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The essential management publication for EMEa golf club operators


David Thomson, director of golf at The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, explains why the exclusive club is opening its doors to pay-and-play golfers page 25

Management Europe

garia moves up a gear

Garia enters partnership with Paula Creamer as the luxury golf car marque continues to set the standard

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issue 86 october 2012

publisher’s editorial

Europe’s win ‘justice’ for course set-up Cast your mind back a few months to my comments about how golf had not excited me in 2012. Then, if you can, please expunge them from your memory. I make no apologies for this edition of GME arriving a little later than normal. It would have been churlish to publish before the outcome of the Ryder Cup.

The great Jack Nicklaus was right – that is no way to set up a course for a Ryder Cup. And hopefully, when it returns to Europe in 2014, at the Nicklaus-designed course at Gleneagles, the rough will be punitive. It will be the same for both teams, but it will reward accuracy – and, traditionally,

“...I still can’t quite grasp the fact I’ve witnessed one of the greatest sporting moments ever.” If you couldn’t get excited watching the action from Medinah then you don’t have a sporting bone in your body. I’m writing this the morning after THAT night and I still can’t quite grasp the fact I’ve witnessed one of the greatest sporting moments ever. Forget golf; events like that transcend all sport. It had everything: great golf, amazing guts and determination, unbelievable drama, genuine emotion and wonderful sportsmanship. In fact, one runs out of superlatives. So to bring us back to earth, may I be contentious and a bit of a party-pooper? One could argue that it was merely justice that the Europeans emerged victorious given the set-up of the course was more suited to a pool table than a world-class golf event. The idea of the differentiation between fairway and rough is surely to penalise errant shots. Yet even the wildest of shots at Medinah went largely unpunished. To find rough of any significant length one would have needed to hook the ball into the unkempt areas at nearby O’Hare Airport.

that is what golf has been about. At the top level, at least, it should not be that forgiving, and it would be fitting, as we wend our way slowly towards the centenary of the Ryder Cup, that the courses should be set up as they were when young Samuel first conceived the event. And, on the subject of that centenary in 2027, would it also not be fitting if the event was once again moved to the ‘odd’ years, as it was before the tragic events of 9/11? Commercially, it would make sense as it would not clash with either the Olympics, or football’s World Cup or European Championships. Plus, at some stage, it would give the Americans an extra year to get over another last-gasp defeat... GME

19 Adam Lawrence reports on an ambitious plan well inside the Arctic Circle.

31 GME talks to Kyle Phillips about his ongoing renovation project at Real Club de Golf Las Brisas.

37 Michael Lenihan

Associate Editor David Bowers Contributors Mark Alexander, Samuel Frederick, John King, Adam Lawrence, Kevin Marks, Kevin Nash, Aidan Patrick Golf Management Europe is published six times per annum by PPC Portman.

Publisher Michael Lenihan Print The Manson Group

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7 Luxury golf car marque Garia enters into a partnership with Paula Creamer.

The Volkswagen Golf Arena in Halmstad, Sweden, is making practice fun and profitable.

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october 2012 GME 3

headline news

KSL Capital Partners acquires The Belfry Four-time Ryder Cup venue The Belfry has been sold to a US investor which has appointed the club’s former management company to run the facility. The Belfry will have its ‘De Vere’ branding restored, five years after it was removed by the Quinn Group, which bought the club for £186m. Since then the group suffered significant financial problems, meaning that, last Norman Fenwick, the highly respected course manager at Ipswich Golf Club for the past 13 years, died in August after falling ill whilst out cycling with his 14-year-old son Jacob. A keen supporter of Sunderland Football Club, he was educated in Durham and joined Seaham Golf Club in 1972. He moved to Reading Golf Club in 1976 as an assistant before taking up the position of head greenkeeper at Calcot Park in 1981 and in 1986 joined Sandford Springs Golf Club in Hampshire. His work at Ipswich Golf Club was outstanding both so far as the quality of the golf course was concerned but also his overwhelming enthusiasm for conservation which is so important. Ipswich Golf Club secured its second BIGGA golf environmental award three years after Norman’s arrival in Suffolk. Neill Ellice, general manager at Ipswich Golf Club, said: “We have been very fortunate to have benefitted from Norman’s passion, skills and knowledge. “It has been a privilege to work with such a competent course manager during the 12 years I have been in my job.”

4 GME october 2012

year, amid reports that it was more than £3.5billion in debt, The Belfry was put up for sale. KSL Capital Partners of Denver, a private equity firm that has invested in several golf resorts, purchased the facility, including its five-star hotel, for an undisclosed sum. A spokesman said there will be a “comprehensive renovation of The Belfry,

returning the resort to its former glory. Initial work will begin immediately, leaving no stone unturned as The Belfry is returned to its former glory. “The comprehensive renovation will see public areas, guest rooms, dining outlets

Lloyd to step down as GCMA chief executive

Keith Lloyd, chief executive of the Golf Club Managers’ Association (GCMA) for the last 11 years, has announced he is leaving his post in February.

Lloyd said his resignation was due to ‘personal and family related reasons’. He added that it had been a ‘privilege’ to serve the GCMA’s members.

and meeting spaces upgraded, as well as De Vere making its mark on the golf course.” KSL’s portfolio in the USA includes La Costa Resort and Spa, Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa and Montelucia Resort and Spa. Lloyd said: “After consultation with chairman Mike Hoare, and in agreement with the GCMA national committee, my formal letter of resignation has been accepted and will become effective as of February 28, 2013. “This period will allow the already ongoing review of the staff structure, office procedures and services to fully reach its conclusion, as well as providing ample time to seek and appoint an appropriately skilled successor to take the association forward. “It has been an absolute privilege to serve the association for the last 11 years or so, and I look forward to meeting up with many members before departing.”

Aussie ignores SGU advice at Ardfin An Australian businessman has ignored the advice of the Scottish Golf Union (SGU) and decided to build a new golf course in Scotland. Greg Coffey, 41, bought the 12,000-acre Ardfin Estate, which includes Jura House Garden, a unique walled garden, for £3.5 million in 2010 and closed it down within a year. Coffey now wishes to build a golf course on the seafront site, designed by Australian architect Bob Harrison, and will be renovating other properties. The routing will be arranged in two loops along the edge of a series of elevated bluffs – despite the

SGU’s calls for fewer courses featuring two loops of nine holes. Harrison explained: “We aim to preserve all the existing burns that cross the fields, and the large areas of sensitive wilderness, such as wetlands, even where they lie within the playing areas of individual golf holes. “Ancient stone walls on the site will be incorporated into the design, while new walls along with the beautiful cliffs will dictate the strategy for many holes by asking players to choose a brave line if they hope to reach a short par four or gain a better angle of approach.”

The announcement comes less than a year after the SGU announced that the country already has too many golf courses and any more could put too much pressure on existing facilities. A SGU spokesman said: “The reality is that in the past 20 years there has been almost a 20 per cent growth in golf courses throughout Scotland. “Yet, after the impact of the economic downturn, there are no more people playing than there were before this growth in facilities.” It is anticipated that work on the site could start as early as next year.


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october 2012 GME 5



Zurich Insurance has become the official sponsor of Emirates Golf Club. Home to two 18-hole courses, The Majilis and The Faldo, Emirates Golf Club hosts the Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters. SkyGolf has launched the SkyCaddie Breeze which has been designed for golfers looking for a simple and affordable way to improve their game without compromising on quality and accuracy. SkyCaddie’s new Breeze is your virtual sprinkler head; offering you front, middle and back of the green distances from anywhere on the course without touching a button or aiming. Evian Resort is set to undergo a “dramatic” course upgrade as the venue prepares to host the LPGA’s new fifth major tournament from 2013. The course, with breathtaking views of Lake Geneva, is being remodelled by European Golf Design. Huxley Golf, the PGA’s official supplier of allweather golf surfaces, has appointed a new distributor in southern Spain. Huxley Golf Spain is led by managing director Paul Webb Llano, who is a British-born PGA professional and a fluent Spanish speaker. England Golf and the UK Golf Course Owners Association have announced they have formed a joint taxation working group with the aim of achieving a fairer tax system for golf clubs.

6 GME october 2012

Club Car’s 350-strong fleet for The Ryder Cup Club Car lined up a powerful fleet of golf cars, passenger transporters and utility vehicles for the 2012 Ryder Cup which took place at the Medinah Country Club, Chicago, last month. Officially, Club Car provided 358 vehicles for the biennial event although there were more than 750 Club Car vehicles on site in total.

Much of the fleet were used by television crews to supply pictures for what has become the third most viewed sporting event in the world behind the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. The golf cars used included 12 specially equipped captains’ cars that European captain José María Olazábal and US

captain Davis Love and their vice-captains used during the matches. Speaking from Medinah on the eve of The Ryder Cup, Club Car director of golf business for Europe, the Middle East, India and Africa, Kevin Hart, said: “It’s an impressive sight to see so many of our vehicles servicing this extraordinary event. “It is a major logistical operation, and with all the TV crews, hospitality supplies and facility maintenance teams on site, the venue is effectively a self-contained community running on electric vehicles. “Everyone at Club Car is extremely proud of our role in this global sporting event.” Club Car has been associated with The Ryder Cup since 1999, with many memorable images capturing the company’s vehicles’ role in the matches, not least Colin Montgomerie driving through rain and puddles on route to victory at Celtic Manor in 2010.

Faldo makes Olympic plea Gathering for the annual KPMG Golf Business Forum Sir Nick Faldo raised the possibility of mixed team golf at the Olympics. Interviewed on-stage, Faldo spoke candidly about his playing career and his business interests, and analysed the opportunity the Olympics offers golf – and the importance of creating entertainment and excitement on TV. “I hope we have time to consider the format for the Olympics,” said Faldo. “Personally, I was surprised that it was going to be 72-hole individual strokeplay.

“The Olympics is so much about the team, and we have the girls playing at the Olympics as well. “We have mixed doubles in tennis, and there are mixed foursomes in golf, so it’s a question of what we could do. I hope it’s not too late to change the format – it’s still four years away. “I think they need to sit down and brainstorm some ideas because we are in Rio for two weeks, we have our own site, so why not use it for the whole two weeks? “I would like to see them make a decision to play a few more events.

“Maybe there should be some events that are purely a show. What about a par-3 tournament? You could play a six-ball. It’s about putting on a golf show rather than a tournament so it entices people to watch golf.”

New resort planned close to Hoylake An “international golf resort” has been proposed on land situated close to the Royal Liverpool club at Hoylake. The development, which Wirral Council revealed during last month’s Women’s British Open Championship, will include a private clubhouse and five-star hotel. A spokesman for Wirral Council said that the council

wanted to “deliver a high quality world class facility.” Wirral has hosted many international golf tournaments and the Royal Liverpool course will once again be the venue for the Open Championship in 2014. The council’s deputy leader Ann McLachlan said: “The land we have earmarked near Hoylake sits in large

part within council ownership and although this is just a vision at present, we would like to find out what interest there is to bring a project of this scale forward.” The council spokesman said that if a developer could be found for the project, it was hoped that it would be completed within five years.


on the cover

Garia signs Paula Creamer as golf car Ambassador Garia, a young and innovative company from Denmark and the manufacturer of the Garia luxury golf and leisure car, has entered into an exciting new partnership with professional golfer Paula Creamer.

personality and energy, and embody our shared values such as dedication to performance and passion for the game of golf. “We are very proud to have Paula as a Garia ambassador, and we are

Garia A/S Lunikvej 44 DK-2670 Greve Denmark

“The Garia is amazing... I love it. It looks and feels great with some serious get up and go – what a beauty!”

With the Garia’s unique combination of performance, quality and elegance it is a perfect match for the talented and inspiring Creamer. “The Garia is amazing... I love it!,” said Creamer. “It looks and feels great with some serious get up and go – what a beauty! It’s a fun ride and something that really works for me!” Commenting on the new partnership, Garia designer Anders Lynge said: “At Garia, we feel our cars truly complement Paula’s strong

confident that the car will suit her needs both on and off the course.” The Garia is created in collaboration with golf professionals and built at one of Europe’s finest automotive factories with a track-record of manufacturing Porsches. The Garia design team has been uncompromising in its efforts to create the best golf car in the world, and features on the Garia include a built-in refrigerator, extra comfortable sport seat and 12” alloy wheels.


TEL; (45) 46 570 580

The Garia is available in various models, including a street legal version and a four-seater varient. Garia has built a special golf car for Paula Creamer, with unique customisations in her signature colour, pink. Creamer has selected her own, completely unique customisations on her new Garia such as the Pink Panther logo seat with pink seat piping, pink golf bag holder straps, and air brushed “PC” initials in pink on each side of the utility box behind the seat. GME

october 2012 GME 7


Royal Cromer first to install Toro Lynx system Royal Cromer Golf Club has become the first course in the UK to fully upgrade to a state-of-the-art Lynx and GDC Toro Irrigation system. This windswept links course on the North Norfolk coastline struggled to maintain coverage and keep playing surfaces up to par as its previous 35-year-old irrigation system reached the end of its useful life. The R&A has endorsed the junior programme at Pravets Golf Club in Bulgaria with a grant of £2,000 to recognise the work commenced in 2011 to develop the game of golf at junior level in Bulgaria. Commenting on the grant, Alan Rogut, director of golf at Pravets Golf Club – which is managed by Braemar Golf – said: “The local schools will benefit from this grant which will be used to take golf instruction into the schools during the winter period, and to teach children the basics of the game with the use of SNAG equipment.” Next summer, approximately 200 children from the ages of seven to 16 will then have the opportunity to attend golf clinics and to undergo individual tuition at the Pravets Golf Academy. Those youngsters showing potential will be offered junior membership at the golf club and will be provided with a golf set, also donated by The R&A.

8 GME october 2012

Numerous man hours were also being wasted at Royal Cromer as the greenkeeping team hand-watered and nursed the ailing system, while water was lost through leaks and inefficient application. But the installation of a brand new Toro Irrigation system, featuring Lynx control system software coupled with Toro’s proven

Golf Decoder Controller (GDC) hardware, has brought the 18-hole course bang up-to-date. In fact, it’s become the first club in the UK to upgrade to an all-new Lynx system and thus enjoy its impressive benefits. The Toro system was specified by irrigation consultant Adrian Mortram from Robin Hume Associates, following a competitive tender process, and was installed by contractor MJ Abbott. Course manager Mark Heveran says that the club – whose members unusually part-funded the installation through individual loans, such was their support for it – is thrilled with the system. “There’s nothing out there that compares to Lynx,” he comments. “It’s so accurate and unlike anything I’ve ever used before. “I can now water down to the millimetre or minute, so that I know exactly how much I’m applying.

Lough Erne up for sale with £10m asking price

The Lough Erne Golf Resort, in Fermanagh, has been put up for sale for £10 million. Administrators for the fivestar facility say it is now on the market and available for immediate sale.

At one stage the top class venue – the only five-star golf resort in Northern Ireland – was valued at about £30m. But since opening in 2007 it failed to attract enough business and went into administration in 2011.

“We won’t know until later in the year, but we reckon we’ll save on water by a third. “It’s also really simple to use – there’s no faffing. With just a few clicks at the computer I can create a watering programme and leave it to run. “If I want to finish watering at 1am, the system works out when the water needs to start instead of me having to calculate this and come back to make adjustments if conditions change,” added Heveran. “Similarly, if I set it to water at 3mm and then there’s 3mm of rain, it automatically stops – with our old system I’d have had to return to change it manually. “It now takes just over an hour to water the whole course instead of four or five. The remote operation by mobile or laptop is also brilliant, as are our digital remote controls.” Facilities at the resort include 120 rooms and suites, conference facilities and a spa. It has two championship golf courses – the Castle Hume and the signature Faldo course – two floodlit driving ranges and boasts the only Nick Faldo Academy in Europe. The sale also includes 25 holiday homes within the golf village and planning consent is in place to develop another 18 holiday homes. Administrators KPMG say the “availability of this magnificent resort offers a purchaser a truly unique opportunity” to further establish it as one of the foremost golfing, leisure, wedding and conference destinations in Ireland and Britain.

Council rejects on-course housing plan A bid by an East Lothian golf club to build three chalets and seven houses at the course to cater for visitors has been rejected by council chiefs. Officials at Castle Park Golf Club applied for permission for the development to compliment a

revamp of its clubhouse, which has already been granted planning approval. The club contended that the proposed golf chalets would be able to accommodate visitors enjoying a round, and added that the changes would help to draw more visitors to East

Lothian, which already relies heavily on golf-based tourism. However, the move was rejected by East Lothian Council following a number of complaints that the development would “severely impact the beauty of this area.”


Royal Obidos turns to Carousel Golfing Carousel Golfing has added another high profile club to its ever-growing list of customers who have installed the companies revolutionary bag storage system. Royal Obidos Spa & Golf Resort in Portugal recently completed the installation of a Carousel system to provide its members and staff with a highly space efficient bag handling facility. Installed at the request of club manager, Eduardo De Silva, the Carousel system has been designed to cope with the heavy demands of visitors and rental sets, and has proved extremely popular with all who use it.

The clubhouse architects have incorporated the stylish installation to blend in with the design concept of the luxury surroundings. Carousel Golfing has also noticed a marked increase in the sales of their Armadillo 4 range of extra large security lockers, according to managing director, Michael Waldron: “As average bag sizes have increased over the last few years, players require that extra space with the Armadillo 4 being the perfect solution. “The Armadillo 4 is space efficient, affordable and is easy to install offering clubs the ability to store three times as many bags.

“We have noticed a growing need for more bag storage at many clubs in recent years, and with the present financial climate set to continue, many golf clubs can turn a healthy profit from a very simple bag storage installation.

“Gone are the days of members paying next to nothing for bag storage, and with the ability to store far more bags than ever before, clubs really are starting to realise the benefits of installing a Carousel system,” concluded Waldron.

Record numbers apply for St Andrews tee-times

The desire of visiting golfers to play the famous Old Course at St Andrews Links shows no sign of abating as applications for the 2013 season have flooded in according to the Links Trust.

More than 1,900 applications were received by St Andrews Links Trust, which manages the seven Links Trust beating the previous record of 1,800 applications set for 2012.

Euan Loudon, chief executive of St Andrews Links Trust, said: “We are encouraged to receive such a high number of tee time applications. Normally in the second year after the Open

Championship we would expect to see applications flatten off but this year has seen record numbers apply. “We hope those who come here enjoy an outstanding experience.”


“We have trailed and installed the blinder in a bunker that historically experiences sand slip after heavy rain events. To date after a very wet year we have not experienced one sand slip in this bunker.” David Cole, Golf Course and Estate Manager

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october 2012 GME 9



The Els Club Dubai, the first course in the prestigious Els Club portfolio, is proud to have in its 70-strong Club Car fleet, a solarpowered vehicle painted in the colours of the South African flag. Els said: “With SolarDrive technology, everyone benefits. There are significant energy cost savings and obviously the cars are kinder to the environment and help reduce our carbon footprint.” Ransomes Jacobsen, the Ipswich-based manufacturer of professional mowing and turf maintenance equipment is re-introducing Craft and Technical apprenticeships beginning in January 2013. The company, which has been manufacturing mowers in Ipswich for the past 180 years, is looking to recruit five apprentices; three Craft and two Technical. Rain Bird have successfully commissioned a WT-M Rain Bird turbine on a 24m mast at Merlin Golf Club in Cornwall. “We are expecting some 160,000 KwH of production from this site – this is a return to the club of some £35,000 – commented Iain Macpherson, Rain Bird Energy Manger. Chirk Golf Club, in Wales, owned by Myddleton Leisure, entered administration in August. Director Guy Myddleton said: “Trading conditions for Chirk Golf Club had been made more difficult this year by the terrible summer weather, and I hope we can find a buyer to take the club forward following my investment over the last few years.”

10 GME october 2012

Blinder Bunker Liner links with Rigby Taylor

Blinder Bunker Liner, the unique system designed to improve the lifespan of bunkers and reduce maintenance costs, is to be sold by Rigby Taylor. Thanks to a new agreement the Blinder Bunker system, which gives bunkers a rubberised, free draining lining guaranteed for ten

years, will now be among the products and services offered by Rigby Taylor. Launched in 2010 Blinder Bunker Liner has already installed bunkers on many golf courses throughout the UK, but the new agreement will ensure that the benefits of the system will be highlighted to many more clubs.

“Blinder initially teamed up with Profusion Environmental as its approved installer to ensure that work was carried out to the highest possible standard and adding the Rigby Taylor sales force will create a formidable combination,” said Murray Long, director of Blinder Bunker Liner. Speaking on behalf of Rigby Taylor, managing director Andrew Robinson, said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Rigby Taylor and adds a unique system to our product range. “Product development has been at the forefront of our company philosophy and we are pleased to be working with Blinder Bunker Liner to offer this solution to bunker maintenance issues.” The UK format for delivering Blinder to the market has been quickly and successfully implemented and Blinder intends shortly to roll this format out across other continents through international franchisees.

BAR Extreme helps club extend its season Windermere Golf Club, in the heart of the Lake District, has dramatically extended its playing season after switching to Barenbrug’s BAR Extreme grass seed mixture. This perennial ryegrass blend is ideal for divotting golf tees, and head greenkeeper David Wilkinson switched to the mixture three seasons ago to do just that. But Wilkinson says that the biggest benefit to the 18-hole course has been extended play, thanks to the

product’s rapid-establishment and hard-wearing characteristics. “This is my third full season using BAR Extreme on the tees and the results are tremendous,” he enthuses. “The speed of germination and how it fills out the divots is exceptional. But the biggest impact has been the extension of the playing season. “We previously had a short season as the challenging climatic conditions in Cumbria limit the premium grass growth period.

“But, since using Barenbrug’s BAR Extreme, we’re overseeding in February ready for a March start and are then not coming off until the second week of November.”

Campey proud of Vredo collaboration Dutch agricultural, sportsfield, golf fairway and grassland machinery manufacturer Vredo Dodewaard BV marked a double celebration last month; 35 years of manufacturing Vredo Overseeders and 25 years of producing slurry equipment. The anniversary was celebrated with two open days at their headquarters in Dodewaard, Holland.

Director Hans de Vree and his team welcomed guests from across the globe, including a party from UK and European distributors for Vredo Overseeders; Campey Turf Care Systems. Managing director Richard Campey presented de Vree with a mirror etched with a photograph of a Vredo Overseeder in action at St Andrews.

“We are delighted to be here to celebrate Vredo’s 35th Anniversary,” said Campey. “This is a tribute to the enormous dedication and hard work, which has ensured that the Vredo brand is renowned throughout the groundscare industry for innovation, quality and performance. “We are proud to be associated with Vredo.”


Ransomes Jacobsen support Scottish Open Ransomes Jacobsen provided tournament support at the recent Scottish Open held at the Castle Stuart Golf Links near Inverness. The European Tour event was won by Jeev Milkha Singh with a 12 foot birdie putt at the first extra hole during a sudden-death playoff with Francesco Molinari. Course manager Chris Haspell and his team use Jacobsen SLF-1880 light fairway mowers on the links and

these were supplemented with four additional machines plus Cushman utility vehicles. Technical staff from the company’s European headquarters in Ipswich, were also present to help with the increased maintenance requirements. Commenting at the conclusion of the event Haspell said: “Having additional technicians on site is fantastic during the week, especially when they have

a wealth of knowledge like the guys from Jacobsen. “Without the availability of the additional 1880s along with the run-arounds it

would make the week much harder to run. We really appreciated the support that Ransomes Jacobsen afforded to us.”

Stressholme and Blackwell Grange in merger talk Two struggling golf courses in the north-east of England have announced a unique plan to merge. Stressholme Golf Centre, in Darlington, a municipal course that lost £150,000 last year, and Blackwell Grange, a private members’ club, have discussed the possibility of becoming one club. The proposal, announced by the local council, would

see part of the Blackwell course sold to a housing developer to build approximately 60 luxury homes. The current Stressholme venue would then be sold to Blackwell Grange and be given its name, and be run by its members within a year. Stressholme’s current members would be invited to join the new club, but subscription fees would

probably be raised to cover costs. The proposal can only go ahead if at least 75 per cent of Blackwell Grange’s members vote in favour. The club has committed to invest the proceeds of the merger, and future profit, into improving the golf course and the clubhouse at Stressholme if it were to take over.

Commenting on the proposals, Ada Burns, chief executive of Darlington Borough Council, said: “We have looked at a range of options and the proposed merger looks as if it is the best fit. “We want to protect golf and support a sustainable pattern of golf facilities in Darlington, without the need for ongoing subsidies.”

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october 2012 GME 11


Onyria Palmares named best resort in Portugal Onyria Palmares Beach & Golf Resort picked up one of Portugal’s ‘national tourism Oscars’ at the Publituris Portugal Travel Awards. Broke Hill Golf Club in Kent has been bought by Bristol-based Green Grass Golf for an undisclosed sum. The company’s directors, Andrey Chuykov and Andrew Craven, are also directors of UK Northeast Investments, which has also purchased nearby Chelsfield Lakes Golf Club – both previously owned by Crown Golf. Craven said: “The purchase of Broke Hill Golf Club by Green Grass Golf is a strategic acquisition for our shareholders, as we also own the adjacent pay-and-play course, Chelsfield Lakes. “This provides an excellent addition to our portfolio, and enables us to cover both the pay-andplay and proprietary membership market in the local catchment area. “We look forward to making a positive contribution to the site, balancing what’s important to the staff and the members alike,” added Craven. “We are also fortunate to be picking up the baton from Crown Golf who are the industry benchmark for golf course operations.”

12 GME october 2012

The award for best golf course in Portugal was presented to officials from the resort at a gala ceremony held in Coimbra.

It was the latest in a stream of recent accolades for the resort which has also been acclaimed the best ‘Private Rehabilitation Project’ by Turismo de Portugal, named the country’s second-best course by readers of Today’s Golfer and become a new entry, at 26th, in Golf World’s poll of the Top 100 European Golf Courses. The latest honour was bestowed upon the Robert Trent Jones Jnr-designed course by the country’s tourism professionals and it was in good company, as other award winners included TAP, Portugal’s national airline, easyJet, Europcar, and Sheraton Algarve. Onyria Palmares’ operations general director, António Pinto Coelho, said:

“The Publituris Portugal Travel Awards are known in the industry as the ‘national tourism Oscars’ and to be acclaimed by your peers is especially gratifying. “There are some truly outstanding, worldrenowned golf courses in Portugal and to be recognised as the best is very special.” Onyria Palmares launched to some acclaim in June 2011 following a €10m redesign of Frank Pennink’s original – and popular – layout. The three loops of nine holes – the Alvor, Lagos and Praia courses – enjoy expansive panoramic views across the Bay of Lagos, with each lay-out offering a different kind of golfing challenge in a glorious and natural environment.

Buckinghamshire Golf Club saves up to £10k on water bills thanks to Bailoy

Buckinghamshire Golf Club has dramatically cut its annual water bill after upgrading to a GeminiTrident Irrigation (GTI) system from Bailoy Products. Course manager Andy Ewence found the existing 20-year-old control system cumbersome and inflexible, and was unhappy with the UK support system. But, with the pipework and sprinklers still sound, there was no reason to spend £500,000 on an all-new system, so instead, Ewence chose to upgrade to Bailoy’s GTI computerised central control system, which uses decoder field hardware and GTI software to better manage the course’s irrigation programme.

“I wanted a flexible system that could do more,” Ewence reveals. “So we looked at retrofit alternatives and GTI really appealed. “I liked that all we really had to change was the controller – the infrastructure is still the same.

“When we decided to go ahead with the system, I estimated we’d save ten percent a year, but we’re already ahead of that target,” he adds. “I reckon it’s saved us £8,000 to £10,000 already in water bills.”

Justice for Bamburgh Castle after theft A man who stole £20,000 worth of trophies from Bamburgh Castle Golf Club, in Northumberland, has been sentenced to 12 months in prison. His accomplice received a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to complete 300 hours of community service. In April last year Lee O’Brien, 27, and Alder Willis,

49, broke into the club as a steward slept upstairs. They disabled CCTV cameras and then smashed a display cabinet. None of the items that were taken in the raid, including a 1930s’ cigarette box-shaped ladies’ scratch competition trophy worth about £14,000, have been recovered. O’Brien, who was on bail for drug offences, was given

a 12-month sentence for the theft, and, in addition, was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for his part in the trafficking of £60,000-worth of illegal drugs. Club secretary Mike Robinson said: “The Souter Ladies’ trophy was worth about £14,000 and was of tremendous historic and sentimental value to the club.”


Royal Dornoch re-invests with Lely and Toro

Royal Dornoch has invested £500,000 in new machinery, prompting Lely’s Toro national sales manager Jeff Anguige and area manager George Macdonald to pay a recent visit to seal the deal. Commenting on the new arrivals, course manager Eoin Riddell says: “We stick with Toro because of the machines’ productivity and reliability, as well as the great back-up service from Lely and Toro.

“These benefits make our jobs much easier. Because – whether it’s the wider cut of our rough mower, the generous size of our sprayer tank or the technological advancements of the new greensmowers – we can get out on the course at 5am and be finished within four or five hours. “That’s the most important thing – course presentation and playability, and golfers never knowing you’ve been there.”

Club Inc appointments add strength to portfolio

Club Inc, the golf industry’s one-stop-shop for clubs and individuals seeking a helping hand, have made three important additions to their associate team. Gerry Boon, and husband and wife team Patrick and Belinda Kiely have joined ranks with immediate effect, adding to Club Inc’s list of affiliated individuals and brands.

Boon, who founded and headed Deloitte’s Sports Business Group for 15 years, is acknowledged internationally as a leading light in sports business consultancy and is renowned as an excellent commentator in the industry. Through Club Inc, he will offer those in need of specialist consultancy advice on topics including

financial analysis, organisation and structure reviews, business strategy, assessing commercial feasibility, business planning, financial appraisals and review of facilities and events. Patrick and Belinda Kiely – who purchased the lossmaking, run-down Gatton Manor Hotel and Golf Club in 2005 and turned it around into a hugely profitable busi-

ness during a six-year program – have unique owner/operator insight into the golf industry which they are happy to share with other golf course owners and investors. During their time at Gatton Manor, the pair won numerous customer service awards including the national AA Centenary Award for Excellence.

‘Specialist in Golf Course Construction’ Repton Short Course at Rudding Park Royal Birkdale, Royal St George’s Carnoustie, Goodwood

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october 2012 GME 13


company profile

Rubber tyres get new lease of life on course

Recycled car tyres can have many uses once their time on the road is spent, as Kevin Nash discovered after speaking with KBI Flexi-Pave and Bloxwich Golf Club.

Golf courses can take one heck of a hammering, which is why you’ll regularly see greens staff at work on bunkers, fairways and putting surfaces. But what about the car park... or the paths that run through the course and around the clubhouse? Those too take plenty of stick, with buggies, trolleys, cars and golfers with their spiked shoes constantly on the move... what’s more, they’re at the mercy of the elements, day and night, all yearround. And whereas the course might receive lots of tender loving care, the infrastructure tends to be lower down the list of things to do. It can be expensive and time-consuming to keep pathways, for example, up to scratch. Traditional surfaces such as shale, shingle, even artificial grass, soon wear out... weeds, mud and standing water are constant problems. But KBI UK, an up-and-coming business proudly claiming to produce “smarter materials for next-generation infrastructure” says it has the closest thing to a solution in a revolutionary product that is fairly new to the golf sector. An offshoot of KBI, founded in the US almost 20 years ago, the British firm uses recycled car tyres to produce KBI FlexiPave, a surface that has proved

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popular for all kinds of facilities... not least golf courses. It is made by grinding down used car tyres into rubber granules, which are then mixed with stone chippings and a unique specialised bonding agent. The mix is then moisture-cured and ready to use within 24 hours. The material is flexible, ideal for footpaths, tree surrounds, playgrounds, car parks, woodland trails, driveways, drainage strips and golf buggy paths. Importantly, it is highly porous, allowing for natural drainage... a key factor in new developments due to Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS) requirements. “Water soaks through, and the surface is self-cleaning,” says sales director Graham Pell. “Even mud breaks down and dissolves. Another major plus is minimal maintenance. In fact, all you have to do is clear the leaves.” The surface is safer, as it’s slip resistant, due to its rubber content, and non-cracking, even in freeze/thaw conditions. It is impact absorbent – able to withstand vehicles weighing up to 80 tons – and suitable for all types of vehicles, pedestrians, bikes and livestock. Crucially, KBI Flexi-Pave is eco-friendly, with over 300 recycled car tyres typically covering 100 square metres... and it is attractive and available in a range of colours. KBI UK, based in Halifax, West Yorkshire, has built up an impressive portfolio in just two years. Major projects include part of the recent multi-million pound refurbishment at Lincoln Castle, work on civic gardens and the transPennine trail for Barnsley council, tree surrounds for Derby council and a £330,000 programme at Stewart Park in Middlesbrough. A leading English racecourse recently commissioned a large surface area for washing down horses, and KBI UK has

also moved into the golf market, including the installation of footpaths and buggy paths at Crow Nest, a nine-hole course in Brighouse, Yorkshire. The biggest golf project so far has been at Bloxwich Golf Club, with access paths to the first tee, practice green and clubhouse giving the facility a sleeker, cleaner look.

gation which is something that can prove to be a substantial financial drain (no pun intended). KBI UK’s chairman and founder, Kevin Bagnall, has a wealth of experience in the recycled rubber tyre industry in Europe and the US, including setting up a safety surfacing company in America that within a short time became a market lead-

The work took just two weeks to complete, with surfacing materials being prepared on site, using the granules from 1,800 recycled tyres to cover almost 600 square metres. And KBI UK will continue to work closely with Bloxwich, having been tasked with replacing all other access and buggy paths on the course over the next five years. The secretary/manager at Bloxwich Golf Club, Rob Wormstone said: “Because of the heavy pedestrian, golf trolley and buggy usage, we had to find a product that was hard-wearing and preferably well-draining and eco-friendly... the result is a success with members and visitors alike.” KBI Flexi-Pave can also be used to harvest rainwater, a significant advantage for golf clubs looking to save costs on irri-

er and is now represented not just in the UK and Europe but also Australia and South-East Asia. Sales director Pell also has long experience of the rubber surfacing industry and has developed an extensive network of contacts with local authorities, landscape architects and the construction industry. Installations manager Anthony Irvine has been with KBI UK since set-up, and previously worked with local authorities in the project management of regeneration sites in northern England. The management team’s experience and combined expertise and the company’s skilled workforce add up to an attractive, safe, cost-effective, long-lasting, lowmaintenance and environmentally-friendly alternative to more conventional surfacing methods. GME

“Because of the heavy pedestrian, golf trolley and buggy usage, we had to find a product that was hard-wearing and preferably well-draining and eco-friendly... the result is a success with members and visitors alike.”

october 2012 GME 15


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Swede Success for EnviroBunker Frosaker Golf Club in Sweden has turned to Envirosports to help construct all of the bunkers on its new nine-hole course. Article by Aidan Patrick.

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Annika Sorenstam and Pierre Fulke, two of the most recognizable names associated with Swedish Golf, are both strongly associated with Frosaker Golf Club, a championship course located on the outskirts of Stockholm. Sorenstam played her final LET event at Frosaker in 2008, whilst Fulke, the former Ryder Cup player is now the architect responsible for the design of a new nine-hole par three course at the golf club. Scheduled to open in May 2013 the new development at Frosaker promises to be one of the finest par three courses in all of Europe. The short course has been designed with the same care and attention as the championship course at Frosaker, which has hosted numerous LET and Challenge Tour events. “We are very keen to create a sustainable course without compromising on quality,” commented Fulke. “Bunkering is a strong feature on the championship course and the same will be true on the new nine holes. “We wanted to explore some options that were on the market and EnviroBunker was a very appealing concept, not only will it ensure we have maintenance free bunker faces but it also fits with our ambition to build a golf course in an environmentally sensitive manner.” The course will feature 18 bunkers of various styles and sizes, from traditional links style pot bunkers to shallower rolling edges with sand flashed faces, all of which will now be constructed using the EnviroBunker method.

“This is the first time EnviroBunker has been commissioned on a new construction and it is a very exciting project for us,” stated Rhydian Lewis, co-director at Envirosports. “The facility and course at Frosaker is first class and we are certain that EnviroBunker will help add to its growing reputation as one of Sweden’s finest golfing facilities.” The initial project was commissioned in August 2012 when Envirosports sent a construction team to Frosaker to complete the first set of bunkers. At the same time training was provided to local staff which will enable them to use the protected EnviroBunker construction method under licence, to complete the project. Course owner Christer Ral said: “We are all extremely impressed with EnviroBunker. We have very high quality standards at Frosaker and we were a little unsure what to expect. “Not having seen the product, apart from in magazines and on the website, it was a bit of a risk to commission its build on the new nine holes but it proved a very good decision. “The results have exceeded our expectations, the work was completed in just two days, the bunkers fit into the landscape perfectly and have certainly met with the approval of all involved. “Knowing we will not have to revisit these bunkers for 20 years or more and that they will look this good for the same duration is an extremely satisfying feeling.” The remaining 16 bunkers on the new nine holes will be constructed in early 2013 but having seen EnviroBunker on

the par three course, there is a growing appetite to address the aging bunkers on the championship course. “During the initial EnviroBunker project, we spent some time together assessing the bunkers on the main course and it became apparent that they were looking a little tired. We have discussed reconstructing one of our feature bunkers on the 16th hole of the championship course with the view to reconstructing further bunkers thereafter.” The opportunity to build maintenance free bunker faces and edges, diverting a significant amount of labour to other tasks on the golf course, certainly appealed to Christer. “At Frosaker, our current workforce will have nine more holes to care for. “Taking away the burden of maintaining 18 new bunkers will certainly help us to present both courses to the very high standards we have set ourselves.” Lewis summarized: “The appearance of the bunkers at Frosaker will remain consistent for decades to come. This is a far more desirable situation than having a set of bunkers in various states of disrepair dependant on the when they were last re-constructed or repaired. “With Envirobunker there is no longer a necessity to re-build bunkers on a frequent, sometimes annual basis. Add to this the significant mid-to-long term financial savings EnviroBunker represents and we would hope that other clubs will begin to follow Frosakers example.”

Matz Evensson, head pro at Frosaker added: “Not only are we impressed with EnviroBunker but we were also very impressed with the professionalism with which Envirosports conducted their business. The construction team that worked with us on site were first class and ensured that our own staff learnt the techniques involved in building EnviroBunker. “The Intellectual Property that Envirosports own in relation to the EnviroBunker construction method was also explained to us in a very professional manner and we fully understand why our own staffs need to be accredited as certified installers of EnviroBunker before we proceed to licence the product from Envirosports. “The face to face approach of the company certainly helped convince us to commit to a wider scale project moving forward.” Lewis concluded: “We take time to explain every aspect of our business as well as the product itself. It is as important to us that our clients clearly understand the options that are available to them, whether that be using us as contractors or licensing our protected design. “Frosaker is a perfect example of how we were able to work with a client to facilitate their particular requirements and build a methodology that fitted with their plans. We hope that we will have the opportunity to work in a similar way with many more clubs in the future.” GME

october 2012 GME 17

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

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18 GME october 2012

24/09/2012 09:58


club focus

Northern Exposure

Adam Lawrence reports on an ambitious plan at what is surely the world’s most northerly golf destination.

A group of islands with a total population of fewer than 25,000 people, three hours drive away from the nearest decentsized airport and well inside the Arctic Circle is, it must be said, an unlikely place for the world’s largest golf management firm to find its newest location. But the Lofoten Golf Links, on the island of Gimsoy in Norway, has indeed been taken over by management firm Troon – and, although that might seem strange at first, a visit to the course, and a short chat with owner Frode Hov, helps you realise that first impressions aren’t always correct. The Lofoten archipelago has been a vital part of the Norwegian economy since the Middle Ages, exporting vast quantities of dried and salted cod (stockfish) to Italy, where it was an essential foodstuff for Catholics prohibited from eating meat on Fridays. At its peak in the late nineteenth century, the Lofoten fishery employed around 50,000 men during the winter season,

either to sail the small boats that caught the fish, or processing the cod in the hundreds of fish factories that lined the islands’ wharves. Hov’s family has owned the land around the Lofoten Golf Links for around 400 years, farming sheep and fishing for most of that time. He, though, has taken the family estate in a different direction, developing a number of tourist activities including pony trekking, mountaneering and kiteboarding (he studied tourism at university). The centrepiece of his efforts, though, is the golf links, which he built, mostly by hand, during the 1990s, with the assistance of Swedish-based English golf architect Jeremy Turner, after a number of visitors commented on the similarity of the seafront land to classic Scottish links. The Lofoten course began as six holes, and was expanded to nine more recently. But Hov has greater ambitions, and that’s what led him to start a project to transform the historic family lands.

october 2012 GME 19


Lofoten Golf Club Hov 3414 Gimsøysand Norway TEL; (47) 7607 2002 FAX; (47) 7607 2003 email; HEAD PROFESSIONAL; Andrew Hondlik HEAD GREEKEEPER; Thor Stensvold Club founded; 1998

20 GME october 2012

Architect Turner is now in charge of the reconstruction of the course, with the aim of turning the small scale nine holes into a full-size eighteen hole links, retaining five of the current nine holes and building thirteen new ones, including a quite stunning par three, the green for which is located on a small rocky outcrop surrounded on three sides by the Arctic Ocean. That’s where Troon comes in. The Lofoten links is the company’s first project in Norway, and it’s bringing the full breadth of its expertise to bear. Chief European agronomist Simon Doyle is advising the Lofoten team on grassing and maintenance, while the company also plans to help the club’s management to gain a wider range of experience at different facilities before the eighteen hole course is ready for its debut, probably at the start of the 2014 season. Sharp-eyed observers will have noted that Troon has dropped the word ‘Golf’ from its branding. This is because the company wants to be perceived as a manager of hospitality facilities on a more general basis, not just golf operations. At Lofoten, that’s especially useful, as the largest part of Frode Hov’s development plan will start to take shape in the new year. Right on the shore of the ocean, on a rocky outcrop that overlooks the first tee and eighteenth green of the new-look golf course, Hov and his team plan to construct a 120-bedroom boutique hotel. This will, by a considerable distance, be the largest accommodation on the islands, and will require a new level of management expertise and staffing.

Can such a remote destination support a hotel of this size? It’s a fair question, but everyone involved in the project is confident. The Lofoten archipelago is an extremely popular tourist destination within Scandinavia, with large numbers making the trek north during summer to experience the midnight sun, view the extensive wildlife that calls the area home, climb and walk in the hills and so on. In the winter, business is inevitably slower, but the polar night – which lasts around six weeks – brings interested customers, as does the likelihood of viewing the aurora borealis (Northern Lights). The islands have a remarkable climate, benefitting from the full force of the Gulf Stream. Temperatures of 25c are common in the summer, while winters are significantly milder than most of Scandinavia – minus 10c is a very cold day in the area. Naturally, the golf course cannot be played during the polar night, but that’s pretty much the only part of the year in which the Lofoten Golf Links closes for business – if there is daylight, and there’s no snow on the ground, then the course will be open for play. Access to Lofoten is, it must be said, not entirely straightforward. The closest airport, near the islands’ capital, Svolvaer, is not able to accept large aircraft, and is thus restricted to flights from other northern strips, most notably the town of Bodø on the Norwegian mainland, which has service to Oslo and beyond. Alternatively, the completion, in 2007, of the new road to the islands, which involves several long tunnels, means visitors can fly to Evenes airport, between the

towns of Harsted and Narvik, around a three hour drive from the golf course. And those with time to kill can access the archipelago by ship, either by ferry from Bodø, or by the historic Hurtigruten service that plies the western coast of Norway. There are plans, though, for a new airport for the Lofotens, with a longer runway that would be able to accept larger planes. By fortunate coincidence, the location for the new airport – which is

Pricing of tee times is complex enough at the best of times, but when your peak time, at least for a couple of months of the year, is at midnight, then normal revenue management systems might not be totally relevant! Troon’s Simon Doyle, who is currently reviewing plans for a barebones (just greens, tees and approaches) irrigation system, amusingly highlights the greenkeeping issues. “We’re used to having an eight hour watering window at night, but

“We’re used to having an eight hour watering window at night, but here – for part of the year – we could have golfers playing 24 hours a day!” currently in consultation phase – is on the island of Gimsoy, only a few kilometres from the golf course! Hov and his team, plus his advisors from Troon, are busy trying to develop a range of business models for the new course. There is a substantial local membership, all of whom have purchased a share in the course in order to join, but with the large hotel and the investment in the new course, he will clearly need to attract a good number of players from outside the area. Country and international memberships will almost certainly be on offer, though details have not yet been finalised. On top of this, the management challengesAFT>GME of running a course in a location like 18912_. 18/09/2012 12:38 Page 1 this are not hard to figure out.

here – for part of the year – we could have golfers playing 24 hours a day!” It isn’t just watering, though. With permanent daylight in the summer, the grass grows at a frantic rate, perhaps even to the extent that it might need mowing twice in a day. These are good problems to have. If your greenkeepers can’t find time to irrigate or mow because the course is full 24 hours a day, it necessarily means the course is a success – many operators would be glad to face such a dilemma. It remains to be seen whether Frode Hov and Troon between them can turn the Lofoten links into a success on this level – but anyone who has experienced the jaw-dropping beauty of the islands would be loth to back against them. GME

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october 2012 GME 21


urban golf

Synthetic technology is playing a key role in helping the French Golf Federation deliver on its promise to build 100 new urban golf facilities before the 2018 Ryder Cup, reports Adam Lawrence.

France looks to the Future France’s successful bid to win the 2018 Ryder Cup made much play of the fact that, unlike the German, Spanish and Portuguese bids, it was not based on the construction of a brand new course to hold the matches. Instead, the French federation, which plans to host the Cup at

22 GME october 2012

the Golf National complex outside Paris, has committed to building 100 new urban golf facilities to promote the development of the game in the run-up to 2018. Few, if any, of these facilities will be full-sized eighteen hole courses. Instead, the goal is to create golf complexes, as close as possible to the centre of major towns and cities, that allow new golfers to experience the game, and, in time, to progress to existing, larger courses. To this end, the Federation has recently decreed that six hole rounds can be counted towards official FFG handicaps

(France, like much of Europe, requires an official Federation licence for anyone who wants to play golf). French-based English golf course architect Stuart Hallett is involved with a considerable number of these projects. He says that keeping costs – both construction and maintenance – low is vital to ensuring the success of such developments. “We can build a six hole ‘compact’ course, plus a big driving range, on ten hectares of land, at a cost of around €500,000,” he says. “This enables the facilities to offer free golf to juniors, and for others to play there at the same sort of cost as going to the cinema or to a bowling alley for the evening.”

length par threes with pitch and putt tees for beginners. “It has synthetic greens and tees, properly shaped. Basically, it is a field that was seeded out with fescue a couple of years ago, and now we’re adding the synthetic tees and greens.” For commercial developers, Hallett says, the compact urban course and practice facility, using synthetic turf, is a very appealing proposition. “More and more people are becoming interested in this kind of project, because there is money to be made,” he says. “If you have a driving range near a city centre, you add a compact course, and get people there during their lunch break, hitting some balls, having a drink and

To keep costs low, Hallett has embraced the use of synthetic turf for the tees and greens of these facilities. He is working closely with leading synthetic turf installer Southwest Greens Construction on several projects, and says that using the SWG product helps project viability on a number of levels. “In France, acquiring building permits is very complicated,” he explains. “In particular, the rules over pumping water are so strict now that, on urban structures people are leaning towads synthetics. “Using synthetics, we’re generally able to obtain permits much more quickly – typically in a year or two, rather than four or five. On top of that, the synthetic surfaces are easier and cheaper to maintain.” Kevin Holinaty, president of Southwest Greens Construction, adds: “Our objective is to mimic the real thing in playing experience and looks. With the advances in our synthetic installation system and our construction team’s experience level, we’re shaping greens as you would do with normal grass, rather than just levelling ground and putting down carpet. “We want golfers to have to bend down and touch it before they realise it’s synthetic.” On one project, just to the west of Paris, Hallett, along with SWG, is helping to bring golf to an audience that has never previously had access to the game. “We’re working at a 36 hole course that has just been bought by a new owner,” he says. “Previously, the club was private, and unavailable to kids – in fact, it was closed on Wednesdays, when French children are out of school. But the new owner wants to change all that. “He has brought in two new professionals to handle teaching, and we’re building a compact nine hole course – full

something to eat, you can make really good money. It’s a low entrance barrier and attracts new people to the game.” It doesn’t take up too much space either. Hallett recently completed a project with SWG in the French city of Caen, with six holes, including two par fours, and a full sized driving range, on a ten hectare site. “The French Federation is arranging meetings in every big city to say ‘Find us 10-15 hectares and we’ll build you a facility like this, it won’t cost you a penny and it will be a great asset for your town where kids can come and play for free,’ he explains. “A small structure like this is easy to price. I can visit, take a look at the site, and within 50k I can tell them what it will cost. We have a model that works, which is great for developers and great for new golfers. And the synthetic turf system provided by Southwest Greens is the key part of that model.” However, it’s not just in France that synthetic technology is helping to develop golf. Dutch golf architect Frank Pont has previously collaborated with Southwest Greens to build a synthetic pitching green for a nine hole course developed by the Dutch Golf Federation, whilst last year, Golf centrum Amsteldijk opened, which was designed by another Dutch golf architect Alan Rijks. “The amount of balls that are hit in the chipping greens on a daily basis would be very difficult to maintain using natural grass,” commented Rijks. “It made sense to choose the synthetic solution. The product that SWG provided functions exceptionally well.” The idea of compact urban golf facilities is gaining traction, and the success of new synthetic turf technologies is helping make these concepts viable. GME

“If you have a driving range near a city centre, you add a compact course, and get people there during their lunch break, hitting some balls, having a drink and something to eat, you can make really good money.”

october 2012 GME 23

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26/03/2012 14:34


in person

Open Door Policy

As Mark Alexander finds out, the decision to offer up tee times at the Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle provides a rare opportunity to sample the lives of the rich and famous. Although the Home of Golf may be famed for its public links where young and old play the world’s finest courses for next to nothing, there is a new swathe of ultra private clubs which are offering something different to the world’s mega wealthy. It would seem that millionaires’ golf is alive and well and flourishing in Scotland. In fact, there is a splurge of these private retreats coming onto the market. Loch Lomond Golf Club was created in an area of outstanding natural beauty and is famed for its elite membership, while the Renaissance Club near Edinburgh sits alongside one of Scotland’s most revered gentleman’s clubs at Muirfield. In Fife, St Andrews International promises to be the first private club in the Auld Grey Toon to have its own course, and next to Gleneagles a new heathland gem (know as gWest) is being created to rival the Queens, Kings and Centenary courses.

What they have in common are business models that rest on the desire of the world’s financially elite to play golf in Scotland safe in the knowledge that their post-match confab will be shared with millionaires and oligarchs in suitably opulent surroundings far from prying eyes. Wealth, privacy and golf seem to be the perfect bedfellows. In the north of Scotland, near the adored links of Dornoch, another hideaway haven has taken the first tentative steps at reversing this trend by offering a tantalising glimpse of this exclusive world. The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle, which accommodates around 3,000 rounds a year, is offering eight tee times a week from Monday to Friday until October. It is a move that managing director of The Carnegie Club, Peter Crome, says offers a rare opportunity to step into this guarded world. “I am delighted to be able to open our world class golf course to the

october 2012 GME 25

public and allow non-residents the exclusive chance to sample what is surely one of the best golf experiences on the planet.” There is certainly a healthy slice of pride when you talk to anyone at Skibo about their golf course. Originally laid out by Donald Steel in 1994, the course has seen huge changes over the last decade culminating in a total overhaul orchestrated by director of golf David Thomson (pictured overleaf) ably assisted by course manager Gary Gruber and Tom Mackenzie from the golf course architectural firm Mackenzie and Ebert. “We are an exclusive, private members’ club,” Thomson says plainly. “There is an interview process to become a member because it is important we get the right kind of people joining the club. We want people to come here and relax, we don’t want finger snappers. “We want people to feel like they are coming home, rather than going to a hotel. Skibo is one of those places you either get it or you don’t. If you come here expecting to be treated like a hotel guest, well, it doesn’t work like that. People come here to switch off. They could go anywhere in the world, but they come here.” The introduction of publicly available tee times for the first time since 2007 is certainly a departure from the closeddoors approach of the past. It is also a gamble. The draw of a place like Skibo is the unadulterated kudos associated with membership and the indisputable notch

26 GME october 2012

that can be etched in the metaphorical bedpost after sampling the delights of this elusive Highland gem. Opening the gates could dilute this mystique if it wasn’t for the wallet-busting £300 green fee (which includes lunch). Despite the premier price, which will undoubtedly stem the flow of day-trippers and club outings, Thomson hopes visitors will leave Skibo feeling they have got value for money. “We want people to go away thinking that was worth £300,” he says. “We don’t want people thinking the course was just OK.” To put this into context, becoming a member at Skibo requires a £20,000 joining fee followed by £7,500 a year in annual fees and then an all-inclusive £1,000 per night tariff for staying in the castle or one of the numerous lodges dotted around the estate. With this as a benchmark, amazingly £300 doesn’t sound too bad. Thomson’s quest to create one of the best courses in Scotland began nine years ago. The ambitious project would require an investment of £2 million and many hours plotting changes and unearthing improvements that would eventually lead to its inclusion in the upper echelons of Golf World’s listing of Britain and Ireland’s top courses (rising 31 places in the latest edition to 64th place). One of the biggest changes took place at the second hole. “It was one of the worst holes on the course with a flat, uninteresting tee shot,” says Thomson. “We dropped the fairway by four metres and moved nearly 300,000 tonnes of sand

to create the dunes. We were out there nearly every day trying out new things. A lot of modern architects sit in their office at their computers and never see the site. “When you’re there everyday you can get a better appreciation of how the land lies. It was an interesting project.” The work didn’t stop there. Bushes that formerly obscured views onto idyllic inlets were unceremoniously removed and many bunkers were painstakingly rebuilt. The result is a course that is being carefully transformed into a world-class track full of risk-and-reward holes, surrounded by water on three sides and fantastic Highland views. “We like to challenge the golfer, so on every hole you have to hit a shape; either a fade or a draw, and there are quite a few holes where a fade tee shot is followed by a draw, so it makes you think,” Thomson says proudly. “Ernie Els said it was one of the best driving courses he has played – that’s pretty high praise from one of the best players on the planet.” Few would argue with this year’s Open Champion. After all, the course has plenty of features that could propel it to the top of the class, never mind the challenge off the tee. But it also has an inherent quality that goes far beyond simply the design and layout of the course. It’s a quality that Thomson believes should be attributed to the adeptness of his ten greenkeeping staff.

“If your greenkeepers are good players, then they tend to understand the playability of the golf course better than someone who simply maintains it,” he explains. “They understand the green speeds and the definition of the course, which is one of our biggest things. When you stand on the tees, you’ll see the fairway because of the way the rough and the fairway has been cut. It gives you a definite shape to each hole.” The Carnegie Club at Skibo Castle is a special place. Andrew Carnegie’s lavish Highland castle, which he originally purchased for £85,000 and then spent £2 million renovating and extending, overlooks the Dornoch Firth and the alluring links course. Like the golf, the castle doesn’t fail to impress with the lavish interiors kept just as the Scottish philanthropist would have liked it. Ninety four years after his death, you could argue Carnegie’s benevolence is being revived through the decision to open up of Skibo’s tee times, although at £300 a pop there is clearly a limit to charity on offer. After all, as Thomson notes, The Carnegie Club is ultimately a private members’ club. “Now the course is close to where we want it to be, we thought it would be nice to make it more available to the golfing public. “But we don’t want thousands of people playing it because we don’t want it to adversely affect what we have. Our members are of up most importance to us. We have to look after them.” GME

october 2012 GME 27

teaching aids


A quantum leap for golf ...and profits

Following on from the success of the GC2 launch monitor in 2010, Foresight Sports has launched a new teaching aid as Samuel Frederick reports.

Tim Berners-Lee’s initial proposal for an ‘information management system’ was made only in 1989. Five years later, Jeff Bezos wrote a business plan for and Netscape was formed. In 2007 Google surpassed Microsoft as “the most valuable global brand” and, in 2012, we’d be wholly lost without the Internet and world-wide web. Such fluidity and substantial advances are commonplace elsewhere but rarely does the golf industry witness a development such as Foresight Sports’ HMT (Head Measurement Technology). When Foresight Sports introduced the GC2 launch monitor in 2010, it revolutionised ball-flight analysis and

28 GME october 2012

was quickly adopted by many of the world’s leading club manufacturers including Titleist, Cleveland/Srixon, Cobra/Puma, PING and TaylorMade. Now, with the launch of HMT, after two years in development and exhaustive testing with several of the major manufacturers, all teaching professionals and clubfitters can gain access to critical club-head data, including dynamic loft and lie, as well as ball-impact location – all to unprecedented levels of accuracy. Previous techniques for calculating this information were crude at best and often proved inaccurate, but HMT offers submillimetre accuracy on critical data. What’s more, for secretaries and finance committees, the benefits to the bottom line are clear to see. Edward Doling, Foresight Sports’ sales director, explained: “The GC2 directly measures and reads everything to do with the golf ball at launch using ultra-highspeed, dual-camera technology. In principle, the HMT does the same thing, only with the golf club.

“HMT represents a quantum leap in terms of technology available to the golf industry. By being positioned ahead and to the side of the ball, and looking back at the clubface, HMT is the only technology at this price-point that directly measures club-head data into the ball and through impact. “Just like the GC2, HMT is incredibly easy to use. Attach it to the GC2, turn it on and you’re done. It needs no adjustment, calibration or levelling, again just like the GC2, so you simply put it down, turn it on and you’re ready to go.” PGA Master Professional Luther Blacklock, who has been the head pro at Woburn for nearly 30 years, is already a big fan of the product. He said: “The GC2 is cutting edge, but, 18 months later, to then have another breakthrough product like HMT is simply remarkable. Much of the data-capture equipment available reads from behind the ball and the clubhead whereas the HMT takes high-speed images at the front, face on to the clubhead. “So you can see exactly where the ball is struck on the clubface, learn whether the club is toe up or toe down, read the dynamic loft of the clubface... the launch data is highly comprehensive. “The GC2 was giving me all the information about the shot and the performance of the pupil but the HMT magnifies all that information,” continued Blacklock. “HMT is simply a quantum leap for the golf industry. “The GC2 is fantastic, particularly because you can utilise it indoors as a simulator and for club-fitting but when you need more data, HMT just takes it to a whole new level.” Such technology would previously have been developed only for use in R&D departments of the major manufacturers, but HMT is now readily available and affordable, directly measuring key clubhead data with incredible accuracy, essential to a teaching pro or club-fitter. And, in conjunction with the GC2, it provides the ultimate – and unique – combination of the most accurate camerabased launch monitor on the market with the most accurate club-head data available.

Many clubs are also discovering that the GC2 is also the perfect building block for increased revenue during the winter months. Not only can it be used inside or out for coaching – so no lessons should ever be lost to the weather – but it can also be upgraded, in stages, to a stunning simulator experience. It begins simply with a net and LCD screen in the swing room, or, at the other end of the scale, as a full-size, immersive indoor golf experience, providing the ultimate facility for year-round revenues and profits. The latter route has been taken recently by Woburn Golf Club which has incorporated a Foresight simulator, powered by GC2, as the fulcrum of its new performance centre. And another pro who is reaping the benefits of a GC2, is Dan Webster, who, for ten years has been the head professional at St Annes Old Links, in Lytham St Annes, Lancashire. “It has totally changed the nature of my business. The demand for fitting and coaching since we got the unit has been immense – instead of me doing £1,600 a month in coaching I’m now doing around £3,000 a month, which, ironically, as a club pro is too much. I’ve also got other things to be doing like running a business and committee meetings. It’s not a bad position to be in...” he smiled. “In the golf trade at the moment you’re either a big retailer – you ship out at low price – or you’re a service provider. I’m a service provider now. I’m selling because of my service not because of my price. The GC2 allows me to provide an improved service; members love it, pros coming in are impressed by it. It’s changed the whole direction. We’ve seen big differences since we’ve had the GC2. “The GC2 is incomparable with the equipment I had previously. The accuracy, consistency, ease of use, speed... every aspect that’s possible to improve upon, the GC2 has done it. “My message to my fellow pros is simple: Stop wasting time; you can’t afford not to use a GC2. It’s that important if you’re a golf pro trying to provide a service to your customers, whether you’re a coach, a retailer or a custom fitter.” GME

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october 2012 GME 29

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course renovation

Back to the Future

When is a renovation project not a renovation project? Mark Alexander takes a look at the inspired plan to get one of Spain’s top courses back on the top of its game.

The year of 1973 will live long in memory of the members of Real Club de Golf Las Brisas. Not only did the course host the Spanish Amateur Open but it was also the setting for the World Cup of Golf – the sport’s oldest worldwide team competition. The tournament was won by Jack Nicklaus and Johnny Miller, the latter establishing the course record of 65. The layout drew praise from all who played it, culminating in the former Ryder Cup captain Paul Azinger later declaring it was the best course he had ever played.

The layout at Las Brisas had only been open for three years when the American duo romped to victory, yet it had already hosted the first of three Spanish Opens and would later stage another World Cup of Golf in 1989. These were heady days for the Malaga club. Fast forward to the spring of 2012 and Las Brisas is readying itself for a €2 million renovation project that would send the Robert Trent Jones Snr design hurtling into the 21st century. “When we refurbished the clubhouse, that was a big investment but it’s not as

october 2012 GME 31

big as this,” says Paul Muñoz, the club’s general manager. “The clubhouse project didn’t create history; this refurbishment will. Since it was established in 1968, this is the biggest thing to happen to the club.” Although the club had hosted some of the world’s best players, the glory days were long gone and it was clear improvements had to be made if Las Brisas was to stay in Europe’s top flight (in Golf World’s latest round-up of the best continental courses, Las Brisas dropped 40 places). The club had no choice other than calling in a designer with a clear vision for the club’s future and an eye on its past. He would also need an understanding of the philosophy adopted by the club’s original architect, as Muñoz explains: “We spoke to a number of architects, but Kyle Phillips seemed to have the same philosophy as Robert Trent Jones Snr,” he says. “He had also refurbished the only Robert Trent Jones-named club in the US, so we thought he was the person most closely linked to that approach.” Perhaps best known for the run-away success of Kingsbarns Golf Links near St Andrews, Kyle Phillips has an enviable reputation of producing natural-looking layouts heavily influenced by links golf. He also takes on renovation projects and has been entrusted with some highprofile projects including the overhaul of The Robert Trent Jones Golf Club in Virginia ahead of the 2000 and 2005 President’s Cups. At Las Brisas, Phillips saw a chance to tread in the great man’s footsteps once again.

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“It was an opportunity to keep the same concept of the course but refine some elements,” Phillips explains. “To do this, I put on my Robert Trent Jones Snr hat and imagined what kind of things he would have done naturally if he walked out here today. “Of course the place is totally different and the game of golf has changed dramatically since he laid it out in the mid 1960s, but we were trying to be respectful to what was there and the history of the place. We also wanted to give the members something that looked familiar to them, but was totally fresh and new.” As a private club, very little happens at Las Brisas without the approval of its 1,320 members who each pay an entry fee of €20,000 and annual subs of €2,120. Although this endorsement could have been a stumbling block, the plan to upgrade the front nine while keeping the back nine open for play received overwhelming support. “We only had funds to do nine holes and the members were not happy to ask for a loan in the current financial situation we have in Europe,” Muñoz says frankly. “Things are not looking good, so the members were not comfortable getting a loan to cover the full project and they also weren’t happy for the course to be closed for eight or nine months. This way we had funds to refurbish nine holes and still had nine to play.” Although the original plans focused on rebuilding the greens to USGA specifications and introducing a new irrigation system, the scheme also opened up possi-

bilities of assessing the strategy of each hole and reconsidering bunker placement. “The objective was to update the drainage and irrigation systems while revising the design,” impressed Muñoz. “As part of that, Kyle added new back tees and new bunkers where they needed to be more in play, while at the same time restoring the Robert Trent Jones Snr philosophy.”

“If it is then you haven’t restored the strategy of the hole because people hit the ball differently these days. I subscribe to the idea of restoring the hole to how it was played.” This approach resulted in the introduction of ten new greens including a new practice green, 50 rebuilt bunkers, two new bunkers and two bunkers being removed.

“We only had funds to do nine holes and the members were not happy to ask for a loan in the current financial situation we have in Europe” The challenge of striking a balance between changing the course to counter new ball and club technologies while re-establishing the original design philosophy is one that Phillips clearly enjoyed. “When you have a course like Las Brisas, which is fundamentally a good layout, you are looking for opportunities to bring back the original strategy when the hole was set out. In this case, there were opportunities to pull back tees to bring some of the bunkers and dog-legs back into play.” Despite the retrospective nature of the project, Phillips insists it wasn’t a restoration. “This wasn’t a restoration project by any stretch of the imagination,” says Phillips. “What does that really mean? Is it a literal restoration where everything is put back in its original place?

The work, which was carried out by Southern Golf, took place between April and the end of August with the abrupt time-frame intended to cause minimal disruption to the club’s members, many of whom are retired and own second homes in the area. With the first nine holes due to be unveiled officially in December, Phillips is already receiving positive comments from the people who matter the most – the members. “Sometimes the best feedback is from members who were opposed to the project before we began,” he says mischievously. “Now they are able to see the course, they are surprised by some of the shots they have into the greens, yet they still see the same course they have always played. Ultimately, that’s what you want.” GME

Southern Golf are proud to be associated with the Kyle Phillips designed course renovations at Real Club de Golf Las Brisas UK office: (44) 01926 400985 Portuguese office: (351) 282 763 770 Oman office: (968) 964 57741

october 2012 GME 33


ngf golf

NGF Golf driving the game forward in France

NGFGolf, owners of the LeClub brand, is one of the leading golf management companies in France with 31 courses. Its influence has now spread across the French border throughout Europe and into the USA as Kevin Marks recently discovered.

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In the driving seat of the company since the beginning of 2012, Pierre André Uhlen, heads a proactive management team based in Boulogne on the outskirts of Paris. Coming from a family of sportsmen, he discovered golf by chance and fell in love with the sport; a passion still very much intact today as he pursues his career and endeavors to pass it on to others. Graduating from the International Academy of Golf, he started his career with NGFGolf as assistant manager at one of the group’s courses, and then went on to manage several of the NGFGolf courses over a period of ten years, before moving to head office in 2008. He personifies the motto of the company ‘Sport, in the heart of our values.’ Founded 35 years ago by Gilles Boutrolle and Emmanuel Veillas as SOGEL, the company became “Nouveaux Golfs de France” (New Golf in France) in 1995 with the vision of making golf a more accessible sport. The company has been recognised for its ability to build and operate courses, having opened the first public golf courses in France – the Saint Aubin and Saint Quentin en Yvelines in the Paris area. Over time, NGFGolf has taken on the management of courses belonging to municipalities, associations and private owners. In 2006, the shareholders under the presidency of Gilles Boutrolle, voted to sell the company to Groupe Financiere Duval who has continued the ambitious development plan, with the company acquiring almost 20 new golf courses since then. 2011 was a particularly important year for NGFGolf’s development with its increasing presence in the Paris area and the management takeover of some of the best courses in the Paris area such as Cély

en Bière, Rochefort, Béthemont, Apremont, Golf du Stade Français, Feucherolles and across France, Cergy Pontoise, Toulouse Seihl and Metz Cherisey. Detailing some of the current objectives of the company Uhlen said: “Our wish is to contribute to the growth of the game by encouraging the emergence of new players and by taking an active part in local economies. “The creativity, and innovation, the courage to undertake, solidarity in success and in setbacks, as well as a solid team spirit are our underlying values which are common to us all.” The company has grown rapidly and now operates some prestigious courses with a strategy to segment its offering so it can react to market demands with three very distinct concepts: urban golf, open clubs for leisure and sport for all and member orientated clubs – promoted through the three following brands – DailyGolf, GardenGolf and Exclusiv’Golf. “DailyGolf courses are situated in the heart of towns and offer the possibility to play golf in a reduced amount of time,” added Uhlen. “They are urban clubs, very compact and generally offering nine holes with large driving ranges. They are very much orientated to teaching and beginners and have a large population of youngsters. “The aim is to be able to have a round of golf in an hour. They are an excellent means of getting to know the sport without having to worry about time constraints,” Uhlen added. GardenGolf makes up the core of NGFGolf activity with 16 courses. These are clubs where sport is associated with the discovery of the natural surroundings for golfers who want to combine wellness and performance.

“The idea is to associate sport and leisure by presenting an image where clubs are open to all in a fun, family and friendly environment, whilst also acknowledging the growing demand for eco-friendly concerns – that’s where the name Garden comes from. “Our strategy goes even further than that, for example, at certain GardenGolf clubs we have installed beehives and even collected the honey for the first time in Dignes, Toulouse, Nantes. The idea behind this is to preserve the natural surroundings, environmental balance and biodiversity.” The nine Exclusiv’Golf courses are NGFGolf flagship courses of excellence, and are, for the most part, situated around Paris.

players from an early age and take them to the highest possible level. “We have an ongoing project to get one of our youngsters to the Olympic Games in 2016,” Uhlen said. Another strategic decision the Group is pursuing is a European and Global development policy through the LeClub network. On becoming a member of the network, a player can have exclusive rights to play all over the world. Paul Armitage, LeClub’s director said: “We have important and major partners in Europe and a strong ambition to develop the network across the globe. The network today boasts over 250 courses, at which our customers enjoy substantial benefits. It’s all about exchanging clients, but also ideas and best practice!”

“NGFGolf won the tender due to our desire to preserve the spirit of golf, whilst developing the services offered to players and making the club more open to outsiders.” “The origins of this concept came with the management takeover of Golf de Coudray Montceau in 2009, which opened the doors to us for a new market,” added Uhlen. “It was a committee-run golf club looking for a new breath of life. It was only open to members, but they wanted a new form of management in order to guarantee its future and economic viability. “NGFGolf won the tender due to our desire to preserve the spirit of golf, whilst developing the services offered to players and making the club more open to outsiders. “Today, we can note that the image of NGFGolf has evolved and is now more accessible even to the most ‘closed’ management models on the French market. That’s why NGFGolf was chosen to run Feucherolles, The Stade Français and Toulouse Seihl in 2011. “These prestigious golf courses all hold major tournaments such as French Open qualifying tournaments or Challenge tour events.” Going beyond the goal to fully satisfy each and every client on each of its courses, NGFGolf is very attached to the importance of education which can pass on the values of the sport to the younger generations – starting with BabyGolf, for children as young as four years old. This led to NGFGolf opening dedicated Golf Pro training centres in 2011, which today qualify youngsters with a nationally-recognised certificate enabling them to teach golf to others. Also, over 3,000 children participate in NGFGolf academies across the country from which the best youngsters get to compete in the French junior Championships. “It’s all part of our general strategy with a main aim to identify the most promising

Recently the group signed an exclusive contract for the Exclusiv’Golf brand with turf equipment manufacturer, Ransomes Jacobsen France, who is also the preferred supplier of equipment to the Golf d’Evian and the Golf National. Explaining the reasons for this choice, Pierre André Uhlen said: “The technological advance presented by Jacobsen, especially their hybrid greens mowers was unbeatable. Our aim is to establish long term relationships with suppliers who have innovative and robust products at the best possible quality/price mark. “For maintaining our ExclusivGolf courses it is essential to be able to count on machines with the same quality as the courses they run on. Generally, we try to standardise the machines on any given course, not just for quality reasons but also for services and unity. “Add to that the E-Z-GO golf cars from Ora Communications and we have a full partnership in place. Obviously, we have also taken into account the proximity and the reactivity of the Ransomes Jacobsen France network of dealers.” Respect for the environment is an integral part of NGFGolf’s operational plan, exemplified by the fact that the Toulouse Teoula golf course was the first in France to receive the Ecocert label and certification. NGFGolf has always had this commitment which includes 11 major points concerning water management, usage of chemical fertilizers, noise reduction and machine management. “From an environmental point of view,” says Uhlen, “these hybrid mowers perfectly fit the demands of Ecocert by doing away with hydraulics, by reducing fuel consumption and waste oil, and I would even say that the machine goes further than the requirements of the certification itself!” GME

october 2012 GME 35


practice facilities

Making practice fun and profitable

The new Volkswagen Golf Arena in Halmstad, Sweden, is a great development for golfers and the golf business alike, says Adam Lawrence.

Every regular golfer knows that focused practice is the quickest route to improving your game. But most still rarely go near the range, perhaps occasionally beating a small bucket of balls into the distance to ‘warm up’ before a round, or visiting during the winter when the course is closed. The problem is that for most, practice is boring. Unless you’re extremely dedicated, have been

taught how to practice properly, or both, when golfers go to the range, they typically spend most of the time trying to bash their drivers as far as possible, and then come away either depressed at how badly they are hitting it, or blithely confident – ‘I’m hitting it well today’. Even with the target greens provided on most good ranges nowadays, most golfers are not equipped to judge their game from this kind of practice. It’s hard to see the ball land in a flat field with

october 2012 GME 37

hundreds of others lying around, and so we typically judge our success entirely on how clean the contact feels. If practising on a synthetic surface, off which the club will bounce, this is doubly deceiving, as we find out when, on the turf of the golf course, we continually hit shots fat. In any case, for most of us, the best way to lower our score is not through trying to thrash the driver, but through working on chipping, pitching and putting – it’s not called the ‘scoring game’ for nothing. Although at the high end, the provision of short game practice facilities is improving, the vast majority of courses can offer nothing more than a green (which may even have ‘No chipping’ signs posted around it, and perhaps a battered practice bunker, likely with trampled down sand. The irony is that quality practice facilities offer one of the best routes for operators to make a return on their investment in the entire golf business. To build a full-sized golf course requires a lot of land – typically in excess of 150 acres (60 hectares), and to play it, even on a compact course with good pace of play takes three hours. A well-designed practice facility, not just a range, but a place where golfers can go and spend an hour or two honing their game, and having fun at the same time,

38 GME october 2012

can be built on a much smaller plot of land, for a much smaller sum – and can be a very good investment. Martin Siljegård, managing director of the Volkswagen Golf Arena in Halmstad on Sweden’s west coast, is testament to this. The Golf Arena, designed by Gothenburg-based architect Christian Lundin of ReGolf, and built to a very high standard by Irish contractor Sol Golf, sits on sixteen hectares (38 acres) of land north of the city of Halmstad, whose population of 90,000 is heavily swollen in the summer by tourists. “We have had a large number of international teams coming to use our facilities since we opened,” says Siljegård. What makes the Golf Arena clever is that its facilities are multi-use. In one corner of the site, a huge putting green, entirely grassed with fescue, and severely contoured in the manner of the famous Himalayas green at St Andrews, typically provides three nine hole putting courses. Several other greens around the property – each shaped like cloverleaves to ensure they can be played safely from different angles enable three nine hole putting and chipping courses – with coloured flags to indicate the level of difficulty – to be played. The huge range at the centre of the property has a wide range of targets to aid

effective practice. And, around the edge of the site runs a six hole ‘academy’ course, with holes of dramatically different length. Naturally, not all these facilities can be used simultaneously – it would be dangerous to have players hitting iron shots into a green while others were using it for chipping practice. But Siljegård and his colleagues have solved that issue by investing in an innovative graphical booking system – which can be used online by potential players – that shows clearly what parts of the

quality synthetic turf and with holes in it for indoor putting! Additionally, one of the outdoor putting greens is covered, and has undersoil heating, so it can be used even when the Swedish weather puts the rest of the complex out of bounds. As mentioned above, the Golf Arena has been used by a substantial number of international teams in its short life, and the signed photographs on the walls of the Arenahouse bear witness to the number of professional golfers who have made use of its facilities.

“We have had a large number of international teams coming to use our facilities since we opened” complex are available at a certain time, and blocks out anything that conflicts with a component already previously reserved. As well as the external facilities, the ‘Arenahouse’ includes an impressive gym, a cafe, three bedrooms and high quality conference rooms. The conference rooms in particular are a good addition – corporate users can hold their meeting, then spend an hour or two playing a competitive but relaxed game on the Himalayas or one of the pitching courses – great for business entertainment. Just to top it off, one of the conference rooms has a raised floor, covered in high-

But what is most impressive about the complex as a whole is the way in which it offers the chance for ordinary golfers to work on their game, and to have fun doing so. It has been constructed to an incredibly high standard, in a links theme – the shaping of the out of play dunes and the undulations on the greens are among the best I have seen anywhere. Both Siljegård and architect Lundin should be congratulated on what they have achieved, and I can see many golf operators beating a path to Halmstad to take a look – and then heading home to contemplate building something similar themselves. GME

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my view


‘Yes we Cannes’ claim the EGCOA As John King reports, the theme at this year’s EGCOA European Golf Business Conference is recreating the golf business.

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The 2012 European Golf Business Conference is just around the corner and the line-up is developing into one of the best to date. The event now in its 7th year will be hosted from November 21-23 at the Hotel Majestic Barriere Cannes located in the heart of the French Riviera. This year’s theme “Recreating the Golf Business” will focus on developing new and creative ways in which to run more efficient and profitable golf facilities. Legendary keynote speaker Gregg Patterson, general manager of the Beach Club in Santa Monica California will be “delivering the buzz” on stage this year. Patterson’s enthusiasm for club management and over 30 years of experience truly shines through his enlightening

presentations which focus on utilising what you already have within your business to create an unforgettable club experience. Patterson’s interactive presentations never fail to inspire delegates who are guaranteed to leave with the event with a range of new and exciting ideas. Mike Leemhuis CEO of Congressional Country Club – host of the 2011 US open – will explore emerging trends in the golf industry with a focus on the impact they have on club management. Whilst Leemhuis manages one of the most prestigious and successful private clubs in the world, he still understands the importance of strategic planning and being proactive. Leemhuis’s interactive presentations explore new and creative ways to embrace and integrate current trends into the club, creating a unique and welcoming environment. Leemhuis will highlight the importance of investing time in strategic planning based on the needs of club members and emerging cultural, economic and golf industry trends.

Chairman of the successful 2018 Ryder Cup bid, Pascal Grizot will be on stage to share with delegates Frances plan to grow the game of golf to levels never seen before. The revolutionary development plan involves the construction of 100 urban golf courses ranging from 3-9 holes in an aim to make golf more accessible and affordable for all. The plan has been developed on the back of the successful

and GEGF (French Golf Course Owners Association). “We anticipate an attendance figure of around 250 people. From golf course owners and managers to suppliers, representatives of national and European golf bodies and golf course architects – each level of the industry will be represented. “For anyone out there who is considering attending, this is a unique opportunity to boost their knowledge, their revenue

Ryder Cup bid which will see the event return to European soil again in 2018 at Le Golf National. Paul Armitage director of NGF Golf ’s “Le Club” will give an insight into NGF Golf’s successful approach to marketing. One of the key elements in the success of this leading multi-course organisation has been the clear segmentation of the market. They have created a number of strategic sub-brands to suit the characteristics of each segment allowing golf to be accessible, affordable and enjoyable for all. EGCOA director Lodewijk Klootwijk said: “We are very excited for this year’s conference and have received fantastic support from the Cannes tourism board

potential, and to meet with fellow course owners and industry colleagues. “With record numbers of registrations received already early registration is advised, as places are now becoming limited.” The conference will be closed by a golf tournament which will be hosted at Golf de la Grande bastide a short drive outside of Cannes. La Grand Bastide, part of the growing Open Golf Club group will also be hosting the EGCOA gala dinner and awards ceremony where delegates will have a chance to enjoy the culinary delights of the French Riviera. Registration for the European Golf Business Conference is open at GME

“For anyone out there who is considering attending, this is a unique opportunity to boost their knowledge, their revenue potential, and to meet with fellow course owners and industry colleagues.”



5 Oxford Street, Woodstock, Oxford OX20 1TQ Tel: (01993) 811976 Fax: (01993) 812448

october 2012 GME 41

the last word

“One of the (admittedly few) downsides of being a journalist working in golf is that people automatically assume I am a good golfer. I’m not. I’m ****!”

Lack of time my biggest handicap out on course

One of the (admittedly few) downsides of being a journalist working in golf is that people automatically assume I am a good golfer. I’m not. I’m ****! I’m less Luke Donald and more Donald Duck... though I do wear more than a towel round my waist while on the course. I play no more than four times a year, as between work and family commitments I simply do not have the time. I’ve only once been a member of a golf club and that lasted for one year while the company which employed me held corporate membership at its local venue. A lot of guys I know are in a similar position, though they are far more

naturally talented than I and can maintain a decent handicap despite playing only on a monthly basis. Yet it seems people imagine the only reason we’re not playing on tour is that we have to write for a living. It’s true that many journalists are good golfers, but, on the other hand, some, like me, will never improve simply because we don’t have the time. One public relations consultant who contacted me recently expressed enormous surprise that I wasn’t an “excellent golfer” and I was reminded of an incident involving a good friend of mine who earns his crust reporting on the various tours. A more-thancompetent 16-handicapper, he was

somewhat taken aback when somebody said, quite brusquely, to him “as a golf writer I thought you’d be a much better golfer.” As quick as a flash he responded: “I used to write for Space magazine but I’ve never been an astronaut!” It’s a line I’ve used myself on more than one occasion since, even though I’ve never written for, or even seen, a magazine called Space. It’s not that I don’t want to be a good golfer. I’d jump at the chance to be a member somewhere and enjoy regular lessons with the club pro. But like thousands of other golfers in this country and beyond, a lack of both time and money prevent me from so doing. That’s why I’m always interested to read – or write – about new initiatives to get people into the game; to create new, shorter versions of golf, which can be enjoyed by the hour, for example; or club membership schemes which don’t require you to be a retired company director to get your money’s worth. All suggestions to the normal address please. GME

David Bowers

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42 GME october 2012

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GMé | October 2012  
GMé | October 2012  

Golf Management Europe issuu 86