On the cover...
The Royal Automobile Club treads a path towards BMS Products to help fly the flag for a unique, embroidered design
ÂŁ7.50 golfmanagement.eu.com Issue 116 | November 2017
The essential business magazine for every golf course owner, director of golf, CEO and general manager operating a golf facility
Miguel Girbes is the director of golf at Finca Cortesin in Spain, which boasts arguably one of the finest golf hotels in European golf
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GOLF IRRIGATION |
Built on Innovation
On the agenda november 2017 18
Scottish Golf in disarray
As Mark Alexander reports, the resignation of Scottish Golf’s chief executive, Blane Dodds, has thrown the beleaguered organisation into uncharted and choppy waters.
The Skibo Experience
Offering one of the best visitor experiences in golf, director of golf at The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, David Thomson, talks in-depth about the exclusive Scottish venue.
OnCourse for Better Business
Putting for Dough
Sustainability is now mainstream, and is impacting business profitability, industry growth, and consumer spending choices according to the Golf Environment Organisation.
The Major Series of Putting is a new venture in the United States, designed to introduce new golfers, irrespective of age or ability, to the game of golf.
Frustration with Get into Golf
Hailed as a joint-partnership between the England County Golf Partnerships and its member clubs, the Get into Golf campaign has come in for some criticism lately.
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 | www.portman.uk.com
Publisher Executive editor Advertising Contributors
Michael Lenihan David Bowers Ken Anderson Mark Alexander, Andre Andrade, Andy Hiseman, Kelli Jerome, Scott MacCallum, Aston Ward
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ISSN 1368-7727. Printed by The Manson Group. © 2017 Portman Publishing and Communications Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the publisher. Whilst due care is taken to ensure content in GMé is accurate, the publisher cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.
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from the publisher
“At a recent event, I was chatting to an industry figure about this very subject and he pulled out a Kingsbarns’ money clip which he uses on a daily basis”
Never underestimate the value of a tangible souvenir for visitors Quite by chance, this edition of GMé has been ‘book-ended’ with free marketing advice. You’re welcome… In his column on page 50, executive editor David Bowers offers his insight into the oft-raised topic of ‘getting more people interested in golf’. And here, I’d like to expand on why I believe many high-end clubs are missing a marketing trick. Many clubs underestimate the value of a tangible souvenir to their visitors – especially when those visitors are shelling out somewhere north of €175 for the privilege of teeing off at your facility. Many such souvenirs cost just a few euros to produce in sufficient volume – but the intrinsic sentimental value to its recipient is worth so much more. Bag tags are a classic example. I’ve got quite a number from visits to some exclusive courses and I’ve kept them all. There are one or two venues I’ve been, however, where the bag tag is notable by its absence. Not only was there not one in the ‘goody bag’ but they weren’t for sale in the club shop either. If you’re a high-end club and choose to eschew the former, fine – but there’s really no excuse not to offer the latter; it’s often the only lasting memory someone has of their visit to your venue. I’m not suggesting a collectible bag tag is a complimentary offering when the green-fee is reduced – take it out. Indeed, Hanbury Manor, for one, includes a bag tag at rack-rate, but takes it out for societies paying a discounted green fee.
4 | GMé November 2017
LASTING MEMORIES A leather shoe bag from Skibo Castle, together with some goodies from Monte Rei
David Thomson, the director of golf at Skibo Castle, told me recently what visitors will find in their named locker: “Inside they’ll find a leather Skibocrested shoe bag containing a miniature of Scottish whisky, and a Skibo-crested miniature shot glass; bag towel; Strokesaver; plus a sleeve of golf balls and tees and pencil. “Plus they also get an engraved bag tag too,” he explained. “I wanted to set a trend and make it a ‘wow!’ factor.” He’s certainly achieved that aim. But you don’t need to aim that high to provide somebody with a memento they treasure and which will forever act as a marketing tool for you.
At a recent event, I was chatting to an industry figure about this very subject and he pulled out a Kingsbarns’ money clip which he uses on a daily basis. And that’s somebody who works in golf 24/7 – imagine the effect on somebody who will, perhaps, play your facility only once in their life. GMé
Michael Lenihan firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hold the front page To celebrate the history of the Royal Automobile Club, the team at BMS Products worked with course manager, Lee Strutt, to create a unique embroidered flag design.
“We are immensely proud of what BMS has produced for us – it was clear that this was a superb team effort”
Cover sponsored by BMS Products (44) 01582 758444 email@example.com
6 | GMé November 2017
Being a good driver is the ultimate ambition of every motorist who has ever sat behind the wheel of a car. But being a good driver is also the challenge of every golfer who has picked up a club for fun or competition. It’s surely no coincidence then that the Royal Automobile Club has a special place in both the worlds of cars and golf. Founded in 1897 by Frederick Richard Simms, The Royal Automobile Club’s primary purpose was to promote the motor car and its place in society, and today, the club is acknowledged as one of the foremost private members’ clubs in the world. Nestled in the beautiful surroundings of the Epsom Downs, Woodcote Park is home to two very special 18-hole golf courses offering exceptional facilities. Set in 350 acres, the picturesque treelined grounds make for a dramatic backdrop and many say the perfect golfing experience. To keep this distinctive appearance up to scratch, the need to renew the flags on the course became a priority, although the task proved to be a lot tougher than first expected. After a lot of research and work behind the scenes, course manager Lee Strutt, met with managing director of BMS Products, James Buckholt, to enquire if
his company – which is establishing a reputation for specialising in abstract flag designs for golf clubs – could help. With the club’s history based on motoring, Strutt was keen to bring some of the Royal Automobile Club’s past back to the course, and thought BMS would be the ideal partner to help bring his vision to life. “The club is very precise about its logo and how it’s represented, so I knew it was going to be a challenge,” said Strutt. So, to celebrate the distinct history of the Royal Automobile Club, the team at BMS came up with several creative choices before settling on an exclusive embroidered design, featuring the iconic Dunlop R5 tyre tread pattern wrapped around the tube pocket, coupled with a bespoke sewn in label to identify the famous tread style. Produced in white, yellow and red, the unique patterns on the flags reflect the uniqueness and special feel of each course. “We are immensely proud of what BMS has produced for us – it was clear that this was a superb team effort,” added Strutt. “BMS set out to meet my every expectation and achieved it expertly – we’ve got exactly what we wanted. “Even peers have commented on the quality of the flags, and that’s high praise indeed.” GMé
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European Tour set to introduce Shot Clock and Red Cards in effort to speed-up tournaments The 2018 Shot Clock Masters in Austria will be the first tournament in professional golf to use a shot clock on every shot as part of the European Tour’s bid to combat slow play. Earlier this year, the European Tour experimented with a shot clock on one hole at GolfSixes – a move which proved popular with both players and fans – and the concept will now be used for the first time at a European Tour event at the Diamond Country Club, from June 7-10, 2018. In a marked difference to the GolfSixes model however, this tournament will embrace the Tour’s official timing policy (similar to policies used across the world of professional golf) over 72 holes, with an intent to showcase a European Tour event played at a more compelling pace. In accordance with this official policy, each player in the 120-man field will have 50 seconds for the first player in a group to play any given shot, 40 seconds for subsequent players. Players will incur a one-shot penalty for each bad time incurred and these will be shown as a red card against their name on the leaderboard. Each player will have the right to call two ‘time-outs’ during a round which will permit them twice the usually allotted time to play the shot. Last year, the European Tour pledged to speed up the game of golf, introducing
a new pace of play policy which included monitoring penalties and handing referees additional powers to target slow players. This policy had an immediate effect, leading to a visible reduction in round times, and the additional development in Austria could have an even more dramatic impact. It is hoped the move will cut round times by around 45 minutes, reducing three-ball timings to approximately four hours, and two-balls to around three hours 15 minutes.
Foremost turns to 59club
Fife club takes the lead in attracting new members
Foremost has announced a new partnership with customer service analysts and training provider, 59club, which will see members of the golf retail and marketing group benefit from a range of industry-leading resources. The collaboration will assist Foremost professionals with training and measurement programmes engineered to enhance the customer service that they deliver to golfers in-store, as well as throughout the golf club’s business wherever there is customer contact. Commenting on the announcement, Foremost managing director Andy Martin said: “Our members aspire to provide the highest levels of service for their customers, and the 59club partnership will help to offer guidance or new ideas to members on how to achieve this.” 59club director, Simon Wordsworth added: “We relish the opportunity to inspire and assist members to further advance their sales performance and customer service etiquette.”
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Tour pro’s will incur a red-card if they take longer than 40 seconds to take a shot
The clubhouse at Scotscraig
The world’s 13th oldest golf club has unveiled a far-reaching set of membership options that has propelled the 200-year-old institution into the forefront of the sport’s development. Scotscraig Golf Club, one of the most respected heritage clubs in Scotland, has revised its constitution to include a raft of new and innovative membership categories designed to encourage younger players and greater family participation. Scotscraig Golf Club captain John Rankin said the new constitution and expanded membership categories repre-
Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said: “The 2018 Shot Clock Masters will be a fascinating addition to our schedule next year. Not only will it help us combat slow play and reduce round times, it is also further evidence of our desire to embrace innovation.” Austrian Tour player Bernd Wiesberger added: “The new Shot Clock format is an ideal way to focus on the issue of pace of play. The game of golf should be faster and this is a step in the right direction.”
sent one of the most significant changes ever made at the famous Fife club. “This is the most extensive overhaul ever undertaken at Scotscraig Golf Club,” said Rankin. “It provides more options for existing members and exciting opportunities to provide access for the next generation of golfers. “It is proactive and forward-thinking, and provides a clear future for one of Scotland’s oldest clubs. “The over-whelming support and backing from our members has been particularly encouraging and serves to illustrate the significance of the decision.” As well as introducing a new Pathway category for those looking to take up golf, the club has also announced three new classifications for those aged between 18 and 32 helping in the transition from youth golf to those playing in their 30s. More importantly, the club has granted free membership to the children and grandchildren of full members.
Aphrodite Hills Resort renamed PGA National, Cyprus
In brief... Castle Stuart Golf Links has been recognised in the Scottish Golf Tourism Awards, picking up the award in the best value (over £100) category. Stuart McColm, Castle Stuart’s general manager, said: “We are delighted to receive this award and would like to thank the voting public. It means a lot to the Castle Stuart team who work tirelessly on a day-to-day basis to deliver great service on and off the course to be recognised for their hard work.” The TGI Golf Partnership has launched a new travel company aimed at custom fitting golf travel and adding another revenue stream to its Partners. TGI Golf Travel was launched in September, and will offer bespoke golf travel packages, placing an emphasis on personal service and guidance. Troon International has launched a new tee time booking app, which will ensure the company continues to set the benchmark for standards and service across its portfolio of venues. The app will initially concentrate on offering opportunities to secure rounds at Troon International venues within the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt and India, with plans to eventually encompass all 44 Troon International managed facilities across Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa. The R&A and the USGA have received comments on the proposed new Rules from more than 22,000 golfers in 102 countries, as well as representatives of golf organisations throughout the world, providing valuable feedback as the organisations work toward their implementation on January 1, 2019. With the worldwide survey and evaluation period now complete, The R&A and the USGA and their respective committees will continue to review all comments received.
Aphrodite Hills Resort has announced that it has attained the highest standard recognition in golf, and become the PGA National, Cyprus. The world-class golf course is currently undergoing a major investment upgrade of €2.5 million and full modernisation, including the rebuilding of greens and bunkers. Top recognition as PGA National, Cyprus places Aphrodite Hills Golf in the highest positions of Mediterranean golf courses. Golf director at Aphrodite Hills Resort, Andrew Darker, comments: “For more than 15 years, Aphrodite Hills has created a strong reputation as both a golf course and a state-of-the-art resort. We believe that collaboration with PGA will further develop our profile in the conscience of golfers and the thousands of visitors hosted daily throughout the year.” PGA chief executive, Robert Maxfield added: “We are pleased that Aphrodite Hills has become the PGA National, Cyprus, which exalts the quality of the remarkable and newly renovated golf course, as well as the excellent five-star leisure facilities. “We are proud to promote PGA National, Cyprus alongside its other national facilities in Europe, further strengthening PGA’s global reputation.”
Aphrodite Hills Resort is one of the highest regarded integrated resorts in Europe, and is nestled in the midst of a protected forest with views of the Mediterranean Sea. It comprises the Aphrodite Hills Hotel with 290 rooms and suites; spa; 18 restaurants & bars; holiday residences with stylish holiday villas and apartments for rent; world-class tennis and football academies, horse riding and a children’s club.
PGA National, Cyprus
The Duke invests in E-Z-GO ELiTE to enhance visitor experience
The E-Z-GO fleet at The Duke
The Duke Golf Club, an exclusive members-only club located in Nistelrode, Holland, has invested in 15 E-Z-GO RXV ELiTE golf cars with Textron Fleet Management GPS (TFM GPS). Marcel Arts, who has been the general manager at the club for 13 years after starting his career as a chef at the golf club, said: “Our clientele is mainly business people. “We pride ourselves on creating a special, exclusive atmosphere, and part of that is to have the latest technology
and the best products available on the market. We only have 18-holes here, but we make sure that the standard is firstclass. “We chose the E-Z-GO ELiTE golf cars with TFM GPS because they allow us to offer premium services such as ordering food around the course, which is delivered by one of our three butlers. “Players can also fill in scorecards and see maps of the course with all the information they could possibly need. We are now able to protect the course by geo-fencing areas where we do not want the golf cars to go. This obviously saves us time and money in repairs, and keeps the greenkeeping team happy. “The ELiTE technology is fantastic. We no longer have to maintain the batteries; they last so much longer, and the drive is much smoother and more comfortable than before. “Of course, the lithium power batteries are much more efficient which also saves us money, but most importantly, our members are extremely pleased with the new golf cars.”
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Frilford Heath launches brand new six-hole course to widen golfs accessibility Frilford Heath officially opened a new six-hole short course at the Oxfordshire venue at the end of August, with the new Yellow Course sitting alongside Frilford Heath’s three existing championship courses. But what sets it apart is that it has been created using Huxley Golf allweather surfaces. The course is divided into two accessible loops of three holes each; with the second loop slightly more challenging than the first. It is designed to cater for all standards of golfer, but it will especially appeal to beginners who want an accessible and gentle introduction to the sport, experienced players who want to improve their short game within 100 yards, and the rapidly expanding group of golfers that find it hard to find time to play regularly. Huxley Golf’s Will Alsop worked with executive chairman Alistair Booth and head greenkeeper and president of BIGGA, Sid Arrowsmith, to design and create the course. At the opening, Alsop said: “We were thrilled to be approached by Sid to discuss creating this new course at Frilford Heath. Accessible, versatile – and hugely addictive – these short courses give experienced players the opportunity to fit golf into their busy lifestyles as well as encouraging inclusivity by offering juniors and novices a fantastic foundation on which to build their skills.”
Eddie Pepperell during the opening of the Yellow Course at Frilford Heath
Booth added: “Huxley Golf worked with us over a period of 18 months to turn an under-utilised area of woodland into this stunning new feature. In my opinion, the team skilfully created an exceptionally high quality facility that can be used by young and old, novice and professional, and I am proud to have extended our offering in this way.” Eddie Pepperell, Frilford Heath member and European Tour player – who officially opened the new facility – said: “It’s so important to make golf inclusive if we want it to remain as one of the UK’s leading sports.
“There are many people who may be put off playing a round of 18 holes because they are worried about their ability and the time it takes. This course means beginners and those new to the game can come and play a quick round to gradually improve their game with confidence.” Booth concluded: “Introducing a new six-hole course to our selection of three 18-hole courses means we are making golf accessible. Beginners and younger players who might otherwise be too afraid to play a longer course can now play a game of six holes in an hour.”
By Royal decree Copsey aiming to reduce at La Manga capital costs for clubs Spain’s five-star La Manga Club is celebrating its 45th anniversary in style after joining a select group of courses in Spain to have been granted royal status by the Spanish royal household, the ‘Casa Real – Royal House’. The resort’s golf club has been awarded the title ‘Real Golf La Manga Club’ in recognition of its royal connections and key part in promoting Spanish golf since opening in 1972. La Manga Club’s five-star hotel, the Hotel Principe Felipe, is named after Spain’s present king, who stayed at the resort in 1992. In addition, his parents are among the numerous famous VIPs and celebrities that the top sports and lifestyle venue has hosted since its inception. The accolade, which is only given to golf venues that are at least 25 years old, comes nearly a year after the resort first approached the royal house to be considered for the honour to help mark its anniversary.
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A new venture, spearheaded by former Crown Golf and American Golf regional course manager, Paul Copsey, has launched with the ambition to save clubs money when it comes to renewing course equipment. Turf Machinery Acquisitions LLP will offer an advisory service that will manage the whole capital equipment purchasing cycle, and crucially, will only be paid if a golf course saves money on its purchases. “The main thing we heard from golf courses was that the cost of turf machinery, and capital equipment, has been rising faster than golf course income, and people needed a way of getting the equipment that they need but at a lower cost,” said Paul Copsey, managing director of Turf Machinery Acquisitions. “What became clear is that because capital purchases are a once a year, or once every few years activity, golf clubs don’t always have the policies and procedures needed to make sure that
they are critically evaluating their needs, and looking openly at all options that are available to make sure that they are getting the best ‘bang for their buck.’ “One of the key elements of the service we offer is that if we don’t save clubs money, then they pay nothing for being on the programme – our income comes from a percentage of what clubs save – resulting in no risk to the club.”
Paul Copsey of Turf Machinery Acquisitions
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The Shire London announces significant winter investment The Shire London has announced a £250,000 series of upgrades to its facilities over the next two years. The UK’s only golf course fully designed by Seve Ballesteros will see a series of bunker refurbishments and course remodelling works starting this winter, with additional tee boxes on some of its par three holes a priority. The club’s driving range and extensive short game area will both be improved, and the club’s spectacular putting green – which overlooks the S-shaped lake on the final hole – will be extended. Elsewhere the experience for both members and visitors to The Shire London will be enhanced with a series of updates to clubhouse, function and player facilities for the 2018 season. Work will also start soon on refurbishments for the club’s changing rooms. “Our loyal members have shown enormous faith in us since we opened in 2007,” said director Ceri Menai-Davis.
“Our responsibility to them is to continuously improve the experience at The Shire London, and this new programme of works will be visible proof of that. We also enjoy strong support from visitors, so it is vital that we keep on improving all aspects of a day’s golf here.
England Golf partner GMG
Faldo to speak at inaugural overseas PGA conference
England Golf has partnered with Golf Management Group (GMG) to help golf clubs cut costs without compromising on quality. Clubs affiliated to England Golf will receive free GMG membership for a year – usually £149 – which could help them make savings of more than £10,000. GMG is the second organisation to join England Golf’s new Preferred Partners and Supplier network, which is designed to give clubs access to a range of high quality products and services and, as it develops, will offer increasing value to England Golf’s club support package. Iain Lancaster, England Golf Club engagement manager, said: “We are delighted to welcome GMG to our developing network and to increase the support we are able to offer clubs to help them grow. I am looking forward to announcing more partnerships over the coming months to further demonstrate our commitment in this area.” Scott Partington from GMG added: “We are very excited about the partnership with England Golf, it endorses everything we have been doing over the last seven years and will provide significant leverage when negotiating with our supply chain, which should see golf clubs making even greater savings. “The complimentary membership for affiliated clubs removes any barriers to try our service and we look forward to adding to our current membership.”
Six time major winner Sir Nick Faldo will be a keynote speaker at the first PGA Members’ International Conference, which will be staged at the Laguna Phuket resort in Thailand later this month. This conference represents an opportunity for PGA members to access an exceptional educational event which centres on sharing experience and learning from respected experts in their field. A host of leading figures from the golf industry will share their experiences and provide networking opportunities at Laguna Phuket’s state-of-the-art golf academy, which officially became the first PGA branded facility in Thailand earlier this year. Sir Nick will hold a Q&A session and deliver a TrackMan clinic aided by Thomas Tontapanish, the company’s representative in south east Asia. Other speakers include PGA Master Professional Paul Burley, senior vice president and global head of IMG Golf Course Services. As well as discussing pressing issues facing the industry, Burley will share the knowledge he has gleaned from being a key player in the club management at a variety of high end facilities worldwide. The event will also give PGA Members an insight into potential careers abroad and allow those already working outside the UK to share their thoughts on the Association and its future.
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The seventh hole at The Shire London
“Seve’s spectacular original course design will always be the main attraction for golfers of course, but we have enjoyed great success with our social events too and our upgraded clubhouse facilities will make them even more special in the future.”
The Association’s new chief executive, Robert Maxfield, will be in attendance and the event will conclude with a golf tournament and a prize giving ceremony. Robert Maxfield, chief executive of the PGA, said: “We are delighted our first overseas PGA Members’ International Conference will be hosted in Asia and in particular at Laguna Phuket, one of the region’s finest resort destinations, and now a recognised PGA branded facility. “Asia continues to be an important market for The PGA and its Members who have been working there to develop golf for many years.”
Sir Nick Faldo
Golf construction experts Golf course construction Remodelling & renovation Grow in & maintenance Artificial surfaces Drainage & irrigation systems +44 (0) 1722 716361 â&#x20AC;˘ firstname.lastname@example.org
golfmanagement.eu.com | 13
Jimenez opens new short game facility at Las Colinas Golfing legend and 21-time European Tour winner Miguel Ángel Jiménez took time out from his busy schedule last month to officially unveil the ’Las Colinas Short Game Facility designed by Miguel Ángel Jiménez’. The short-game facility, which is spread across 5,000 sq. metres at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club, was declared officially open by its designer after months of close collaboration with the Las Colinas management team. Boasting spacious Bermuda grass playing areas and an immaculate 680 sq. metre green with lush Bent grass, the Las Colinas Short Game Facility designed by Miguel Ángel Jiménez will now be open to visiting golfers and Pro Groups looking to fine tune their game whilst staying at the resort. “I’m incredibly proud to open the Las Colinas Short Game Facility and have been extremely impressed with the pristine conditioning of the whole area,” said Jiménez. “It’s been really exciting watching how the project has developed since we started work earlier this year and I now look forward to seeing golfers from all around the world enjoying a world-class facility. “It was crucial the facility offered the very best in standards because I know
from visiting Las Colinas that the whole resort demands that level of quality. I’d like to congratulate everyone at Las Colinas who has worked so hard to get to where we are today.” The Las Colinas Short Game Facility designed by Miguel Ángel Jiménez also incorporates two large practice bunkers and allows golfers to practice their full short game repertoire over a 75-yard distance.
BIGGA select TPC crew
Morgan joins EcoBunker to build a better future
BIGGA has revealed the six members who have been invited to join the course preparation team at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, next May. The Players Championship is considered by many to be golf’s ‘fifth’ major and as such it presents an incredible opportunity for BIGGA members to gain a huge amount of experience, in a once-ina-lifetime setting. And for the first time this year, John Deere – who sponsor the scheme – has expanded the programme, allowing a member from BIGGA’s International Region to join. The successful BIGGA members who have been selected to join the volunteer programme are Paul Armour, course manager at Dunbar Golf Club; Joe Barnes, greenkeeper at Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club; Nicholas Thorley, greenkeeper at Little Aston Golf Club; Jamie Blake, head greenkeeper at Broadway Golf Club; Antony Kirwan, deputy course manager at Aldeburgh Golf Club and Craig Cameron, Golf Club St Leon Rot in Germany.
EcoBunker has appointed Huw Morgan as technical manager. With over 32 years in the industry at clubs including Southerndown, Wildernesse, Ashburnham and Pennard both as course manager and club manager, Morgan brings a wealth of valuable experience and knowledge to the EcoBunker team. Fully qualified with an HNC and the coveted Master Greenkeeper accreditation, Morgan has seen many changes in the industry over the years, and was one of the first club managers to recognise the true potential of EcoBunker, after introducing it at Pennard Golf Club. “Demand for our products and services has grown very rapidly both in the UK and abroad,” said CEO of EcoBunker, Richard Allen. “Huw is a leading figure in the industry and his presence will ensure we maintain our high quality of service as the company grows and diversifies. “Huw’s role will be primarily client facing, offering technical advice, assessing new developments, presenting at seminars and helping golf clubs make the best-informed decisions on their
14 | GMé November 2017
Las Colinas Golf & Country Club managing director Cristobal Guerrero (left) with Miguel Angel Jimenez
Positioned just over 100 metres from the range at Las Colinas, the Troonconditioned facility is perfectly located for those looking to improve their short game. “We’re absolutely thrilled to open this fantastic facility on what is a really special day in the history of Las Colinas Golf & Country Club,” said the resort’s director of golf & operations, Sean CorteReal.
Richard Allen (left) with Huw Morgan
next bunker projects. He is passionate about sustainable, low maintenance golf course construction work without compromising aesthetic value – a perfect fit for the EcoBunker philosophy,” added Allen. Commenting on his appointment, Morgan said: “I felt the time was right for a career change, and having got to know Richard and his team very well for the past four years, when I heard about the vacancy at EcoBunker I knew it would be a great opportunity.”
In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a promotion for James Hutchison at Castle Stuart, who succeeds Chris Haspell as head greenkeeper.
In brief... West Cliffs Golf Links, an hour north of Lisbon, has been singled out for special praise by the Golf Environment Organisation (GEO) after becoming a GEO Certified® Development – and the first course in Europe to complete its OnCourse Developments programme. The Cynthia Dye-designed course has been hailed as one of the new stars of European golf after opening at the start of the summer, and been acclaimed by the GEO for “raising the bar in sustainable golf course construction.” Wentworth Club has taken delivery of a new fleet of custom-made Precedent i3 golf cars from Club Car. Stephen Gibson, CEO at Wentworth Club, said: “We pride ourselves on our ability to offer our members an unrivalled level of service, so it is critical that the companies we choose to work with can live up to our high expectations.” Sentosa Golf Club in Singapore – regarded as one of the world’s most respected golf clubs – has appointed Performance54 as its sales and marketing agency. The partnership will see Sentosa utilise the expertise of Performance54’s global team of dedicated golf specialists to extend the club’s international recognition and appeal. The family-owned company Baron Philippe de Rothschild and Ryder Cup Europe have formally announced Mouton Cadet as the Official Wine of The 2018 Ryder Cup. Founded in 1930 by the late Baron Philippe de Rothschild (1902 1988), Mouton Cadet is the world’s leading Bordeaux AOC wine. The goal of Baron Philippe was to market high-quality wine to a world of burgeoning quality-conscious, wine consumers. Mouton Cadet found instant success, and is now sold in 150 countries worldwide.
The internationally-renowned Castle Stuart Golf Links has appointed James Hutchison as head greenkeeper as it seeks to build on its reputation for sustainable and environmentally-friendly course management.
Former PGA Rookie Assistant of the Year Dan Leeke has joined the awardwinning professional team at London’s Royal Mid-Surrey Golf Club that is currently celebrating its 125th anniversary.
Teaching golf to a group of youngsters may be a daunting prospect for some, but Aldwark Manor’s new head of golf, Tony Moore, has been in much more stressful situations, having spent ten years in the Parachute Regiment.
Sergio Garcia was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the European Tour, during Real Club Valderrama’s President’s Dinner at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters hosted by the Sergio Garcia Foundation last month.
TaylorMade Golf has appointed Brian Bazzel – an influential figure within TaylorMade’s product creation teams for the last 17 years – as its new vice president of product creation, leading product strategy and development.
Swiss watchmaker, Hublot, has joined forces with Dustin Johnson, to design, develop, manufacture and assemble a module to equip its new UNICO movement, which has been specifically created for golf.
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pgas of europe
“We are building on the experience and knowledge that has been gained over the past 20 years or so around the globe to move forward with a holistic view”
A LESSON LEARNED Expert tuition under the guidance of a PGA professional
How the PGA pro is A Workforce for Golf As Aston Ward writes, much of the work of the PGAs of Europe is carried out all over the world, in an effort to help PGA professionals better themselves.
GMé Media Partner The PGAs of Europe is an association of 35 National PGAs with a collective membership in excess of 21,000 golf professionals across Europe.
MEDIA PA R T N E R
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Much of the work PGAs of Europe carries out focuses around golf development within its 35 Member Countries, but also all over the world. Many of these markets face the same challenges with regards to increasing participation, and in the majority of cases, the PGA professional is key. PGA professionals have a tangible role to play in the development of the sport. As someone who is central to many clubs and facilities – and is often a key colleague/employee or manager – PGA pros can very much be considered as a ready and willing workforce to develop golf. The PGAs of Europe plays its role in educating all professionals in the importance of increasing participation, the ways to go about doing so, and how to ensure people have the best possible experience and pathway into, and throughout, their career in golf. Recently, the PGAs of Europe has taken steps to strengthen its position as a leader in the provision of international golf development expertise through the formalisation of its ‘Golf Development Team’ whilst also increasing the strategic focus in this area.
“We are building on the experience and knowledge that has been gained over the past 20 years or so around the globe to move forward with a holistic view to the provision of expertise,” said chief executive of the PGAs of Europe, Ian Randell. “This ranges from strategic, structural and political guidance, to sharing good practice and expertise in areas such as education and coaching to help a country achieve its golf development objectives in whatever form they may take.” DEVELOPMENT TEAM A major step toward these development objectives has been the formalisation and continued integration of the Golf Development Team – a group of 24 golf developers that are highly skilled in a wide variety of areas relating to golf development such as, beginner and elite coaching, management, participation activity with key focus areas such as juniors, women and disabled players, as well as consultancy and professional education. The Golf Development Team, managed by PGAs of Europe director of education
SPREADING THE WORD The PGAs of Europe work all over the world, and not just in Europe
and membership, Tony Bennett, have been deployed in a wide variety of golf development missions and activity spanning two decades and over 50 countries, in particular for The R&A and their Working For Golf Programme. The Association recently hosted a Golf Development Team meeting at its Belfry hq that brought together many of its existing members, and some that are newly added, to continually develop the team and inform them of the PGAs of Europe’s current activity and updated strategic undertakings and to share the latest good practice initiatives, along with details of new tools and strategies now available. KEY ASSETS PGA professionals have long been at the heart of golf clubs, driving ranges, retail facilities and more, but have they really been leveraged as a workforce to increase participation? Some have been, some have not. There will always be more ‘enterprising’ PGA professionals that venture out
to actively engage in development activity that might not necessarily increase their bank balance, but will benefit golf as a whole. The PGAs of Europe continue to work to promote the activity carried out by not only its own Golf Development Team, but by PGA professionals, PGAs, Federations and other bodies both across its member countries and around the world. However it is not only about sharing the work being done, it is also fostering a mind-set that PGA professionals, managers, owners, and anyone involved in golf should have – working together to develop golf will benefit everyone and this behaviour should be encouraged and supported. A facility should not be afraid of their PGA professionals getting involved in this activity. If they seek out this kind of development then ensure they are supported. If anything this kind of effort is a real benefit to a club and can further strengthen their professional as an asset to the business.
A lot of development activity will take place outside of a traditional golf environment – but in almost all cases the aim is to get people into clubs and facilities. Facilities can be that entry point into golf, working together with the PGA Professional workforce to provide a base for development activity but perhaps most importantly, a safe, fun, and welcoming environment for people to experience golf in. The process here is reciprocal – ensure PGA professionals have the resources they need to develop golf and they will in turn generate golfers (and revenue) for a facility benefitting not just that one location, but also the sport as a whole. Understanding that PGA Professionals are a key asset for a facility in growing participation can be very valuable. Establishing a strategy, no matter how big a golf business is, that involves this knowledgeable and experienced workforce will aid that facility’s ability to increase revenue and ultimately play their part in bringing more people into the sport for the benefit of all concerned. GMé
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Finca Cortesin... A class act from Dusk till Dawn There can’t be all that many golf hotels in Europe that can match the extraordinary levels of customer service that affords those fortunate to stay, and play, at Finca Cortesin. Publisher Michael Lenihan spent a few days at the Spanish resort with director of golf, Miguel Girbes.
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fincacortesin.com BIENVENIDO The inviting entrance to Hotel Cortesin (main picture) and right, the par four, uphill 9th hole
In an age of social media and travel bloggers extolling the virtues of merely average hotels, coupled with PR agents touting their client’s credentials to as many media outlets as is feasibly possible, it can often be difficult for the buying public to cut through all of the hyperbole and superlatives. And when you factor in the growing number of awards that seem to adorn websites these days – like tiny badges of honour – it can be a real challenge when it comes to separating reality from PR exaggeration. But when it comes to Finca Cortesin, located in Spain between Marbella and Sotogrande, believe the hype – I mean really believe it – as you’ll struggle to find a better golf hotel anywhere in Europe, let alone Spain. Nominated in the category of Spain’s best golf hotel at the forthcoming World Golf Awards, which will be held at La Manga Club later in the month, it’s unimaginable Finca Cortesin not being crowned Spain’s finest as the attention
to detail, and the luxurious surroundings of the resort, are simply unparalleled. With the Mediterranean to one side and the Casares Mountains to the other, Finca Cortesin’s world-class facilities include an elegant 67-suite hotel, a Beach Club and an award-winning spa featuring Spain’s only snow cave. Offering the choice of four restaurants including El Jardin de Lutz – serving authentic Spanish cuisine – and the Michelin-starred signature Japanese restaurant Kabuki Raw, guests certainly won’t struggle to find an eatery to match the lavish surroundings of the hotel. Host venue to three Volvo World Match Play events, in 2009, 2011 and 2012, the golf operation at Finca Cortesin is currently overseen by Miguel Girbes, the former general manager at PGA Catalunya in Barcelona, who took over responsibility at the Cabell B. Robinson-designed course at the beginning of 2017 following a tip-off from Javier Reverigo, chief operating officer at nearby Valderrama.
“A resort like this in Spain, probably in Europe is unique, so I am lucky that I got the opportunity to work here” twitter.com/gme
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finca cortesin PLUSH SURROUNDINGS Director of golf at Finca Cortesin, Miguel Girbes (left); the signature 13th hole (right), and alfresco dining at Hotel Cortesin (below right)
“Obviously, the golf course has to be in great shape, and everything has to be fantastic, but you need the service” “Last November, I was at a TaylorMade presentation in London with Javier when he informed me that Francisco de Lancastre was leaving his role as director of golf at Finca Cortesin,” said Girbes. “As Javier had worked at Finca Cortesin before moving to Valderrama, he knew the resort and the management team, and suggested I put my name forward. He said that Finca Cortesin was a great company to work for, and that the area is fantastic, so I decided to put my name forward. “A resort like this in Spain, probably in Europe is unique, so I am lucky that I got the opportunity to work here.” One of the tasks which Girbes will be responsible for, is that of growing the number of green-fee paying visitors to the resort, whilst at the same time, keeping a watchful eye on the hospitality side of the operation. “Although I’m not involved in the hotel, I do sit in on the meetings and I see the numbers,” explained Girbes, who during his tenure at PGA Catalunya, was responsible for all facets of the resorts day-today operation, including overseeing a £20m spend on the resort in 2015. “We’ve undertaken a great deal of work on the golf course this year, introducing a new environmentally-friendly UltraDwarf Bermuda grass, which result-
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ed in the course being closed for the summer. As a result, our visitor numbers this year are slightly lower than 2016, but we have been busy since the course reopened in the autumn, and we’re looking forward to growing the business next year. “The experience and service here is fantastic, and we have all of the tools to ensure that visitors enjoy a world-class service, so what I am aiming to do is to bring Finca Cortesin to the front of people’s minds, and talk about us in the same way people talk about Valderrama. “Not everyone can afford to play Valderrama, but people aspire to play the course and talk about it. I’m not suggesting we are the same – what I am saying however, is that it’s an expensive product, and not everyone can go.” With a green fee currently costing €280, and the hotel held in such esteem, one could forgive Girbes for being slightly concerned that the hotel operation could overshadow the golf, but he see’s things from a different perspective. “We have to talk about Finca Cortesin as a business firstly with golf, then real estate, and finally the hotel,” explained Girbes. “We’ll have clients that come here and stay in the hotel that don’t play golf, and the other way around, whilst some clients enjoy the whole experi-
ence. We offer the same high levels of service in the golf operation as we do the hotel, which is pretty unique. “It’s important that everybody sees us as a resort with golf, hotel and real estate – that’s how I see it – and service is the key to that. We look after you on the golf course and that’s very important when you pay this amount of money to play. “Obviously, the golf course has to be in great shape, and everything has to be fantastic, but you need the service, and service is all about people. People are the most important aspect.” Unlike his peers, Girbes, 39, had little interest in the sport growing up in Spain, and it wasn’t until he moved to the United States, aged 16, to live with a host family while attending High School, that golf appeared on his radar. “My parents kicked me out of home, and said go and try to find yourself,” laughs Girbes. “That was a great experience. The family that I stayed with in California played golf, and as one of their sons was studying to be a superintendent, I started playing. “When I came back to Spain, I saw an opportunity to study golf business and as I liked the sport it was a good combination – nobody in my family plays golf. “When I was in California, I played a lot of golf and I really started to like it, so I
The residential offering on sale at Las Coli nas Golf & Country Club includes villas, apartments and plots of land. The residential offering on sale at Las Colinas Golf & Country Club includes villas, apartments and plots of land.
Designed to leave a lasting memory
decided to pursue a career in golf which was a bit different to everybody else in Spain at that time, who typically wanted to become a doctor or a lawyer. “So, I headed back to the US in 1999 and studied Business Administration, Professional Golf Management and Marketing at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. “After graduating, I undertook a Professional Golf Management diploma with the PGA of America before returning home to Spain, and taking up my first role in golf at a club near Barcelona. “That was in 2003, and I got the job within 15 days of returning home,” recalls Girbes fondly. “I came back in mid-November, and I started on December 1 – I didn’t even have time to pack or anything!” His first foray into club management came four years later in 2007, when he took up the position of director of golf at Club de Golf Bonmont in Tarragona, followed by a spell at The Westin Camporeal Golf Resort, Lisbon. Interestingly, Girbes next career move was as a result of some insider knowledge with his wife orchestrating events. “My girlfriend at the time, before we married, was contacted by a friend of hers in the UK about a new position at a golf club near Barcelona,” he explains.
“She thought I probably wouldn’t be interested, but when I knew the club was PGA Catalunya, I grabbed the chance.” Girbes spent eight years in Catalunya, before taking up his current role in February, a position which brings challenges, but also opportunities given the previous association with the Volvo World Matchplay. So, armed with a brief to raise the profile of the five-star resort, does Girbes believe that a Tour event will once again grace the fairways of the par 72 layout? “There’s always an aspiration, and we are talking to different people, but now sponsorships in Spain is everywhere, so it’s complicated. The other thing here at Finca Cortesin is the type of course that we have which is not easy for big crowds to walk, so if we look for something, we’d look for something smaller. “I think our aspiration is to be one of the best golf courses in Spain, and obviously, the best resort,” confirmed Girbes confidently. “We are investing and creating this awareness to get more people coming here – to know it, and to talk about it. “Obviously, you have to maintain a level of presentation, and we try to be better every day here in everything that we do.” GMé
Measuring 6,802 metres from the back tees, and with more than 100 bunkers, Finca Cortesin is ranked as one of Spain’s best golf courses, with the harmonious relationship between the natural Mediterranean landscape and environment, making for a most attractive design. Cabell B. Robinson’s course design and Gerald Huggan’s landscaping design capture the natural characteristic of the area where the course has been constructed. All of it together adds to a perfect balance between 20 varieties of flora, the typical Mediterranean forest and the perfectly manicured Bermuda grass on the course. US Masters champion, and recent winner of the Andalucia Masters, Sergio Garcia compared the greens at Finca Cortesin with those at Augusta National. With a choice of five different tees, the course is appealing to all levels; 5,884 metres for men and 4,840 metres for ladies, as well as an “executive gold tee” measuring 5,215 metres. Every player benefits from an exclusive bag drop service, fully-equipped buggies with the latest GPS technology, complimentary practice balls before playing, complimentary fruit and cold water service on the course, as well as a chilled towel service during the summer season. A Nicklaus Academy is on site featuring a Coaching Studio designed to help provide immediate feedback coupled with Swing Analysis, Flightscope and TOMI putting system analysis.
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“There is a huge disconnect between Scottish Golf and Scottish golf clubs and their members”
Scotch and Wry... Scottish Golf in strife The resignation of the Scottish Golf’s chief executive has thrown the organisation into uncharted and choppy waters. Mark Alexander reports on ambitious plans to rejuvenate Scotland’s governing body and the backlash that followed. IN THE CHAIR Eleanor Cannon, chair of Scottish Golf pictured at this year’s AGM
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Despite a wealth of courses and its standing as the sport’s spiritual home, golf in Scotland is in disarray. With claims of authoritarian practices and open discussions about a vote of no-confidence, there is concern that Scottish Golf (formerly Scottish Golf Union (SGU)) has lost its way. The resignation of its chief executive Blane Dodds to join Tennis Scotland is the latest in a series of personnel changes that has led the organisation to a crunch point. Eleanor Cannon, chair of Scottish Golf who has assumed an executive leadership position on an interim basis, said of the latest departure: “We are disappointed that Blane is leaving Scottish Golf and thank him for his efforts in leading our modernisation programme. We wish him well for the future. “The timing of this decision is unfortunate, but we acknowledge Blane’s long association with tennis in Scotland and the emotional pull it has on a former internationalist.” Dodds, who had been in the post for just over a year, is the latest in a line of board members to jump ship.
Hamish Grey, for instance, stepped down after Scottish Golf was created through an amalgamation of the SGU and Scottish Ladies’ Golfing Association. Others followed. Dodds’ decision to quit follows an overwhelming response to Scottish Golf’s plans to reverse what has been a torrid time for the organisation, which is facing punishing funding cuts. However, rather than galvanising consent across Scotland, the proposed four-year plan to reinvigorate investment through a hike in affiliation fees, a new toll on international visiting golfers and nationwide tee-booking and CRM systems, was met with derision. “There is a huge disconnect between Scottish Golf and Scottish golf clubs and their members,” said one general manager from one of the oldest clubs in Scotland. “There are a number of reasons for that, but Scottish Golf has replaced people who we knew, with people we don’t know from Adam. “The CRM system is ill-thought out. The concept looks good but the reality is substantially adrift from what they think they can implement in that timescale.”
ANYONE FOR TENNIS? Blane Dodds, former CEO of Scottish Golf, who has left to join Tennis Scotland
He continued: “It’s this dictatorial approach that has got the clubs’ backs up. There was no consultation to get everybody involved. Just coming along and saying this is what we’re going to impose – it’s Big Brother!” Scottish golf clubs were due to vote on the key recommendations in a Special General Meeting planned for December 2. However, following unprecedented criticism levelled at the plans, the meeting will instead be used to “engage with golfers, clubs and stakeholders to debate the future direction for golf in Scotland”, noted a recent Scottish Golf announcement. The vote will now take place in March at Scottish Golf’s AGM. In the meantime, the organisation will seek out a new leader. Many believe this conciliatory approach should have been adopted from the outset rather than prescribing a set of changes with an ultimatum attached in the form of a vote. Dougie Cleeton, chief executive of Brunsfield Links Golfing Society, believes the strategy is out of touch and favours a
back-to-basics approach. “Scottish Golf would do well to concentrate on what they have to do to support Scotland’s golf clubs and let Scotland’s golf clubs manage themselves,” he says vehemently. “Scottish Golf means well, but sometimes you can go after something that you will never achieve and you can spend a lot of money, time and effort trying to do it.” He continues: “It’s a question of looking at the entire situation and deciding what is the best way forward. There has been a change in attitude that golf has become too expensive for the middleaged family man. The average age of those joining golf clubs has gone up, not down, and fewer ladies and juniors are joining. “Golf clubs are trying their hardest to engage with schools, ladies and young men to encourage them to join and Scottish Golf should recognise that and assist clubs when they need assistance; not dictate what clubs have to do,” added Cleeton.
While the proposed national CRM and tee-booking systems raised a few eyebrows and heckles around Scotland’s club boardrooms, the proposed increase to the annual affiliation fee from £11.25 to £24 did something far worse. Put simply, the proposed hike put the charge, which is discretely included in the annual club membership fee, firmly in the spotlight and consequently reinvigorated a long-standing debate. “When club golfers ask me what they get for their annual fee to Scottish Golf, it’s a very difficult question to answer other than to say; you get to have a handicap,” says Ken Goodwin, secretary of Prestwick Golf Club. “For those people who are fortunate to be members of more than one club, they might ask why they have to pay £11.25 twice when they can only have one handicap. For [Scottish Golf] to say, it’s going to go up to £24; that is a big shout.” Goodwin is especially concerned about the impact the proposed rise will have on second and third-tier clubs.
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“I am not convinced they have Scottish Golf at heart. They have change at heart, but that isn’t what is required”
“We are very fortunate at Prestwick,” he said, “we get a lot of visitor income, and there is a small percentage of clubs at the top end in Scotland that are in the same position. There are a number of clubs at the bottom that are living day to day. For the clubs in the middle; it is still difficult. “A lot are struggling, and if they are faced with an annual fee of £24 per head, a lot of their members will feel they’re not getting value and give up. It could cause even more of a problem.” While Goodwin concedes it is all too easy to criticise the efforts of Scottish Golf – which he says faces a “difficult job” – like others, he is concerned by an apparent disconnect between Scottish Golf and Scottish golf clubs. “We don’t know the details of what has been suggested and some of the answers the secretaries have received from Blane Dodds were quite naive,” he said. “[The Board] don’t seem to know the consequences of some of the [proposed] actions.” What isn’t in doubt is the need for Scottish Golf to do something. What has upset many at the coalface is the practical implications of executing the suggested policies which have been devised by a nine-strong board with clear commercial acumen, but perhaps
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lacking in the cold realities of golf club administration. “I lack confidence in the current regime,” says Cleeton. “I am not convinced they have Scottish Golf at heart. They have change at heart, but that isn’t what is required. We need somebody with a bit of passion about Scottish golf to make sure we’re doing the right thing.” To some extent, Goodwin agrees: “It would have been good if they’d had a golf club manager in their group to bring a reality check to some of the ideas.” With no apparent plan B, Scottish Golf has found itself in the midst of an extraordinary backlash. Without exception, the thunderous disapproval emanating from Scottish golf clubs has prompted many to conclude that golf in Scotland is being represented poorly. One constant voice has been that of Martin Dempster, golf correspondent for The Scotsman newspaper and an advocate for change. “It’s not in a good state,” says the journalist of the industry. More specifically he bemoans Dodds retaining his position as chair of Tennis Scotland during his time with Scottish Golf. “It was a big mistake to let Blane retain a tennis connection – he’s a tennis man and former international.
“That was an error by the board. They allowed him to have one foot in tennis and there was a clear conflict of interest. But with a drop in sponsorship income, he had to come up with something, and some say his plans were ambitious. I think they were too ambitious to have a chance. And then of course Blane leaving has left Scottish Golf in total disarray.” He goes on to reveal that he has heard “disturbing” anecdotal evidence of volunteers feeling let down by Scottish Golf and some clubs even questioning whether they should remain affiliated to the national governing body. “I’ve never heard that expressed before, but I have heard it over the last few days,” says Dempster, “this is where these events have taken some people. This will be a crucial few weeks for Scottish Golf to stay together.” Instead of embarking on a bold new strategy to redress golf’s failings, Scottish Golf has been met with the full force of Scotland’s frustration with a lack of meaningful progress and leadership. It is, however, a culmination of failings that extends far beyond the reaches of Scottish Golf that has led to this point. Now more than ever, clear and decisive thinking is required as well as a collaborative approach amongst all of Scotland’s golfing stakeholders. GMé
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golfgraffix FULLY RESPONSIVE Members and visitors tee-sheet software
A one-stop platform from GolfGraffix Scott MacCallum talks with managing director of GolfGraffix, John Aherne, about how his company can offer all golf clubs a one-stop solution incorporating tee-time booking. Golf used to be a simple game. It was a case of hit the ball, find the ball, hit the ball again as someone once eloquently described the game. It has moved on though, and while there is still nothing as difficult in all of golf as the second part of that equation, the game has now embraced the modern age if, perhaps, not always being an early adopter. For example, the mobile phone when it arrived on the scene in the 1980s – although at that time it would have been so huge to have needed a trolley of its own – would not have been welcome at any self-respecting golf club inside the clubhouse or out on the course. However, such has been the development of the mobile there is no longer a risk of a letter from the secretary if you are found with your phone. That’s because the risk of being distracted by a familiar tune and the words “I’m on the golf course!” has been replaced by all sorts of benefits to both the golf clubs and the golfer without causing any problems to anyone else on the course. At the forefront of this revolution is Irish company Golfgraffix which has pushed the boundaries of potential applications for mobiles and apps without ever going out-of-bounds. “Last year we received some major investment from the Irish Government as well as from private equity, which has enabled us to acquire a company called Club Net, who produced what we consider to be the very best tee-time booking system,” explained managing director, John Aherne. “We always knew that the real key in getting clubs to adopt our technology
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was to have a bespoke integrated tee system, one that unlike the main incumbent did not require clubs to hand over tee-times to be resold. “After ten months of extensive development we now have the Club Net technology fully integrated into the Golfgraffix platform. “With our own dedicated tee-time platform, we are now much more of a one-stop shop for golf clubs than we were before, which makes us a much more attractive option for both members’ clubs and golf resorts,” added Aherne. “The benefits are threefold, with the golfer, the club and the greenkeeping staff all benefitting. If your club is signed up to the platform, members and guests can use a unique communication system, which has many features to enhance their experience before, during and after their round. “There’s no more looking for their club diary which is continually kept up-todate in the app, whilst tee-times can be booked via their phone,” added Aherne. “There’s also an in-app shop – with loyalty awards for all purchases – plus a 3d course guide with GPS, weather updates and even live scoring which is a great asset. “So your golfers can be playing in a society, corporate day or competition, and find out exactly where they are on the leaderboard – all in real time.” As part of the Golfgraffix package, each club that signs up receives a fully operational PC game featuring their own golf course, so golfers can familiarise themselves with particularly tricky holes or practice the shots required to create birdie opportunities.
“The benefits are threefold, with the golfer, the club and the greenkeeping staff all benefitting”
HANDS-ON The ClubLink app
GREEN FINGERS The Greenkeeping app
MAIN MAN John Aherne
Or they can go on-line to dilute their frustrations if the course is closed due to bad weather, or if they have been dragged away on holiday and are missing the Saturday four-ball. From the club’s perspective, the teetime booking system can maximise the course’s usage and even includes dynamic pricing – amending green fees to reflect busy, or not so busy times on the course. There are a range of packages available to clubs, some of which include off-setting costs by offering tee-times to club sponsors. “We don’t ‘sell on’ tee-times to a third party, so there’s no chance of a teetime appearing on a website at a price significantly less than the golf club itself offers,” affirmed Aherne. For those clubs or resorts with a halfway house, golfers will receive a notification from the club on the ninth tee asking if they are hungry and displaying what is on offer.
“We find that is a good way of tackling the car park golfer who is never in the clubhouse, which helps to maximise revenue. Who doesn’t want a Mars Bar or a sausage sandwich half way round,” smiled Aherne. Development has identified that such notifications have a much better success rate when compared to emails. “We find that our opt-in rate is between 60 per cent and 70 per cent for notifications against five per cent for email, and that from those, the success rate for click-throughs is between 17 per cent and 20 per cent as opposed to two per cent to three per cent for email.” As a greenkeeping tool, the golf course is mapped fully so the course manager has at his, or her, fingertips the size of every green, tee and bunker and can load on the location of every sprinkler head and drainage ditch. “The information can be shared with the team while we also supply laminated maps of the course which can be used
at briefing meetings or taken to member nights.” The progress of the company over the last two years has meant that everything is now in-house, and Golfgraffix can deal directly with is customers rather than with a middleman or distributor resulting in the company being far more customer focused. “Every penny we are currently making is being invested back into the company, and we want to make our tee booking system become the go-to product on the market,” said Aherne, who has worked with 320 clubs worldwide. “Our message for this year is that Golfgraffix is now so much more than just an app.” So, golf is moving on. We might not have reached the stage yet where that crusty old Retired Colonel secretary insists that every golfer carries a mobile while at the club, rather than issue bans at the very sight of one. But we are getting closer! GMé
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ROCK SOLID Director of golf, David Thomson
LUXURY PERSONIFIED The welcoming locker rooms at Skibo Castle
King of the Castle at Carnegie Links Offering one of the best visitor experiences in European golf, Michael Lenihan travelled to the Scottish Highlands to meetup with David Thomson, director of golf at The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle. When Dunfermline-born industrialist, Andrew Carnegie, purchased the Skibo Castle estate in 1898, little did he know that it would one day become the home to an exclusive private members club, that today, bares his name. For The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle is a prestigious, high-end residential country club located in the Scottish Highlands near Inverness, which allows access to those fortunate enough to be able to afford the very best in life. Providing access to 21 guest rooms all painstakingly adorned with original Edwardian fixtures and fittings, coupled with some of the finest dinning experiences one can experience north of the border, membership is both exclusive and limited, with currently only 350 members. And up until a few years ago, golfers wishing to experience the adjoining Carnegie Links course would have been disappointed, with only members and their guests being able to appreciate the crafted beauty of the par 71 links, which were originally designed by Donald Steel in 1994.
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However, under the stewardship of director of golf David Thomson, a limited number of public tee times were made available to non-residents, allowing the wider golfing public the opportunity to experience the refinery that Skibo Castle has to offer. Thomson, 56, a former European Tour player, joined Skibo Castle in 1999 as head pro, and shortly after Peter de Savary sold the club to Ellis Short in 2003 for £23m, took over as director of golf and has been instrumental in changing both the design of the course and ethos of the club, which now showcases his vision. A newly designed pro-shop designed by MillerBrown opened earlier this year – which also doubles as a high-end boutique selling designer bags, fashions and jewellery to entice non-golfers into what was once, a male-dominated enclave – is perhaps the crowning glory to what has been a long road to creating a golfing experience perhaps unrivalled elsewhere in Europe. “It’s a cross between a high-end boutique because we sell silver, and
BOUTIQUE The impressive clubhouse at Skibo Castle, which boasts a unique, boutique-style pro shop
antique jewellery, and beautiful cashmere pieces,” said Thomson. “We’re not talking about cashmere jumpers here. We’re talking about really high-end cashmere. We have designer handbags and luggage. Then, you have the golf side of things, although we don’t sell much hardware. “I think the beauty of Skibo is that, even for our visitors, when they come, they like to think this is really exclusive. There isn’t another four-ball chasing them or in front of them. They go out there and enjoy the full Skibo experience.” Public tee times are limited to just two four-balls a day, Monday to Friday, and with less than 3,000 rounds per annum,
it’s clear to see why visitors feel as if they have the course, and the clubhouse, to themselves. At £300 a round, it’s certainly at the top-end of many golfers budget, but when you factor in all that it comprises – including a three-course lunch – some would argue that it offers excellent value for money. “When visitors arrive, they are met by one of my staff or myself, and are then taken through to the changing rooms and shown their locker which has their name on it,” added Thomson. “Inside they’ll find a leather Skibocrested shoe bag containing a miniature of Scottish whisky, and a Skibocrested miniature shot glass; bag towel; Strokesaver plus a sleeve of golf balls
and tees and pencil – the goody bag alone is probably worth £75. Plus they also get an engraved bag tag too. “Nobody does that, everyone plays at it, but most of them are budget-oriented,” added Thomson. “So, when we first started to do this, I said that I didn’t want to go down that line because everybody does that – I wanted to set a trend and make it a wow factor. “Out on the golf course we have a refreshment cart where guests can get drinks or a bacon roll, and they have full access to the halfway house where hot and cold drinks are available. “Then when they come off the 18th tee they are met by a butler who comes out with a dram of whisky for them.
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“I’m very passionate about Skibo. I think it’s a fantastic place, and an amazing product. I just wish more people knew about it”
COUNTER MEASURES David Thomson in the new pro shop
“Again, all these things are adding to their experience and it’s not uncommon for visitors to state that they’d happily pay again for that level of experience.” It’s testament to the high standards that Thomson has implemented, that Skibo Castle is held in such high-esteem by those that are fortunate to play the Carnegie Links, but it is not just the visitor experience which defines Skibo, it’s the layout of the course too. Of the original 18 holes that were laid down by Donald Steel back in the 1990s, only one hole remains, with Thomson overseeing many of the design changes himself, together with the owner and architect, Tom Mackenzie. “I got in touch with Tom, and it was really between the three of us sitting and chatting and a bit of consultation with the owner because he had to approve everything obviously. I did the sales pitch to the owner of what we were trying to do, and he trusted us and let us get on with it. “In my opinion, there were quite a few indifferent holes and I think that was the main reason why we did a redesign,” continued Thomson. “What we tried to do was to make all of the weak holes stronger, and open up all of the external views. “We cleared out all gorse bushes so it could regenerate, and we’re getting back to natural grasses on the golf course. Obviously, gorse which is synonymous with links golf was never planted on a links course. It just appears because it’s an airborne seed. “One season, you’ve got a couple of gorse bushes down one side of a fairway;
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the next season it’s in the middle – it’s encroached so much that it becomes unplayable. That was our problem, there was so much gorse. When I first came here, I had just come off Tour, and I was probably losing four balls in a round, playing decent golf. You can imagine a higher handicap, which our average member is… they were maybe losing a dozen balls and that’s not fair.” Any course, irrespective of reputation or design, needs to be playable and enjoyable, so one of the key areas that Thomson wanted to address was that of playability for all, and not just those who possess a single-figure handicap. “We really thought about the landing areas for your average golfer. From about 150 to 250 yards, it’s pretty wide. I’m mean we’re generous,” confirms Thomson. “If you hit it over 250, then the pinched areas start to come in. You have to think about what you’re doing. Most of our fairway traps for our members are at their limit. “They’d have to really hit a good one to reach them, but it gives them an aiming point.” It’s clear talking with Thomson that he has an affinity with Skibo Castle, and a kinship with his members, many of whom are based outside of Scotland. “They’re very nice people, and they’re under-the-radar guys. They’re not in your face with their wealth or anything like that. Obviously, you have to be decently wealthy to be a member. “It’s a very social club. That’s Carnegie’s ethos. Once you get through the gates, you’re treated like every man is equal. That’s how we work it here.
“Everyone’s treated the same way. Even for our day visitors. When they come in, we look after them. We meet and greet, show them the locker room, take them through, introduce them to the food and beverage staff, and have their lunch. “The reason why we decided to open the course to visitors was because we’d done all of this work, and nobody knew about it,” smiled Thomson. “So we thought well, now that we’ve finished the construction and we’ve got the course pretty much the way we wanted it, why not open it up and see what happens.” With the course more accessible than it used to be, Thomson has resisted the temptation to overload the course with green fee paying visitors, although is keen to help establish Skibo as one of the region’s ‘must-play’ courses. “We’re not going to have parties of 20-30 people coming every day,” said Thomson. “We’re very much about quality and not quantity. “It’s taken a little time, but people are now talking about Skibo Castle as a golfing destination whereas before it was all about the castle, and where Madonna got married (the singer married director Guy Ritchie at the estate in 2000) and we’ve worked hard to get away from that and focus on the golf. “As a golf course I would put it in the top ten in Scotland,” added Thomson proudly. “I’m very passionate about Skibo. I think it’s a fantastic place, and an amazing product. I just wish more people knew about it.” GMé
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“My personal #1 pre-shoot request is always the flags. White or yellow are good... red and blue are bad”
CRYSTAL CLEAR Signage at Kirtlington Golf Club
Ready, Aim... Photoshoot Having a photoshoot? Golf photographer Andy Hiseman reveals how good preparation will make your money count. A photoshoot may represent a significant item on the year’s marketing cost line. The decision to commission a photographer can involve a process taking many months, and in any case can’t we all just do it ourselves on an iPhone anyway these days? You’ll see a difference when you look at a golf photographer’s portfolio. Evidence that he or she can produce a stone-cold work of art out of a golf course at sunrise, way beyond a snapshot. A painterly image which screams out to be framed and displayed as fine art on your clubhouse wall. The fruits of a 3:30am start, great technique and specialist high-resolution equipment should be instantly clear as you look through their portfolio. But in the middle of the day, will your photographer switch to capturing images of your customers, your facilities and your key sales offers with equal commitment and technique? If this is also what you want – and your marketing team will thank you if it is – then you have some extra preparation to do.
PREPARATION So you’ve taken the plunge, and booked a photographer. What next? Your photographer should send you a comprehensive pre-shoot checklist, several weeks before the shoot. Make sure you go through it in detail with your course manager, head of F&B, head professional, sales & marketing manager and weddings & conferences team. If you were selling your house, you would make sure it was spotless before the estate agent came to take the photos for the listing. You would de-clutter it and make it as attractive as possible. It is amazing how many clubs fail to prepare in the same basic ways when a photographer is booked. To optimise your ROI, you must avoid the most common mistakes made by clubs after they commission new photos. Here’s your pre-shoot checklist, so let’s start with the obvious thing: the course.
The latter don’t stand out against a dark background, especially in dawn or dusk light. If you have a red/yellow/ white front-middle-back convention, suspend it for the shoot, and put the red flags away for the duration. Try to stripe the fairways, and create definition – particularly from 100 yards and in – and grow the rough. Remove/ hide ongoing course works and try to fix GUR before the shoot. Do the daily bunker raking as late in the day as possible. The photographer will get the best shots late or early in the day, so consider switching your raking schedule to end-of-shift instead of startof-day during the shoot. As for dew, remind greenkeeping staff of the photographer’s presence. Try to avoid dew tracks up the middle of the fairway, and around the aprons. And don’t forget your putting greens and any other practice areas – tidy them all up!
GOLF COURSE My personal #1 pre-shoot request is always the flags. White or yellow are good... red and blue are bad.
TELL THE HEAD PRO I have arrived at clubs who booked a photoshoot months beforehand, and the pro hadn’t been informed.
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MOUTH WATERING A sumptuous steak, pictured at Little Aston Golf Club
The photographer may be there for 24 to 48 hours, so use the resource as fully as you can. After all, you are paying for their time. Give the photographer lesson timings during their stay, and try to arrange for old, young, male, female, beginner, advanced, solo and group lessons – all will give the photographer different shots to find. Clean up your driving range, give it a lick of paint if needed. Line up the chairs and buckets. Minimise the balls on the grass. And remember the launch monitor – get photos of your pro giving pupils lessons using the best technology available at your facility. Are all the range lights working? Get broken lights fixed. Plus remove tattered posters and any other eyesores. Postproduction can only do so much! And in the pro shop, give the team sufficient notice to ensure that their displays are exactly as they would want them to look. INTERIORS & F&B Take your heads of department on a walk-around, and list the things to be done before photos are taken. Forewarn staff that a photographer will be present, and ensure that people are dressed correctly. Get your food photographed. Ask your head chef to prepare some dishes for menu photography – agree timings with the photographer.
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In the bar area, consider adding fresh flowers, refresh your menus, and prepare the small details. As for banqueting, if you don’t have any big functions booked during the photoshoot, prepare some tables to be photographed. GENERAL TIPS As soon as you book a photoshoot, take a walk around your facility and make note of things which can be changed before the photographer arrives. Go right to the edge of the property, and ensure that your signage is clean and tidy. Closer to the main areas where your customers gather, take a look at your patio area – especially parasols, tables and chairs – and ensure that all exterior lighting is working. If you are going to renovate certain areas, make sure they are not wasting their time – and your money – by photographing them. Most of all, make sure that you brief the photographer thoroughly. Ask for those pre-photoshoot notes, in detail, and work through the preparations with your department heads. When you receive your photographs back, you will find your eye will be drawn to the small details which you didn’t take care of – so think ahead, prepare properly, and you will be rewarded with a wealth of new imagery which will pay for itself many times over in new business. GMé
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ELITE COMPANY Andre Andrade (left) pictured with the new E-Z-GO ELiTE golf car at Golfsociëteit De Lage Vuursche
IN CONTROL Andre Andrade standing behind a Jacobsen greens mower at the Ipswich manufacturing facility
In conversation with Andre Andrade New to life in Europe, Andre Andrade is the man charged with all things golf at Jacobsen, including the new ELiTE series of E-Z-GO golf cars
GMé It’s fair to say that most readers of GMé will not know much about Andre Andrade, so where were you born, where did you grow-up, and where were you educated? AA I was born, and grew up in Joao Pessoa in Brazil. I lived there until I was 18-years old at which time I moved to Augusta to study a bachelor’s degree at Augusta State University in Business Management with a concentration in Marketing. I then attained an MBA (Master’s degree in Business Administration) from Southern Wesleyan University in Central South Carolina. GMé So how did you get into the business of selling golf machinery for a living, and when did you start working for Textron? AA I started working for Textron in 2007; I am celebrating ten years with the company this year! I started my Textron career in a purchasing and commodity
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management role – which I did for four years – and I then spent one year in logistics before being asked to move into sales management for the Latin America and Caribbean market. I did this for four years before recently moving over to the UK and I am now the international golf sales director, and manage territories outside of North America and Canada. GMé When you were offered the chance to move to Europe, what was the first thought that came into your mind? AA I thought what a fantastic opportunity it was! It sounded like a great challenge, and something different to what I have been doing in the past. Europe has its own set of challenges and it has been interesting for me to learn how I can positively impact a business in another continent. My wife is also from the Lake District in England, so it was also an opportunity for her to move home after having lived in the US for 22 years.
PASTURES NEW Brazilian-born, Andre Andrade, is enjoying life in Europe after relocating from the US
GMé When did you relocate to the UK, and what is your role and job title within the organisation?
and engineering teams so that there is a strong focus on the development of our products, and the needs of the customer.
AA I relocated in December 2016, and I am currently the International golf sales director for Textron Golf.
GMé There has been a great deal of changes within the company this past year, including re-branding as Textron Specialised Vehicles (TSV), so has the re-organisation finished now, and what plans do you have for TSV in 2018?
GMé Will your role focus mainly on E-ZGO, Jacobsen, Cushman or all three, and what ideas do you have to grow market share in the EMEA region? AA My role will encompass all three brands. The idea is to work closely with dealers and distributors to increase brand awareness and create strategies to develop market penetration. It is also important to build strong relationships with customers whilst ensuring that we back our products up all the way. It is key that we pass on voice of customer feedback to our product management
AA The main TSV business is located in Augusta, Georgia. Jacobsen has integrated with TSV along with powerful brands such as E-Z-GO and Cushman. It is fantastic to have all brands under one umbrella, and both ourselves, and our customers are already seeing the benefits. We have already made significant changes with the aim of streamlining our manufacturing processes and aligning our brands and products.
This includes the relocation of our US manufacturing facility from Charlotte in North Carolina, to Augusta, Georgia. The facility in Augusta is state-of-theart and well equipped to cope with the demand of our products and new technology will ensure that quality remains our number one priority. Although we have made big changes, there has been minimal impact to the business, and we have been able to absorb the demands of the business throughout the process. The transition will be completed by the end of 2017. Things are going well and everything is on track to be complete by this deadline. We do not have any further plans for 2018, other than to consolidate the transition and to ensure that all systems are implemented correctly. GMé E-Z-GO recently launched the ELiTE Series, so can you explain in a little
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GREEN CREDENTIALS Andre Andrade (left) and Jonathan Smith, CEO of Golf Environment Organisation at the Jacobsen stand during BTME earlier this year
“It’s a fantastic range of golf cars, and they have been doing extremely well since we launched them this year”
more detail what the benefits of the new vehicle are? AA There are some fantastic benefits to the ELiTE Series vehicles. Firstly, E-Z-GO has teamed up with Samsung to offer Samsung SDI lithium batteries which require zero-maintenance and are half the size and a fraction of the weight of lead acid batteries. This means that ELiTE Series vehicles weigh hundreds of pounds less than the average golf car, putting less stress on the turf. The Samsung lithium cells are also loaded into a single battery pack meaning that they use less energy, charge in half the time and require less out-of-wall power than leading lead acid competitors – this is obviously great for the customer as energy costs are dramatically cut, which saves a lot of money in the long run. One of the most important factors is the performance. The lithium technology provides consistent and reliable power, so the battery and acceleration never fades. It’s a fantastic range of golf cars, and they have been doing extremely well since we launched them this year. GMé Although a smaller territory than North America, the EMEA region is still reasonably large, so have you managed to visit many golf clubs since relocating, and which club stands out for you? AA I have already met many customers in Europe and further afield. I have been to Spain, Holland, Australia and Dubai to name but a few places. Just a few weeks ago I was at Castle Stuart in Scotland attending the Leading Edge event that Jacobsen sponsors.
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I wouldn’t say I have a favourite course as such; all courses are unique in their own ways, and I always find it interesting to see how the TSV range of products suit different courses and topographies. It is satisfying to see our products in action and hear how they meet the needs of so many customers. GMé How have you and your family adjusted to life in the UK, and besides the weather, what’s the one thing you miss from living in the US? AA It’s been great so far. Overall, the family have adapted very quickly. The kids are enjoying school, and have adapted quickly to the change in educational systems. They have made lots of friends at school and in the area where we live. The sense of independence is great; they cycle to local parks and play in the neighbourhood with friends. In the US parents are a lot more concerned about letting their kids play outside unattended. I would say I miss the friends I have left behind the most. However, we have made new friends here, which is also exciting, and we’re looking forward to many years ahead here. GMé Do you play golf, and if so, to what standard? AA I play golf, but not to a very high standard. I learnt the sport later in life, which I feel has hampered my abilities somewhat! I love and admire the sport, but unfortunately, it’s not one of my talents. I can kick a football though! GMé
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OnCourse for better business Sustainability is now mainstream, and is impacting business profitability, industry growth, and consumer spending choices as Kelli Jerome of the GEO writes. For the golf industry, more and more people are seeing the connection between sustainability and golf’s image and future vitality. Sustainability carries direct benefits from cost-effective facility operations and tournament staging, to more compelling and successful golf development, and ultimately helping to futureproof an industry which is increasingly under pressure from land and water scarcity, regulation and reputation. There is a solid opportunity to harness – for better businesses and ultimately a better future – and now there’s a new way to meet this opportunity, easily and practically. Building on years of input and collaboration, and more recently months of testing by golf facilities and management
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groups around the world, a brand-new version of OnCourse has been published by the GEO Foundation, and ready to bring significant business benefits to golf facilities, while also helping golf improve its social and environmental reputation. A highly innovative and practical technology platform, OnCourse provides a one-stop solution that helps courses easily assess and record their practices, find ideas and guidance for efficiencies and improvements and then promote their value to nature, resources and community. At the same time, OnCourse provides golf with a collective system to build an expansive library of shared examples and anonymous data – giving the sport a considerable new bank of evidence to strengthen golf’s image and influence.
sustainable.golf NEW AND IMPROVED Right, The Bear Trace at Cumberland Mountain in the United States which is OnCourse certified, and below, the re-designed app and website
“The feedback we have been getting most often is that it is much easier to use”
People using the previous version of OnCourse will discover major improvements including an easier, faster interface and many new features to find and share ideas, track progress, store data and highlights, and create an annual report and webpages. While still the pathway to take the optional step of becoming credibly certified, OnCourse has been transformed into a valuable tool providing business benefits every year for all types and sizes of facility, all over the world. GEO’s Richard Allison has been working with the golf facilities testing the new version, and said: “The feedback we have been getting most often is that it is much easier to use; it gives clubs peace of mind to know that they are ticking all the right boxes for sustainability, and that having everything together in one app makes life easier. “We are really impressed and inspired by all the best practices and highlights we see coming through.” Among the business benefits reported by golf clubs and groups have been access to government grants; lowered maintenance costs; public relations value; smoother planning permission for new projects; staff and member pride;
stronger community connection, and ideas shared by other facilities. Howard Craft, club and sustainability manager at Burhill Golf and Leisure said: “The new version is quick to use and represents great value for any course interested in finding efficiencies and getting more recognition for its work for the environment and community.” Bjarni Hannesson, course manager at Golfklúbburrinn Keilir in Iceland added: “OnCourse does a lot. Our team learned a huge amount through the self-assessments, data and document gathering, and the highlights shared by other clubs. “It also gave us the story, confidence and the tools to tell our golfers and community more about what we are doing.” OnCourse is managed and assured by GEO Foundation – the international notfor-profit founded to support sustainability in and through golf. GEO is a widely-trusted group, working closely with golf organisations around the world, and also administers GEO Certified, the international mark of credible sustainability in golf, and part of an elite group of well-known ecolabels which include Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance, and FSC.
After completing OnCourse, a golf facility, development or tournament can apply for this international distinction. Over recent years, many industry bodies have supported the development of the credible and practical sustainability system for golf which includes OnCourse, notably The R&A, European Tour, Ryder Cup Europe, Textron Golf, Toro Foundation, John Deere and Vidauban Foundation, and dozens of golf associations are promoting its value. Special discounts are available to multi-course owners and managers and to any golf facility who registers for the new version before the end of 2017. Speaking on behalf of the whole team at GEO, the international not for profit behind the development and management of OnCourse, Jonathan Smith said: “In addition to the direct benefits for your golf facility, your leadership in sustainability makes a meaningful contribution to golf’s image and reputation, and a significant positive impact in fostering nature, conserving resources and strengthening communities around the world. “We are really pleased to provide a platform for golf to step out ahead more confidently and visibly.” GMé
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major series of putting
Putting for Dough with Major Series of Putting Putting is one aspect of golf that anyone, irrespective of age or ability, can learn. Granted it may take a lifetime to master, but as Scott MacCallum reports, a new venture in the US could revolutionise the art of putting this side of the pond.
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msop.com MAJOR LEAGUE The stadium setting for the Major Series of Putting (MSOP) grand finals in Las Vegas
All golfers have done it. Whether it be on the living room floor or the putting green in front of the clubhouse: ‘This for the Open’ or, if we are feeling a little more international, ‘This for The Masters.’ Some, among the more team orientated of us, might whisper ‘This to win the Ryder Cup.’ All muttered as we stand over an otherwise mundane, straight, six-footer as we grab a few minutes before retiring to bed or waiting for the group ahead to clear the first tee. It goes to highlight that we see putting as the game within the great game of ours. Invariably playing to handicap or winning the bounce game comes down to how well you have putted. Sink a few and you quickly forget the two lost balls, the three out of the bunker and the drivers which didn’t quite come out of the screws. “Driving for Show… Putting for Dough.” Well the importance of putting within the game of golf has been identified by the North American organisation MSOP – Major Series of Putting – which has taken putting and created a spectacular series
of events which has just culminated in a huge Grand Final in, of all places, the home of the spectacular – Las Vegas. Canadian Guillaume Beland, is president and general manager, of MSOP Entertainment Inc, and the brainchild behind the plans to take putting from that frustrating thing you endure at the end of every hole to an entity in its very own right. “We wanted to establish ourselves as the biggest putting competition and to put some decent money on the line... $1 million! That is spread over the nine Championship events which will be played for at Las Vegas,” explained Beland, speaking a few weeks before the big event. “We call it ‘The Road to Las Vegas’ and we are looking for the best putter in each course in North America and have run 500 days of qualifying events in 14 different cities including Los Angeles, San Diego, Phoenix, Dallas, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa Bay, New York, Chicago, Toronto and our own home base of Montreal. We’ve had around 30 events in each location.”
“We wanted to establish ourselves as the biggest putting competition and to put some decent money on the line... $1 million!” twitter.com/gme
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major series of putting
“Putting is all about repeating a simple action under pressure and there are some high handicappers who, once they get on the green, are fantastic putters”
SUDDEN DEATH The play-off area at MSOP
With signs positive for an outstanding year for the MSOP, plans are already being formulated to role the format out to include Europe and Asia, whilst Beland has already had talks with his fellow Canadian, European Tour chief executive, Keith Pelley. “I’m a big fan of his vision for the game,” said Beland. “Golf really needs to reach a different audience and that is not going to be through the regular 72 hole tournaments. There needs to be different formats, and putting competitions could be one of them. “It fits right into that and would give a different point of entry to the game,” said Beland, who equates putting to what televised poker was 15 years ago. “Like poker, putting is easy to learn and practice makes you better.” Plans for a worldwide ranking system based on points earned at qualifying events will ensure that the cream rises to the top and the best putters can be identified. While the qualifying events are played on conventional putting courses the Grand Final has a custom-built course designed by Nicklaus Design and built by Southwest Greens Construction using the finest synthetic grass available. “It is sand filled synthetic grass using the top product from Southwest Greens, and it needed to be, as there will be so much traffic on the course during our Championship Finals natural turf would not have coped,” stated Beland.
44 | GMé November 2017
“We ran so many tests to find the best surface and the one we chose is quite spectacular.” Kevin Holinaty, president of Southwest Greens Construction added: “Installing our PRO System at the MSOP stadium will provide the participants world-class performance that our customers have come to expect – we are proud to be a part of such an ambitious undertaking. “Working alongside Nicklaus Design allows us to build a unique design concept within a stadium setting – something definitely not seen before.” Nicklaus Design has ensured that the course used in the Grand Final maximises interest with a range of lengths, with subtle – and some not so subtle – breaks and double breaks. “It is laid out over 20,000 square feet and we’ve learned from 500 qualifiers what makes exciting holes,” stated Beland. “With a 25 footer the chances of making the putt or three putting are low, so we’ve developed a flow of the holes and they range between eight feet and 60 feet. A 60-foot downhill double breaker is quite exciting but the short ones are the most exciting of all as you feel you should make birdie.” With huge prize money at stake it has attracted the attention of many professionals but also amateurs which means they have to take a decision on their amateur status. “That is something we take very seriously. We have had several conversa-
tions with the USGA and the R&A and we have kept them in the loop regarding our rules and regulations. Obviously, everyone who participates in an event where there is money on the line has to waive their amateur status, but we want to be able to give amateurs the opportunity to participate in the qualifiers as amateurs but then, if they win, they need to make a decision. “We have found that there is a very low percentage of people who would want to keep amateur status,” suggested Beland. However, one of the Championship events is Amateur, aimed at college golfers and club champions. “This is an important event for us and I believe this will grow in importance as we develop.” It is the fact that putting is open to everyone which Beland sees as the huge attraction, and he also revealed that at one of the qualifiers – attended by 73 players with 12 pros – only one of the pros took one of the top four slots. “Putting is all about repeating a simple action under pressure and there are some high handicappers who, once they get on the green, are fantastic putters.” Given the success of the Grand Final, which took place in mid-October, it is hoped that next year it will be rolled out across Europe and Asia. And with golf looking at itself for ways to become more popular, it may well become the next big thing in the game. GMé
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get into golf Hailed as a joint-partnership between the England County Golf Partnerships and its member clubs, the Get into Golf campaign came in for some criticism following an article written by David Bowers in the last issue.
Clubs vent frustration at Get into Golf
“not all golf club marketing is carried out via the various platforms and campaigns offered by England Golf “
GETTING INTO GOLF A young family experience golf for the first time
“If you’re writing a column and nobody’s sending in letters in response, you’re not doing your job properly.” Those words from my first editor, crafted in a flowing hand by medieval monks and decorating a parchment memorandum, have always stuck with me. And, generally, since I started writing a column for GMé, I’ve clearly failed, for my musings tend to garner little response – unless, unusually, I get serious. My last column was exactly that, serious. I bemoaned a lack of opportunity to Get into Golf in my local area – the Sussex/Surrey/East Hampshire border. I use capital letters advisedly as I had been looking to take advantage “of
the hundreds of free and low-cost golf taster sessions and beginner courses on offer from the England County Golf Partnerships.” My issue? The taster sessions were few and far between, literally, in the case of my location. And I bemoaned the lack of take-up from clubs in my locale. It spurred into action officials at a couple of clubs, to whom GMé has agreed to afford anonymity in order for their gripes to be aired in such a relevant forum. One club secretary in the region kindly invited me to visit his club to see for myself exactly what they do offer those looking to get into the game.
He explained: “As I am sure you would appreciate not all golf club marketing is carried out via the various platforms and campaigns offered by England Golf and there are many reasons for clubs not engaging with the various campaigns – this I would suggest is the real issue and not that clubs are ‘waiting for the fairy dust’ – although there may well be some that are. “There is no silver bullet solution for attracting new members or golfers to your club. What works for some doesn’t necessarily reap the same rewards for others and I would speculate that clubs quickly identify platforms that successfully produce leads and enquiries and
golfmanagement.eu.com | 47
“The red tape involved in claiming and justifying coaching grants is also often a barrier to participation in these national schemes”
STARTING YOUNG Young golfers during a teaching session
discard those that don’t, even if the cost for using them is minimal or nonexistent. “Time is still a cost and often the administrative burden associated with these ‘one scheme for all’ platforms is enough to dissuade. Clubs can also be somewhat at the mercy of the teaching professionals who must be on board in offering lessons at appropriate times during the week and weekend often for hourly rates well below their norm. “The red tape involved in claiming and justifying coaching grants is also often a barrier to participation in these national schemes. We are fortunate in that we have excellent teaching and practice facilities and have professionals willing to work with us in encouraging beginners and new members. Other clubs may not be so fortunate.” He continued: “We participate in these promotions occasionally with limited or nil effect, but a direct approach to our club – either in person, via telephone or website – will identify a whole range of opportunities for new golfers, beginners or those returning to the game. “From individual and group lessons to practice range membership, academy membership and full golfing membership, we have something to encourage all ages and abilities. I would add that we are not alone in offering these avenues certainly within our area and that there are many such pro-active clubs within the area trying to engage with potential golfers via a wide range of marketing and local promotional activities.”
48 | GMé November 2017
Those sentiments were echoed, in part, by the owner of a golf facility in the Midlands He said: “You are absolutely spot on that Get into Golf appears to have all the correct ‘building blocks’ to make it a success. In particular it is a FREE service offered by England Golf – a rarity nowadays. It has now been going for a few years and we, liking to think of ourselves as a modern, forward-thinking facility, jumped on-board… or, should I say, tried to jump on board. “It was initially a nightmare to get anything uploaded to the site for what I assumed were technical issues. We had a County Development guy – a position since defunct! – who said ‘forget using the upload system yourself, it’s too difficult, let me do it’. “Inevitably dates, times and costs got confused and we then had regular emails from the system telling us that ‘zero people have booked to participate in your activity’ but then offered us lots of advice on how to offer follow-up marketing to these ‘zero’ people. “It rapidly became a box-ticking/ numbers-monitoring exercise by England Golf – perhaps this is where a lot of the ‘we have got x number more people into golf over the last 12 months’ comes from.” He continued: “We have a great driving range, open from 8am until 8pm every day, but I was told the system could not facilitate a permanent ‘rolling’ offer such as this as it needed to be a ‘targeted session’, with set times and dates.
“They kept asking me when my ‘taster sessions’ were going to be, so I said ‘all day, every day!’. This doesn’t seem to fit the system... “I tried setting up individual 30-minute sessions, but 144 per week, when the ‘copy and repeat’ button didn’t work, was too much even for me. “When we did populate the system with various junior coaching sessions, adult lessons, and open days etc, our number of referrals from the webpage over a six-month period was precisely zero – and lots of emails with spreadsheets telling me so, too. “In the meantime we have good success with our other ongoing promotional efforts. He concluded: “I would suggest that if other clubs and facilities had the same experience we did then this will explain the lack of motivation to keep populating the system with activities. “It’s a real shame, as there has been a lot of money and effort put into developing and promoting a system that, for whatever reason, does not appear to have had any impact.” Both club officials were keen to get their clubs involved, so clearly there’s not a great deal wrong with the concept. But having a good idea and implementing it are not always as easy as it may first appear, and clearly clubs have been left frustrated. England Golf was approached for comment, but, at the time of going to press, a response had not been forthcoming. GMé
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golfmanagement.eu.com | 49
“we already have the sport the way it should be played; and already have the version which might entice more people, particularly youngsters, into the game”
The solution to attracting kids is staring us in the face Let me put my cards on the table: I have never managed a golf facility. Nor have I – nor will I ever have – any experience in recruiting members, or running a hotel, or teaching golf. I can barely use a spreadsheet, and greens, under my keeping, would be at best yellows, and, more likely, sludgy browns. I’m a journalist by trade, which led to a switch to PR, and, for some fanciful reason best known to others, I am still invited to turn a phrase or two for organs such as this. I’ve sat on the periphery of the golf industry for more than 20 years now, penning columns, writing features and offering occasionally sage PR advice. What I’ve never done is try to put the golf industry to rights. I’ve never felt qualified so to do. Indeed, I’m not. But one thing has been eating away at me. I keep hearing about the need to have a form of golf that takes less time and would appeal more to the youngsters. People have tried to create different versions of the sport, with varying degrees of success. Yet it was only when, sitting round with some fellow golf writers recently, I offered my opinion and, as it wasn’t laughed out of court, that I decided to put pen to paper – or finger to keyboard, to be more accurate – and suggest my solution. And it’s not drastic. I don’t think the golfing wheel needs to be reinvented – we already have the sport the way it should be played; and already have the version which might entice more people, particularly youngsters, into the game.
50 | GMé November 2017
IN FULL BLOOM The iconic par three, 7th hole on the Colt Course at Stoke Park
Are you sitting down? It’s par-three courses. As simple as that. And, to act as a catalyst, we need a series of televised par-three events. Youngsters today want instant gratification – and in video games they have it. But, if we think about it, they also have it in the increasingly popular forms of other sports: soccer sixes and Twenty20 cricket, for example. In the former there are loads of goals; and in the latter very few occasions when the batsman doesn’t try to lash the stitching off the ball. Compare and contrast that with televised normal 18hole golf: how many youngsters will be enthralled by a tee shot landing a on a fairway on a par-five? It’s hardly riveting stuff. They demand action. And with par-three events they
have it: every time a shot is taken there’s a chance it could be holed – how much more exciting for the on-demand generation is that? And, logically, once they’ve got the bug and are playing par-three courses they will naturally be drawn to the longer form of the game. I’m sure I must have missed a very simple drawback, but for the life of me I can’t think of it… GMé
David Bowers firstname.lastname@example.org
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