GMé | May 2018

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On the cover...

Stoke Park’s 27-hole bunker renovation project has been completed using HyLine, the unique bunker liner by John Greasley


£7.50 Issue 119 | May 2018

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

A desert oasis a mere 30 years ago, Dubai has embraced golf tourism, and CEO of Dubai Golf, Christopher May, has embraced Dubai


On the agenda may 2018 47


Mark Vickery; Three off the tee

One of the most respected golf club operators in the business, Mark Vickery has worked at some of the finest clubs in the world, and is now spearheading Three-off-the-Tee.


David Roy Links Roles

As the relatively new president of the CMAE, David Roy has to combine his day-to-day activities at Crail Golfing Society with the demands of overseeing the growing association.


May Day for Christopher

As The Emirates Golf Club in Dubai celebrates 30 years as the capital of golf in the region, CEO of Dubai Golf, Christopher May, discusses life in the UAE.


Morgan at home in Blairgowrie

When 32-year-old Steven Morgan took over at Blairgowrie Golf Club his age was just another number to the 129-yearold club.



Darker loving life at Aphrodite

Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus has recently concluded a major rebuild of all greens and bunkers under the stewardship of director of golf, Andrew Darker.

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 Advertising Contributors

Michael Lenihan David Bowers Ken Anderson Mark Alexander, Ella Boyden, Scott MacCallum, John Ross, Mark Vickery, Nicole Wheatley


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ISSN 1368-7727. Printed by The Manson Group. © 2018 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

“In my experience, far too many clubs fly by the seat of their pants in winter, praying that it will be a mild one”

Too many clubs unprepared for Snow and Winter Closures It was the author of Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes, who said: “Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory.” This quotation was used in an email to me recently by a director of golf who was content in the knowledge that, while this winter had played havoc with the condition of his course – and therefore the revenue derived from green fees – he was still enjoying a steady income from the simulator he had perspicaciously installed at the club. The reason he felt compelled to show off his degree in literature was that I had raised the subject of a mutual friend who was preparing to face a seven or eight-month period when he would be expected to claw back 12 months of revenue, following the worst winter he’d experienced at his current club. While I had sympathy with him, for nobody wants to see friends under intense work pressure, part of me – a significant part, to be fair – felt the same way as old Miguel (de Cervantes, that is, not Ángel Jiménez). In my experience, far too many clubs fly by the seat of their pants in winter, praying that it will be a mild one. If they don’t prepare for the possibility of a bad winter, they can hardly justify their complaints, particularly when, in recent years, very realistic simulators have come on to the market which offer a clear return on investment when used properly. Golfers, by their very nature, want to golf, so a simulator gives them a reason

4 | GMé May 2018

WINTER CHILLS A wintry scene at Blairgowrie Golf Club in Scotland

to brave the elements and visit the golf club, whether to play a round or to have a lesson and hone their game while the course is closed. The effects of a bad winter became evident recently when Sports Marketing Surveys published its first quarter results for 2018. It showed an average drop of rounds played in the UK of more than 22 per cent year on year. Scotland fared the best with a decrease of 15.7 per cent – but Scottish courses are, naturally, better prepared for bad weather. And, more than likely, we will see similar – if not quite as dramatic – returns from other countries as well.

Indeed, on the third weekend of April there were reports of 16 inches of snow in some parts of the USA. I’ve never read any de Cervantes, so I tend to adhere to Benjamin Franklin’s “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail…” If it happens to you again next year, don’t come skiing to me... GMé

Michael Lenihan

Follow us @RainBirdGolf

Find a smarter way to renovate. When Atlanta Athletic Club was looking to upgrade their Highlands course to single-head control, they reached out to Rain Bird for fresh ideas. Thanks to an insightful plan to keep their pipe network and install new rotors and IC System™ control, they renovated their irrigation for a third of the cost of a new system. This kind of innovative thinking from Rain Bird is helping them protect their budget and defend their turf. Visit to see the full story of Atlanta Athletic Club’s intelligent renovation investment.


Hold the front page Using the unique HyLine bunker liner, John Greasley Limited has just completed a three-year bunker renovation project on all 27-holes at historic Stoke Park.

“We would have no hesitation in engaging John Greasley again for any future projects nor would we hesitate to recommend them”

Cover sponsored by John Greasley Limited (44) 0116 269 6766

6 | GMé May 2018

This month sees the re-opening of the Lane Jackson course at Stoke Park Country Club & Spa, completing three winters of refurbishment – work that is of particular pride to Leicester-based course construction specialist John Greasley Ltd. ‘Greasleys’, as the firm is affectionately known, has spent each of the last three winters at Stoke Park working firstly on the Colt course, then the Alison, and, finally, the Lane Jackson nine. And, if the reviews are anything to go by, the company has done a first-class job. The total area covered was around five hectares, which included 9,000m2 of sand and HyLine work, and in total, 110 bunkers were reconstructed, necessitating the importing and spreading of 1,200 tons of sand. Director Charlie Greasley explained: “We imported around 4,000m3 of subsoil from a combination of borrow areas around the site, many of which remained as features, such as the quarry to the right of the 17th fairway. “We also carried out lake and pond extensions, which provided valuable fill material, as well as allowing for the re-profiling and enhancement of a number of ‘in-play’ water features.” He added “It’s been a privilege to work with the team at Stoke Park, and

I’m delighted with how the project has evolved. We’ve also worked closely with the greenkeeping staff and have added drainage channels and renovated tees as part of the ongoing improvements. “It’s been a huge challenge over some tough winters, but we’re absolutely delighted with how the bunkers have bedded-in. They look visually stunning, are more playable and are free-draining too.” Stoke Park’s director of golf, Stuart Collier, said: “Working with John Greasley Ltd over the past three winters has been an eye-opener. The weather during that time has been at best unhelpful, at worst destructive. Yet, Greasleys’ team has worked tirelessly and professionally throughout that time and the results have been nothing short of spectacular. “The works carried out on the three nines at Stoke Park have been acclaimed by golf experts across the board, which obviously delights everybody here, and much of the credit goes to John and Charlie Greasley and their team who came in on time on each occasion. “We would have no hesitation in engaging John Greasley again for any future projects nor would we hesitate to recommend them to anybody else looking to do something similar in the golf industry.” GMé

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Stars of Irish Golf turn-out to officially open The Golf Course at Adare Manor Four of Ireland’s most celebrated golfing stars conducted the official drive-in at The Golf Course at Adare Manor in April, set to become one of the most recognised layouts in world golf. Rory McIlroy, Padraig Harrington, Paul McGinley and Shane Lowry hit the inaugural tee shots on the whollyreconstructed Tom Fazio design. The Golf Course at Adare Manor will be unmatched in terms of quality of conditioning, utilising practices and products like no course to come before it. Over a two-year reconstruction period, the Fazio Design team has established a 7,509-yard championship golf course created to the most exacting of standards with the goal of establishing the course amongst the world’s best and hosting the world’s most prestigious events. Speaking at the reopening, Colm Hannon, CEO of Adare Manor, said: “What Tom Fazio and his team have designed here over the last two years has been outstanding. The Golf Course at Adare Manor is unique and our intention is that it becomes recognised as one of the world’s finest. “We are delighted to be joined for this historic occasion by Rory, Padraig, Paul and Shane, as well as a number of our members and some very special guests. “This is a wonderful day for Irish golf, and I look forward to seeing each of the golfing stars supporting today’s launch

return to compete for golfing events of the very highest calibre at Adare Manor over the years to come.” Maintained by a 50-strong team of greenkeepers, led by course superintendent Alan MacDonnell, The Golf Course at Adare Manor possesses the most compelling of reconstruction stories. Born of the original Adare Manor golf course, first opened in 1995 and twice host to the Irish Open (2007 & 2008), Fazio’s masterpiece represents a wholly new proposition. Lead designer, Tom Fazio, said: “Most golfers will never have seen anything like this course.

GM bursary from Rain Bird

Clubs to Lease launch new rental scheme aimed at golf resorts

The general manager of Helensburgh Golf Club in Argyll & Bute is hoping to take his career, and the ambitions of his club, to new heights after being selected as the first recipient of a professional development bursary provided by Rain Bird, in partnership with the Golf Club Managers’ Association. Kevin McAleer began his journey along the pathway to an ASQ Level 5 Diploma in Golf Club Management this month, alongside 54 other club managers and aspiring managers from around the UK. Alastair Higgs, Rain Bird’s district manager for golf in the UK and Ireland said: “We are delighted to be able to give Kevin this opportunity and look forward to sharing his journey. His application and insightful presentation showed him to be a positive, progressive and handson manager. “His interest in agronomy and appreciation of its role in club management was evident, as was his commitment to his club’s commercial success.”

8 | GMé May 2018

Rory McIlroy plays his final approach in front of the galleries and the Manor House

Tony Judge

Clubs to Hire has made life a whole lot easier for travelling golfers in the last eight years – and now it’s expanding its model to provide a similar service for the golf industry. The new Clubs to Lease programme recruited its first customer in March when Alicante Golf signed up to lease six sets of new TaylorMade M4 clubs at a monthly set fee. And, in keeping with the contract, once the year is up, Clubs to Lease takes the

“It looks and plays like no other course in Ireland. This will be a stand out course in Europe and, with the Adare Manor house and estate as its setting, will be one of the finest stay and play venues ever created – everyone is going to want to see this place.” As well as number of consultants and contributors, Fazio requested the involvement of decorated golfers to give feedback on plans throughout the project, seeking the observations and expertise of both Harrington and McGinley as two of Europe’s most experienced touring professionals in finalising routing, contouring and grass selection.

clubs back and supplies more new product in their stead. The move to help the golf industry, as well as the consumer, was a natural progression, according to Clubs to Hire co-founder, Tony Judge. He explained: “It’s just tweaking the service we already provide. Most of the top resorts across Europe have exclusive deals with the likes of TaylorMade and Callaway, but that privilege is not extended to the majority of clubs who, previously, will have had to fork out considerable budget in order to provide good quality rental options for their visitors. “Leasing from us make sense because, at around €55 per set per month, the golf club only have to rent them out once or twice and they’ve already made their money back, effectively increasing their profitability in one fell swoop. “Golfers are delighted because they have brand new top-of-the-range clubs, and the accounts department are pleased too, because they make money and have no depreciation to worry about.”


Leadbetter to open European headquarters at Stoke Park

In brief... Hublot Ambassador, Patrick Reed, highlighted his prodigious talent and battling spirit with a maiden Major victory at The Masters, sealing his place in the annals of golfing history alongside the greatest players ever to have played the game. “There is no finer accomplishment in golf than securing victory at The Masters and we would like to offer our congratulations to Patrick for securing his status amongst golf’s very finest with this win,” said Ricardo Guadalupe, CEO of Hublot. Berkshire’s Goring and Streatley Golf Club has upgraded its grounds with a new state-of-the-art Rain Bird irrigation system, using a £660,000 funding package from HSBC. Brand new pipework and sprinklers have been installed beneath its greens, tees, approaches and fairways using the ‘mole ploughing’ technique – as opposed to traditional trenching – in order to minimise damage to the ground.

The world-renowned golf coach David Leadbetter is set to open the Leadbetter Golf Academy European Headquarters at Stoke Park Country Club & Hotel. Leadbetter, who has coached players to 22 Major championships and more than 100 individual worldwide tournament victories, has more than 30 academies across the globe. Many of the world’s top golf coaches have gone through The Leadbetter Golf Academy certification and Stoke Park’s team of dedicated professionals are already undergoing the training programme. Sussex-born Leadbetter will be at Stoke Park in May to officially launch the academy that will bear his name, and director of golf, Stuart Collier, believes the Stoke Poges resort has pulled off a coup in partnering with a man for whom the often-overused sobriquet ‘legend’ is surely deserved. Collier said: “Few people in the world game can match David Leadbetter’s track record in golf coaching – or the success his students have achieved. His name has become a byword for the very highest level of coaching and tuition. “We have enjoyed unprecedented success in our academy over the past few years – not just in competition wins but in the overall improvements shown by

David Leadbetter

Double Delight for Montgomery and Ruiz at La Manga Club

The Club at Castiglion del Bosco, Tuscany, has announced the inaugural Weiskopf Invitational, a new golf event to be hosted by former Open Champion and acclaimed course architect Tom Weiskopf. The exclusive two-day event will mark the 45th anniversary of Weiskopf’s Open victory, one of five titles he won during an extraordinary season that elevated him to among the top three players in the world. The Golf Club Managers Association (GCMA) broke new ground when 40 leading golf industry figures gathered at Foxhills Club & Resort for the inaugural meeting of the GCMA Women’s Golf Leadership Group in March. Chief executive Bob Williams announced the formation of the group at the GCMA Conference last November as part of the association’s commitment to achieve a more inclusive culture within golf.

the students – and having the European headquarters of The Leadbetter Golf Academy here is testament to the effort put in by everybody concerned. It will prove of immense benefit to members of all ages.” Leadbetter added: “I am looking forward to May, when The Leadbetter Golf Academy at Stoke Park will officially open to the public. The Academy is located at a fabulous resort that I am very familiar with. Among other things, I am delighted to be able to choose Stoke Park as the new European headquarters for the LGA Academy. “A lot of time and money has been invested in the golf courses at Stoke Park in recent years and the team there has invested a lot of energy into elevating their academy to new heights.”

Nick Montgomery (left) with Eduardo Ruiz

Spain’s La Manga Club is preparing to enter a new phase in its evolving history after announcing the creation of two new management divisions to help reinforce the resort’s position among the world’s elite sports and leisure venue. Under the new structure, experienced hotelier Nick Montgomery has been appointed as general manager of the resort’s hotel, spa and food and beverage section while Eduardo Ruiz, the venue’s current director of golf, has

been promoted as general manager of La Manga Club’s new sports division. Montgomery is no stranger to La Manga Club having been general manager at the hotel from 1996 to 2007, and has a wealth of experience in the global hotel industry having worked in a number of leading roles around the world, while Ruiz joined the resort from Valderrama three years ago. Commenting on his appointment, Montgomery said: “I’m delighted to be part of the La Manga Club family again after 11 years, and to see so many familiar faces. The resort is a well-known brand in the national and international market, and my mission is to continue developing this project and preserving the excellence of our products and services.” Ruiz, who will manage all sportsrelated matters at La Manga Club including golf, tennis, football, cricket and rugby in his new position as sports general manager, said: “Sport is a pivotal area for La Manga Club and it’s a great honour to be given this new role.” | 9




Interior design guru transforms clubhouse at PGA Catalunya Resort The transformation of PGA Catalunya Resort’s clubhouse by celebrated interior design guru Lázaro Rosa-Violán is a bold move away from traditional golf course clubhouses. Expansive glass walls, well-placed mirrors and the bright foliage of a legion of indoor plants create a light-drenched space that opens out onto the Stadium Course. Wooden tones blend with sage green upholstery and tan leather to create a warm, natural atmosphere which contrasts with the clean lines of marble, metallic, and charcoal-grey surfaces. About the new look interior, designer Lázaro Rosa-Violán commented: “I wanted to create an open space that felt connected to the incredible courses outside but had a character of its own, blending the tones of the Catalonian landscape with the modern design aesthetic of the resort.” Gastronomy sits at the heart of the estate’s luxury lifestyle experience, and the redesigned Club Café will play a key role in expanding the culinary offerings of the European Tour Destination. Across the resort, which also boasts its own vineyard, guests can discover cooking shows, special menus and guest chef appearances, as well as wine events, tastings and pairings.

The redesigned Club Café at PGA Catalunya

PGA Catalunya Resort CEO David Plana added: “The refurbishment of our clubhouse is part of our continuing evolution into one of Europe’s most desirable luxury lifestyle destinations. “As we progress with our threeyear, multi-million Euro investment programme, we are looking to push the boundaries and develop the breadth of

facilities, services and experiences we can offer customers. From sport, exercise and leisure facilities to adventure activities and nature walks, we seek to engage the whole family and cater to interests for all ages and characters.” With two hotels on-site, PGA Catalunya is less than an hour’s drive from Barcelona.

Vickery takes The ‘Loft’ by THL Modular brings Three off the tee affordable homes to your course A specialist consultancy has been formed to enable operating, pre-opening and potential golf businesses to fulfil their long term ambitions and achieve sustainable profitability. Called Three Off The Tee, it’s the brainchild of Mark Vickery, a former senior executive at Goodwood, Les Bordes and Royal Westmoreland in Barbados. From his base in the south of France, he has assembled a three-man team of experts in their field to cover the main departments within each golf facility that could benefit from their skill-set. Vickery’s expertise covers strategic planning, creative sales and marketing, while chartered accountant Neil Dalgliesh – based in Singapore – provides financial advice and Dutch agronomy specialist Ian Ouwerkerk can advise on quality course design, agronomy issues and maintenance. “It took time for me to find qualified and specialist partners who share the same vision, but in Neil and Ian we have the right blend of expertise to help clubs and resorts succeed.”

10 | GMé May 2018

THL Modular has announced the launch of a luxury lodge that has been specifically developed for the golf, leisure and tourism sector. The ‘Loft’ is a brand new, modular building, designed and constructed by Tingdene Homes under THL Modular branding, and with modular construction on the increase, it is anticipated that these stylish lodges will soon be appearing on golf courses across the land. Due to the significant cost and time savings of modular construction – costs can be as much as 40 per cent less and time savings as high as 60 per cent – modular lodges are built in a factory controlled environment leading to exceptionally high quality control standards. This luxury space has stunning features including a spiral staircase, bi-folding doors and Brise Soleil to enhance the A frame roof section. All THL Modular builds can be built to meet the characteristics of the client’s brief and can be flexible in size, shape and design.

This revolutionary design is built to current building regulations and is LABC approved allowing the structure to be utilised as a leisure home, hotel or even a café or clubhouse. The ‘Loft’ is a perfect means of diversifying revenue streams for those golf clubs with the vision and imagination to take their business model to the next level. With the recent boom in staycations and lodge holidays, it’s the perfect time to make an investment in the leisure market.

The ‘Loft’ by THL Modular

Green, Tee & Bunker Reconstruction Drainage Schemes, Lakes & Reservoirs Practice Facilities


Diversify your revenue stream with a range of luxury lodges and hotel accommodation. A modular build brings with it several benefits. • • • • •

Shorter build times Safer construction with reduced site labour Factory build, superior quality LABC approved Environmentally less sensitive, providing a 7-day siting Tingdene Homes Ltd is the holding company of THL Modular. 01933 230 130 Tel: 0116 269 6766

The New ISEKI TG6675 - Powershuttle


For further details or a demonstration, please contact your local ISEKI dealer or ISEKI UK on 01473 599266

A powerful 65hp compact tractor capable of lifting 1500kg at 24”, whilst being gentle on your course | 11



Tewkesbury Park unveils £9m facelift to create luxury golf breaks Cotswold golfing haven Tewkesbury Park, now under independent family ownership and newly-ranked among Great Britain & Ireland’s top 100 golf resorts, has unveiled a spectacular twoyear, £9 million facelift. The 93-room luxury hotel, spa and golf course now offers the complete golf break with outstanding accommodation and some of the finest playing surfaces in the west of England. Golfers looking for the ultimate luxury golf break now have six brand-new historic suites to choose from, each offering five-star levels of opulence, detail and traditional quality rarely found in English golf hotels. Three other individually-designed ‘Indulgence’ rooms can also be found in the 18th Century manor house, and the remainder of Tewkesbury Park’s bedrooms now offer a minimum of fourstar style, comfort and interiors – with superb Hypnos beds in every room. Out on the 6,579 yard par 72 18-hole golf course – designed by highlyacclaimed golf architect Frank Pennink, whose Vilamoura Old Course in Portugal is among the most revered in the Algarve – dozens of bunkers have been refurbished, and the course has been remodelled and reconditioned by designer

Tewkesbury Park

Peter McEvoy and agronomist John Clarkin, who previously worked together on the award-winning Powerscourt Golf Club in Ireland. Clarkin has prepared courses for the US Open, the Solheim Cup and the Ladies European Tour. Over the last two years the hotel has invested in a full range of new Toro machinery to help to raise playing surfaces to the highest standard, with Paul

Hathaway a recent arrival as Tewkesbury Park’s new head greenkeeper. You’ll also find a new golf boutique shop providing all the golfing essentials, plus brand-new golfer locker rooms, a 6-hole Academy Course to warm up on, two separate practice areas and a putting green. Plus the hotel’s indoor pool, sauna, steam room and outdoor hot tub have all been refurbished.

Saving space by Stephen Gallacher tees up Carousel Golf new leisure facilities Golf bag storage for members and visitors has for many golf clubs created problems over the years, especially with the increased popularity of electric trolleys and larger bag sizes. However, a revolutionary design by Carousel Golfing can quite literally save the day – as well as space – by ensuring that golf operations are able to store more golf clubs, whilst increasing revenue from increased bag storage. “Carousel Golfing has for many years offered options to address these issues, and with the choice of a two-tier system, we can bring total room volume into our calculations when measuring your existing bag storage area,” said managing director, Mike Waldron. “In actual fact, our Carousel system can triple your existing bag storage capacity,” he added confidently. The Carousel can store 12 large bags per square yard, and features a fast bag deposit retrieval system which is quick and easy to install. For the ultimate in bag storage, look no further than the enclosed Armadillo Security locker, with three locking bars on each door.

12 | GMé May 2018

One of Scotland’s top golfing champions has swung into action to launch the newly renovated leisure facilities at Macdonald Inchyra Hotel & Spa, Falkirk. Stephen Gallacher, 2014 Ryder Cup player and three-time winner on The European Tour, is an official ambassador to Macdonald Hotels & Resorts, and last month visited the Macdonald Inchyra Hotel & Spa to open the new Vital Health & Wellbeing Club, and spin studio which have undergone an extensive renovation. Gallacher, who lives in nearby Linlithgow, will be using the facilities throughout the 2018 golf season, and shared some top tips from his winning workout regime. He said; “My programme consists of lots of cardiovascular exercises. I am a big fan of the static bike, it’s a low impact work out, which builds strength and power, helping me to hit the ball further, as well as increasing my focus and concentration. “Spin classes also increase endurance and stamina – which are essential during tournaments when I can be playing or practicing for up to five hours every day.

Stephen Gallacher

“The new spin studio at Macdonald Inchyra Hotel & Spa is great and adds an element of fun to an otherwise gruelling workout. Fitted with IC6 Myride indoor cycle bikes, spin class fans can work out in front of screens which transport them to over 500 unique locations showing footage from the Italian Alps to road trails in California.”

people news

Movers & Shakers A brief pictorial round-up of some of the individuals shaping the golf business, including news of a change of employer for Sean Côrte-Real, as he trades Las Colinas for La Cala.







In brief... Carus Green Golf Club’s golf academy has cemented its place as one of the UK’s finest facilities after receiving PGA accreditation. The newly named ‘PGA Golf Academy, Carus Green, Cumbria’ officially launched on April 6 and joins an elite group of PGA branded golf properties around the world including The Belfry, Gleneagles and Formby Hall in the UK, and Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus. Golf At Goodwood is delighted to announce that prodigious talent Georgia Hall will be joining the club as an ambassador. Recently voted England’s Most Welcoming Club, Golf At Goodwood has always been keen to nurture and encourage talent in the game and will provide a UK base from which Georgia will compete in the LPGA Tour in 2018. has announced a partnership with ProAgenda. com which will see them assist the development of the Dutch firm’s business in the UK market in 2018.’s online agenda software enables golf professionals to manage their client interactions efficiently and provides them with all the necessary tools to keep track of their administration and finances. The Get into Golf campaign was relaunched last month by England Golf with a bold, modern look which is designed to be noticed and shake up ideas about the sport. Bright colours, casual clothing and the thumbs-up from social influencers will combine to show golf as fun, friendly – and welcoming to beginners and improvers. It refreshes and modernises the image of the game and sets out to inspire people to give golf a go. The new website offers taster sessions and courses for beginners and improvers, with features which make it easy for customers to find a session, book activities and pay online.


Sean CÔrte-Real, formerly the director of golf at Troon-managed Las Colinas in Spain, has left the facility to take up a similar position at La Cala Golf resort in Mijas which boasts three courses and a hotel.


The Els Club Malaysia has appointed Terrance Mohammed as group director of agronomy, who will be responsible for managing the three courses across the two destinations; The Els Club Desaru Coast and The Els Club Teluk Datai.


In another key appointment for The Els Club Malaysia, Stephen Havrilla, who has 19 years experience working with Troon Golf, has assumed the position of general manager with responsibility for all day-to-day operations.


SkyCaddie has promoted James Holmes to the role of general manager, UK & Europe. Holmes was previously UK & European sales manager at the company, known for its SkyCaddie, SkyTrak and SkyPro product lines.


Alice Hiluta has become the latest member of the award-winning pro shop team at Royal-Mid Surrey Golf Club in south-west London to boost the club’s teaching Academy for beginners and provide lessons for members.


Advanced AAA PGA professional Andrew Hillman, who has 18 years accumulated golf industry experience, has joined Foresight Sports as a sales executive covering all products across the EMEA region. | 13


Club Car Introduces New Tempo™ Golf Cars Official partner of

14 | GMé May 2018

merchandising news

Pro Shop & Retail A brief pictorial round-up of events from the retail side of the industry, including news that Titleist has announced the launch of AVX – a new high performance golf ball.







In brief... Golf Genius, a provider of cloud based tournament software, has announced a deal with 2018 Ryder Cup venue, Le Golf National, to become the live scoring partner as part of a multi-year agreement. Set to host the 42nd playing of the Ryder Cup later this year on its Albatros course, the Paris-based destination will look to leverage the Golf Genius system to offer Ryder Cup experience packages for visitors, as well as an enhanced experience for its membership. Arccos Golf, a developer of gamechanging connected golf products, has introduced a new web-based platform that enables PGA professionals to access and interpret their student’s on-course performance data and it promises to transform conventional golf lessons. Called Arccos Coaches Dashboard, the innovative free platform leverages the award-winning Arccos 360 performance tracking system to automatically record and analyse every shot a player hits during each round. SkyTrak made its BBC Radio 5 Live debut last month as the Breakfast Show used it to recreate the drama of this year’s Masters. BBC Sport presenter Chris Latchem and Tour golfer Andrew Murray used SkyTrak running E6 Golf in a head-to-head match broadcast live on the station’s breakfast show, which averages over two million listeners each week. Bushnell Golf has launched an exciting initiative that allows golfers to get money back on the purchase of a new 2018 Bushnell product when they trade in any branded Distance Measurement Device. Golfers who trade in any branded Golf laser rangefinder or Golf GPS device, will get £50 back from the purchase of a 2018 Bushnell laser rangefinder or get £25 off when buying a new 2018 Bushnell Golf GPS watch.


The breakthrough performance of Titleist AVX – a new high performance golf ball providing remarkable distance and exceptionally soft feel through proprietary core, cover and aerodynamic technologies – has been announced.


For a second consecutive year, electric trolley brand PowaKaddy has been awarded the prestigious Quiet MarkTM – the international award for excellence in low-noise technology from the Noise Abatement Society.


Optimum Golf Technologies a supplier of fitting, coaching and performance analysis technology, has added K-MOTION to its brand portfolio to offer European coaches and players the ultimate package in golf swing technology.


FootJoy has launched an all-new line of footwear. Named for the Active Response Cushioning found within the midsole of the shoe, ARC SL will offer unparalleled levels of comfort, with a performance spikeless outsole.


Grip Master, the number one leather grip brand on every major golfing tour worldwide, has joined forces with Brand Fusion International to distribute club and putter grips made from the finest Cabretta, Cowhide and Kangaroo leather.


Shot Scope Technologies has released a new firmware update with enhanced features to improve the V2 watch, which combines its industry-leading automatic performance tracking with advanced GPS technology. | 15


A REVOLUTION IN GOLF BAG LOCKERS The Carousel Golf Bag Storage System is easy to install, safe to use, and allows your club to increase, and often treble your golf bag storage capacity. Increase revenue at your club... bag storage can generate as much as £20,000 per year! Installations include:

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

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眀眀眀⸀最漀氀昀最爀愀ϻ砀⸀挀漀洀 16 | GMé May 2018


greenkeeping news

Machinery & Turf A brief pictorial round-up of course management related events including news that St Endoc in Cornwall has added to its impressive list of accolades by signing with Toro.







In brief... Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, in the UAE, has received recognition in Environmental Planning from the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. Administered by Audubon International, the program is designed to help landowners preserve and enhance the environmental quality of their property. The plan was developed by Corey Finn, assistant golf course superintendent, who was also recognised for his effort to plan for environmental stewardship. The European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) are delighted to announce that Bernhard have become their latest Bronze Partner. Welcoming the new partnership Ross McMurray, president of the EIGCA said: “Partnership with the EIGCA provides an opportunity for our Partners to gain direct access to golf course architects.” The desire for continual improvement is high at Leamington & County Golf Club, with the ambitious team of head greenkeeper and general manager turning to the Foley ACCU-Sharp 605 for cost saving, plant health and ease of use. The duo of head greenkeeper, Jason Cooper, and general manager, Bryan Frazer, make a formidable team through their understanding of each other’s role in maintaining and elevating one of Warwickshire’s finest parkland courses. This summer the turf team at Le Golf National have the unprecedented challenge of preparing the Albatross course for the French Open at the end of June, and then, just three months later, to be ready to host The Ryder Cup 2018. It’s an incredible turf team challenge, and you can now follow their journey on a new Syngenta website that has launched:


St Enodoc Golf Club has an impressive roll call... It is the number one golf club in Cornwall; sixth in the UK according to Golf World, and rated 99th in the world by Golf Digest and is now a new Toro customer.


New to the Bailoy range is the GTI EC irrigation control software in Pro and Lite versions. These GTI EC controllers retain many features of the GTI PC stablemate while being more economical and simple to use.


The first major volunteering opportunity of the year awaits the BIGGA members who have been selected to join the Support Team for the BMW PGA Championship, and assist director of golf courses and estates Kenny Mackay.


A £1.5 million investment in stateof-the art packing facilities and additional storage capacity at Germinal GB’s Lincoln headquarters is part of a broader longterm strategy to increase efficiencies and competitiveness.


DJUKE, the specialist sports turf maintenance company, managed by former Queenwood course manager Cameron McMillan, has purchased a Ventrac 4500 compact tractor and a selection of implements.


Golf courses are one of Apex Soil Solutions first targets to benefit from their GEOTEC Injection treatment that generates long lasting drainage of water logged soils to reactivate natural biological processes in the soil. | 17



golf car batteries

Battery Stamina sparks debate The introduction of lithium-ion batteries into golf cars has fuelled an industry debate as to how beneficial they are compared to traditional lead acid. Ella Boyden shares her thoughts. The discussion about golf car batteries and the benefits of the various types has been ongoing for some time now, with E-Z-GO the first major golf car manufacturer to introduce a lithium-ion (li-ion) golf car. Experts in the field of battery power share the consensus that li-ion batteries improve the performance and longevity of golf cars compared to traditional lead acid batteries. Golf clubs have also been quick to adopt the new technology with golf club managers realising that the benefits of li-ion golf cars ultimately outweigh the initial up-front costs. A recent report by Technavio forecasts that the global golf car battery market will grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly five per cent between 2017-2021. Another report by the market research firm Genpact said that global golf car demand will reach 214,000 units this year and that their installation rate for li-ion batteries will jump drastically from one per cent last year to 14 per cent this year. “Vendors are expanding their current production capacities for lead-acid

18 | GMé May 2018

batteries, and Samsung has a contract with E-Z-GO to supply its cylindrical battery, which is based on the li-ion battery technology,” said Thanikachalam Chandrasekaran, a lead analyst at Technavio for energy storage research. This collaboration has resulted in the E-Z-GO ELiTE golf car series where the vehicles are powered by hundreds of Samsung SDI lithium cells that are loaded into a single battery pack. The battery pack is controlled by an advanced Battery Management System that monitors efficiency, temperature, state of charge and the health of the batteries. “The golf course industry is witnessing a transformation, owing to the use of latest technologies. To enhance a golfer’s experience and attract new customers, golf clubs are integrating the latest models of golf cars,” added Chandrasekaran. Since the introduction of the ELiTE Series last year, it has been widely adopted by a range of clubs with vastly differing budgets including Princes Golf Club in the UK, and Real Club Valderrama in Spain.

While clubs are realising the benefits of li-ion technology, there are still obstacles to overcome, and a big one is budget. The cost of an E-Z-GO ELiTE golf car is approximately 20 per cent more than the cost of an equivalent vehicle with a lead acid battery. This may seem like a hefty difference in price, but if you study the long-term financial savings as well as the time saved on maintenance and charging, the former soon becomes the more appealing option. A golf car with a li-ion battery has a significantly enhanced power-to-weight ratio, while li-ion batteries are half the size of lead acid batteries and a fraction of the weight. To put a figure on this, a standard li-ion battery in an E-Z-GO ELiTE golf car weighs 23kg, compared to a standard lead-acid battery which weighs around 150kg. This dramatic reduction in weight and size of the battery means that the golf car can reach higher speeds with less effort and carry more weight without the power fading and the performance diminishing. MOVING FORWARD Are lithium-ion batteries set to replace traditional lead acid in golf cars?

“The golf course industry is witnessing a transformation, owing to the use of latest technologies”

This is made possible because lithium batteries maintain the same voltage outputs regardless of the battery’s charge. As a result, the golf car continues to perform after its lead-acid counterpart has shown signs of fatigue. In comparison, lead acid batteries lose voltage output and performance after 70-75 per cent of the rated battery capacity is used, which has a negative impact on carrying capacity and the issue is highlighted as the day progresses. One of the major benefits of li-ion batteries is that they require no maintenance whatsoever as opposed to leadacid batteries which need regular checks and maintenance. This ultimately results in saved man hours and the extra costs of maintenance tools and products. The lack of lead-acid means that chemical spills are avoided and the chance of downtime on your golf cars is drastically reduced. However, it is still important to take care of any vehicle or machinery to protect it for years of use. One of the biggest factors when it comes to the wear and tear of golf cars is the weight of them; a heavy vehicle is more of a challenge to drive uphill or on uneven terrain, and can damage turf especially in wet conditions. The reduction in weight when using li-ion batteries protects turf and removes

unnecessary stress on brakes and other components on the golf car. Charging is an inevitable part of owning any vehicle powered by electricity. Regardless of the type of battery, electric vehicles still need to be charged, and this can be an inconvenience if you do not have a fleet of golf cars or a schedule that allows time for charging in-between uses. Golf cars need to be able to maintain consistent power and speed on a range of terrains. Studies have proven that li-ion batteries are able to provide this consistency, but lead-acid batteries will have a negative impact on the performance of the golf car as the voltage dips. On average, it takes eight hours to fully recharge a lead-acid battery. However, a li-ion battery can be recharged up to 80 per cent its capacity in just one hour, and 100 per cent in less than four hours. Another contrast between the two types of battery is that partially charged lead-acid batteries are susceptible to sulfation damage, meaning that if the golf car is charged to less than 100 per cent, the life of the battery is significantly reduced. Conversely, li-ion batteries show no adverse effects of being charged less than capacity, meaning that users can ‘opportunity charge’ – plugging vehicles

in for quick charging sessions that can rapidly restore significant levels of energy to the battery system, as opposed to the lengthy recharge cycles required by lead-acid batteries. Li-ion batteries do not contain hazardous material, whereas lead-acid batteries – as the name suggests – contain lead which is harmful to the environment although both are recyclable. The longevity and performance enhancing capabilities of li-ion batteries somewhat outweighs the initial up-front cost that clubs are faced with. If owners and operators can see beyond this, not only does the investment pay for itself over time, but big savings can be made in the way of reduced energy bills, maintenance costs, and possible repairs that would otherwise need to be made to heavy lead-acid golf cars and any damage to turf that they cause. Furthermore, in a spate of recent lead-acid battery thefts at a number of golf clubs in the UK, a li-ion battery is not valuable to thieves in terms of its content or the material it is made from. While it does not combat the underlying issue of criminal activity, it does at least reduce the chances of theft and the financial and legal impact associated with it. GMé | 19



mark vickery

“Eleven years at Les Bordes in the Loire Valley holds a special place in my heart because of the high quality of the golf course”

In conversation with Mark Vickery One of the most respected golf club operators in the business, Mark Vickery has worked at some of the finest clubs in the world, and is now spearheading Three-off-the-Tee.

PARLEZ-VOUS FRANCAIS? Mark Vickery pictured during his time at Les Bordes

GMé Before forging a profession in golf management, you gained your PGA qualification and spent time on the European Tour. How long did you hold a tour card for, and how successful was your playing career? MV My playing career was not that successful. I was young and inexperienced in both travelling and tournament play. A few course records and a couple of cuts do not a make a tour player. I gained my tour card at age 19 a couple of months before becoming PGA qualified, but those two qualifications along with some good recommendations enabled me to gain a position at Sunningdale Golf Club as assistant professional to Clive Clark. GMé What was your first management position, and what prompted the move from playing to managing?

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MV My first real management position came when I was hired by Disney in 1990. Disney were looking for a French speaking golf professional who wanted to be a manager not a player and I was fortunate enough to fit that profile. I benefitted not only from hospitality and finance training but being part of the opening team at Disneyland Paris was an unforgettable experience that really equipped me for future challenges. GMé You’ve been involved in the preopening of some prestigious courses – Royal Westmoreland and Sandy Lane in Barbados to name just two – so how did you get involved in opening resorts? MV The training and experience – at Disney they affectionately call it “pixie dust” – I gained at Disneyland Paris stood me in good stead to launch clubs later in my career.

MONKEY BUSINESS Simon Lee from Ralph Lauren (left), Elvis Medford director of golf at Sandy Lane (centre) and Mark Vickery at Sandy Lane

The Disney Company spend so much time on planning, procedures, and training that it was just a question of replicating those same standards and quality that I had learned with Disney. GMé In your experience, would you say that it’s easier to build a new resort from scratch, or turnaround an established, yet failing property? MV I would say it is easier to build a club from scratch – change is the hardest thing to manage both from a customer and employee perspective. Opening a new resort is far easier to set standards, provide the necessary training and motivate the team. In some cases, like Goodwood, the change is so substantial it could be considered like starting from scratch. Cannes Mougins was a much more difficult challenge because not all of the members wanted all the changes... you could say it was somewhat like Brexit!

GMé Of all the high-end courses that you’ve worked at, which one stands out for you as the most memorable period of your career? MV Eleven years at Les Bordes in the Loire Valley holds a special place in my heart because of the high quality of the golf course, the clubhouse and the nature there all combine to create a unique experience and ambiance that even comparing with the great courses of the world is difficult to match. GMé You’ve launched Three-off-the-Tee which is a new golf consultancy, but how does this consultancy differ from any other in the golf industry? MV We differ in a number of ways firstly by having the obligatory audit as the starting point. In order to make correct observations and propose viable solutions we believe that it is absolutely necessary to have this initial audit.

Secondly, we work as a team to provide a cohesive plan for the three main areas of the business – operations, finance and maintenance – where we each use our own individual expertise in those particular fields. Finally we try to keep the language straight, simple and to the point rather than pages of technical jargon that can be understood by all who will be involved in any of the potential changes. GMé Briefly explain how Three-off-theTee undertake an appraisal of a facility, and how the process of retaining a consultancy works. MV The team visit the club for three days spending time with the management, staff, members and customers to create a Client Report this is reviewed in detail with the owner or club representatives. If they wish to implement any or all of the recommendations we move to | 21



mark vickery

GOOFING AROUND Goofy tees it up during Vickery’s time at Disneyland Paris

communicating the plan with the requisite team, members and any relevant stakeholders in order to ensure clarity and, in turn, to provide a platform upon which all involved are aware of the objectives. GMé You’ve also teamed-up with Neil Dalgliesh and Ian Ouwerkerk, so what skills do both Neil and Ian offer potential clients? MV I worked with Neil when he was finance director at Sandy Lane. Neil is a seasoned hospitality professional as well as a chartered accountant who manages to look at things from an operational angle making it easier and beneficial from a clients perspective. I met Ian while working in Holland and was impressed with his approach and his high level of expertise in agronomy. He is the most pragmatic agronomist I have worked with and has the rare ability to obtain the maximum results with the minimum expenditure. GMé Geographically, are you looking to work with golf resorts in Europe, or worldwide? MV I am based in Nice; Ian in Amsterdam and Neil in Singapore and we are happy to travel to all parts of the world if we genuinely believe that we can make a difference. However, our preference would be to work with facilities that are in the UK, Europe and Asia.

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GMé How do your services differ from those of a management company? MV In the majority of cases our role is to sit alongside the owner, the board, the club manager and sometimes the members to ensure the implementation and successful delivery of the chosen plan ensuring it does not become diluted or a burden to any of those parties. GMé Many golf course owners reading this may fear that by appointing a consultant, they are surrendering an element of control from their operation. MV Our purpose is to work for and with the owners or clubs representative to ensure the facts are in their hands, in an objective and constructive manner. Our owners reports are tailored to ensure they are aware, in detail of any recommended changes and have complete control over their implementation. GMé How would you counter that perception? MV The research visit and subsequent proposal will allow clubs to better operate their present business model. It may challenge their present operation; introduce new ideas and concepts or, it might offer a wholly alternative strategy to the current one if it is not working. By being independent we have only one vested interest: the success of our clients. GMé

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david roy

“But they must have seen something and so they took a punt on me – and it was. It was a total punt”

Roy Links Roles with Crail & CMAE As the relatively new president of the CMAE, David Roy has to combine his day-to-day activities at Crail Golfing Society with the demands of overseeing the growing association. Michael Lenihan met up recently to see how he’s coping. HONOURED David Roy pictured in front of the trophy cabinet at Crail Golfing Society

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When David Roy embarked on a career as an assistant greenkeeper at Taymouth Castle, Scotland, in the summer of 1980, little did he realise that some 37 years later, he’d be elected as president of the Club Managers Association of Europe (CMAE), an organisation which was founded to look after the interest of club managers, and not the greenkeeping fraternity. But like so many things in life, fate played a role in Roy’s career development, and his first foray into management came about after applying for the vacant head greenkeepers position at Linlithgow Golf Club near Livingstone. “I was only 22,” recalls Roy. “It’s funny. I wouldn’t have given me the job. I knew nothing about management. I’m perfectly well trained in how to grow grass, but I’d never managed staff before really. “But they must have seen something and so they took a punt on me – and it was. It was a total punt. “It was a brilliant place to start because the previous greenkeeper had made a real hash of it, and the members were really deeply disaffected. We made very small improvements to the course

which everybody was delighted with, and I have to really hand it to a series of committees who invested heavily in the golf course to the detriment of the clubhouse. “You know, they deliberately ignored improving the clubhouse because they knew they had to get the course sorted, and I was the beneficiary of that.” And once established in the role of head greenkeeper, the chance to move into club management presented itself when the secretary at Linlithgow suffered a mild heart attack – forcing his retirement – with Roy offering to combine his existing role with that of club secretary. “I spoke to the captain, and said, ‘I’ll do both jobs because I want to see if I’ll like it, and, if I don’t, I’ll just go back to being a greenkeeper.’ “He was delighted, as was I, as it gave me a chance to try it out. It was interesting, and it broke down a lot of preconceptions that I had about how easy the job was. I discovered, of course, it wasn’t that easy. “I always thought that greenkeeping was much more difficult.

OFFICE The view of the clubhouse at Crail

“I always assumed that once you got into the office, it was a very controlled environment – you weren’t at the mercy of the weather. What I didn’t figure was how difficult it was dealing with the people that continually kept coming into the office,” laughs Roy. “That was the uncontrollable part of the job.” Roy kept both roles going for the best part of a year – often working seven-days a week – before realising that he needed an assistant to help with his growing workload, a view that his committee didn’t share. “The committee told me that I needed to manage my time more effectively, and it was at that point that I realised that if I was going to do this job properly, I needed to move on. “At that time, my wife wanted to move to London, so I applied for a few jobs and got a job at Shirley Park which is a brilliant club.” Roy spent four enjoyable years ‘down south’ before moving back to his native homeland in 2005 when an opening at Crail Golfing Society presented itself, courtesy of a mutual acquaintance who orchestrated an introduction.

At the time, the two courses at Crail weren’t in the best condition, and Roy is of the opinion that his background in greenkeeping helped him significantly when it came to securing the position. And it was during his current tenure at Crail, that Roy was first approached to join the CMAE. “I returned to Scotland from Shirley Park in 2005, and the CMAE had just been setup,” he recalls. “A guy who had been at my club in Linlithgow said, ‘you want to get involved with the CMAE – what they’re doing is great.’ “There was a guy called Jim Singerling, who at the time was the CEO of CMAA in the United States and he recognised that there were American club managers who were interested in working abroad, and of course there were Europeans who were working as club managers in America, potentially wanting to move back. “Jim said, ‘we’ll pump funds into you guys to get you up and running,’ and they actually paid a salary to Helen Fullen who set it up 15 years ago, and basically got it going. They supported us, got us going and we were off.”

The foundation of the CMAE has always been education and career development, and these values still hold true today with an emphasis on professionalism in all aspects of club management. Founded to provide educational programmes with industry-wide certification and accreditation, golf – although by far the largest sector – is not the only sport that is represented, with members from tennis, hockey and rugby clubs forming part of the membership. The education programme though is the cornerstone of the CMAE, and the five-day residential programme has become one of the most beneficial CDP (Career Development Programmes) in club management, but it wasn’t always that way as Roy explains: “Joe Purdue was in charge of the education programme, and he said from day one that it needed to be a five-day residential programme. “Most of us took the view that there was no way in which we could afford the time away from our desks, and we constantly whined that it wouldn’t work. Joe just kept saying, ‘no, it will not work unless you do this,’ and eventually, it | 25



david roy

INSPIRED BY NATURE The 14th and 2nd on the Balcomie Course at Crail

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was Kevin Fish – who was working at Scottish Golf – said, ‘ok, I’ll organise the first course, and if it works great, but if it doesn’t, then at least we’ve tried.’ “As soon as we started the first one, it was, to use the cliché, the scales had fallen from our eyes. We said, ‘Ah, right. Now we get it.’ “It’s the out-of-classroom learning and the network that you create that makes it powerful and makes it work.” Roy took over his two-year tenure as president last November – when previous incumbent, Marc Newey from Roehampton stood down – and six months in, Roy appears to be enjoying his role, whilst still managing to run Crail at the same time. “It’s a tough job. It is a top post. I mean you have to know all the personalities. You have to be pretty well networked because it’s a real people business.” And when asked how demanding the role is, Roy is quick to pay tribute both to his spouse and the committee at Crail. “What I would say is I couldn’t do it without my wife basically supporting it.” With the CMAE one of many management training programmes available to would-be club managers these days – especially in golf – it’s interesting to note that a number of PGA professionals have chosen to undertake the CMAE programme. “We’ve had an awful lot of PGA pro’s do the program, which is actually very interesting,” said Roy. “There are a good number of people getting into club pro jobs that are passionate about learning. They want to learn about coaching; they want to learn about retail; they want to learn about whatever it needs to be.

“We’ve had dozens of PGA pros go through it, and we must have more than ten CCMs who are PGA pros, which I think is very interesting.” Working at a private members club, Roy is well aware that most captains like to make their mark during their captaincy, so when asked the one thing Roy would like to leave as his legacy after completing his two-year stint as president, he says unequivocally that he’d like to see the training programmes established in foreign languages. “It’s all in English at the minute, and we’ve had one attempt in Spanish,” he says. “At the moment, across the whole of Europe, there are obviously only a finite number of really fluent English speakers that will be able to engage with the program, so practically it would be much nicer to be able to deliver it in their own language.” As Roy looks towards his 50th birthday later in the year, he still remembers one piece of advice that he was given whilst working at The Royal Burgess in Edinburgh in his formative years. “I was only at Burgess a couple of years and had the best piece of career advice I’d ever been given by the then course manager. “He was a great mentor, and he said, ‘Apply for jobs, especially if you don’t want them. It keeps your CV up-todate, and it keeps your interview technique up-to-date, so when a job does come along that you do want, you’ll be prepared.’” And prepared, Roy certainly is, although given the challenges of running both Crail and the CMAE, it’s unlikely that his CV will be called into action anytime soon. GMé


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dubai golf

May is a Classic CEO in the Desert of Dubai As The Emirates Golf Club in Dubai celebrates 30 years as the capital of golf in the region, Michael Lenihan met with Dubai Golf CEO, Christopher May recently at Dubai Creek, where May’s story of life in the United Arab Emirates began.

28 | GMé May 2018 MAY DAY The 10th hole at Dubai Creek with the instantly recognisable clubhouse in the background. Right, CEO, Christopher May

When His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum conceived the idea of an 18-hole golf course in Dubai in 1986 – then a small desert city located around the port area – some could have been forgiven for questioning his judgment. Surrounded by sand as far as the eye could see, a site 1,000m2 was located 25km from Dubai for the construction of what would become one of the world’s most iconic golf venues. Opened for play just a couple of years later in 1988, this year marks the 30th anniversary of an incredible story of The Emirates Golf Club, a story which began one Sunday morning. According to Lars Waldenstrom, a Swedish interior designer who was working for Sheikh Mohammed at the time, the idea of golf was first born during an interlude between watching horse racing. “I remember it vividly,” recalls Waldenstrom. “It all happened in Sheikh Mohammed’s majlis one Sunday morning, the day after racing in England, because in those days, Sheikh Mohammed bought tapes from TV of the races, and in between each race, there was a bit of football, cricket and other sports, and all of a sudden there was golf.

“We said, ‘Your Highness, that is what we need in Dubai,’ and in response to which Sheikh Mohammed looked at us and said, ‘So what is it and why?’” Keen to stress the commercial benefits of golf, the sport shared Sheikh Mohammed’s vision for a modern Dubai, with business and commerce aligned with tourism, and the decision to build the regions first golf course was born. American architect Karl Litten was appointed for the project and the course opened for play on March 8, 1988. Yet it was former Formula 1 world champion, Nigel Mansell – who was in Dubai attending the Mobil Rally in 1987 – who hit the very first shot at The Emirates whilst the course was still under construction. Mansell recalls: “I remember hitting several balls off the 18th tee just imaging what the finished product would be like. “It was truly an honour to be the first person on the planet to hit a golf shot on what has now become revered as one of the best courses in the world.” And Mansell would come to play an even more significant role in shaping the success of golf in Dubai, when in 1997, Mansell approached Christopher May to manage his Woodbury Park Golf Club in Devon, a move that would eventually see May relocate to Dubai.

“My first week was the Dubai Desert Classic that we hosted here, and it was here for two years in 1999 and 2000” | 29



dubai golf FIT FOR A KING Left, the clubhouse at The Emirates; below, the 6th tee at Dubai Creek and right, the 7th hole on the Majlis Course at The Emirates Golf Club

“The problem that we’ve got, is the Majlis is liked by the players so much. It’s got such a great history of great winners”

“I was the assistant manager at the London Club when that first opened,” said 51-year-old May who has a masters degree in recreation management. “I started in 1992 just before it opened and worked there for five years which was really my first golf specific job. “Then from there, one of our members at the time was Nigel Mansell, and he asked me to go and manage his golf club in Devon for him at Woodbury Park. He also offered my wife a job there as well to run the leisure side... she did a much better job than me I have to say,” laughed May. “I worked there for two years – I’m from the south west anyway so I thought it’d be nice to kind of move back to that area – but, honestly it was a little bit slow for me and I felt a little bit out of the hustle and bustle of London. “I kind of thought I’d actually really like to go and work overseas somewhere, just to get a bit of overseas experience.” May applied for a vacancy in Dubai recalling: “I knew where Dubai was, but I’d never been here before so I spoke to

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a few players that played in the Desert Classic and asked them, ‘would it be a good place to go and work?’ and they said, ‘you should definitely go to Dubai, it’s a growing place, it would be good for your career.’ “So, I came to Dubai Creek and was fortunate enough to get the job as assistant manager, and then became club manager.” The Dubai Desert Classic – which was first played in 1989 when Mark James won the inaugural event – had always been played over the Majlis Course at The Emirates, but in 1999 the decision was made to switch venues to Dubai Creek, with May being thrown in at the deep end. “My first week was the Dubai Desert Classic that we hosted here, and it was here for two years in 1999 and 2000,” he recalls. “The Creek’s a very, very special place, with obviously an iconic clubhouse in the middle of this very busy city. The golf course is a stunning golf course, with probably two of the best finishing holes

on any golf course I’ve ever played – it’s a great, great place! “It was immediately obvious that the club had a great team of people, with a very professional team of motivated colleagues and an extraordinary membership. We just hosted our 25th anniversary in January and many of the members have been members from day one.” When asked if May ever sees the Dubai Desert Classic returning to The Creek, he is quite matter-of-fact about it. “The golf course still remains very relevant today, although probably a little bit short for the top European Tour pro’s now. I can’t see the Desert Classic ever coming back here, but certainly for the ladies or seniors it would be a very testing venue to play.” May took up the role of CEO of Dubai Golf – a division of wasl Asset Management – in 2012, and is tasked with managing the three courses in the portfolio… The Majlis and Faldo Courses at The Emirates and Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club.

Place to stay... Fairmont The Palm

But with 27 out of 29 Dubai Desert Classics played over the Majlis Course at The Emirates, the Faldo Course can perhaps feel like the poor relation, a point that May is keen to readdress. “We have floodlights on the Faldo, so actually in terms of the amount of business that goes through on the Faldo, it’s the busiest golf course in Dubai,” states May. “It does 55,000 rounds, and if you speak to Nick Faldo, he gets more questions about the Faldo Course in Dubai than he does any of his other designs. “It doesn’t probably get as much publicity – as certainly the Majlis and Creek – but if you ask members of The Emirates, a lot of our members actually prefer playing the Faldo, as it’s a little bit more challenging than Majlis as a golf course.” So, with the Faldo more challenging than the Majlis, has May ever considered rotating the Desert Classic between the two courses? “We have thought about it, in particularly with the ladies’ event,” he admits.

“The problem that we’ve got, is the Majlis is liked by the players so much. It’s got such a great history of great winners. It just works very, very well from a spectator perspective. By moving it you might not create quite such a great event. “If you look at the winners, Ernie Els has won it three times; Rory’s won it twice; Tiger’s won it twice; you’ve got, I think ten different major winners that have won it. It works really well, so to move it would be a bit of a risk, which I wouldn’t want to take.” But sometimes in life, risks need to be taken, with perhaps the city of Dubai as one of the best illustrations of an individual backing a vision. For if Sheikh Mohammed had decided against risking not only his fortune but his personal reputation, golf in the modern metropolis that is Dubai may never have flourished. And May, together with perhaps the entire Gulf region, owe His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Maktoum a huge debt of gratitude, for golf in Dubai is truly a Desert Miracle. GMé

Named after the iconic Palm Jumeirah, Fairmont The Palm is the perfect luxurious family resort in Dubai that offers 381 lavish rooms and suites overlooking the Arabian Gulf and the Dubai Skyline. Guests can celebrate the finest flavours with a choice of restaurants, including Brazilian cuisine at ‘Frevo’; International cuisine at the ‘Flow Kitchen’; and hand-crafted patisserie at ‘Delicacy’ in addition to a signature Indian venue called ‘Little Miss India’. The resort presents a wide range of leisure and outdoor activities including four outdoor temperature-controlled swimming pools, private white-sand beach and a full-service state-of-theart health club with group exercise classes. Winner of Resort Spa of the Year, Middle East & Africa for 2016 and 2017, the Willow Stream Spa reflects the energy of its tranquil surroundings with authentic spa experiences. Offering a vast array of treatments for face, body, massage and hammam, there is a choice of indoor and outdoor spaces, large steam area, experiential showers, 13 treatment rooms, couples rooms and a traditional Moroccan hammam. Fairmont The Palm is the perfect beachside resort, and is only 25 minutes from Dubai International Airport and close enough to explore the beautiful Dubai Marina. The Emirates Golf Club is just ten minutes away, as to are popular local attractions and unrivalled shopping at Dubai’s Iconic malls. | 31


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32 | GMĂŠ May 2018

the famous nine The Famous Nine is a new par-3 course in Cornwall, inspired by some of the worlds most famous golf holes – all built using synthetic turf supplied and installed by European Golf. Scott MacCallum spoke to managing director, David Lowe.

Scoring Lowe at The Famous Nine

“We believe that it is probably the best synthetic grass in the world and is the result of many years of research and development”

GOLDEN BELL A tee sign for the first hole at The Famous Nine

We’ve all done it…. Or is it just me? Lying in bed at night trying to get to sleep I battle insomnia by picking my perfect golf course. Not just my favourite place to play the game, though, but the best 18 holes pulled together like a dream team of footballing Gallacticos. I’ve normally got to the turn with nine holes carefully selected when I nod off. A little bit of fun but nothing more than that. How could you possibly play all the best holes in the world in the course of one round? It’s an unrealistic fantasy. Or is it? Many of the holes which feature in your dream course may also have made

the cut at The Famous Nine, a superbly conceived par-3 course at Gwel an Mor, Cornwall, high on the north coast cliffs, near Portreath. Opened in September of last year the nine hole course enables you to play those fantastic holes, but in miniature. The course is only 1,241 yards long with the longest hole 177 yards and the shortest just 106. The beauty of it is that not only do you get to travel around the world playing the best that St Andrews, Augusta, Pebble Beach, Carnoustie, Troon and Sawgrass has to offer without having to deprive yourself of the best cream teas and pasties around, it will take you a

fraction of the time it would to play 18 holes at your home course. The other element which makes the course unique is that it boasts a full set of artificial greens which, from an operator’s perspective, reduces maintenance costs considerably. Installed by European Golf, regarded as the go-to company for artificial turf for golf, the course is the first in the country to use Challenger Turf, from US-based company Challenger Sports Solutions. “We’ve just signed an exclusive five year agreement with Challenger to become the company’s sole UK supplier and distributer,” explained European Golf director, David Lowe. | 33



HANDING OVER Bernard Gallacher, left, with owner Bill Haslam

OCEAN VIEWS One of the synthetic greens with the ocean forming a backdrop

“We believe that it is probably the best synthetic grass in the world and is the result of many years of research and development. The company has a real sense of knowing how a ball will react and they do a great deal of testing before they even release any of their grasses on to the market,” explained Lowe, who is rightly extremely proud of European Golf’s involvement in the Cornwall project. “As much as the quality of the turf is important, success also comes down to the fitting of it and we installed 4,500m2 of Challenger turf on the course,” revealed Lowe, adding that it had taken six men 67 days to build the greens. Overall the course was two years in the making with 250,000 tonnes of earth imported to replicate the undulations of the famous nine and 20,000 tonnes of earth moved to create the water features. “It was when Challenger saw our installation procedures in Cornwall that they were happy to give us the exclusive rights for their turf,” added Lowe. “We’d seen a lot of different synthetic grasses and in reality had waited ten years for a product like Challenger to come along. It is a great feeling to know that we’re working with the Rolls Royce of artificial grass. “It has enabled us to take on projects like The Famous Nine and it has given us

all sorts of opportunities going forward,” said Lowe, who revealed that they are currently working on three golf academies – a perfect vehicle for artificial surfaces. During the exceptionally wet weather of February and March the benefits of this shone through with the greens enabling The Famous Nine to remain open when others in the area had to close their gates. “Within an hour the greens are playable again and rolling like it’s the middle of July. The roll we get is as good as anything you would find.” The course was opened by Ryder Cup Captain Bernard Gallacher who was extremely complimentary about the course and, in particular, the tribute to the 8th at Royal Troon – otherwise known as the Postage Stamp – while the other eight holes, are also wonderful tributes to the originals. While six of the holes are bone fide par-3s – 12th and 16th at Augusta; the 7th and 17th at Pebble Beach, the famous 17th at TPC Sawgrass and the aforementioned Postage Stamp, it could be said that it is a case of Honey I’ve Shrunk the Golf Hole as the remaining three holes are par fours – the 18th at Carnoustie and the 17th (Road Hole) and 18th at St Andrews, complete with its own Swilken Bridge.

34 | GMé May 2018

“More golf clubs and golf hotels are now looking to invest in shorter par-3 or academy golf courses, rather than looking to build the latest ‘Championship’ course,” said Lowe. “They take less time to play than a conventional 18 hole course, and encourage younger and new golfers into the game. Plus the benefits of a course which requires minimal maintenance are increasingly attractive to golf course operators. “There is an up-front cost but you will get ten years use out of them with minimal maintenance and, when you consider the cost of maintaining and the number of man hours required to look after just one natural green over a year, that money will be recouped very quickly indeed,” said Lowe. So, the Cornwall model is one which may be followed in other parts of the country in the not too distant future, as the playability benefits continue to combine with the financial benefits and it may be we will soon see more of our golfing dreams become a reality. So, the next time I’m trying to get to sleep, I’ll work on selecting holes for the back nine. The 3rd at Oakmont, the 10th at Sunningdale – complete with halfway house – the 17th at Valderrama and the 10th at The Belfry where I’ll drive the green like Seve. GMé

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american golf

American Golf Transforming Retail A strategic move away from the high street and onto the golf course is starting to pay dividends for American Golf, who, as Nicole Wheatley reports, are looking to grow their outlets. American Golf has grown to be Europe’s largest golf retailer by focusing on the customer. It still retains its original vision of “existing to improve your game” which is why it has changed its business strategy to offer golfers the chance to access their retail experience at the point of play. More than 50 per cent of American Golf’s estate now sits at what the retailer describes as ‘points of play’. It currently has a total of 121 stores across the UK & Ireland, around 60 of which are partner sites located at facilities including golf courses, driving ranges and resorts. The decision to target sites away from its more traditional High Street and Retail Park locations was taken based on research the business commissioned into consumer buying habits. The results of the survey indicated that convenience was the most important factor in driving purchases of golf equipment – whilst golfers may browse online, they still prefer to make purchases at the places they play golf. Elliot Fleming, head of new business development, has spent the last twelve months implementing partnerships across the UK & Ireland. The sites he visits believe that they need to change their approach to retail, but have run out of ideas. This is where American Golf steps in, as he explains: “Retail is something that even thriving golf facilities struggle to manage well, but our research tells us that this is where golfers want to buy their equipment. “This combination indicated that we had an opportunity use our retail expertise to help owner/operators get more

36 | GMé May 2018

out of the retail operations; free up their time to run their businesses and give golfers the products and service that they want, where they want it.” Time versus results is one of the main determining factors that comes up time and again when Fleming meets site owners. The time invested in running a retail operation often outweighs the value it brings. Meeting sales reps, placing orders, accounting, stock control and staff management can take up 80 per cent of an owner operator’s time but deliver as little as ten per cent of the site’s profit. Malkins Bank – who have had a retail partnership with American Golf for the last year – found that by separating their retail operations from the main business they had the time to concentrate their efforts where they are strongest – running their golf business. The results have been incredible as Kelly Lowe, sales director, explains: “In one year we have transformed Malkins Bank. We have had the time to invest in other parts of our business which means that sales are up across the board with turnover increasing by a third in just one year.” Despite the good news stories, such as Malkins Bank’s success, not everyone is aware of the opportunity that partnering with American Golf can offer, and just how much the business has changed since its beginnings 40 years ago. “I have been with American Golf for 20 years,” said Fleming. “In that time things have changed dramatically, but a lot of the site owners who’ve been in the business for as long as I have don’t realise how much we have moved on

“Every partnership is different, but we take on the costs and responsibilities for all aspects of retail, including the shop staff”

CHANNELLING WISDOM A coaching session at Le Grande Mar in Guernsey

TEAM WORKS The team at Malkins Bank

FITTED UP A custom fitting van

since those days. Our business is all about helping golfers to improve their game. We want to work alongside people who share those values and that is what makes our partnerships work. “Every partnership is different, but we take on the costs and responsibilities for all aspects of retail, including the shop staff,” continued Fleming. “We refit and stock the shop, provide staff education and even have a marketing package in place to promote the store opening to local golfers. We keep the pro in place to do the things that he

is expert in – teaching and looking after his members – and remove the time burden that’s put on them as a result of running the shop.” A partner has access to all of the internal resources to make the transition as seamless as possible, including HR and marketing services. And Fleming is keen to reassure that American Golf doesn’t want to take over the facility... they want to be an extension of the site team and give a consistent customer experience. “We are recruiting more staff from a hospitality background than ever before.

“The way in which the customer engages with our brand at a golf facility needs to complement and enhance their experience.” As for the future, Fleming explains that the sky’s the limit: “We won’t rule anything out. Just because we haven’t done it before doesn’t mean we won’t look at it! “Some owners worry that we won’t be interested because there is already an American Golf shop in the town, but if there is an active golf population in the area we’ll still support them.” GMé | 37



steven morgan

BLAIRGOWRIE One of the greens at Blairgowrie

CHAIRMAN Steve Morgan pictured at The Blairgowrie Club

The Blairgowrie Club pulls at Morgan’s heart When 32-year-old Steven Morgan took over at The Blairgowrie Golf Club, his age was just another number at the 129-year-old club. More important were his ideas about taking the Perthshire institution to the next level, as Mark Alexander discovers. Steven Morgan is back where his golf career began. And it’s not before time. Fortunate enough to have grown up in the picturesque town of Auchterarder, he started off at the nearby Gleneagles resort in the proshop. A round trip taking in South Africa, Abu Dhabi, Indonesia and London followed as did an accumulated wealth of operational and commercial knowledge. Now back in Perthshire, he finds himself celebrating his first anniversary heading up a 30-strong team at the impressive golf complex at The Blairgowrie Golf Club. As a careers go, Morgan’s has been full on, and he’s done it all by the tender age of 32. “I saw the job opportunity on Linkedin and the picture they used was the iconic image of the 18th green on Rosemount and the clubhouse in the background,” he recalls. “The image brought me back to when I played for the county. It was always such a huge thing to play at Blairgowrie.

38 | GMé May 2018

“When I saw the pictures, they pulled at my heart strings.” The Blairgowrie Golf Club is impressive. The original Lansdowne course (later to become Rosemount) was designed by Dr Alister Mackenzie. James Braid would also be engaged to expand the facility which currently boasts 45 holes (two 18-hole championship courses and nine-hole Wee Course). It prompted Old Tom Morris to assert: “This is the most beautiful inland green I have ever seen”, and it is where Greg Norman won his first European Tour event in 1977. No wonder Morgan’s heart was aflutter. The possibility of returning to Perthshire to assume the managing secretary’s role at one of his childhood favourite venues was a powerful incentive. At the time, he was seconded to IMG’s head office in London where he was involved in running a portfolio of high-end European clubs and resorts.

HEART FLUTTER The clubhouse at Blairgowrie, and it was this photograph that was posted on LinkedIn that first alerted Morgan to the vacant role

However, the pull north was irresistible and he decided to chance his luck. “A lot of CVs were submitted, so my expectations weren’t that high,” he admits. “I didn’t know if I had everything needed, but thankfully I did.” He says a return to Scotland had always been on the cards. It was simply a matter of waiting for the right opportunity. “Although we had been away for nine or ten years, I always knew that Scotland was where I wanted to be. I was never a true expat in that sense. I always knew travelling was a route to come home,” he explains. “I wanted two things; the right position and more importantly; the right facility. Blairgowrie, with 45 holes of golf, two ranges and a huge bustling clubhouse,

was ideal. With a club that was never far from the limelight, it was the challenge that got me excited.” After cutting his teeth at blue-ribbon resorts such as Gleneagles, Turnberry and Yas Links, Morgan seemed well placed to take on whatever Blairgowrie had to throw at him. But what were the challenges that sparked his interest? “The Blairgowrie Golf Club has had a waiting list of 10-15 years, and if we lost any members, we had a long waiting list we could dip in to. But we’re not unlike many clubs in Scotland, the UK or further afield whereby we need to work hard at member retention and attracting new members. “We’re helped a little bit by the brand here and the association we have of

presenting championship courses at championship standards.” He continues: “A few years ago, that would be all that you would have to do. Now we are looking at what membership at Blairgowrie represents. Is it just championship golf, or is there more to it than that? The challenge is retention and attracting new members.” And then there is the issue of visitors, and how to balance the seemingly diametrically opposed revenue streams. “That is where my key skill set lies,” Morgan says assertively. “There is a huge focus on filling times when members aren’t here, looking at the weekends and managing tee sheets. “In fact, one of the first things we did – and it goes against what a lot of clubs | 39



steven morgan

“it was about believing in our product. You don’t go into an Apple store and get and iPhone for £99”

ON THE RIVER The back of the clubhouse

are doing – was to increase our visitor fees by 25 per cent. That’s quite a bold move in a market that is becoming ever more price sensitive. We did that to do two things. “First; get the price point closer to what we are marketing which is essentially championship golf. Secondly, it was about believing in our product. You don’t go into an Apple store and get and iPhone for £99.” Morgan’s fervour is refreshing, but it leaves the club in unchartered waters. “This year we’re looking potentially at a little bit of a shake out,” he admits. “Will our clients move with the price or will we lose a few and pick up a new market? “It’s the good-to-great model that we’re looking at. It’s about aligning where this club is going, and that has made us look at pricing, service, what we offer and how we offer it.” Morgan’s belief in the product has resulted in green fees being standardised throughout the week at £85. The move is part of a broader shift towards a wider appreciation of the potential at Blairgowrie fuelled in part by his previous roles with resorts and hotels. “It’s about understanding the power of a brand,” he says confidently. “If the golf industry was 20 years behind the hotel industry, we would be in a much better place than we are now. “How they dissect their businesses and market themselves predominately comes down to brand.

40 | GMé May 2018

“That resonated with the committee because there was a thought the club was underselling itself,” continued Morgan. “I looked at the messaging and it was all about championship golf at championship standards, and yet looking at the price point, you would think there was something wrong if they were only charging £65.” The brave and significant price bump is being partnered by more concerted efforts to crunch numbers. “From the green fees collected over the last few years, we’re mining that data to better understand where the business is coming from. “In the hotel industry, the revenue manager would know that information inside and out. In golf, we don’t do enough of it.” The exhaustive marketing meetings Morgan witnessed during his time in the hospitality sector have clearly left an imprint on the 32-year-old. Now in charge of a club with 1,400 members, he holds the view that authorizing plans should be based on robust data that points to clear and identifiable market opportunities. “In golf, we’ve always sold green fees or member/guest fees, and that’s about it,” he says. “For me, understanding who that person is, how they booked, how they heard about us and what rate they’re paying will allow us to understand what is working and what we can do better.”

Like many young professionals in the golf industry, Morgan feels that grinding down the well-trodden path of inertia is no longer an option. “If clubs are always going to do what they’ve done then they’ll get what they’ve always got,” he says plainly. “There is change. There are some golf clubs doing things differently now.” Indeed, with the support of his committee, Morgan is determined that The Blairgowrie Golf Club will be a trailblazer rather than finding itself left behind. “There are two types of marketing. Push marketing which is throwing out deals and trying to get as many people as you can through the doors, which is right for some clubs. “The other is pull marketing where you want people to come to you because they’ve seen what you are doing and they like what they see. I presented these ideas to the committee and from that we were able to establish how we were going to move forward.” Morgan took up his post in May 2017, and has taken on a remarkable role at an established club at a time when golf in Scotland is struggling to find its way through troubled waters. Resolute in his commitment to do things differently, this well-travelled 32-year-old seems have a vision of what Scottish golf clubs could become. Perhaps it’s time to pass the baton onto the next generation. GMé

P r e m i e r A l l - We a t h e r S u r f a c e s f o r G o l f

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17/04/2018 13:53

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aphrodite hills

DOWNHILL The par 3, seventh hole at Aphrodite Hills, plays from an elevated tee across a ravine

STEP UP Director of golf, Andrew Darker pictured on the steps of the clubhouse at Aphrodite Hills

Darker sees the light at Aphrodite Hills Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus has recently concluded a major rebuild of all greens and bunkers, and as director of golf, Andrew Darker explains, the resort has big aspirations. Interview by Michael Lenihan. If ever there was a case for broadcasting golf on free-to-air television, surely Andrew Darker, the director of golf at Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus, would be a prime example. For the 48-year-old fell in love with golf watching his heroes walk the fairways during the BBC’s coverage of The Open Championship, which, as he explains, was the catalyst for his enduring love affair with the game. “I always used to watch golf on TV, and when The Open was on BBC I’d sit for the entire four days watching golf,” he recalls fondly. “I actually bought my first golf club – it was a putter – when I was about 12 years old and I can remember it really well. I used to putt around the house.” Progressing from his living room in Slough, to a nearby rugby pitch – where he used to strike seven irons in-between Rugby posts – Darker was hooked on the game, and by the age of 16 boasted a single-figure handicap. Yet it was a couple of years later, when complet-

42 | GMé May 2018

ing his education, that the opportunity for some summer work at his local golf course would result in his hobby becoming his career. “I took up a summer job at my local club when I was 17, mainly to keep me off the streets,” he smiles. “All my friends at the time were jumping on the underground train into London, but I didn’t… I went to the golf course. “A year later there was an advert for a job at Wexham Park, so I thought I’d go for an interview because I was quite interested in working in the business. And that’s where it all started.” Aged 19, Darker joined the PGA as a trainee and learnt his trade at nearby Wexham Park which he described as “crazy busy”. “I was involved in all aspects of the golf club, from the pro shop to the coaching – we also had loads of juniors which was a big thing for us at the time. We used to get as many as 60-70 kids on a Saturday morning.”

SEA VIEWS The picture-perfect ninth hole at Aphrodite Hills

Coaching became part of Darker’s DNA, and after moving to St Martin’s Golf Club – which he was involved in opening – he joined Scott Cranfield’s embryonic coaching academy before being headhunted five years later and invited to open a new academy in Abu Dhabi, an opportunity which was too good to refuse. “I decided to leave the UK and went to Abu Dhabi as director of coaching at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club,” said Darker. “The operation was very different to what I’d ever seen in the UK, with the buggy fleet, the tournaments, the setup, the

whole arrangement, which got me quite interested in the operational side of the business. “So, I started to help the director of golf and the general manager with the operation in Abu Dhabi, although I still had the academy to operate.” And those operational skills would prove to be invaluable, when Darker took up his first golf ops role at Aphrodite Hills in Cyprus, albeit a number of years after he moved from the UAE to Cyprus. “I moved to Aphrodite Hills in April 2003 which was about six months after the course opened,” he recalls.

“Keith Haslam (now of Braemar Golf) appointed me as head pro with a view of overseeing the shop, academy and all of the coaching, and that role grew into my first role in golf operations.” And ten years later, in 2013, Darker would take up his current position as director of golf, responsible for all elements of the golf operation at Aphrodite Hills, which has seen a significant €2.5m investment in the course and clubhouse over the winter period. Designed by Cabel B Robinson, all 18 greens and every bunker on the golf course has been rebuilt by Southern | 43



aphrodite hills A GODDESS AWAITS Left, overlooking the practice putting green from the clubhouse; below left, the five-star hotel adjacent to the 9th hole; top right, the 18th with the clubhouse in the background, and below right, Andrew Darker

“We’ve invested the money, and the whole concept of rebranding was to gain recognition for the work that we’ve done”

Golf – who originally built the course in 2002 – and the par 71 course boasts some spectacular holes, including the simply stunning par 3, 7th played across a ravine. The investment in the course and the clubhouse – which features a new pro shop and changing facilities – formed part of a six-year business plan with the express intention of repositioning Aphrodite Hills as one of the foremost resorts in European Golf. And part of that repositioning, is the rebranding from Aphrodite Hills to the PGA National Cyprus, and an emphasis on quality rather than quantity. “We’ve invested the money, and the whole concept of rebranding was to gain recognition for the work that we’ve done,” said Darker. “You know, there are hundreds of resorts fighting for business, all jogging along, doing the same thing. “There’s the very niche, top end, highend, high quality clubs, which are generally successful. I want to try and drive the resort and the golf business to the upper end and become a high-end club.”

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But in order to drive business towards Aphrodite Hills – or rather the PGA National Cyprus – Darker is aware that Cyprus as a whole needs to do more to attract golfers from other European markets besides the UK. “UK flights are daily, so there’s no issue from the UK. But the other markets in Europe – such as our German-speaking markets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland – flights are limited through winter, which is problematic. Scandinavia again, could be a very big market, but flights are limited. “We try to work a little bit with the tourist authority and put some pressure on airlines, but instead of €60 to fly to Spain, it’s going cost you €300 to fly here.” But perversely enough, despite the further distance and additional costs when flying to Cyprus, this tends to add a degree of exclusivity to what is already a five-star, luxurious resort. And when Aphrodite Hills is promoted together with the other courses on the island, you instantly have a golfing destination that

perhaps has more to offer than the traditional markets of Spain and Portugal. “Climate wise, we’re better through the winter, so the region here climatically is better than Spain and Portugal,” said Darker. “It’s warmer. And we focus on the four golf courses that we have at the moment with them all being different. “That’s a very important point that... four completely different golf courses, all within the same region. “We are trying to say, we’re a destination, come to Cyprus,” he adds, and as if to emphasis the fact, highlights that Aphrodite Hills was voted not only the best golf course in Cyprus last year, but also the best golf hotel too. “We’re trying to position ourselves as the must-play course in Cyprus.” But it is not only on the golf course that Darker has invested time and money, but off the course too with a new golf reception and shop ready to introduce visitors to the new-and-improved PGA National Cyprus brand. “We’ve reconstructed and reconfigured our caddiemaster station, so the

Fall in love with beautiful Aphrodite Hills

first point of call is with the caddies who have three seconds to acknowledge somebody. “As far as reception is concerned, we’re trying to work on simplifying the checkin process, and making the flow as good as we can. If visitors are practicing, they’ll meet the guys from the academy as we have people permanently staffed on the driving range – which is run by our professional team – before heading to the first tee where the starter will greet them.” It’s evident talking with Darker that he enjoys his role at Aphrodite, and as he marks 15 years at the resort, one could forgive him if he decided to seek a new challenge now that the renovation work and clubhouse extension has been completed. Yet he seems content with life in the Mediterranean, despite the challenges of running a golf operation in the region. “It’s a major challenge, especially when you’re overseas, like here with supplies... it’s really difficult,” he explains. “I can’t just pick up the phone

and get a spare part for a maintenance machine. It’s pre-ordered and sent from overseas. But I quite like the challenge. “I think it’s important that the director of golf understands if there’s something wrong with the golf club; if something isn’t working properly with the operation; if there’s a problem with the golf course; if the staff are not servicing the guests correctly, you know. I like the fact that it’s then my responsibility to change it, and I can change it.” And when asked if he has any ambition to diverse his role into resort management, Darker simply smiled and said: “Golf’s enough!” And one gets the impression, that golf really is enough for Darker who seems content in both his professional and personal life. Reflecting on how he got hooked on golf, he said: “My parents are from Yorkshire, so would they have paid for Sky? I don’t know. If I hadn’t seen golf on TV, I wouldn’t have got hooked. Peter Alliss, BBC One, BBC Two, that was it.” The R&A take note. GMé

It is said that Aphrodite rose from the seas directly in front of the fivestar Aphrodite Hills Resort, because it’s the most breath-taking place on earth, truly befitting the extraordinarily beautiful Goddess of Love. And those who have visited will surely understand why many say that there is something magical about this elegant resort. Aphrodite Hills Resort is nestled in the midst of a protected forest with unparalleled views of the Mediterranean Sea. Boasting an exclusive mix of high quality resort elements, this worldclass Mediterranean destination offers a wide range of top level facilities for a holiday experience that comprises a high standard of comfort, pampering and style to suit the most ardent seeker, family holiday maker as well as business traveller who seeks for the ideal convention destination and banqueting centre. The unique landmark hotel with 290 rooms and suites offer a captivating stay. This is the place where the needs of even the most discerning guest are being catered to. The contemporary classic Aphrodite Hills Hotel by Atlantica is surrounded by spectacular gardens, golf, sea and pool views that perfectly serve the serenity experience. Occupying a scenic and beautiful location, gently sloping south towards the sparkling Mediterranean, Aphrodite Hills Resort is a truly elegant destination where natural beauty, peace and tranquillity meet outstanding sports and leisure facilities. | 45


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royal dornoch

“Our efforts here on the Dornoch Firth will help ensure the course remains playable for decades to come”

EROSION Signs of degredation at Royal Dornoch

Royal Dornoch aiming to hold back the tide As John Ross investigates, measures are being taken at Royal Dornoch – and along the entire Dornoch Firth – to stem the continual erosion of the coastline, which in-turn, is threatening the tenth hole at the world-famous links. A world-renowned golf club is supporting a pioneering project that will help prevent part of its course succumbing to coastal erosion by rebuilding natural defences. A number of gaps in the saltmarsh habitat in the Dornoch Firth means part of Royal Dornoch’s Struie Course is vulnerable to flooding and even being lost to the power of the waves. However, a project starting this month will transplant hundreds of greenhousegrown native saltmarsh plants to help restore the natural defences. Saltmarshes provide important habitat for a wide range of wildlife and protect coastal land from flooding and erosion. However, shoreline degradation and climate change are increasingly placing these grassland areas under threat. Dr Clare Maynard, a research scientist at St Andrews University and Chair of the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology (MASTS) Coastal Forum, is the project manager of Green Shores, a £155,000 scheme promoting the restoration of saltmarshes that has been ongoing on the Eden Estuary and

has grown to include the Tay and the Dornoch Firths. Royal Dornoch Golf Club is providing £10,000 a year for three years towards the project to help safeguard the 10th fairway on its Struie Course, which has been under attack from the sea. The club, along with Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, the St Andrews Links Trust, the Ministry of Defence, Fife Council, the Scottish Rural Development Programme’s LEADER, MASTS and local community volunteers also support the project. Dornoch Academy pupils will help greenkeepers, researchers and community volunteers with the transplant effort and will grow saltmarsh plants in school greenhouses for planting next year. Dr Maynard said: “Saltmarshes absorb wave energy. When we studied the Eden Estuary it was clear that land behind saltmarshes was in pretty good shape and far less likely to be eroded or flooded, whereas areas where there were no saltmarshes were clearly getting pounded by the waves and were at risk.”

She said gaps of tens of metres in the saltmarsh habitat close to the Struie Course are causing concern: “Coastal erosion is at its worst at the gap in the protective saltmarsh. There are flooding issues in the winter as well as year-round energy from waves degrading the edge of the course. “There is a growing awareness in Scotland, and around the world, that saltmarshes and sand dunes play an important and underappreciated role in protecting our coastline. Projects like this, which work with nature to protect our important assets, will be critical in turning the tide on the increased erosion we expect with climate change. “Our efforts here on the Dornoch Firth will help ensure the course remains playable for decades to come.” She said a spadeful of healthy saltmarsh plants will provide at least 100 transplants. These will be cultivated and then taken to the Dornoch Firth. Individual plugs, around 5cm in diameter, will be planted into the sand, supported by bio-rolls filled with coir, a natural and sustainable waste product | 47



STAKING THE FUTURE Work is prepared for the planting

from the husk of coconut shells, to act as wave breaks. “The use of bio-rolls is an innovation of the Green Shores project. They have been used on shorelines with mixed success in the US and in the south of England, but only on riverbanks in Scotland. So, this is a first, and Royal Dornoch Golf Club is instrumental in pioneering the strategy in the eastern Highlands.” The plants will spread out as they grow, filling in the gaps and joining the natural saltmarshes. The plants also trap sediments, raising the surface elevation, which allows the marsh to keep pace with sea level rise. The project will be repeated next year, using plants grown in the school greenhouse, and possibly 2020 if funding allows. Dr Maynard added: “We will fill in the gaps with saltmarsh transplants to provide a soft engineering solution to this problem in a way that is good for everyone as it helps the environment and there is no need for an expensive sea wall. “It’s a long-term process, not a quick fix, and while we cannot stop the sea, we can buy time for the golf course simply by having more naturally robust habitats in front of the course. “Approaches like these, which work with nature, are being recognised as important complementary or alternative approaches to traditional engineering solutions. “Given the increasing erosion we’ve seen on Scotland’s coast in recent decades, we need as many options as possible to ensure our highly valued

48 | GMé May 2018

coastal businesses are resilient to climate change.” Neil Hampton, Royal Dornoch’s general manager, said: “In 2010 we noticed a gap appearing in the saltmarsh affecting the 10th hole. If nothing was done we could have lost the whole fairway. “We tried a number of methods to break the power of the waves, but when we learned of Dr Maynard’s work we decided it was the best way to tackle this potentially serious issue. “It’s a natural solution and it involves the local schools and other local people, so it fits well with our commitment to the environment and the community.” Dr Alistair Rennie, SNH Geodiversity manager and project manager for Dynamic Coast, Scotland’s National Coastal Change Assessment, said: “Climate change is already affecting our shores. Scotland’s soft coast has seen an increase in the extent and rate of erosion since the 1970s. “The Dynamic Coast project shows our natural defences protect £13 billon of coastal assets, more than twice the value protected by traditional coastal engineering. “This is why working with nature is an essential approach to ensure our coastal communities, businesses, infrastructure and natural habitats remain resilient with climate change.” Prof David Paterson, executive director of MASTS, added: “We are fully supportive of this environmentally-sound coastal habitat management and the work of Dr Maynard is a great example of new approaches supported by the MASTS Coastal Forum.” GMé

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“This subjectivity illustrates why golf tourism is so popular and why it’s so important to the industry”

Why the ‘wow’ factor is a Key Driver in Golf Tourism Not surprisingly, I follow a good number of golf writers on Twitter, and one such wordsmith posed a question recently about people’s favourite golf venues and was inundated with responses. This surprised me for a couple of reasons: firstly, I never knew he had that many friends; and secondly, because of the myriad reasons offered up as to why they were number one. I have favourite venues and destinations even though I play only very occasionally these days, and my parameters for fondness revolve largely around the whole experience, as opposed to the hole experience. The responses to the original tweet made me realise that, like me, there were a lot of people out there for whom the ‘name’ and status of a golf course alone wasn’t significant enough to make it a favoured destination. A decade or more ago, I played the Brabazon at The Belfry – which has, of course hosted the Ryder Cup on no fewer than four occasions – but I can’t say I’d beat down the door to visit again. There was nothing I disliked about the course or the venue, it just didn’t thrill me. Likewise a number of high-end venues I’ve had the good fortune to play down the years. Once more, I didn’t actually dislike any of them – well there was one, but we won’t go there (and neither will I, again) – they just didn’t make me go ‘wow!’. Yet, there have been much less vaunted venues where my breath has been taken away – and not only when I had to walk up the steps to the clubhouse.

50 | GMé May 2018

THRILL RIDE Four-time Ryder Cup venue, The Belfry, which didn’t thrill

Because I’m a transient golfing visitor aesthetics are just as important – maybe more so, some might argue – than playability. I can certainly appreciate the beauty of a course, its milieu and its ambience better than I can its technical attributes. I certainly don’t like stuffy, pompous clubs, however many royal captains they’ve had nor how many Opens they’ve hosted. If I feel self-conscious asking for a coffee in the clubhouse, I’ll strike that one through straight away. And that’s what makes this topic so fascinating for me. Some people would love that very traditionalism. For some it’s because the course is a real test of their golf game. For others, more prosaically, it’ll be because that’s where they scored their first birdie.

This subjectivity illustrates why golf tourism is so popular and why it’s so important to the industry. In a report which will come out some time soon, I’m sure, the value of tourism to the golf industry will be shown to be… a lot. The figure will contain more noughts than doughnuts on Homer Simpson’s plate – and we should continue to embrace it. GMé

David Bowers

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WHAT Toro® Outcross 9060. ™

MATTERS Dozens of attachments. Hundreds of jobs. 365 days a year.

MOST Work smarter. Do More. Save money. What Matters Most to You Matters Most to Us. It’s a numbers game. You need to get more jobs done fast and right the first time, optimize your club’s resources and stay within budget. Toro’s new Outcross 9060, a multi-purpose and turf-friendly workhorse, combines purpose-built, all-season functionality with intuitive operation – with virtually anyone on your staff – and unprecedented versatility to deliver impressive results. Even better, Outcross can power your existing attachments utilizing its 3-point connection and power take-off*, haul over two tons in its supersized cargo/dump-bed, and tow up to 7,257 kg (16,000 lbs.)**, which is more than three times its own weight. The weight-balanced, fourwheel steer and full-time four-wheel drive powerhouse can get it all done without damaging sensitive turf. The all new Outcross 9060 is a Jack-of-all-trades, and Jack is jealous.

Join the conversation *Category 2 three-point, 540 PTO and universal skid steer mount style. **Trailer weight, when equipped with trailer brakes.


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