the heroes they see on TV; while some are nurtured by parents who see a nascent talent. But for Paul Armitage, the general manager at Ryder Cup 2018 venue Le Golf National, the motive was far more prosaic. His love of golf came from being born and raised in Scunthorpe, an industrial town in the eastern England county of Lincolnshire. He laughed: “There’s not a lot to do in Scunthorpe apart from play golf and go to school. So some friends and I started playing golf with my dad and my brother when I was about eight years old. I fell in love with the game and it’s probably thanks to golf that I turned out to be the person I am today.” His first steps in golf may have been borne of necessity but he’s not alone in rising to the professional ranks from a beginning in ‘Scunny’, as the town is known affectionately. English golfing legend Tony Jacklin is also a native of the big steel processing town.

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And while Armitage may not have two Majors and a Ryder Cup captaincy to his name, his CV is equally impressive in a different vein – and, uniquely, it is a career influenced, and, to a certain degree, shaped, by factors as diverse as the airline industry, Forumla 1 and the Grammy Award-winning French singersongwriter Jean-Jacques Goldman. While a student of international business finance, at Newcastle University, in the late 1980s, Armitage took the opportunity to spend one year of his studies in Dijon, the capital city of the Burgundy region, in France. At this time he was playing off a single-figure handicap and started helping out at a local club, while also appearing in the Burgundy county team, as he held a French golfer’s licence. He recalled: “I enjoyed that and I got to play golf for free, as a student, because I was helping out the golf school. Then I went back to Newcastle University to finish my studies and got offered a job at Dijon University as a lecturer, where you give lessons, but you also write a thesis, which in my case, was a study about the airport in Dijon.

CALM AND COLLECTED Paul Armitage, relaxed and composed ahead of the build-up to the 2018 Ryder Cup which will be staged at Le Golf National next September

“During that year I kept helping out at the golf club, developing new golfers, and this, that and the other – essentially to play golf for free. I was 22 when the manager there asked if I wanted to go and work for him when I left university. I thought ‘why not?’ “So he said ‘come and be my assistant but take care of business development and commercial development’.” A fortuitous turn of events for the young man, for golf was still in its infancy in a country that had only around 200,000 registered golfers at the time.

“We created more golfers; we were doing things like golf widow events, bringing the wives down to do putting – just normal things we would do in the UK when I was a kid or growing up, but to them it was all new.” He went to work for Blue Green locally as assistant manager in charge of development and competitions while looking for sponsorships and creating new golfers. That went so well he was approached by the only other golf club in the area, a private members’ club, to take on the role of golf manager.

The club was Jacques Laffite Dijon, owned jointly by Laffite, a French F1 driver, and his better-known contemporary Alain Prost, and by this stage, Armitage was already able to get by in French. Unable to afford to take the bus to university in Dijon, when he was studying, he would walk 45 minutes each way while listening to music by Jean-Jacques Goldman. He smiled: “Somebody had told me ‘buy some French music and listen to it every day – and whatever comes into your ears will come out of your mouth | 33




“Knowing the facility, looking at it and the way it was run, I thought ‘I think I can help’. The job description had my name written all over it in a way”

FINISHING STRETCH The 18th green on the Albatros Course

one day’. So I used to walk for an hour and a half listening to French music and I would sing along in the street. “I didn’t know what the hell I was saying, but that’s where I got my accent from. It happened really quickly, within six months – I wasn’t fluent by any means, but I got the lingo quite quickly.” He continued: “I worked through general management on the golf courses with Blue Green. I learned a lot there, because they were very innovative on education, teaching and academies. I also worked as regional manager, which was good, as I managed other general managers.” Having gained that experience he moved on to UGolf, at the company’s head office, to work in development and marketing for the brand’s 50 golf courses. There he helped create Le Club, an affiliate network of independent golf courses who wanted the security and support provided by a purchasing chain. The concept proved successful – and still is. From the 50 original courses, the association now numbers 140 in France, with 600 affiliate courses worldwide. Under Armitage’s stewardship as general manager it moved from a €200,000 business to one with a turnover of €2 million. Then, in 2014, he discovered Le Golf National was looking for a new general manager.

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“Knowing the facility, looking at it and the way it was run, I thought ‘I think I can help’. The job description had my name written all over it in a way,” Armitage said. “At the time, the experience here was from tee one to tee 18 on the Albatros. Apart from that, there was no customer experience. “The staff weren’t trained to speak anything else than French. There wasn’t a customer strategy either. It was ‘we are the National facility’ – therefore, people had to come here. And they were coming here for the price, which ranged from 10-15 quid (GBP) on the nine-hole course, to about 35-40 quid (GBP), on the Ryder Cup course. “If people came, they came and if they didn’t it didn’t really matter, because the Federation was there to support the club.” For three years the French Federation went through the Ryder Cup bidding process and, ultimately, Le Golf National was awarded the Holy Grail. But that can provide more problems. Armitage recalled: “We weren’t ready as far as the experience was concerned in many different ways. We didn’t have any buggies for example – you can’t have an American guest without offering a buggy today. Now there’s a lot more emphasis on the visitor experience, right the way through from the initial enquiry.

“We’ve still got some work to do on our email confirmations and questionnaires and we know our changing rooms are not up to scratch, but they’re being revamped, ready for the Ryder Cup – apart from that we’ve done pretty well. “Obviously we’re very good on golf course maintenance and we have excellent pro shop staff. “And now the rate of the Albatros golf course is the right price for the quality of the experience we are bringing in – though we do have very attractive, local rates for the Eagle, the other 18-hole golf course. “So there remains golf for everybody here, or you can have the high-end international standards and a unique golf experience of the Albatros. We have everything now; we have the full range, whereas before it was all sold at a kind of same-level pricing.” Armitage has no plans to relax after the 2018 event – to him the Ryder Cup will be simply another milestone in his career. “I’ve no agenda. What I do like is to get into the nitty gritty of a project. It all depends on what the future holds here where I’m very happy. After everything I will have been through, from 2014 to end of 2018, I do think about what ‘19, ‘20 and ‘21 will be like, just running my golf course here.” GMé


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synthetic surfaces

Driving toward a new era in synthetic practice facilities

President of Southwest Greens Construction, Kevin Holinaty, talks to Scott MacCallum about the advances in synthetic surfaces, and their growing use in all areas of golf. Two of the defining sounds of a golf club used to be the clickety click of metal spikes on pathways and the purring of the greenkeepers’ mowers. Those noisy spikes have long since been replaced by virtually silent soft spikes, and it may be that those mowers may soon be consigned to history too. Synthetic turf surfaces, combined with subsurface systems designed to ensure that the bounce and roll of a golf ball replicate that of natural turf, are being developed at such a rate that wall to wall synthetic turf pitch and putt courses and driving ranges have already been opened, whilst the first full-sized golf course devoid of natural turf can only be around the corner. At the forefront of this golfing revolution is Southwest Greens Construction, who are currently turning something which was a pipe dream for many golf course operators just a few years ago into a game changing reality. “We have evolved a lot as a company over the last five years, and through our extensive research and development we build engineered systems which mean we can create a golfing environment

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which is a pleasure for golfers to play, as well as being extremely efficient for owners and operators to run,” said Kevin Holinaty, president of Southwest Greens Construction. “We work extremely hard ‘to bring out’ the performance characteristics of our turf systems which are so important to the golfer’s experience – how the ball reacts off the club when it lands and rolls, and plays from the rough and bunkers – so that the course performs very closely to what you’d expect to find on a natural golf course, while the new driving ranges will vastly exceed anything natural turf versions will offer. “That requires a great deal of sophisticated engineering not just within the turf materials themselves but also what goes on underneath – the shock pad which is an integral part of the base system which gives us the ability to recreate natural ball bounce as well as that feel you get when playing a shot. “Our base system also carries some excellent drainage and we make sure that water is moved on the surface to collection points,” explained Holinaty, whose company is the construction arm

for Southwest Greens International, which is 100 per cent owned by Shaw Industries, a Berkshire Hathaway Company. Shaw is the world’s largest carpet manufacturer and is heavily invested in the synthetic turf industry, producing all of SWG’s turf products. Holinaty and his team work closely with Shaw R&D and production to ensure that new developments come on stream quickly. “It is widely accepted that when it comes to synthetic turf and the systems we have developed, Southwest Greens Construction and its supply chain are regarded as best in class,” added Holinaty. Golf Up, just outside St Tropez in the south of France, has recently opened a Southwest Greens Construction-installed pitch and putt course, together with a state-of-the-art driving range. It is a model which Holinaty believes will revolutionise the game of golf over the next few years. “Golf Up has 40,000 square metres of synthetic turf, divided equally between the driving range and the pitch and putt course, and it has been designed SHAPING THE FUTURE Various different views of the Golf Up practice facility in the south of France, which has been built by Southwest Greens Construction

“Robots can pick up 12,000 balls a day and operate happily and successfully on the much smoother synthetic surfaces”

to encourage those people new to the game and those who wish to work on their skills. “While the synthetic turf ensures that conditions return to playability very quickly – even after the most severe of weather – the benefits to an operator extend even further when it comes to on-going running costs. “You don’t need sophisticated agronomic or greenkeeping expertise as maintenance shifts to a more cleaning function to keep the facility running well with sweeping and blowing to keep the fibres clean. “At Golf Up, Southwest Greens Construction is providing on-going maintenance advice over the next couple of years, with an in-house team being trained to ensure when there is the final handover the skills and knowledge are there to maintain high quality results,” said Holinaty, who says that the estimated lifespan of synthetic turf on a busy facility, is up to ten years. “Even then it wouldn’t mean a complete refit but merely the top layer, with the costs a fraction of changing the complete system.” Holinaty is particularly excited about the development of driving ranges and the opportunities which are now available to golf courses who wish to improve

their practice facilities without adding to maintenance or manpower costs. “We have created a range of synthetic products which will bring driving ranges alive,” smiled Holinaty. “We produce beautifully shaped bunkers using white synthetic turf, and you play from turf which can be fairway or rough length to all sorts of specialised targets which bring much more interest to players. “Such options within natural driving ranges would simply not be viable given the cost of maintaining natural bunkers, and the complication of maintaining different length of grass in high use areas.” There is one innovation which launches driving ranges into areas which Harry Vardon, Henry Cotton and even Nick Faldo could not have possible imagined in their wildest dreams... robots! “Robots are becoming a vital component in the running of the modern day synthetic driving range with labour saving, no lost balls, no noisy, unsightly ball collection machinery – ultra efficiency is the end result. “We have aligned ourselves with the company with the best track record in this field, Yamabiko Europe, who have developed a robot ball collector which is perfectly suited to the synthetic turf environment.

“Robots can pick up 12,000 balls a day and operate happily and successfully on the much smoother synthetic surfaces,” added Holinaty. “Previously robots struggled operating on uneven and poorly draining natural turf surfaces while, conversely, the traditional large, heavy, and manned ball collectors would destroy synthetic surfaces which offered operators a real headache. “We now have zero ball loss and minimal labour costs. It is a winning combination and I believe, with the combination of our synthetic turf systems, it will revolutionise driving ranges over the next few years,” revealed Holinaty. Through Southwest Greens Construction’s efforts around the globe, Southwest Greens International has seen huge development over the last five years, and can only see that growing in the future as more golf clubs install synthetic turf and begin to appreciate, and understand, the benefits of Southwest Greens Construction’s high performing turf systems. So it may well be that those distinctive sounds associated with a golf club are changing, but we could well be about to enter a whole new future for the game, opening it up to entirely new ideas and concepts. GMé | 37




Glamorous Sotogrande the jewel of Andalucía Home to La Reserva Club, Sotogrande in the Andalucían region of Spain has it all, with iconic fairways, bustling marina’s, beach clubs and some of the most elegant addresses in Spain as Jane Withers discovered on a recent trip.

38 | GMé May 2017 RESERVING JUDGEMENT The view across La Reserva Club to the Mediterranean (main picture) and right, the stunning clubhouse

Sotogrande, the jewel of the Andalucian coast where living is as glamorous as the days are easy. It is the destination of dreams for those who long to play golf surrounded by the beauty of a rugged and varied landscape under the warm Mediterranean sun. Established in 1962 by philanthropists Joseph Rafael McMicking y Ynchausti and his wife Mercedes Zobel de Ayala y Roxas, Sotogrande was born with the vision of a community based on friendship. The couple’s vision was to create a place where people from all over the world could thrive and pursue an active, healthy lifestyle in a sun-kissed corner of the Mediterranean. Since its inception over half a century ago when the region held a jet-setting reputation for being home to some of the most well-known household names, Sotogrande has remained a haven for the optimistic. It still exudes an elegant serenity that comes from the shared values of those who want to come together to celebrate the privilege of life rather than work too hard to notice the opportunities passing them by.

Thanks to this unique atmosphere and the varied opportunities that the region offers, Sotogrande continues to hold relevance to younger generations who seek the world-class golf that is on offer in the region alongside world-renowned polo courses and numerous other sporting pursuits. One such golf course that is a relatively new addition to the Sotogrande portfolio is the stunning La Reserva Club. Opened in 2003, the contemporary, 18-hole, 7,400 yard course was designed by Cabell B. Robinson and not only became an immediate firm favourite of golfers worldwide, but the course played host to the NH Collection Open in 2014 which featured several Ryder Cup stars, including Andy Sullivan, Chris Wood and Thomas Pieters. The fairways are wide and sweeping leading to large greens with gentle but challenging undulations. Water features on seven of the holes and provides subtle pressure from tee to green, most notably on the 244-yard par-3 sixth. La Reserva Club’s par-4 1st hole is as stunning as any opener in Europe, with

Sotogrande continues to hold relevance to younger generations who seek the world-class golf that is on offer in the region | 39



sotogrande MIX AND MATCH Left, the restaurant at La Reserva, whilst water guards an approach to the green, and right, the view looking towards the clubhouse. Bottom right, the clubhouse at Almanara Golf Club

You can’t help but be swept away by the sounds of the waves, the feel of the warm wind and the breathtaking views that are on offer in this oasis

an elevated tee overlooking a generous and sweeping fairway that doglegs sharply to the left. Finding the fairway is far from mission accomplished though, as a stream short of the green awaits any poorly struck approaches. Water features on no less than seven holes, most noticeably all the way along the left of the signature par-4 8th hole, while elevation changes across the Costa del Sol valleys place a particular emphasis on club selection throughout the round. The back-nine presents its own challenges, particularly on the deceptively short 159-yard 16th that plays from an elevated tee to a tricky and shallow putting surface. Having been carved into the hillside, the club commands a high, bird’s nest location over what is known as the Sotogrande ‘Alto’, offering stunning views of both the Mediterranean Sea and the mountains of La Gran Reserva. For those who wish to seek further golf offerings in the region, or who prefer a

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gentler but no less enjoyable challenge of skill, Almenara Golf Club welcomes visitors of all abilities to the soul of Andalucia. David Thomas first laid out the three loops of nine holes in the late 1990s and artistically sculpted, tight fairways over hilly terrain with trademark mounding, bunkering and well-proportioned green sites throughout. The three courses, the Lagos, Alcornoques and Pinos each have their own distinctive features. Both the Lagos and Alcornoques challenges each player with five holes of water with the latter producing an uphill finale of a gently undulating par four. For those who wish to avoid the water entirely, the Pinos course offers no such threat, but has its own nuances to be enjoyed by any player. As part of the Hotel Almenara, the Golf Club offers the perfect destination for individuals, couples or families. The hotel itself is a pretty, sun-tinted example of classic Andalucian architecture with terracotta tiled roofs and meander-

ing paths through the multi-sensory gardens. There are 148 rooms and suites on offer with access to a spa and indoor pool, as well as being located within close proximity to all of Sotogrande’s main sports and nature parks. This means that golfers are able to take a break from admiring unparalleled views of the whole of Sotogrande through their windows and step out of their hotel rooms onto a beautiful, sun-kissed course. The world-class golf is a draw for players the world over, but Sotogrande has a rich heritage and varied terrain which makes in the ideal destination for golfers and non-golfers alike The world renowned polo pitches annually host the Gold Cup drawing crowds to the sun-bowl that is Bajo, Sotogrande’s first neighbourhood. For those who crave ultimate relaxation, four beach clubs take precedence along the golden coastline where bathers can lounge by the soothing waves of the Mediterranean.

Sotogrande home to three of the best

To the north of La Reserva Club lies a sweeping valley which will soon feature additional sports, wellness and leisure facilities including paddle tennis courts, equestrian facilities, a state-of-the-art spa and gymnasium and two swimming lagoons. All who visit La Reserva Club will also soon be able to enjoy being cared for by a Guest Relations personnel who will be there to make sure that each and every guest’s visit to the club is as enjoyable as possible. Visitors and members can also take advantage of the newly refurbished La Reserva clubhouse that marries state-ofthe-art luxury with historical elegance, and the on-site, fine dining L’Olive restaurant. Having just released a new menu, L’Olive offers delicious, seasonal specialities year round and invites visitors to enjoy themed nights, Sunday Roasts and brunch during their time at La Reserva Club. A ‘Play and Dine’ offer is available to golfers throughout 2017 and offers

players the chance to enjoy a round at La Reserva Club from 13:00, then finish their day with a pleasant evening in the restaurant L’Olive. Prices start at just €185 per person with green fee, buggy hire, range balls and dinner included. Sotogrande, nearly 60 years on, is still the place of dreams that McMicking and Zobel first imagined all those decades ago. The way of life is infectious; calming and rejuvenating all at once, even the air seems sweeter. You can’t help but be swept away by the sounds of the waves, the feel of the warm wind and the breathtaking views that are on offer in this oasis, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. For golfers, this is a haven of fairways and greens, offering even the most skilled and veteran players a new experience that will excite and challenge all at once, especially in keeping concentration fixed on the course and not letting the mind wonder as to the marvel of this glimmering jewel of the Andalucian coast. GMé

Sotogrande, the jewel of the Andalucian coast, is the stuff of dreams for those who long to play golf surrounded by the beauty of the rugged and varied landscape under the warm, Mediterranean sun. Home to not one, but three worldrenowned courses, as well as gentler courses for those of varying abilities, there is something to offer every player who visits the region. The latest addition to Sotogrande’s golf portfolio is La Reserva Club. Carved into the hillside, the club commands breath-taking views of the Mediterranean Sea, the Rock of Gibraltar and the mountains of La Gran Reserva and Sierra Almenara. Not only is the course a firm favourite among golfers worldwide, but the clubhouse is also a thing to behold. Marrying state-of-the-art luxury with a relaxed atmosphere, the club invites guests to experience the heritage and high quality service associated with Sotogrande, as well as the varied sporting and leisure activities that the region is renowned for. For a gentler but no less enjoyable challenge of skill, players can visit Almenara Golf Club, where a 27-hole golf course offers three nine-hole loops that perfectly demonstrate where the soul of Andalucia meets with sharply sculpted fairways. As part of the Almenara Hotel, Almenara Golf Club offers the perfect destination for individuals, couples or families who wish to step out from their hotel room onto a beautiful, sunkissed course. | 41



housing and golf

FIXING THE HOUSING MARKET The UK White Paper on housing

DEBATING THE ISSUE Andrew Lloyd-Skinner

Housing & Golf can co-exist The UK government’s long-awaited Housing White paper, published in February, contains some encouraging news for golf landowners writes Andy Hiseman.

Stress levels in the UK golf industry are rising under the spectre of hundreds of courses being lost and buried under rows of new housing, leading to a continuously-downward trend in participation. And that’s despite the fact that current greenbelt restrictions offer limited options for landowners to build on what is currently golf acreage. But golf property and operations experts Melior Golf have three positive messages for the industry, in light of the recently-published government Housing White Paper. First, you can be sure that compact new forms of golf will emerge from the process. Second, that overall golf participation in the UK may even rise significantly, because of this. And third, they say that the government White Paper allows for cautious optimism for those golf landowners who intelligently capitalise on the changing planning landscape. We’ll all just have to be more flexible, and maybe change our ingrained views about what constitutes ‘a golfer’ – or even ‘a golf course’.

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So, with the potential golfers of tomorrow demanding more happiness-perminute than ever before – and with the five-hour weekend visit to the golf club increasingly becoming an option exclusive to the older generation – how can golf landowners start planning today for all of this future change? Significant rises in land values are tempting many landowners into a search for investment to convert their underused golf courses into developments which feature housing and other amenities. To advise on this, Melior Golf has brought together a group of experts to help the golf industry adapt to the UK’s fast-changing legislative, commercial and social landscape, as far as it affects golf. Although February’s Housing White Paper generally drew a lukewarm reaction from the wider UK planning industry, Melior Golf co-founder Andrew LloydSkinner spotted indications within it which spell good news for owners of under-performing golf facilities. If that’s you, then options are beginning to open up as regards capitalising

HOUSING SHORTAGE With significant increases in land prices, many golf course owners are seeking opportunities to develop housing on site

on the land that you own, according to Lloyd-Skinner. “The White Paper gives encouraging signs that certain types of golf land conversion schemes are now more likely to receive local planning support, if they are presented correctly,” said LloydSkinner, who recently relinquished his role as chief executive of the UK Golf Course Owners Association to join his sons Tim and Angus Lloyd-Skinner in creating Melior Golf.

“Many golf industry leaders now agree that the UK currently suffers from an over-supply of full-size golf courses, but that we also suffer from a significant under-supply of entertainment-focused facilities which encourage non-golfers to first pick up a golf club” he said. “Where such centres exist, they require significantly less land, and the better examples are beginning to convert non-golfers into longer-term devotees of the sport.”

Consider the national awardwinning 3 Hammers Golf Complex in Wolverhampton, West Midlands. The facility welcomed 220,000 visitors in 2016, all of whom tried golf in some form, in an area of just 21 acres – a fifth of the normal land occupied by a conventional golf course. “The demand for traditional golf has changed over the past ten years or so and the industry is only now beginning to recognise the nature of the changes | 43



housing and golf

“now is a good time to consider converting your land into a mix of housing and sporting facilities”

HAMMER-BLOW Ian Bonser, owner of 3 Hammers

needed,” said 3 Hammers owner Ian Bonser. “There will always be a place for the traditional 18-hole game on a large plot of land, but not in the numbers which were predicted during the rush to build new full-size golf courses in the 1990s. “Golf needs more of the fun, inclusive, short, accessible facilities which start people of all ages on the pathway towards regularly enjoying and participating in golf. “With careful design, and with intelligent marketing to the correct demographic – typically not the traditionally middle-aged, white-collar male who dominated previous golfing generations – compact golf facilities are not only a great business model, but they can also benefit the more traditional golf industry by attracting large numbers of newcomers to the sport,” added Bonser. “If you consider the 3 Hammers example alongside the implications in this February’s White Paper, the opportunity to act now is becoming clearer,” said Andrew Lloyd-Skinner. “If you own the land on which your golf course is built, but cannot seem to derive value from operating a conventional golfing facility on that land, now is a good time to consider converting your land into a mix of housing and sporting facilities, including investment in

44 | GMé May 2017

a sustainable, compact golf-themed or multi-sports entertainment solution.” Evidence is growing that short-form golf is a viable solution both as regards participation numbers and also commercially, says Melior Golf’s Tim LloydSkinner. “What is clear from the work done so far is that families are embracing bite-size formats of the game” he said. “In the UK golf industry I think we all recognise that people aren’t currently jumping on the first tee for 18 holes on a weekend afternoon in large enough numbers. But the good news is that shorter formats of golf are clearly now appealing to families, who tend to have less spare time on their hands than ever before. “What isn’t yet clear is whether these new forms of customer will evolve into what you might call long-term golfers, which the industry so badly needs,” he said. “This will only happen if these new, more compact facilities work hard on their nurturing skills. “Do they cross the line, making the transition from casual to committed? The industry needs to help them across that line. I predict that, in the not-too-distant future, the most successful familyfriendly golf clubs will have staff on hand focused entirely on monitoring and encouraging such people through their journey into full club involvement.

“Furthermore, I predict that this role will quickly fall outside the remit of traditional golf membership managers, as it is such a specialist skill.” With numerous golf course-to-housing conversion projects currently underway in the UK, Melior Golf believes it has the expertise to help landowners find the right balance between housing and golf as they redevelop their land. “Change is coming whether the industry likes it or not, so our objective is to ensure that a sustainable compact golf facility is included in conversions of underused golf courses to housing developments, wherever possible,” said Andrew Lloyd-Skinner. “For the last two years we have been researching and refining this idea, and discussing it with many golf industry and development contacts – and we have received almost unanimous support. “So if you are in a position where you are considering what to do with the land on which your golf course is built, I suggest that you contact us,” added Lloyd-Skinner. “We will help you to work methodically through the process, including looking at local supply and demand issues regarding both local housing needs and the local demand for golf. “Together we will come up with the right solution.” GMé

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31/07/2014 21:52 | 45


slope mowers

Remote controlled Spider benefits your slope rating Arguably one of the best-kept secrets when it comes to groundscare equipment, the Spider remote controlled slope mower can save your maintenance team a significant amount of time and energy when it comes to maintaining grassed banks as Kevin Marks reports.

46 | GMĂŠ May 2017 ALL TERRAIN The remote controlled Spider slope mower, which provides a quality cut on all levels

Mowing steep banks and slopes or around the edges of lakes and ponds on golf courses has always been labour intensive and not particularly pleasant for the people doing the work. With health and safety becoming more important in the management of golf courses, the course manager and indeed, the club management, are under more pressure than ever to look after the welfare of their team. So what can be done to help alleviate these issues? The answer might be the use of remote controlled mowers, where the operator controls the machine from a safe distance. Introduced in Europe in 2004, the Spider, a remotely operated dedicated mower for maintaining steep slopes, created a new sector in the turf maintenance industry, almost overnight. Its primary role was to mow slopes and banks in safety, following a toughening of Health and Safety regulations across the industry. The story of how this unique mower came into being is quite fascinating. It was designed and developed by Lubomír Dvořák, the owner of a road and utilities construction company in the Czech Republic. Following the ‘Velvet Revolution’, which brought an

end to communism in Czechoslovakia in November 1989, Dvořák built up a successful business constructing roads and utility infrastructure for the new government. One of the clauses in the road building contract stipulated that his company maintain the banks and verges for a year after the road was handed over to the government. Having unsuccessfully scoured the planet looking for a suitable machine, he concluded that the only way to overcome this dilemma was to design and build one himself. In 2002, the development of the Spider 1 began in an outbuilding in his back yard and by 2003 it was launched into the market. By 2004, the machinery division of Dvořák was established and mass construction of the Spider 1, commenced – the larger and more productive ILD02, Spider 2, was introduced in 2006 and just two years later the Spider range was being distributed in over 30 countries. Recognising the huge opportunity in the USA and Canada, a joint USA/Czech partnership distributor, Slope Care, was established in 2012, and in 2014, after outgrowing their existing premises in the Czech Republic, Dvořák opened a new purpose-built, ultra-modern head office

“we’ve definitely reduced the time devoted to maintaining these areas from a week to a single day of man hours” | 47



slope mowers

“This sloping semirough used to take two of the team a day and a half to trim with brush cutters; with the Spider it takes just one and a half hours!”

ON THE UP Founder Lubomír Dvořák

and manufacturing plant on the outskirts of Pohled, some 120 kilometres southeast of Prague. One of the golf courses to recognise the benefits of the Spider was Old Head Golf Links, the luxurious golf resort situated on the Old Head of Kinsale peninsular in the south west of Ireland. Neil Deasy, the course superintendent at the time of the purchase, said there were three main reasons why the club chose the Spider for this application. “Productivity, playability and health and safety were the prime drivers behind the purchase of the Spider,” he said. “The second fairway is a typical example of what we have to contend with in terms of slopes. The semi-rough areas to the sides of the fairway are 40 degrees plus in some places with rescue areas below for wayward drives. “This sloping semi-rough used to take two of the team a day and a half to trim with brush cutters; with the Spider it takes just one and a half hours! “By mowing regularly we can manage the grass, keeping it at 50mm, to ensure that any wayward balls can be found more easily and the speed of play kept to a sensible level. Finally, from a health and safety standpoint and operator comfort perspective, the Spider is in a class of its own. “The operator can stand on level ground above the machine, so that means no stress on hip and knee joints, he’s not in contact with mower, so there’s no vibration issues and because he can operate it from as much as 50 metres away, there’s much reduced noise levels.

48 | GMé May 2017

“Without a doubt it has been remarkable; we’ve definitely reduced the time devoted to maintaining these areas from a week to a single day of man hours,” concluded Deasy. The Spider at Old Head has been fitted with the optional lower height of cut kit, which reduces the cut to 50mm. It also features a winch as standard; the machine can be ground anchored and, with the winch assisting, can tackle slopes up to 55 degrees. It has four rotary blades which give a cutting width of 1.23 metres and has four-wheel drive and four-wheel steering as standard, making it highly manoeuvrable. In fact, this drive system is probably the most important feature of the mower in terms of productivity. Known as the ‘dancing step’ it allows mowing in any direction without complicated manoeuvring. Quite simply, it’s four-wheel drive forward and backward with four-wheel steering in any direction, providing unlimited continuous 360° turning. With this travel system, the Spider mowers can move easily on a hillside or on waterlogged terrains and freely change direction while maintaining fourwheel drive. The dancing step makes the mowers very stable, manoeuvrable and gentle to a terrain, since the Spider is not required to turn like tracked machines. Standard ride on mowers with a classic three/four-wheel chassis lose traction when turning on slopes and can become unstable, while the tracked mowers can cause severe damage to the turf, especially in wet or unstable conditions.

The ability to control the mower remotely is essential for safe mowing on steep hillsides and in dangerous areas. In terms of comfort, to use a brush cutter on steep slopes the operator has to stand in extremely awkward positions putting strain on knee and ankle joints, twisting to move the implement in an arc while subject to noise and vibration. All this physically demanding work and movement is eliminated, noise is dramatically reduced and there are no vibrations to worry about, simply because the operator is not in physical contact with the machine. All the functions are at the operator’s fingertips making the mower very easy to use. The controller can be used to remotely start and stop the engine; set the desired speed; engage and disengage the mowing blade(s); adjust the cutting height; change direction and speed; select alternative operating frequency (on the controller); activate the auxiliary winch and shut down the machine in an emergency. For added safety, in case of any disruption in the radio frequency such as loss of signal or interference from another rf device, the entire system shuts down and the mower stops. The aim is not to control the mower at a great distance, but to give the user an opportunity to choose a convenient and safe place where there is no risk when mowing. Looking at the attributes of the Spider range, European course managers could now have a cost-effective solution to mowing difficult areas. GMé

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signing off

“I was happiest when channelling my inner Luke Skywalker and working within a spaceship environment”

To explore strange new worlds, and boldly go into a virtual reality There remains, in some quarters, a perception that golf is staid, that it remains rooted in the 18th century, with the Luddite tendencies and concomitant misogyny that entails. Indeed, there are some who would prefer it that way – but thankfully we appear to be weeding them out. Yet, in some areas, golf is embracing technology. Publisher Michael Lenihan and I had the opportunity recently to try out the Oculus Rift, a Virtual Reality (VR) headset which creates an entirely immersive environment without the need to leave one’s desk. It was, in equal measure, astonishing and riveting. We were invited to try it by Andrew Harris, co-founder of visualisation agency Harris Kalinka, which is using the technology in tandem with golf course designers and real estate architects. Although we were, physically, standing in an office space, the VR placed us in environments as diverse as a Californian golf course, an Asian course, a frozen wasteland and a penthouse apartment. The realism was staggering on the courses. Stood on a tee with the sea lapping at a shoreline behind and to the left of us, both Michael and I said afterwards we just wanted to pull out a club and hit a ball. It was that motivating. You are able to turn around and see in all directions – you can even hear the seagulls. But they don’t demand your chips… Gaming aficionados have been using this technology, of course – they’re always first to embrace such step changes

50 | GMé May 2017

A VISION OF THE FUTURE The Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset

in technology – though the games have yet to really catch up with the potential. Golf, for once, has beaten a path to the technology’s door. Harris Kalinka is already working with some of the biggest names in golf course design, and the work it has undertaken will soon be ready for the Oculus. But, ignoring the future benefits it holds for the industry’s creative types I was happiest when channelling my inner Luke Skywalker and working within a spaceship environment, interacting with my little robot buddy and shooting various things which flew across and toward my vision. In one instance, even though I was aware I was stood in an office, as one object hurtled towards me at a rate of knots, I ducked hurriedly and sent forth

some language which is not suitable for a golf industry publication. As a man of some girth and lacking in fitness, I remain hopeful that this technology will soon progress to a level where I can actually enjoy (nearly) all the benefits of a round of golf or a battle with the Romulans from the bridge of the Starship Enterprise without leaving my sofa. Make it so... GMé

David Bowers

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