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The essential management publication for EMEa golf club operators


As HMRC appeal the Bridport and West Dorset VAT test case, the AGCO petition the UK Government to reduce VAT at all golf clubs. page 22

Management Europe

new online image for toro New website reflects Toro’s global position as the market-leader in golf and irrigation solutions

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issue 80 september 2011

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publisher’s editorial

The modern way of keeping up with the Joneses We all know how golf is perceived as a staid pastime and that much of its codes are anachronistic. Yet even in the 14 years we have been publishing Golf Management Europe much has changed – not just within the game itself but almost certainly outside influences affecting it. Social media is one such element.

It’s THE place for breaking news now – not just in golf, but in world affairs, politics and, well, everything. Social media is here to stay – it will, if anything, get larger, more varied and increase its influence. That’s why this magazine has also chosen to embrace social media with a Twitter-feed that gives you the latest breaking industry

“Social media is here to stay – it will, if anything, get larger, more varied and increase its influence.” I’ve seen a lot written recently in the press which has been critical of the likes of Ian Poulter and Rory McIlroy for their use of Twitter – an instant messaging service which sends a 140-character missive out to all those who choose to follow the sender. (I choose to explain what Twitter is because I’m sure many of you aren’t users). I don’t understand why it’s been frowned upon. Admittedly McIlroy got into a huff over something commentator Jay Townsend said, but it was very entertaining watching it unfold and gave us a peek at the young Irishman which Chubby Chandler and his PR machine couldn’t control. Former Women’s Open champion Karen Stupples – a keen Tweeter herself – makes a good argument in favour of Twitter in the latest Today’s Golfer magazine and I’m inclined to agree with her. Don’t believe what all the naysayers opine, in that’s it’s all about people saying what they have for breakfast, or that they’ve just run for a bus. It’s much more interactive and interesting than that.

news, supported by a new Facebook page – which will also aims to keep its followers up-to-date with details of what’s in upcoming magazines as well as opening up various topics for debate. It couldn’t be simpler to join us. If you’re a Facebook member, just ‘like’ the GME page next time you’re logged-in, and we’ll ensure that you’re as informed as we are when it comes to all the industry news and developments from the world of golf. And if you’re a keen Tweeter, don’t forget you can also ‘follow us’ on Twitter at We promise not to tell you what we’re having for breakfast... GME

16 A James Braid course at Taymouth Castle in Scotland is currently being renovated.

19 Director of golf at Eléa, Ross Robertson, talks exclusively to GME about the Cyprus resort.

25 Michael Lenihan

Editor John Vinicombe Contributors Mark Alexander, David Bowers, Michael Brookers, Val Graham, Jonathan Kettle, Kevin Marks, John McKenzie, Ellie Tait, Lee Todd, Peter Simm Golf Management Europe is published six times per annum by PPC Portman.

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7 Toro unveils its new online look to reflect its global position as a leader in golf and irrigation.

Gerald Sarvadi, managing director of The Renaissance Club talks to GME.

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september 2011 GME 3

headline news

EGCOA announce speaker line-up for Conference The EGCOA has announced the first speakers of this year’s European Golf Business Conference. Since 2006, The European Golf Business Conference has catered to leading golfing industry professionals from around the world, exploring the latest trends, inspirations and opportunities. Now celebrating its 6th year in Marbella, Spain, the conference aims to focus on ‘Capturing the opportunities’ that the golfing industry now has to offer and how to sustain and grow business during these turbulent times. Leading industry speakers and delegates will discuss current industry topics as well as the latest trends and developments in the European and worldwide golf arena. The former ClubCorp and Oceanico executive Andrew Glen has been appointed general manager of Braemar Golf Maroc, in Morocco. Scotland-born Glen has a degree in architecture from Edinburgh University, and began work as a golf course architect in 1987. From there he went into golf course construction, working with Southern Golf throughout the 1990s, and after that he experienced project management with ClubCorp, held a director of golf position with Ritz Carlton in Portugal and, more recently, a real estate position with Oceanico, in the Algarve. Keith Haslam, managing director of Braemar Golf, said: “The variety of work that we will be undertaking in Morocco requires someone with Andrew’s specific skills set and his fluent French language skills are essential to doing business in Morocco.”

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The three-day conference will bring together the golfing world’s decision makers from both established and emerging organisations from November 30 – December 2 at the luxurious Don Carlos Resort and Spa. The controversial issues of leadership will be explored by Mike Leemhuis, who is the current CEO/GM of the Congressional Country Club in Washington DC, host of this year’s US Open. His interactive presentation entitled The ABC’s of Leadership – All you need to know about Leadership, but were afraid to ask! will discuss and unravel this highly reputable trait. Jamie Edwards of Trained Brain is a leading peak performance coach and International Speaker. An identity he has established

through his ability to help sportsmen and women and organizations create the results they aspire to by thinking differently. Edward’s unique approach integrates performance skills from sport to assist Senior Management teams with raising their own game beyond monetary terms to compete in the competitive global business arena. He believes that corporate transformation starts with personal transformation and will be exploring this further in his presentation at this year’s conference. Mike Hughes CEO of the National Golf Course Owners Association in the United States will be discuss-

New turf appointments at John Deere Limited

Following the establishment of Deere and Company’s worldwide Agriculture and Turf Division

as a single business unit in May 2009, the company has been restructuring its sales and marketing organisation

ing key initiatives in golf development. Hughes is responsible for all aspects of the operation of the NGCOA and its subsidiaries. Under Hughes’ guidance, the NGCOA has increased its membership from 250 to more than 6,500 worldwide and has become recognized as the leading trade association for owners and operators in the golf industry. Conference registration is now available online via the official conference website ( Upon registration guests can also sign up for this year official conference golf tournament which will be hosted at Cabopino Golf Club on Friday December 2. in region two – which covers Europe, the CIS, North Africa and the Near and Middle East – in order to serve customers and dealers more effectively. As a result, Joedy Ibbotson (pictured) has been appointed as turf division sales manager for the UK and Ireland, replacing David Hart, who has taken on a new key strategic role within region two. Ibbotson began his career with John Deere in 1999 as a commercial and consumer equipment area service manager, going on to become an agricultural area manager product support and then a C&CE territory manager.

Blinding success for Blinder Liner Since launching earlier this year, Blinder Bunker Liner have been busy installing up and down the UK and have recently broken into Europe. “Our exclusive installation crew have travelled many miles, and transformed many bunkers over the past months,” commented director Penny Long.

“The patented Bunker lining system is environmentally sound and uses rubber crumb made from recycled tyres mixed with a binding agent to produce a bunker lining that provides a solution to many of the problems associated with maintaining bunkers,” added Long.

“The liner is resistant to club strikes and burrowing animals and drains at a rate up to 2,400 ml per hour. “It also minimises contamination to the sand, creating substantial savings in sand replacement and reducing the possibility of stones on fine turf areas surrounding the bunkers.”


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Nacka Golfklubb, an 18hole golf course located 20 kilometres from the centre of Stockholm, is the first of 60 clubs around the Swedish capital to achieve the GEO Certified™ eco-label, from the Golf Environment Organization. A Warwickshire golf club has been ordered to pay more than £26,000 after a greenkeeper’s fingers became mangled in an industrial ball washer. The victim was trying to unjam the machine at The Warwickshire Golf and Country Club when his left hand was pulled into the rotating parts. Club Company (UK) Ltd was fined £13,500 and ordered to pay £8,000 prosecution costs and £5,000 compensation. The Vale Golf and Country Club, in Worcestershire, is planning to build ten log cabins to provide more overnight accommodation for guests. It has applied for permission to create the units, as well as an additional log cabin, which will be used as a treatment room. John Shepherd has left Hunter Golf to work with Avonmore Associates with a brief to consolidate the fine turf maintenance and construction departments whilst developing irrigation and water management business. David Morgan has joined Ransomes Jacobsen as product manager, reporting to Richard Comely, the company’s director of marketing and product management.

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Church Nine wins praise at The Wisley The Wisley has received significant plaudits from some of the world’s leading golfers following the reconstruction of its Church Nine which began in April 2010 and which has recently re-opened. Robert Trent Jones II — the design team behind the original concept — saw the renovation as an opportunity to “polish the gem” and take an already

renowned Church nine and make it better. Clearly this objective has been overwhelmingly achieved, with Sky Sports Denis Pugh commenting: “Having played the old Church for many years and the new Church a few times now, in my opinion the Church nine is Trent Jones finest work I have seen anywhere in the world.

“To me, the Church refinements have given an update to the course that presents some old challenges in a fresh light and also presents some totally new tests. Many original bunker features are in place but brought into modern construction and design.” The redevelopment, project managed by course manager, Stephen Byrne used a new strain of pure Bent grass to ensure The Wisley continues to enjoy some of the world’s finest putting surfaces. The Wisley’s chief executive, Wayne Sheffield said: “It is important that it is The Wisley which continues to upgrade to set the standards others envy and that we continue to benchmark our services and quality against the world’s most revered golf clubs’. “Most importantly however, we are thrilled that the Church refurbishment has been so well received by our members.”

Dufour named president and CEO of Club Car Marc Dufour has been named president and CEO of Club Car, an Ingersoll Rand brand, and will have overall responsibility for the operational performance and strategic direction of the golf car and utility vehicle manufacturer. Dufour is Club Car’s fifth president in the company’s 53-year history. He succeeds Gary Michel, who recently was named president of Ingersoll Rand’s Residential Solutions Sector. The 30-year Ingersoll Rand veteran has spent his entire

career in the company’s Industrial Technologies Sector. After joining Ingersoll Rand in 1981, Dufour has held various positions with increasing responsibility, and for the past five years, he has served as president of the America’s Region of the Industrial Technologies Sector. “I am thrilled and honoured to lead a company as respected and wellpositioned as Club Car,” Dufour said. “Throughout the Ingersoll Rand enterprise, as well as anywhere in the

world where its people and products serve, Club Car is known for its innovative spirit, dedication to customers and unique culture. This is a very special opportunity for me.”

Stapleton resigns as GM at Lough Erne The general manager of Lough Erne Hotel and Golf Resort has resigned in a “problematic” development for the beleaguered venue. Hotels veteran Jonathan Stapleton, 57, quit in August, after three years at the helm of the five-star destination. Castle Hume Leisure, the company behind the resort, was put into administration in May after lender Bank of

Scotland (Ireland) called in debts of £26.4m. Irish operator Tifco Ltd has been managing the hotel after they were appointed by administrators KPMG though Stapleton had remained in his job. A spokesman for KPMG said Stapleton had resigned “to pursue other opportunities” and said they had started looking for his successor.

“There will be no interruption to business or to the quality or the standards at the resort being maintained during this period.” But hospitality expert John McKenna, the author of the Bridgestone Guide, said: “It is important for them to have a respected figure running the show. The fact Mr Stapleton has left is going to make it difficult for them.”


on the cover

Toro launches new website to reflect global standing At the end of August, The Toro Company announced the launch of a redesigned website – – which the company claims will better reflect the company’s global markets and innovative products.

to hit our targets and bring to life a site that improves the user experience and better represents the brand and our products. “This is just the beginning as we look to make further enhancements to the site.”

The Toro Company 8111 Lyndale Avenue South Bloomington MN 55420 USA

“We’re extremely pleased with how the design and functionality of the new website came together”

The new site, which features improved graphic elements, provides customers with a simplified layout and navigation to more easily access product information and other resources. “We’re extremely pleased with how the design and functionality of the new website came together,” said Mike Drazan, Toro’s chief information officer. “From our initial review of traffic flow and customer feedback to better understand how users interact with the site, we were able

Among the new features of the sits, which provides easier navigation to product information include: - Refreshed design of homepage, market, and product landing pages for easier navigation and better visuals of Toro products and the results they deliver. - Addition of Agriculture and Rental markets to promote Toro’s growing product offering. - Enhanced technical content, such as interactive product manuals and other product specifications.


TEL; (1) 952 888 8801 FAX; (1) 952 887 8258

- Convenient location of quick links to relevant content. - New sections that highlight Toro’s rich history of innovation, efforts in sustainability, and support for the community. Going forward, Toro will make additional enhancements to the new-look website to further improve the user experience and explore new ways to leverage technologies and other online properties to better reach and relate to customers. GME

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september 2011 GME 7


Linna Golf in world-class condition after upgrade Linna Golf in Finland, a European Top 100 Golf Course (Golf World magazine), is in its best ever condition thanks to a €500,000 course upgrade and the introduction of new, stateof-the-art turfcare machinery. Irish investors who put $90m into the buyout of a resort on the Sawgrass golf course, in Florida, at the height of the boom, look set to have their investment wiped out. About 100 investors were involved in the $220m buyout of the Sawgrass Marriott Golf Resort and Spa. However, RQB Resort LP, the firm set up to own the resort, has been under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the US since May last year amid a debt repayment row with Goldman Sachs. The bank funded the Sawgrass deal, but moved to take control of the resort after repayments on the $193m debt stopped in August 2009. RQB Resort has submitted a new Chapter 11 reorganisation plan to the US courts, proposing that Goldman Sachs would get 100 per cent ownership of the company in settlement of its claim. If the plan is accepted, all the existing shareholders will have their shares cancelled and lose their investment.

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The acclaimed resort and venue of the European Challenge Tour’s 2009 SK Golf Challenge, won by Nicolas Colsaerts, has renovated 20 of its 93 bunkers and introduced a fleet of nine specialist fairway, rough and greens cutting

machines to maintain playing areas to European Tour standards throughout the season. Petri Keskitalo, director of golf, said: “We want all golfers to enjoy a world-class golf experience at Linna Golf whether they be professionals, elite amateurs or the many international visitors we welcome to our resort. “This important investment is part of our commitment to maintain Linna Golf to the highest standards and it has been notable this summer that so many visitors have commented on the course being in outstanding condition.” As part of the upgrade, 20 bunkers have been raised up and made larger so they can be seen clearly from the tee, as they were when the course opened in 2005. “While the summers are warm and pleasant with long days, our winters can be harsh and take their toll

Morrison praises Toro’s GDC irrigation system

The Berkshire Golf Club’s Ian Morrison has become the first UK course manager to inherit a Toro Golf Decoder Controller (GDC) irrigation system. Accurate, efficient and cost-effective, GDC has

proved itself the system of choice for golf clubs the world over since its launch five years ago. But, with Morrison having joined the 36-hole Ascot course some 12 months ago from West Hill Golf Club in

on bunkers in particular,” continued Keskitalo. “Our greenkeepers work hard to bring the course to pristine condition in a short space of time. That’s why we have also invested in a fleet of new Toro turfcare machines, plus a new, bespoke course management facility to house the machines and our greenkeeping team.” David MacLaren, director of property and venue development at the European Tour, said: “There is no doubt about the quality of the course and facilities at Linna Golf, and its suitability to host a European Tour event in the future. “What is particularly impressive about Linna Golf is that even though the course has been open just six years, it continues to invest in its core product, the golf course, to ensure it is maintained to the highest standards.” Surrey, what does he make of his predecessor’s 2007 investment in a GDC system? “I’ve used Toro Irrigation throughout my 25-year career, including the SitePro system while working at West Hill and Wentworth,” says Morrison. “But I hadn’t tried GDC until I joined The Berkshire. The first thing I noticed when I arrived was its ease of use. It’s very advanced and I soon got to grips with the operations and controls,” he said. Morrison says that the spell of very hot, dry weather around Easter was the perfect time to put the system to the test. “It certainly proved itself far more efficient than previous systems I’ve used during that hot spell.”

Birchwood Park invests off course Visitors to Birchwood Park Golf Centre will have noticed a big difference recently following an £82,000 facelift of the venue. The pay-and-play facility received the investment from parent company Burhill Golf and Leisure to refurbish its Kelvedon Suite function

room and upgrade the gym equipment in its Horizones Health and Fitness Club. Graham Rolland, Birchwood Park Golf Centre general manager, said: “The Kelvedon Suite has received a complete makeover, and is now fully open and operational.

“The room looks much fresher and lighter, and enjoys stunning views over the 10th and 18th holes.” Horizones Health and Fitness has taken delivery of £36,000 worth of new equipment, and the expanded gym now boasts seven total body cross trainers.


EGM founder Yallop honoured by his peers The founder of European Golf Machinery, Adrian Yallop, was awarded a lifetime achievement award earlier this year by OGRO which was presented by John Jacobs. Speaking on behalf of OGRO, Colin Jenkins said: “Adrian has been fully involved with the invention and development of golf range equipment for the last 30 years. He is an innovator and applies clear logic to

the most complex subjects, thus bringing great service and reliability to all the products he sells under the European Golf Machinery label.” EGM is a family owned business which began manufacturing ancillary equipment such as trailed mowers, trailers and sprayers for use with low ground pressure all terrain vehicles in 1982 under Adrian Yallop’s, direction.

Pricing announced for Trump International Scotland Playing the controversial new Donald Trump course on the Menie Estate will cost golfers up to £200 – £50 more than the green fees announced for next year at St Andrews’ Old Course. Fees have been set at £150 for a midweek round and £200 for a weekend. But golfers who can prove they live in Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire will receive a discount – playing midweek

for £120 and £160 at the weekend. The announcement came as billionaire Trump unveiled images of what he has promised will be the “world’s greatest golf course”, due to open in July 2012. The images show the 13th, 14th and 18th holes all in pristine condition in the spectacular protected dune system of the Aberdeenshire estate.

The course is the centrepiece of his plans for a £750m resort and luxury housing development, next to one of the most environmentally sensitive stretches of Scottish coastline. It has been carved through a two-and-a-half mile stretch of coast which he dubbed “the Great Dunes of Scotland.” Designer Martin Hawtree, who has previously worked

on Royal Birkdale, Portmarnock, Lahinch and Carnoustie, said: “The quality of the course is starting to shine through. All the hard work though the winter is paying off. It has the space to hold a major tournament, and the length of the course will be a challenge.” Trump has pledged that “everything will be in place” to bid for the Ryder Cup in 2022.

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Grado Golf Club, one of north-east Italy’s most picturesque and popular golf resorts, has teamed up with Czech photographer Lukas Pelech to deliver a range of new top class photography of the resort. Carrus Carts and Parts, a wholesale distributor of carts parts and accessories serving mainland Europe and the UK, are looking for new dealers. Carrus stock in excess of 40,000 OEM and aftermarket parts and accessories to service Club Car, E-Z-GO and Yamaha vehicles, and in addition, also stock an impressive inventory of used vehicles. Golfers from Sweden, the UK and France top the list of global nationalities who have visited PGA Catalunya Resort during 2011, according to the findings of a survey. Sweden tops the list at 15 per cent with the UK and France each providing 12 per cent of tourists to the Catalan destination. and 59club are to run a series of autumn educational roadshows to support golf clubs and to help generate more revenue from visiting golfers. Invitations for the roadshows – of which a dozen are to be held around the UK – are currently being sent out by Garia, has launched a new golf car with seating capacity for four passengers. The new model is called the Garia 2+2 and it is fitted with a rear seat with space for two more passengers.

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Club Car joins ‘Woody’ at Golf at Goodwood Golf at Goodwood has supplemented its idiosyncratic fleet of ‘Woody’ buggies designed by Lord March’s grandfather, the 9th Duke of Richmond, with 30 new custom-made Club Car vehicles – reinforcing its reputation as a unique and distinctive sporting venue. “Over the past few years we have invested heavily into the 12,000-acre estate

to maintain our place – and especially that of our historic James Braid-designed Downs Course – in the top five per cent of courses in the country,” said Stuart Gillett, general manager for Golf at Goodwood. “Our investment in Club Car was therefore a straightforward decision to position the company and brand as standing for absolute excel-

lence, high quality and reliability – valuable attributes we aim to provide to our customers and which we seek out in all our partners. “Knowing that you are working with the world’s best selling golf car manufacturer fills you with confidence and coupled with Club Car’s outstanding customer service and first-class aftercare, we know we are going to be well looked after. “However our investment in Club Car was not just about its fleet,” added Gillett. “Golf at Goodwood values partnerships and realises the importance of building relationships.” The specifications of Golf at Goodwood’s fleet of top of the range Club Car Precedent i2L cars, each of which includes customised pelican seats, alloy wheels and bespoke club branding, have all been carefully selected to complement the ‘Woody’ buggies’ chintzy 1930s-style.

Otterbine to the rescue at Royal Dornoch Royal Dornoch’s recentlyinstalled Otterbine aerator is keeping water used to irrigate one of the Scottish links club’s two courses clean, clear and smelling fresh – according to course manager Eoin Riddell. The pond on the Struie Course’s 18th hole – known as Witches Pool – holds one million gallons of water used to irrigate the greens, tees, fairways and walkways. However, the still waters from this bore hole used to stagnate in the summer, making the pond prone to

algae and unpleasant odours. In late spring, the Otterbine team installed a demonstration unit to show the benefits aeration would bring, and two months later, Riddell invested in a threehorsepower High Volume surface-spray aerator, so impressed was he by the results. “The pond regularly became stagnant in the hot weather due to the lack of moving water and oxygen,” Riddell recalls. “But the Otterbine demo unit – which

we replaced a couple of months later with our own aerator – has worked wonders.”

Mack Trading to run Bowring Park England’s oldest councilrun golf course, Bowring Park, on Merseyside, is to be handed over to a private company for the first time in its history. The park and golf course in Huyton will be operated by Mack Trading, which runs a number of other golf courses in the north-west. The company won the tender to manage the

course for 20 years, fighting off six other companies pitching for the work. Mack Trading will be responsible for improvements and ongoing maintenance of the 18-hole golf course, car park, reception area, changing rooms and clubhouse. It will also be tasked with boosting membership at the club.

Cllr Eddie Connor, Knowsley’s cabinet member for leisure and culture services, said: “By bringing in the expertise of Mack Trading, Bowring Park golf course will be developed and improved for all our residents and visitors. “It is a fantastic facility that is a part of our local heritage and I look forward to seeing its potential fulfilled.”


Harradine to add a second nine at Kazan Harradine Golf is to add a second nine holes at the Golf and Country Club Kazan in the Russian republic of Tatarstan. The first nine holes were completed and opened in 2008 by Rustam Minnikhanov the former Prime Minister and now president of Tatarstan, with the golf course constructed on a plateau providing breathtaking views over the Volga, Svajia and Sulitsa rivers.

The new nine will stretch to 3,350 metres from the back tees as Peter Harradine explained: “It will be even more spectacular than the first nine, because of the higher elevation and extraordinary scenery. “A generous land allocation by the developer has made it possible to allocate ample areas between the fairways, which will allow the indigenous vegetation and wild flora to flourish.”

Golfgraffix attracts 4,000 digital visitors to BurgGolf Innovation comes easier to some more than others and BurgGolf in The Netherlands are definitely taking the lead when it comes to embracing new technology and adapting this to their business and customers. Irish based company, Golfgraffix believe that The Netherlands’s first fully interactive golf course app has proven a huge success.

“We constantly strive to offer our members and guests a unique experience," said Henk-Jan de Boer, COO of BurgGolf. "Our new iPhone app, created and managed by Golfgraffix, adds to this experience by offering players the ability to interact with our brand before, during and after their stay.” BurgGolf’s new iPhone app allows users to fully

access their services and all within a couple of clicks. The features include Interactive scoring through Facebook and Twitter, GPS measuring, hole previews and in app booking, live weather and directions from the users’ current position. In less than four weeks the app has almost 4,000 active users. In addition to their range of Smartphone apps,

Golfgraffix have also seen a huge increase in the take up of the 3D digital flybys and digital course guides. “I think that with the growth in demand from golfers for digital media, golf course owners and managers are starting to understand how powerful interactive digital marketing can be in driving growth in bookings," commented John Aherne of Golfgraffix.

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september 2011 GME 11


Odd part-ex on Tyneside In one of the strangest part-exchange transactions of the past decade, a Ransomes Overgreen triple mower has been used to Colt Mackenzie McNair, golf’s executive recruitment specialist, looks set to further enhance the service it offers the EMEA golf industry, following the appointment of Douglas Philip to its growing research team. Philip will use his knowledge gained from a wide range of sports to pinpoint new business talent from outside the EMEA golf industry. Richard Wood, director of Colt Mackenzie McNair, said: “There is a definite need for fresh business talent in golf. “Judging by the results of a recently commissioned CMM customer study, it is clear many industry leaders would welcome candidates with complimentary skills from outside the golf business. By investing in the appointment of Douglas, we have the capability to deliver an even higher calibre of candidate. “Our highly focused, research-driven approach offers the industry something our competitors can not match and it ensures each assignment we work on shortlists candidates of outstanding quality.”

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help fund the purchase of a Jacobsen Eclipse 322 riding greens mower. This unique deal was negotiated by David

Common, sales representative at Rickerby, Ransomes Jacobsen’s dealer for the northeast of England with Tyneside Golf Club situated just outside Newcastle-uponTyne. The Ransomes Overgreen was introduced in 1937 and was the first motorised greens triple to be introduced in the UK. It was manufactured until 1958 and this particular machine was purchased by the club in 1946. It was last used some 20 years ago when it was fitted with brushes to remove dew from the greens. Dave Simpson, who has been head greenkeeper at Tyneside Golf Club for the past 15 years and heads a team of five, said: “Some of my team who have been

here longer than me can actually remember using the Overgreen, but it has been consigned to the back of the shed for many years now. “When I mentioned it to David Common, he contacted Ransomes Jacobsen and they were immediately interested in acquiring the mower. They plan to restore it and display it in the foyer of their headquarters in Ipswich. “With the purchase of the Eclipse 322 we now have the most modern and up-todate technology here at Tyneside. “The fuel economy is fantastic; we were using six litres of fuel to cut our greens, now we only use three, so we’re getting a 50% fuel saving.”

New Koro by Imants Field TopMakers launched at IOG SALTEX

Campey Turf Care Systems is renowned for bringing the very latest innovations in turf management to the fore and at SALTEX recently, the company launched several major new products. Two new models of the Field TopMaker from Koro by Imants where shown for the first time. The 1200 and 1500 Field TopMaker are heavy duty fraise mowers ideal for removing unwanted surface matter such as poa-annua, thatch, weeds or the entire surface to a depth of 50mm. The side arm elevator removes debris directly into a trailer running alongside the Koro Field TopMaker, or when fitted with the optional scarifying rotor the Field TopMaker can be supplied with a collector hopper.

The Koro by Imants Field TopMaker 1500 is designed to be used by mid-range tractors with 50 - 65hp and is ideal for sports pitches and golf fairways, whereas the smaller 1200 version is suita-

ble for compact tractors of 35 - 50 hp and works extremely well on both fine turf golf greens and tees, tennis courts and outfield turf on sports fields and golf course fairways.

Essex course set for possible closure Council bosses have warned that an Essex golf club could close if they are unable to make it financially viable. Tony Ball, council leader, confirmed a review of Basildon Golf Course was underway after Basildon Golf Centre – the company given a 99-year lease to run it in 2007 – was forced to surrender it.

Ball said: “I do not want to set any pulses racing, but it is only right that we look at the future of the golf course. “It must not be forgotten that the reason we went out to tender before, was because it was costing taxpayers £100,000 a year to keep the course open.” Meanwhile, the council has agreed to allow Warehouse Sports UK, which

was brought in by Basildon Golf Centre to run the course in April, to continue running the course for up to three months at a cost of £20,000 a month to the taxpayer. Ball could not say how long the review would take, or what the future options would be. He would also not rule out the sale of the course.


A new solution to Bunker Face Erosion Imagine a bunker face that requires little or no maintenance, will last in excess of 20 years, resist all forms of erosion, whilst performing and looking as good as traditional turf bunkers. Now throw in the fact that it is environmentally friendly, requires no cutting or watering and is made from re-cycled materials. Three years in the making EnviroBunker has been constructed on some prestigious golf courses throughout the UK since its launch at the BTME earlier this year, most notably St Andrews Links. Gordon Moir, director of greenkeeping at St Andrews Links commissioned EnviroBunker on the practice area of the Jubilee course in July. Moir commented: “We have been delighted with the bunker we rebuilt using the EnviroBunker method.

“It looks almost identical to the other bunkers on the practice area both from a distance and when you are actually in it. “It has held up well after weeks of heavy play, looking as good as it did the day it was completed and we have not received any negative feedback from the golfers who have used it. “In time we will consider using this method on our other practice bunkers.” Though initially designed for revetted faces EnviroBunker has evolved over the past three years and has now been successfully installed at Moorland, Heathland and Parkland courses. Rhydian Lewis, co-director of Envirosports Ltd – owners of the IP rights to EnviroBunker – said: “We are extremely proud to have worked with St Andrews Links as well as other courses around the UK.

“To receive such positive feedback from those managing the most famous golf complex in the world is truly inspiring. “We believe that EnviroBunker represents a revolution in bunker construction,” said Lewis. “Courses across the UK are echoing our enthusiasm and larger scale builds are now materializing, mainly under licence, which is the ultimate endorsement for EnviroBunker.” The first club to build under licence was Royston Golf Club a Heathland course situated on an SSSI site in Hertfordshire. Ian Coote, head greenkeeper, said: “Having seen

the results of the initial bunker built on our 15th hole we were blown away. We have since begun a wider scale program which will see all 57 of our bunkers re-constructed over the next two to three years. “EnviroBunker is the way forward for Royston Golf Club.” Lewis added: “Bunker face erosion is a problem the world over and is a very labour intensive challenge. “We have carried out detailed time and motion studies and believe that over a 20 year period EnviroBunker could save an average golf club around £350,000 in labour costs alone.”


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september 2011 GME 13


company profile

Two decades of growth at Wiedenmann UK

Twenty years ago, a chance encounter at a German trade show led to the formation of Wiedenmann UK. Article by Val Graham.

14 GME september 2011

Back in 1989, David Rae worked alongside his father running a small Sportsgrounds construction business based in Scotland. The company, although small had DNA stretching back to 1919 when John Stutt established JR Stutt Ltd, a business that went on to construct many golf courses and playing fields facilities throughout the UK and Ireland. David’s father Alistair took over JR Stutt Ltd through a management buy out during the 1970’s and by 1989, the business had diversified into laying artificial grass initially on five-a-side soccer centres. Another string to the bow was the creation of a specialist groundcare division set up to promote sales of compact machinery and maintenance services including aeration and Top dressing works. During October 1989, David and his father visited the Turf Industry Show at Köln, Germany, and saw a prototype deep aerator which they were immediately drawn to for closer inspection. It wasn’t long before Jürgen Wiedenmann approached for a chat and after two hours of discussions and a beer served on stand by Jürgen’s mother, an instant bond and friendship was established that endures to this day. It was immediately clear that the Wiedenmann family had excellent engineering and production ability which when allied to the Rae’s knowledge about soils, turf, rooting systems, drainage and construction and maintenance techniques resulted in an excellent product development consortium.

Over the months that followed both David and Alistair visited the Wiedenmann factory on a number of occasions to help fine tune and develop the prototype into a market ready Terra Spike aerator – both parties were keen to differentiate the Terra Spike from its competition with key features such as tool less adjustments for depth and simple heave setting systems which still feature on today’s machines. During the development process, David and Alistair were driven by their desire to eventually purchase a machine for their contracting business which they duly did in 1991 with the purchase of a Terra Spike P6. Shortly after, the Wiedenmann family offered the Rae’s the distribution rights for the UK and Ireland, but they turned down the opportunity on the basis that they were a local Scottish company focused on their immediate market. In 1991, Jürgen exhibited at BTME to find a UK partner to promote his products and he was inundated with offers from leading machinery distribution companies, but after the show Jürgen once again approached the Rae’s to offer the distribution rights, and this time a deal was struck for the Scottish market. Their first sale was to The Glasgow High School who purchased a P160 Terra Spike to aerate Rugby and Hockey pitches closely followed by North Berwick Golf Club who purchased a P160 Terra Spike for greens, tees and fairway aeration. A number of local sales followed and the Rae’s could see good potential for growth.

By July 1991, Jürgen Wiedenmann was keen to enter an agreement for the entire UK and Irish territories and in response David and Alistair together with Graeme Forbes (Stewart and Co Seedsmen) and Derek Edwards (Inturf) agreed to establish a new company called Wiedenmann UK Ltd to facilitate distribution. Commenting on the company establishment, David Rae said that ‘his enduring memory of that important phase was the strong respect and friendship that was instantly forged with the Wiedenmann family. The development work behind the scenes and negotiations during trips to Germany were exciting and enjoyable. Early trade shows were great fun, it’s certainly true that ours is a people’s trade and over the years we have enjoyed the friendship and camaraderie shown by dealers and customers across our industry’. Over the following 20 years, the relationship between the Rae’s and Wiedenmann families has grown from strength to strength with both parties balancing close personal relationships with professional business dealings. David said: “When family businesses come together there is a passion and desire to succeed. In our case both families want each other to be successful and crucially both families are acutely aware that success comes from supplying products backed by fair, honest and focused customer support.”

10837_GXi8 GKI AD AW.indd 1

Wiedenmann UK has benefited from the German companies focus on product development with a large sum reinvested annually in designing and testing future products. Wiedenmann Gmbh has expanded its distribution network around the world and have become market leader through innovation. Despite their success, the German company which is now run by the three Wiedenmann brothers, Jürgen, Horst and Uwe, remains loyal to its founding principles in ensuring that customers come first. Twenty years on and Wiedenmann (UK) goes from strength to strength promoting an ever expanding range of specialist grounds maintenance machinery. David is proud of what the company has achieved however he is aware of the challenges that lie ahead: “We must continue to develop new products with unique features to suit customers changing demands and expectations. “Our customers are a highly educated and knowledgeable group who often work in difficult conditions and we need to ensure that we surpass their expectations. “At SALTEX, we kicked-off a year of celebrations to mark our 20th birthday and are selling off a special platinum edition Terra Spike GXi 8HD with all proceeds going to charity. “And next spring we will launch five new products during a dealer conference when we plan to recognise dealer commitment through special awards.” GME

09/08/2011 13:26

september 2011 GME 15



By Royal Appointment

Following years of neglect, an original James Braid course at Taymouth Castle in Scotland is undergoing a transformation, as Lee Todd discovers.

16 GME september 2011

Visitors to the Taymouth Castle Estate’s website will witness the bold proclamation that: “Every so often a rare opportunity arises to be part of something truly unique and very special.” Claims of this sort are often found to be over-exaggerated, but this one is backed up by a quote from no less than Queen Victoria. The iconic monarch said of the Scottish estate: “The beauty of the surrounding country, with its rich background of wooded hills, altogether formed one of the finest scenes imaginable.” And she should know; she ruled a quarter of the world’s land mass. Victoria visited Taymouth Castle in 1842 when it was the ancestral home of the Earls of Breadalbane and the Campbell Clan. At the time it had no links to golf, but, when the seventh Earl gambled away his entire Scottish estate in the casinos of Monte Carlo, the castle was sold and developed into a fashionable, luxury retreat for the 1920s’ glitterati complete with a James Braid-designed golf course – originally just 12 holes but later extended to the full 18. Since then the castle has fallen into disrepair and lay unused since the 1990s with the quality of the course also suffering as a result. But the current owners, a private consortium led by Meteor Asset Management, aim to restore the estate to its former glory and turn it into a five-star resort. A five-star resort requires a five-star golf course and, in order to reach those

heights, considerable renovation work was carried out from April to September with a view to reopening the course next July. Rather than purely looking at how to improve the course, much consideration has been taken to ensure it stays true to its Braid heritage, with many of the designer’s trademark features being added, including pot bunkers and doglegs. The layout is being revised to establish two loops of nine returning to the clubhouse and this includes the creation of two new holes to the north-west of the existing course and close to the River Tay, which will provide an impressive backdrop. All 18 holes will have new tees constructed, with those at the very back being positioned to increase the overall length by around 1,000 yards, taking it to more than 7,000 yards in total. There will also be nine new green complexes built, with raised structures surrounded by pot bunkers, while the greenside and fairway bunkering in general will also be improved both aesthetically and to make it more challenging to modern golfers and equipment. The greens and tees will benefit from a new herringbone irrigation system and a large practice ground is also being built featuring target greens and realistic bunkering. Bruce Weller, of Weller Designs, is overseeing the remodelling of the course and is pleased with the results so far. He said: “We’re extremely happy with what’s been achieved.

It was looking a little bit tired. The castle hadn’t been lived in for a while and the golf course hadn’t had the input financially to keep it to the standing that it should be given the amazing surrounding countryside. “All the bunkers were getting very, very shallow, and dare I say it, a bit municipal like. Because of finances the greens had been made smaller and cut in. It was all looking tired and the potential that it once had was not there.

“We’ve kept its intrinsic qualities and while we’ve changed the routing I think everybody will be pleased with what we’ve retained. And we’ve taken the course through more of the interesting parts of the site.” Throughout the project Weller worked closely alongside European Tour player Stephen Gallacher and European Golf Services (EGS), who were handed the task of undertaking the construction work.

“It was a real meeting of minds between ourselves, Bruce Weller and Stephen Gallacher. There were a lot of adjustments made to the course as we went along, so it was very interesting to see how they thought and approached the project and between us all come up with the best way to progress. “I think the end result has definitely benefited from that process and the attention to detail which it produced,” said O’Malley.

“The beauty of the surrounding country, with its rich background of wooded hills, altogether formed one of the finest scenes imaginable.” “It’s historic parkland but it’s also extremely well draining and it has everything for the backdrop: the castle, the mountains the streams going through,” added Weller. “There are quite a lot of streams that go through the golf course but they’d all been piped so quite a major part of the work was re-exposing them and bringing them into the strategy of the course. “We made a concerted effort to create some more rugged, steeper bunkers, dare I say... it in the Braid mould. It’s definitely given a more historic character back to it. “The new holes gave us an opportunity too. It was good land, quite rolling and right by the River Tay. We figured if James Braid had had that land he would have made a good job of it, but he didn’t have it at the time so I think we’ve brought it back to a Braid-character course.

And EGS’s Declan O’Malley believes a unique site and management process has proved a winning combination. He said: “It’s a tremendous setting for a golf course, but when we turned up it was like the greenkeeping staff had just disappeared. We’ve now brought some good character back to the course. “The new land incorporated was ideal, considering we built two new golf holes we barely had to touch it. “The irrigation system is unique as far as anything I’ve worked on is concerned. A reservoir in the mountain has allowed Irriplan to design us a natural and sustainable way to manage it, and it’s very rare you’d find a site with the necessary elements for that. “We had a lot more input than we do with other projects as far as being onsite and meeting with the designer.

“It’s not a course that will destroy your average golfer. It will be fun to play but still holds some challenges. We’ve worked on a similar level of five-star project before and this is definitely up there with the best of them.” Golf is just part of the development which is estimated to bring 300 jobs and £30m to the local economy in total. New facilities will include an 81-key five-star hotel, a luxury spa complex, 160 new residences in the grounds, a new smokehouse restaurant and an equestrian centre. But, following the renovation, golf will be a major draw to Taymouth Castle, and this was best summed up by Weller who said: “The castle and everything else on the estate is six-star stuff and now the golf course is commensurate with the rest of the development.” GME

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september 2011 GME 17

18/9/09 13:08:20

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in person

Ross Robertson, Eléa Estate’s director of golf operations, discusses the challenge of launching a new golf operation against a backdrop of difficult economic conditions. Words by John McKenzie.

Robertson building brand image at Eléa Since Sir Nick Faldo cut the ribbon at Eléa Estate in Cyprus last October, one of Europe’s finest new golf developments has received many plaudits. Scheduled for a phased completion, Eléa Estate will ultimately boast everything from a par 71 golf course to a range of luxury homes, complimented by a world-class golf academy, exclusive wellbeing retreat and luxurious boutique hotel. The resort claims to redefine standards of quality and hospitality, and the man tasked with ensuring that Eléa delivers is Ross Robertson, the estate’s director of golf operations.

Appointed to his position in November 2009, the 44-year-old decided to join Eléa after being impressed with the project as he explains: “I had the opportunity to take over two higher profile developments in Europe but when I met Zenon Eliades, the chairman of Elea Estate, I was immediately impressed with him personally. “But, more importantly, I loved his vision of what he was trying to achieve. “Furthermore, I also noted that he had gone through the correct processes, such as sourcing the best suppliers in the golf business like Faldo Design and Hart Howerton, as well as experienced professionals in golf course construction.”

september 2011 GME 19

“it is important for your team to understand what the game of golf stands for: the ethics, the integrity, the honesty, the passion, the traditions, the challenge...”

20 GME september 2011

The course – which plays 6,775 yards off the back tees – was constructed by Southern Golf and according to Faldo, “has the potential to play a pivotal role in establishing this part of the world as a leading European golf destination.” The layout of the course circulates through stands of mature carob and olive trees, while the dramatic outcrops of weathered limestone strike a contrast with the deep green of the paspalum grass fairways and semi-roughs. According to Robertson, it was apparent that Eliades wanted the best: “It was clear that he wanted to create a worldclass golf club at the heart of a prestigious and relaxed community, rather than just build what I would call an anaemic, bogstandard resort. “However, like most new developments, I knew how challenging this would be to achieve and I recall telling Zenon this at the time. He is the kind of person that respects an honest opinion and I think he appreciated my objectivity. “With this in mind, and through my experience with organisations such as Marriott and Carton House, you learn it is critical to deliver what the market requires, regardless what segment the business is aimed at. “It sounds simple, but a lot of developers don’t really understand that. They may have a vision, but some have taken very little notice of the economic conditions at local and international level, nor conducted good market research, and therefore refused to adapt, preferring instead to drive on with a business model that may or may not succeed. “Nevertheless, it was easy to envision, from seeing the product taking shape, that Eléa was going to be something very

special: the landscape, the course design, the views of the Mediterranean, the clubhouse – they are all contributing to the creation of a wonderful brand,” continued Robertson. “And my role is to ensure these elements are utilised, embraced and promoted within the development, the operation, the brand and the culture of the company.” Arriving at a new project can be a daunting experience, and often the approach a new director of golf takes, can set the standard for years to come. “When you arrive at a new project you have to consider the developer’s longterm aims and then begin to think about how you are going to achieve them,” said Robertson. “I always start by asking myself a few basic, but critical, questions such as has the business, and the product, the potential to succeed? “Is the company financially healthy, and what role, operationally and financially, does the golf business play in the wider development, such as real estate and hospitality? “And critically, can the golf operation be a stand-alone business after five, seven or nine years? “It is vitally important to understand the wider issues that may affect the running of your golf business. As well as several other operational and financial factors, we had to consider the economic conditions in Cyprus, and those in key international golfing markets such as Northern Europe and the UK. “We also analysed the projected tourist numbers for Cyprus and the economic climate for the wider golf tourist business over the next five years, which in turn

helped us create a solid forecast of the golf operation going forward. “Once you have an understanding of these factors you then move into the planning stage and begin to produce an effective strategic plan. “In other words, I used our market intelligence to put together initial budgets in relation to the key financial streams of opening and then running a golf business – capital expenditure, infrastructure, IT, membership, green fees, food and beverage, marketing, staff costs, overheads, etc. “One of the other important considerations was to understand the culture we were going to create at Eléa Estate.” Robertson, who was project director of the golf business at Carton House in Ireland prior to its opening, is aware that opening a new development comes with many big challenges. “The infrastructure of the business has to be correct from day one. From customer service right through to financial procedures, these should all marry in to what type of brand you want to be. “This is what should help differentiate you from your competitors. “Also, and I can’t stress this highly enough, it is important for your team to understand what the game of golf stands for: the ethics, the integrity, the honesty, the passion, the traditions, the challenge... all these are vital when ensuring your customers’ expectations are exceeded. “If you don’t have these values, whether you work in food and beverage, sales and

marketing, concierge, greenkeeping or security, your customers will see through it straight away. “The challenge then is to implement these values into the business culture of running a successful development that will eventually include many differing segments, from hospitality to real estate to retail to leisure.” It is often forgotten though, that despite having the best facilities off course is important, the most important factor in any golf operation is the course itself, a point Robertson is keen to stress. “For any top notch development the golf course is everything. Its overall quality, who designed it, the artistic nature of each hole, and how the golf course and wider development aesthetically appeals to our customers are all of paramount importance. “If you want to be compared to the great courses of the world – this is one of our objectives at Eléa – all these qualities have to be in place. The golf course can then effectively wrap into the value of the brand, and this, ultimately, is the key driver in attracting new and repeat customers. “We have been very successful with this approach since opening, and we would not have been as successful as we have been without Sir Nick. “The piece of land is obviously critical but how a designer translates this into a great design is the key factor – the design team understands golf and that the course is your biggest asset.” GME

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september 2011 GME 21


vat debate

VAT case sparks AGCO online petition Vivien Saunders, chairman of AGCO, spoke to GME about the on-line petition that she has launched to lobby the UK government to reduce VAT in golf.

22 GME september 2011

Former British Women’s Open champion Vivien Saunders OBE holds no truck with bureaucracy. Having balked at the R&A decision that, as a golf club owner – she owns Abbotsley and Cambridge Meridian golf clubs – it was inappropriate to promote her golfing successes, she ensured her website and blog were managed by her cat Edward. It was a move which was indicative of the dogged determination that she has brought to everything in a successful career. She has a fascinating CV: a solicitor by trade, she has an MBA in business administration; a PhD in sports psychology; and an LLM in sports law and tax. She was a founder of the Women’s PGA, the first European to get a player’s card on the LPGA in America, and was England coach for 18 years. And as chairman of the Association of Golf Club Owners (AGCO), now she’s turned her fury on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and has launched an on-line petition to achieve a reduced rate of five per cent VAT on playing and watching sport. The catalyst for her campaign was June’s ruling in favour of Bridport and West Dorset Golf Club against HMRC. That ruling – if any golf clubs needed reminding – determined that green fee income at Bridport should be exempt from VAT. Only where income from green fees were earned on an ad hoc or occasional basis with a view to raising extra funds for purposes other than

general running costs would it be “additional income” and thus fall outside of the exemption. The petition has already received much support across the sporting spectrum including one of the UK’s leading golf course operators – Crown Golf, which has 28 clubs in its portfolio, including the prestigious St Mellion International Resort in Cornwall. And, at the time of writing, the petition had reached over 2,000 signatories. Saunders, never known to be reticent on matters about which she feels strongly, believes not just that there should be a level playing field for golf clubs, but that all sports clubs should be able to benefit from a reduced rate of VAT. The 65-year-old former Curtis Cup player explained: “There are two elements to it: one is playing sport, which is all about distortion; and the other is about watching sport. I think that’s a little bit more difficult to push through. So the main thing is to get it into discussion in the commons. “I’ve been fighting this since 1993. At that point it was Conservative MP, Michael Portillo who let this thing go in the first place and the government never understood the distortion. “So it’s something that’s rumbled on with several of us making protests to the HMRC and politicians. But the Bridport thing... it’s just an absolute nonsense. “The new clubhouse was opened by the Duke and Duchess of Wessex, they’ve got an extension course there now, the pitch-and-putt thing... they’re just a commercial operation. “And to think not only are their members’ subs VAT exempt but then all these green fees are going to be exempt too, is just ridiculous.

Just five minutes into the conversation and Saunders has warmed to her task. After the initial decision was made in the Bridport case, KMPG issued a press release hailing the decision as ‘good news’ for the industry – and said it expected a lot more cases. It was not a press release received with much warmth in proprietary golf clubs up and down the country. Saunders added: “KPMG are going to make millions. They’re on a fat percentage and the query is that whatever someone got in green fees last year they’re looking to charge that as a refund.

to pay back to Bridport; they wouldn’t be looking at this whole thing and having to give five per cent across the board.” Saunders believes the UK should follow the lead of several other EU countries – and even the USA – in changing the rules. “The European Union rules allow a reduced rate of VAT for 18 types of goods and services. Two of these are admission to sports events and playing sport. “Sixteen other EU countries have adopted reduced rate VAT for sport since 2006, but UK governments have failed to do so. The reduced rate varies from country to country.

“It’s the great and the good of golf who don’t pay any VAT and don’t pay any taxes. And it’s wrong.” “KPMG are just making a huge amount of money out of it. “It all comes back to the dubious behaviour of HMRC. If you look at the manuals on the HMRC website, all about how to tax golf clubs, they don’t have the same volume of stuff about how to tax hotels, pubs, hairdressers or any other industry. “The only industry they’ve really gone overboard with is golf – and I believe it’s just because they want to make absolutely certain that these golf clubs don’t have to pay any tax. “The letters we’ve had back from MPs are absolutely ridiculous, suggesting that these non-profit-making members’ clubs are something like charities. “If you have volunteers who run a library or true volunteers doing good for people they’re like charities, but it’s not a charity when Sunningdale gets green fees that subsidise each of their members’ subs every year. It’s just laughable, absolutely laughable. “I think there’s huge old boys’ network, which has just made certain that they don’t pay a penny in tax. The real problem is how they classify something as being non-profit making. “If the government had dealt with it properly in the first place, in 1993, and just applied VAT to everybody they wouldn’t be looking at this huge amount

“In Luxembourg it is three per cent; in Ireland nine. We need 100,000 e-signatures on the petition to force a debate in Parliament. It would help cut the costs of playing sport. “The only people who don’t pay VAT on sport at present are members of member-owned clubs – private golf clubs and tennis clubs. Put simply, the man in the street pays VAT on his sport; the members of the country’s smartest golf clubs don’t.” It might be anticipated that her unabashed attack on some of the country’s most established private clubs might see her ostracised. But Saunders is unrepentant – and unconcerned. “The proprietary clubs are absolutely delighted and they’re all getting together,” she said. “I mean you’ve got your Wentworths, your Woburns, Foxhills, Frilford Heath – these are huge clubs. “There are 900 proprietary golf clubs in the UK now and they will stand up against the members’ clubs without any doubt. “It’s the great and the good of golf who don’t pay any VAT and don’t pay any taxes. And it’s wrong.” GME Vivien Saunders’ e-petition can be found at petitions/12244, or follow the link from the AGCO website.

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september 2011 GME 23

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The Renaissance Club has some illustrious neighbours to keep up with, but as Mark Alexander finds out, the private members club is more than holding its own.

club focus

Fields of Gold

East Lothian is home to a remarkable collection of links courses. North Berwick, Gullane and Muirfield are among 22 courses carved out concertina fashion along the region’s busy and dramatic coastline. Not surprisingly, this remarkable stretch of land has become a golfing treasure trove for lovers of salty air and sandy soils. Among them is Gerald (better known as Jerry) Sarvadi (pictured above). One of six brothers and three sisters, Sarvadi is a successful American entrepreneur whose love of golf brought him to Scotland from the year-round sunshine of Ponte Vedra in Florida. His move to North Berwick may have been initiated by the lure of links golf, but his relocation had little to do

with the courses that pepper this remarkable part of Scotland. His interest lay in making his own mark at the Home of Golf. “In 2002, we were at Pinehurst in North Carolina,” he recalls. “One of my brother’s business associates knew about a property in Scotland and jokingly asked if we wanted to build a golf course there. “We laughed and called him an idiot because we knew every town in Scotland had its own golf course.” The laughing soon stopped when the Sarvadi brothers learnt of the proposed site’s location. “The gentlemen told us it was right next to Muirfield,” he explains. “I asked what that meant: ‘was it a mile away?’ He said there was a stone wall and

september 2011 GME 25


The Renaissance Club Cowden Hill Drive Dirleton, North Berwick 
 EH39 5HS Scotland TEL; (44) 01620 850901 FAX; (44) 01620 850902 email; managing director; Gerald Sarvadi MEmbership director; Simon Holt (pictured) Club founded; 2008

26 GME september 2011

on one side was Muirfield and on the other was the property.” Today that wall acts as the boundary between the course played by the Honoury Company of Gentlemen Golfers and the 10th hole of a stunning Tom Doak-designed track that straddles an undulating parkland site full of character and history. The course that Sarvadi went on to create had much to live up to, but a clever design would successfully emulate the ripples and swathes of its more established neighbours giving the Renaissance Club a veteran links quality well beyond its years. The process of transforming the 335-acre site, most of which was hidden from view by trees, began in earnest in January 2005 when Sarvadi met with Doak in the Kislpindie House Hotel in Aberlady. After reviewing various maps, Doak made an initial routing that would eventually become the course that so impresses today. A couple of months later, an agreement was signed between the trustees that own the land and the team led by Sarvadi: “The plan was to create a championship golf course that would be acclaimed by golfers all over the world as one of the best courses in the UK. That’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” he explains. According to the architect’s website, Doak’s job was to build a course the Scots would respect, that would be in harmony with its surroundings and inspired by, but different to its famous neighbours. What he produced was a layout that dutifully doths its cap to the likes of

North Berwick by incorporating reliced walls that bisect fairways and border greens. The generous fairways of the Old Course in St Andrews are also referenced crucially including the dips and hollows that make them so fascinating and beguiling. Aside from the course, the club also boasts an impressive driving range and practice putting green (which gently slides into the first teeing area.) An impressive dormy house has also been built and the foundations for a clubhouse have been laid. The total investment in the project since 2008 has been £14 million, funded by the Sarvadi family, private members and individual investors, and it looks as if not a penny has been spared. However, despite the money lavished on the facilities, according to membership director Simon Holt, the club follows a pragmatic, down-to-earth approach. “We want to go back to basics,” he says. “The heart of golf in Scotland is the golf course; not all the bells and whistles. The Renaissance Club was built for people to play golf – we’re not going to diversify into a spa or a hotel. This is always going to be a golf club.” Holt has the enviable task of sourcing and signing up new members, which involves playing introductory rounds, accompanying prospects to local eateries and ensuring their transition into the club is made as smooth as possible. His job becomes a little tougher when it comes to discussing the joining fee. “We don’t call it an initiation fee,” he explains. “You buy a 30-year, non-interest bearing

bond in the Renaissance Club, which is currently set at £75,000.” He acknowledges that kind of financial commitment means only a selected few will be able to entertain the idea of joining the Renaissance Club. But if they do, he quickly follows, they can rest-easy knowing their investment will be returned to them should they decide to leave the club. “It’s not like an initiation fee at other clubs where you pay £75,000, and it’s gone,” he says. “After 30 years, you’ll be asked if you are happy with everything, and if you are, we’ll keep the £75,000 for another 30 years. If you’re not and you want to leave, we’ll hand that cheque back.” The club has also introduced a four-toone exit strategy that enables members to resign their position at the club and receive their initiation fee following the fourth new member to sign up after their departure. On a more positive note, another benefit is that members’ spouses are also eligible to become full members of the club along with all unmarried children under the age of 23 at no extra cost. With annual dues set at £2,350 (excluding VAT), oddly Holt doesn’t see financial security as the first prerequisite towards becoming a member. “We’re looking for people who love the game and are respectful of the traditions of the game, but are looking for a higher level service that has been unfortunately lacking in Scotland.”

Around 175 members have so far answered his call. Indeed, visiting the club during its annual member shindig, the temporary clubhouse is alive with the sound of after-round banter as members evaluate their efforts and lament missed opportunities. Yet despite the jovial air, Sarvadi remains focused on the task ahead. “I feel like it’s not done yet,” he admits. “We started in January 2006, built the golf course and seeded it in ten months, and let it grow in for 18 months. “We opened in April 2008, which as everyone knows was, at that time, an economic disaster. So, there have been some really hard times. We’ve been in existence for about five years. “Historically, businesses change after five years, and I think that’s what’s happening to us. We’re going to the next stage of the evolution, and hopefully this stage will be easier than the first.” The next stage of the club’s development is already underway with three new holes being shaped on a striking pocket of land overlooking the Firth of Forth. “With seeding about to start, these latest additions will add to what is already a beautiful and delightfully maintained course. Indeed, with the Renaissance Club already being muted as a possible venue for the Scottish Open, Sarvadi’s vision of creating a world-class golf course that can sit comfortably alongside Scotland’s best is slowly becoming a reality. GME

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powerplay golf

PowerPlay Golf set to take off at grass roots level The innovative two-flag golf format known as PowerPlay Golf is set to reinvigorate golf at grass roots level as Jonathan Kettle reports.

28 GME september 2011

In recent years the most commonly asked question in golfing circles has been why participation and membership levels are dropping at such an alarming rate? At a time when professional golf appears to be in such a healthy state, with more golf on television than ever before and homebred stars such as Donald, Westwood and McIlroy sitting atop the World Rankings the amateur game should be thriving. I’m a firm believer that the simple answer to this question contains the words “accessibility, time and cost.” Simply put, there is a real need to make golf more appealing to the masses, where people can turn up at a club, pay an acceptable amount of money and have an enjoyable golfing experience that takes a lot less time than the all too common five hour plus round. So what is the solution? Well it may just lie in the innovative new format of the game called PowerPlay Golf that we have heard so much about in recent months. Hailed as golf’s equivalent to Twenty20 Cricket, this exciting new nine-hole, twoflag concept could be just what is needed to entice more people into the game as well as stimulate more interest from existing golfers and club members.

As someone who is always struggling to find time to play 18-holes, I could immediately see the enormous potential of PowerPlay Golf when it first hit our screens with a bang at the inaugural “Ignition” event at Celtic Manor in May. I was captivated watching superstars of the game, including Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Paul Casey, Gary Player and Paula Creamer compete in the made-fortelevision spectacle and could definitely see that this was the beginning of great things for PowerPlay, but could it really be an answer to amateur golf’s problems? Peter McEvoy, OBE, one of the finest Amateur golfer’s the game has ever seen and executive director of PowerPlay Golf certainly thinks so: “My whole career has been immersed in the game, particularly at grass roots level and through the club network. “I found that I was repeatedly coming across the same three issues which were holding golf back. In a day and age where time is becoming more precious than ever, golf simply takes too much time. “The second problem is cost; it has become a relatively expensive game. The third is that it is too difficult to play.” McEvoy’s comments appear to be backed up by a number of researches

done into the state of the game, including the World Golf Foundation’s Get Golf Ready programme, which was founded in November 2008 and aims to bring adults into the game in a fast, fun and affordable way. The brainchild of McEvoy, PowerPlay Golf is a nine-hole game with two flags on every green – it uses the stableford scoring system when playing to the easier white flag and an amended scoring system benefitting net birdies or better when playing to the more difficult black flag over nine holes.

“product”, i.e. 18 holes, has not really changed in 150 years,” he said. “Over that period of time the length of time it takes to play 18 holes has nearly doubled. This is a function of equipment leading to longer courses, golfers copying slow professionals and a number of other factors. “As a consequence the game’s offering has changed, at least in the respect of the length of time it takes. PPG offers a new, exciting, simple to understand “product” over nine holes taking the time roughly equivalent to golf’s original offering.

heavily through a series of professional events. “We will run one more demonstration event later this year in the Far East. This will have an even stronger field than “Ignition”, if that is possible, with a number of global stars making their debuts. “Following that we will announce a series of competitive events for 2012. We are using the pro game to create demand. Through this demand the clubs who adopt PowerPlay will prosper. It may be that it is simply member satisfaction in

“We see golf clubs as a key asset to help grow the format around the world. In fact being a PowerPlay Golf Official Venue is great value” Players are restricted to three attempts, As a member of a club it’s hard not to known as “PowerPlay’s” at the black flag agree with McEvoy’s points and his arguover the first eight holes and an optional ment for PowerPlay becomes even strongfourth “PowerPlay”at the ninth hole, but er when he talks about the financial benebeware as there is a penalty imposed for fits it can bring golf clubs. lack of success if this is taken. “At its most simple, a pay and play club Perhaps PowerPlay Golf ’s biggest asset offering 18-hole green fees for rounds is that it can be played on any golf course. that last, say, five hours can only sell up to It will obviously suit clubs with two five hours before darkness. If it is dark at nines converging on their clubhouse 18:00 then 13:00 is the last time they can better, but with planning can also be sell an 18-hole round. played on “out and back” layouts. Apart “If the greenkeeper puts a second hole from the extra hole and flag it requires no in the green and a second flag then the additional infrastructure to prosper as all new “product”, PowerPlay can be sold it needs is courses, clubs and golfers. until 15:30. In a novel way of looking at PowerPlay, To continue the ever-growing demand McEvoy refers to the risk-reward format for PowerPlay that has been stimulated as a new golfing product: “Golf is an1 26/08/2011 following “Ignition” event, McEvoy GME GEO halfpage ad REV4_Layout 13:56the Page 1 inherently conservative game and its and his team will be promoting PPG

the case of some private clubs, but there will be a benefit to all.” To become a PowerPlay venue there’s a nominal annual membership fee which has deliberately been kept very low as McEvoy explains: “We see golf clubs as a key asset to help grow the format around the world. In fact being a PowerPlay Golf Official Venue is incredibly good value, with all the benefits it brings. “This entitles clubs to run PowerPlay Golf events, link themselves to the TV tournaments via the PPG website and social media. “PowerPlay also sends a Club Pack containing PPG flags, rules and posters plus a handy ‘business builder’ to help activate PPG’s other club-related benefits.” GME

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30 GME september 2011


trump international

Tillers comes up Trumps with its greens turf As Ellie Tait reports, a call from Donald Trump turned a routine day into a major contract for Tillers Turf.

In April last year, Tim Fell, managing director of turf producer, Tillers Turf, was having a fairly routine day at his Lincolnshire turf nursery when Donald Trump called from his office in New York to make this rather substantial request: “I’d like the best greens turf in the world delivered to my new golf course.” Donald Trump’s vision is to create one of the finest links courses in the world at Balmedie, just north of Aberdeen, and the Trump Organisation had identified Tillers Turf as the specialist grower of turf for golf courses, having supplied turf for greens at prestigious courses throughout Europe, and most recently to the renovated West Course at The Wentworth Club. “We were asked to submit proposals for growing the turf for the five-star 18-hole golf resort development, Trump International Golf Links,” Tim Fell explains. “The specification was for 40,000m²of a traditional Scottish Links fescue and browntop bent mixture, grown on a rootzone to match the indigenous dune sand.

“The main challenge for us is to produce greens turf that’s strong enough to lift and handle, without building up a thatch layer, but we have a very experienced team and we were confident that we could deliver the finest quality turf that met the specification and the expectations of Mr. Trump.” Tillers’ production manager of 16 years, Stephen Richardson, commented: “Firstly, we had to select the best fields in which to grow the turf based on their location and soil type. “Good drainage is essential, so fields with a high percentage of sand were chosen. “The previous crop had been harvested in the winter, so we sprayed off the remaining vegetation with glyphosate, and we cultivated the surface to chop up any remnants from the previous crop, breaking up and inverting the soils to a depth of 50-75mm. “We then allowed time for any remaining grass weed seeds to germinate before a final spray with glyphosate.”

september 2011 GME 31

A Cousins combination harrow incorporating tines, levelling boards and a tyre packer was then used to level and consolidate the light sandy soil. Assisted by rainfall, it required little power to work through the profile, and after several passes the surface was rolled with a 10ft heavy roller. In order to provide optimal conditions for germination, the soil required additional nutrients. The land used by Tillers for turf production is naturally high in phosphate, but additional potash was required. A protective ryegrass collar was sown around the perimeter of the field to provide a hard-wearing surface upon which to turn mowers and other machinery. The collar also provided a buffer from surrounding trees and verges which could deprive the grass of light and moisture. Rootzone sand in keeping with sand native to the Menie estate was spread over the nursery at a depth of 15mm. In June 2010, the traditional Scottish Links seed mixture was broadcast into the ground using an Amazone with a reciprocating harrow, with the seed being fed into finger tines which lightly mixed it into the top 15mm of soil. After two passes the field was rolled again and an organic sludge applied to cap the surface, affording the seed some protection from the wind when it was at its most vulnerable. Good germination and healthy establishment are key to producing premium quality turf, and this can only be achieved by creating the right conditions for the

32 GME september 2011

seed to thrive. Temperatures were well into the high 20s at this time, and the main challenge for staff was to keep the sand damp to ensure quick, even germination. Tillers had invested in the purchase of a 45 metre wide Briggs boom irrigator specifically for the job, which provided controlled coverage with a small droplet size. Irrigation was then applied little and often, at a rate of around 10mm per application, sometimes twice a day. “It’s not an exact science, it’s about good judgment,” said Richardson, “and we’re fortunate to have a number of staff with a significant amount of experience in producing very big areas of greens turf. “We had learnt a great deal producing the turf for Wentworth. “We observed germination at around ten days, which is always the most precarious time because the seed is very vulnerable. The plant reached first leaf stage at 14 days.” Deciding when to make the first cut is critical. It’s important to wait for good crop cover as cutting too soon can cause the soil to move under the weight of the mower, resulting in an uneven surface. Rotary mowers were used for the initial cut because of their ability to go over the ground without causing damage. The clippings were removed with a Brouwer vacuum to keep the surface clean and to prevent the build up of thatch. Jacobsen Fairway 405 cylinder ride-on mowers with seven cutting units and competition bottom blades then took over, maintaining the sward at 13mm

initially before gradually reducing it to 6mm. Topdressing, important for achieving density of sward and to dilute the accumulation of organic matter, was applied in August, seven to eight weeks after sowing using a Dakota twin-disc spinner spreader, with repeat applications made every three weeks. The frequency of application was lowered during the winter when growth rate was slower. Tillers’ staff erected permanent wire fencing around the field to protect the growing turf from rabbits and foxes, whilst also following a nutritional and cultural programme to enhance the sward. Tillers’ production system delivers unrivalled levels of sward purity with negligible annual meadow grass (Poa annua). One year on and the turf was in prime condition. An additional area, over and above the contracted amount, was produced as a contingency, which can now be offered to other customers for use on high quality green constructions. Lifting of the turf began in June this year – 12 months after sowing – and was completed by the end of August. To reduce the risk of heat damage the turf was lifted in the early morning before the air temperature reached 15 degrees. “Harvesting wasn’t possible on some days,” explains Richardson, “it was just too hot.

“The turf was lifted with a Trebro Harvestack, automatically loading 20 pallets with sixty four standard 0.6m-wide rolls of turf, 15mm thick. It’s critical that the time between harvesting and laying is kept to an absolute minimum. The turf was lifted at 5am and loaded straight into lorries for the journey north, arriving in Aberdeen at 9pm the same day. “When we had high temperatures, refrigerated wagons were used to transport the days’ load. We numbered each pallet to enable the contractor to lay the turf in the order in which it was harvested. By August our handover of all the greens turf was complete.” With the turf handed over to the golf course constructor SOL Golf, Tim Fell (pictured top left with Stephen Richardson) was able to reflect on the job: “It’s a privilege to have been involved with this project. But when you take on a job like this you’ve got to be pretty confident that you can deliver. “The quality of the greens was a major issue for Mr. Trump, and I didn’t like to think of the consequences if things had gone wrong! As it is, this is the best turf we’ve ever grown. “There is no formula for this job. Growing turf for greens is all about attention to detail, and responding to conditions on a day-to-day basis. Credit must go to Stephen and his production staff for their skills, enthusiasm and dedication. “We’re all now looking forward to seeing the turf in-situ.” GME

“The quality of the greens was a major issue for Mr. Trump... this is the best turf we’ve ever grown.”

september 2011 GME 33



MJ Abbott masters Open water

Irrigation on a golf course is essential if you want to ensure that the course is always presented perfectly, but is it quite so essential on a links course? Ellie Tait talks to a couple of Open Championship venues as well as the R&A.

34 GME september 2011

With yet another Open Championship venue under its belt, specialist golf course constructor and water engineering contractor, MJ Abbott Limited, looks to have further consolidated its position as the company of choice for construction and remodelling projects and the installation and upgrading of course drainage and irrigation systems at Open Championship venues in the UK. With its latest installation completed, the Wiltshire-based company has now notched up its sixth major project at Open venues in recent years. It has nothing to do with chance, nor probability; it’s their proven ability to deliver the highest quality results on time and within budget, while taking extraordinary care over the standard of reinstatement that has helped them achieve preferred contractor status at golf courses throughout Britain and continental Europe over the past 20 years. These attributes have been reinforced once again on two major irrigation projects completed by the firm in the past 12 months; the first at Royal Liverpool and, more recently, at Muirfield in East Lothian, host courses for the 2014 and 2013 Open Championships respectively. Both were designed and specified by Adrian Mortram of irrigation consultants Robin Hume Associates and STRI Irrigation Services. Other Open venues that have engaged its services in recent years include Royal Cinque Ports, Royal Lytham & St Annes, Royal Portrush and Royal St George’s, host course for this year’s Open. “MJ Abbott was selected not on price alone, but primarily as a result of recommendations from other high-profile links courses, including Royal Liverpool and Prestwick,” explains Colin Irvine, course manager at Muirfield. “We were impressed particularly by the measures adopted by the company to minimise damage and disruption during every project and by the great care taken over reinstatement, a vital factor at Muirfield where we strive to maintain impeccable course conditions at all times.”

A similar story is told by Royal Liverpool’s Craig Gilholm, who added that price was not the overriding factor at a golf club where care of the course is a major priority. “We wanted a reliable, proven contractor with all-round competence, capable of doing a first-class job and completing it on schedule,” said Gilholm. “MJ Abbott also has significant resources in terms of skilled, knowledgeable staff and specialist machinery. This enabled our greenkeeping team to concentrate on other course improvement projects while the new irrigation system was being installed.” Rob McBurney concurs adding: “Price is important; value for money is also important, and MJ Abbott score highly in that respect. Their significant resources in terms of plant and staff also provided us with the assurances we needed that the work would be completed on time.” Steve Isaac, director - golf course management at The R&A, points out that the nine Open venues currently on The R&A’s list are all maintained to a very high standard, so preparing a course for The Open is normally a small step up from their usual presentation. “The R&A is looking for firm, running links conditions,” explained Isaac. “No specific standard is required other than the art of preparing the type of surface that we want. We work closely with the greenkeeping teams at each venue to ensure that this is achieved, weather permitting. “With regard to irrigation requirements at Open venues, it is helpful if the course has irrigation to tees, fairways, greens approaches and greens – we are not concerned about watering the rough. “The R&A will make a financial contribution for work if it is directly related to hosting The Open.” Completed and commissioned a little over 12 months ago, the installation at Royal Liverpool also included four areas that will accommodate tented villages during the 2014 Open. Greens chairman, Rob McBurney, said that the new system represents a major

investment by the club in the quality of its playing surfaces. “The previous system was 30 years old and failing. The new one, carefully and professionally installed on schedule, allows Craig and his team to target water more accurately where it is most needed, meeting Environment Agency best practice guidelines while helping the club provide members and visitors with consistently higher standard playing surfaces all year round.”

boards across the turf to prevent machinery damaging access areas and adjacent surfaces. This is particularly important when using a mole plough to lay pipes belowground. Boards are used also for temporary storage of soil excavated prior to sprinkler installation. With new below-ground pipes in position, the turf was lifted and holes excavated by hand to expose the pipe ready for

Similar attention to detail is paid to the company’s bespoke pump houses, electrical installations and control systems, which utilise the latest state-of-the-art technology accompanied by full on-site training for greenkeeping staff and managers. “Of great importance to Muirfield was the excellent communication that existed between all parties at all times, especially as we had several projects running simul-

“Of great importance to Muirfield was the excellent communication that existed between all parties at all times, especially as we had several projects running simultaneously,” At Muirfield, the new irrigation system represented a major upgrade to an existing Rain Bird irrigation system dating from the late 1990s. The club is working with architects Hawtree to carry out a substantial number of improvements to the course ahead of the 2013 Open Championship. Commissioned in early April, the 22 week project was completed within the specified timescale, despite the course being closed for 24 days last winter due to heavy snowfall. Among the work carried out was new upgrades to the system supplying the greens, greens surrounds, tees, approaches and walkways, all linking to the existing fairway system. As with the installation carried out for Royal Liverpool Golf Club, and its many other fine turf projects, MJ Abbott laid

the connection of some 300 sprinklers by means of saddle joints. Having installed a triple swing joint, sprinkler head and decoder, selected indigenous subsoil was trowelled by hand into the holes before being heavily tamped down to minimise future settlement. Finally, the topsoil and turf were re-laid and the mole lines and sprinkler surrounds brushed and rolled with a vibrating roller. All valve assemblies were installed on top of concrete slabs with gaps around pipe entry and exit points being blanked off using purpose-made blanking plates. These touches provide the valve assemblies with a neat and tidy appearance that is maintained years after an installation is completed as it prevents soil ingress, sinkage and uneven boxes.

taneously,” commented course manager, Colin Irvine. “It was important that everyone worked together as a team and MJ Abbott did just that, demonstrating both flexibility and excellent attention to detail. “We had a lot of new turf to lay on the course and the firm’s staff showed great awareness, care and consideration for all of the areas in which they were working.” Colin concluded by saying that he expected ground reinstatement to be carried out normally by course staff: “However, as we had been impressed by the quality and consistency of MJ Abbott’s workmanship up to that point, we had every confidence that its staff would carry out the finishing work efficiently and to a very high standard. We were not disappointed.” GME



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september 2011 GME 35



Turfco marks 50 years of Innovation in topdressing

Kevin Marks speaks with the Kinkead family – founders of Turfco – to review the company’s history.

The year was 1961. The first manned space flights had just taken place; the electric toothbrush was a new invention; and TWA showed the first in-flight movie. It was also the same year that Turfco, a family-owned Minnesota-based company, revolutionised the golf course industry by introducing the first mechanised topdresser. “Superintendents and greenkeepers going back to the legendary “Old Tom” Morris have long understood that topdressing was a vital component to maintaining the health of their greens,” said Scott Kinkead, Turfco’s vice president of marketing. “Before the creation of the mechanical topdresser, however, this meant back-breaking work done with a shovel and a load of sand. Greens were the only areas of the course topdressed, largely due to the labour involved. “Topdressing was also far from the consistent spreads we see today.

36 GME september 2011

“When you topdress by hand, the spread varies greatly; even in Morris’ time, greenkeepers wanted topdressing to be easier and more consistent.” This problem led to the start of the company’s enduring practice of listening to turf professional and then creating solutions. Instead of asking ‘What should they build next?’ Turfco asked users ‘What problems do you have?’ In 1961 responding to the answers to this question and identifying the need to find a better alternative to topdressing than a shovel, Turfco introduced the world’s first mechanised topdresser, the pedestrian-powered ground-driven Cohrs (pictured above.) In the mid-1960s, Turfco became involved with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America and John Kinkead – Scott’s father – served on the body’s Industrial Relations Board for a number of years. “The golf business was in a state of change,” John said, “and I wanted to do my part to help courses survive and thrive.” Now that Turfco had made topdressing easier and quicker, the desire to topdress more frequently raised the problem of

demand and consistency. Superintendents sought ways to expand their efforts beyond the green. Tee boxes, approaches and eventually complete fairways were opened up thanks to the labour-saving innovations of Turfco. In 1981, with the introduction of the Mete-R-Matic tow-type topdresser, superintendents had their solution to the problem of topdressing larger areas. This ground-driven unit ensured a consistent application of material at any speed. “One of the key hurdles to achieving maximum consistency has been the varying moisture content of the materials being spread; this is a particular issue when handling sand. It’s something that superintendents always struggled with,” added John. To address this problem, Turfco introduced the patented Chevron™ belt in 1993. This enabled superintendents to deliver a consistent application, regardless of the material or the moisture content. “By eliminating one of the hardest to control variables, superintendents were once again able to improve their topdressing consistency and quality,” Scott said. “As an added bonus, the Chevron belt also cut down on stoppages from wet sand. Less downtime is always a good thing.” In the effort to decrease downtime, Turfco has put a premium on building quality equipment. Keeping topdressers easy to maintain, easy to adjust and backed by an industry-leading three-year warranty are some of the ways Turfco keeps equipment on the course and out of the shop. In the early 1990s, new research showed that putting down a lighter application more often increased the health of turf. To address this new practice, Turfco introduced the SP1530, which they claim revolutionised the topdressing industry. Featuring two angled spinners, the SP1530 could deliver a light application to 18 greens in 90 minutes. The unit can put down a layer of sand so light that a few minutes of irrigation would leave the green playable and golfers would never know it had just been topdressed. The angled spinners drive the sand deep into the turf, where it belongs.

“With a few minor adjustments, the SP1530 could also deliver heavy applications, such as those used after aerating, with ease and consistency. We wanted this unit to cover all of the superintendents’ needs,” said Scott. In 2002 Turfco improved on this ability with the introduction of what they term WideSpin™ technology. This system delivered unmatched control over how light or heavy material is applied to turf. In the process, Turfco designed it to be user-friendly, offering a wide range of adjustability that was not only quick, but also repeatable. “In order to ensure consistency of application the spinners need to be rotating before the belt delivers the material. We introduced a patented three-position switch which allowed this to happen,” Scott added. “We also recognised at this time that staffing issues were a growing problem and turned our attention to keeping units operating with minimal adjustments and less wasted time. “In 2009, it was all about productivity; how could we make units that delivered the same application, every time, without needing a lot of complex adjustments and trial applications?” The answer came in the form of the WideSpin 1540EC, featuring a simple electronic control unit that allows superintendents to program up to three different applications and lock them in. “Operators can instantly change the width and rate of the pattern from the driver’s seat. You can have your greens application set on button one, tees on button two and a heavy application on button three. No longer does it take half a load to verify a setting, which means less wasted material and wasted time. “It’s simple, user friendly and most of all, intuitive,” Scott said. “Despite half a century of innovation, Turfco is not a company to rest on its accomplishments. We are in the business of solving problems for superintendents because they are our ultimate consumer. Without listening to their needs, there’s no way we can be innovative. “We are proud to be the company that listens,” John Kinkead concluded. GME

“We are in the business of solving problems for superintendents because they are our ultimate consumer. Without listening to their needs, there’s no way we can be innovative.”

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september 2011 GME 37


the de vere club

The De Vere Club goes from strength to strength When De Vere launched a new membership scheme last year, they could never have envisaged signing up over 8,000 members as Michael Brookers explains.

38 GME september 2011

With many golfers struggling to justify the high-cost of traditional memberships, some clubs have updated their rule book in recent years in order to retain their members. Relaxed dress codes, increases in junior based activities, packed social calendars and incentives for direct debit payments are just a few of the initiatives some clubs have introduced. However the most challenging aspect facing operators has been how to create a membership that is costeffective without sacrificing the attributes of a traditional golf club. In a time of relative stagnation for traditional golf memberships in established golfing countries, the De Vere Club has experienced remarkable success with its flexible point-based membership introduced in the UK last year. The increased growth for the likes of 2-for-1 green fee vouchers and rewards schemes illustrate the increased appetite golfers have for value-for-money, and with over 8,000 new members in the last 18-months including the likes of cricket legend Freddie Flintoff, Tottenham Hotspur manager Harry Redknapp and model Sophie Horne, the popularity of the De Vere Club is unrivalled in the industry.

Its success has seen the scheme become headline sponsor of the European Senior Tour’s flagship event, the De Vere Club PGA Seniors Championship which is hosted at one of De Vere’s flagship resorts, Slaley Hall in Northumberland. The event regularly boasts one of the strongest fields of the year on the European Seniors Tour, including the likes of Sandy Lyle, Sam Torrance, Ian Woosnam and 2011 champion Andrew Oldcorn. Oldcorn’s victory in June secured the Scot a unique double, by adding the PGA Seniors title to the PGA Championship he won on the main European Tour at Wentworth in 2011. The £295 membership fee arms members with 100 De Vere Club points at the entry level, redeemable at any of the groups 16 courses, which are situated at 11 venues across the UK. Every time a member plays a round points are deducted from their allocation and the number of points depends on the venue, time of year, time of day and day of the week, ensuring golfers memberships reflect their individual needs. Points can also be used to sign on guests, with the cost of a round ranging from two points for a mid-week round to

ten points at a premium venue on a Saturday afternoon. Much of the clubs success has been based around the principles of choice and value for money. In terms of choice, the De Vere venues are spread across the UK, although certainly more concentrated in the north. The flexibility of the membership however, allows members the opportunity to use their points for a golfing trip with friends, and avoids the monotony of playing at the same course every week. “We introduced the De Vere Club in March 2010 to incorporate all 16 golf courses in our portfolio, and have been delighted with its success,” commented Daniel Hodson, director of golf, leisure and spa, De Vere. “The quality of the courses available to our members is amongst the best in the country, including the likes of Wokefield Park in Berkshire, Slaley Hall in Northumberland and The Carrick on Loch Lomond. Essentially we wanted to provide golfers with a membership that was affordable, yet still enable them to play quality courses all over the country. “We’ve focussed on giving members all the key aspects of being a member of a golf club; holding a handicap, playing competitions, meeting other golfers and getting their friends and family involved, but made it as affordable and flexible as possible.” Despite the De Vere Club’s continued success, the membership offering has evolved in recent months to include the use of gym and spa facilities. Additional categories offering 200, 300, and 400 points, as well as a 500 point corporate membership have also been introduced, allowing the benefits of membership to be enjoyed by every member of the household. Membership has continued to grow as a result, with golfers tailoring their membership to best fit their individual needs, whether it is playing golf with friends or using points for balls at the driving range, buggy hire, and leisure facilities. This addition has proved particularly popular since its introduction, with members valuing the De Vere Club membership for its leisure facilities, rather than just a golf club membership.

“Offering people an opportunity to become members of courses such as Slaley Hall and The Carrick, which have hosted European Tour, European Seniors Tour and Ladies European Tour events, and to use the leisure facilities at these resorts, for just £295 per year is a significant development when compared to ‘traditional’ golf club memberships,” continued Hodson. “We have given people the chance to enjoy an affordable membership at some of the best courses in the country whilst also taking advantage of other amenities, such as spa treatments and gym use. As a result our members feel they are getting great value for money.” The De Vere Club is also supportive of junior golf, offering an unlimited play membership package for under-18s for just £100, provided an adult in the family is already a member. This allows juniors to have unlimited golf at every De Vere venue, throughout the UK as well as use of some of the leading practice centres in the country. “I use my membership primarily to play golf with friends and when I’m travelling with work, but membership to The De Vere Club is just as enjoyable off the course as it is on it,” commented DVC member Freddie Flintoff. “The flexibility gives me, my family and friends everything we need to enjoy our leisure time and I’ve had some fantastic stays at Carden Park, Cameron House and Oulton Hall throughout the summer.” The De Vere Club was a bold move, challenging the ‘traditional’ membership. The uptake since last year suggests that the De Vere Club is not only a success, but perhaps the future of golf club memberships, allowing a mass membership that caters for individual needs. Undoubtedly there will always be demand for private club memberships, but the success of the De Vere Club proves that there’s a ‘lost generation’ of golfer who look for something else from their membership. Ultimately, during a relatively tough time in the economy, people are looking for value for money and members of the De Vere Club appear to have a bought into exactly that. GME

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september 2011 GME 39


my view

NFS have the Vision With a host of new software applications coming to the market, Steve Salter of NFS Hospitality talks to Peter Simm about the next step forward in golf.

40 GME september 2011

Change, as they say, is inevitable and golf clubs have seen their management system requirements shift drastically in recent years. Total integration across a whole club is now a must, and customer retention is an ongoing challenge that has to be faced, as well as the need to attract new members. With more than 200,000 rounds played annually on Europe’s biggest golf complex, the needs of the St Andrews Links Trust are, as you can imagine, more pressing than most as they entertain the thousands of golf addicts eager to pay homage to the Home of Golf. When it came to commissioning a new golf booking and management system, the Links Trust did not take the task lightly and undertook an extensive process before making its final decision. Aware of the need to make the backoffice administration of tee times more efficient and to ensure full integration across all aspects of its businesses, the Links Trust researched the market thoroughly, and found that the NFS Technology Group’s IBS Club Management System ticked all the boxes they needed. Offering integrated software for golf and private member clubs, NFS’s systems make it possible for clubs to address changes to club management and bring together every aspect of a business to improve efficiency with seamless integration and powerful solutions. Steve Salter, head of golf and leisure for the UK and Europe at NFS Technology Group, said: “We feel privileged and honoured to be working with some of the world’s most famous golfing venues. “I think what St Andrews liked about our product is that it will help them

manage their full potential audience, whether it be their ticket holders or visitors. “The St Andrews implementation project is in full swing and they are already using the NFS solution for future reservations at the Links Trust.” Ewen Bowman, director of operations at the St Andrews Links Trust, said: “This is an important project for us and one which we believe will make a substantial difference to the way we assist our customers in booking tee times on the Links courses. “The new system, provided by NFS Technology Group, will be much better equipped to deal with the demands of such a busy golf complex.” As an international software solutions provider, NFS Technology Group is rapidly establishing itself in the UK. The golf solution provided by them, called IBS, is already the market leader in the US and is used at world renowned golf clubs like US Open venue Baltusrol and Medinah, venue for the 2012 Ryder Cup. Even in these early stages, the initial signs are that the company’s IBS packages will be just as successful on this side of the Atlantic, with the likes of Ballybunion, The London Club and Brocket Hall having already chosen NFS as their system provider and many more clubs enquiring on a daily basis. NFS offers two packages for clubs; The IBS Enterprise Package which is targeted at the larger golf facilities and The IBS Executive Package, which aims to fulfil the day-to-day needs of the typical golf club at a very affordable price. IBS Enterprise offers a series of core and online management modules covering areas including membership, tee

times, CRM, events, competitions and interfaced to their Sage accounting packhandicapping, food and beverage, retail, age. This functionality comes as standard purchase orders and accounting integrain The IBS Executive Package. tion. This package allows venues to pick But not content to rest on its laurels, and choose their requirements as needed. NFS is improving its packages all the time IBS Executive, offers clubs a set packand will launch its new Vision technology age of modules which include memberin the next month – a web-based applicaship, tee times (online), F&B, competition that offers managers and secretaries tions and handicapping, websites and live key management information as well accounting integration. as a tee time yield manager, from any PC Clubs who feel they require the benefits in the world. of further functionality can easily add “The main advantage of the Vision additional modules from the Enterprise application is its simplicity. Vision allows Package to grow the product. anyone who can connect to the Internet Interest in the two products is rising all to view what is happening at their club, the time and Salter is expecting the allowing key management decisions to be number of enquiries to rapidly increase made based on real time information. from ‘middle market’ courses as aware“It is very easy and simple to use and is ness of what the company is offering ideal for managers who may not be techgrows. “The software we have literally nologically savvy or who might be away takes care of membership management, from a club for a period of time. tee times and points of sales all at the “Vision is a real “game changer” for the same time which is a major advantage. golf industry and we really are giving “What will differentiate the NFS offergeneral managers the tools to get the most ing is the fact that both The Enterprise out of their tee time inventory. and The Executive are fully integrated “With easy red, amber and green visuacross all areas of your club. als that give you an instant representation “The benefits include – no multiple of your course, its utilisation allows you to data entry, great management information make instant green fee price changes and functionality that drives communicawhere applicable,” added Salter. tion and club marketing, considerably “As a company, NFS is dedicated to reducing administrative man hours bringing exciting and fully integrated around the club. solutions to all golf clubs, large, medium “A club we have recently signed is and small. In a market that is traditionally Hadley Wood. One of their key criteria dominated by fragmented technology, was not only having a system that was NFS really are leading way1with true, NFS_GolfMangementAd_12/07/11:Layout 1 12/7/11 10:13 the Page fully integrated but a system that also total integration.” GME

IBS Integrated Golf Club Management Software Transforming Information into Insight Core Functionality Complete club management Full integration across all your club’s departments Full customisable business intelligence reporting Online tee times, competitions and member accounts CRM and Yield Management Pro shop and F&B touch screen EPOS Award winning service and 24/7 UK support

As used by The London Golf Club, Brocket Hall and St Andrews Links Trust

Contact us today: Freephone: 0800 731 8451 Email: september 2011 GME 41

the last word

“After many years of enforced family picnics I can assure you there’s nothing quite as discomforting as a soggy Sandwich.”

Fat chance for the ‘larger’ 40-something generation

off your score, but only if you are Darren Clarke’s unexpected success shaped like Luke Donald. at the Open Championship was a fillip Anybody carrying a few extra to all us portly 40-somethings everypounds needs to adjust their swing where. accordingly, but this is never covered Admittedly I’m slightly more portly in the myriad books and magazine artithan DC and closer to 50 than 40. But cles helping one to break 80 – or in my I’m still encouraged. His victory was even more outstanding when you take case 100. With Bauer Publishing launching the into account the conditions. After new Golf Illustrated magazine – a many years of enforced family picnics I brave move in the current climate – can assure you there’s nothing quite as discomforting as a soggy Sandwich. I’m hoping they may choose to launch I’m hoping that DC’s win will encouranother new magazine called Today’s Larger Golfer. age the makers of coaching DVDs and books to launch a range for those with And until somebody brings out a coaching DVD titled David Leadbetter a larger girth. Currently there is a pile of DVDs and Gets Russell Grant into Single Figures I Project4:Layout 5/1/11 09:13 Page 1 imagine me gaining any benefit can’t coaching manuals 1piled in the corner of my office guaranteed to knock shots from my burgeoning collection.

I receive review copies and birthday and Christmas gifts from considerate relatives who know I ‘play’ golf – and even I use the verb advisedly – yet almost immediately I realise they’re not for me. I need specialist help, not to mention a rope and pulley system. But it’s not just in swing dynamics where portly golfers are ‘largely’ overlooked – we also suffer when it comes to golf apparel. I’ve written before about the few companies which provide shirts and trousers for the High & Mighty clientele, so I won’t go over old ground. That’s for a specialist piece of machinery... It can’t be coincidence that even Darren Clarke has to wear Dunlop, a brand available from the sports’ equivalent of Primark and owned by Mike Ashley, a man who can even give me a few inches around the middle. Though given I’ve just read he’s in line for an £86m windfall through sales of some Sports Direct stores, his may be just a moneybelt. Sports Direct is the one place I can buy golf shirts in my size, but I’m far too middle-class to venture in there these days. I’m afraid it’s back to M&S for me... GME

David Bowers

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EVENTS | +44 (0) 1730 711920 | 42 GME september 2011

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“The build quality of the RXV is excellent and we particularly like the four year warranty.” David Adams, General Manager, Dyrham Park Country Club

“The automatic braking system, where the cars’ brakes are applied on hilly terrain with no input from the golfer, is a superb safety device. These are excellent cars and the members like them very much.” Pedro Moran, General Manager, Real Club de la Puerta de Hierra, Madrid Contact us for a free demonstration or visit for details of your nearest dealer. You won't be disappointed.

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GMé | September 2011  

Golf Management Europe issuu 80

GMé | September 2011  

Golf Management Europe issuu 80