On the cover...
The Scandinavian Club in Copenhagen makes the cut as Toro signs a major deal with the top-ranked club in Denmark
£7.50 golfmanagement.eu.com Issue 115 | September 2017
The essential business magazine for every golf course owner, director of golf, CEO and general manager operating a golf facility
As GMé celebrates its 20th anniversary, we revisit Valderrama, host venue of the 1997 Ryder Cup, and speak with COO, Javier Reviriego
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On the agenda september 2017 24
Valderrama’s lasting legacy
Javier Reviriego, chief operating officer at Valderrama, talks about the 1997 Ryder Cup and the clubs world-renowned reputation for the high levels of customer service.
GMé – 20 years on
September 1997 saw the launch of GMé, and as the magazine celebrates 20 years serving the golf industry, founder and publisher, Michael Lenihan, takes a trip down memory lane.
Introducing... Mr Gary Player
Shepherd flocks to Denmark
Gary Player is quite simply a living legend. Now into his 80s, he shows no signs of slowing down, and still finds time to shoot the occasional round in the the mid-60s.
David Shepherd, CEO of The Scandinavian Club, is settling into life in Denmark, following his move from Monte Rei in Portugal at the end of last year.
Mackenzie & Ebert have ambitious plans to breathe new life into the Himalayas Nine at Prince’s Golf Club, whilst at the same time, restoring some pre-WWII characteristics.
GMé a shortened form of Golf Management Europe is published and distributed six times per year by Portman Publishing and Communications Limited Deben House, Main Road, Martlesham, Woodbridge IP12 4SE Telephone (44) 01394 380800 | www.portman.uk.com
Publisher Executive editor Advertising Contributors
Michael Lenihan David Bowers Ken Anderson Ella Boyden, Sam Elder, Stephen Killick, Scott MacCallum, Aidan Patrick, Gary Player, Peter Simm, Aston Ward
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ISSN 1368-7727. Printed by The Manson Group. © 2017 Portman Publishing and Communications Limited. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the prior written permission of the publisher. Whilst due care is taken to ensure content in GMé is accurate, the publisher cannot accept liability for errors and omissions.
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golfmanagement.eu.com | 3
from the publisher
“This topic, of course, is still the subject of much discussion now: How do we get more people playing golf?”
As GMé celebrates 20 years, how much has golf changed? If a week is a long time in politics, imagine what 20 years is in the golf industry. Well, if you look back at the first few hundred years, probably not a lot. GMé launched 20 years ago this very month – albeit in its original incarnation of Golf Management Europe – and I fondly recollect publishing an article in that inaugural edition, written by the late Bryan Griffiths, then the chairman of Golfconsult International, which illustrates how much – or how little – things have changed in the intervening years. He lamented the fact that “no dedicated establishment body exists solely to promote and nurture the growth and prosperity of the game.” While we have seen a number of ‘organisations’ launch with the intention of improving participation, these have been largely limited by national – or even regional – borders, and his desire for one world body would remain today were he still with us. The golf industry sector, he maintained, “… is small, fragmented and, very largely, amateur in its approach.” That has improved, but, I would contend, the criticism – for that is inherently what it is – is still valid in many parts in 2017. “No golf developer’s guide exists, and first-time, inexperienced developers (and their backers) are obviously vulnerable to the serious errors made repeatedly in each succeeding golf boom,” stated Griffiths. It would be Nirvana for something like that to exist and while the introduction
4 | GMé September 2017
SCRUMMED The inaugural Golf Court at The Lensbury in South London
of organisations such as Golf Business International – the third incarnation of the aforementioned Golfconsult International – can offer consultative assistance, developers still fall foul of the same proverbial minefields. He continued: “An oversupply of 18hole courses in a falling demand market is little or no help to beginners. Beginner-friendly facilities are essential for steady, long-term growth and are long overdue in many parts of Britain.” This topic, of course, is still the subject of much discussion now: How do we get more people playing golf? Indeed, that was the very question we posed in our first edition when reporting
on the launch of the Golf Court concept, in which a four-green, 6,500-yard, par-72 course could be built on just 15 acres, allowing the golfer to play six holes in an hour. Indeed, Laura Davies had one and another was built at The Lensbury, in South London. It’s now a rugby pitch. GMé
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Hold the front page The Scandinavian Club in Copenhagen, Denmark, recently agreed an extension to replace their comprehensive fleet of Toro equipment at the Robert Trent Jones II designed facility.
“I have been a Toro user now for 30 years and have always been delighted with the quality of the machinery and support”
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6 | GMé September 2017
The Scandinavian, just outside Copenhagen in Denmark, recently completed a Total Solutions Agreement with Reesink Turfcare DK on a rolling replacement program of their comprehensive fleet of Toro equipment. Commenting on the continued partnership, course manager, Russell Anderson said: “I have been a Toro user now for 30 years and have always been delighted with the quality of the machinery and support. “When we were ready to change the machinery at The Scandinavian, we tested many alternatives, but ultimately came back to what we consider to be the best.” Since the construction phase that began in 2006, the verdant acres of the two 18-hole courses, designed by Robert Trent Jones II, have been nursed and manicured by Anderson and his team of more than 20 greenkeepers. Reesink Turfcare DK has been involved from the inception of The Scandinavian to ensure Toro’s role in achieving the best conditions for members and their guests at the venue in the Farum suburb of the Danish capital. “The replacement of the machinery has started, and we’re delighted with the equipment that has arrived,” added Anderson.
The rolling replacement program will include greens, fairway and rough mowers, sprayers, heavy-and mid-duty utility vehicles, greens rollers, blowers, mechanical bunker rakes and material handlers. During the development of the 200+ hectares, the utmost consideration has been given to the environment, and the attention to detail has been immense. The 2,200 Toro sprinklers provide accurate and efficient irrigation, and rainwater is recycled through more than 100 kilometres of drainage, making play possible with even 100mm rain per hour. “At The Scandinavian, we strive to produce the very best playing surfaces possible,” said CEO, David Shepherd. “This began with the construction quality and continued with the investment in a talented team and the very best maintenance equipment. “Since opening in 2010 we have never compromised on quality and Russell was ready to begin to replace the golf maintenance fleet when I joined. This philosophy remained paramount. “We are delighted with the machinery we have received and look forward to continuing our long-term relationship with Reesink and Toro, and showing our members the benefits of the new equipment during the playing season.” GMé
SO 20 LD 17
SO 20 LD 17
A small selection of recent transactions personally handled by Tom Marriott and Ben Allen.
U A C Q
The Ridge Golf Club Kent - £1.75M
Great Hadham Country Club Hertfordshire - £1.25M
SA R FO
Hagley Golf & Country Club West Midlands - £2.25M
The Springs Golf Hotel Oxfordshire - £3.5M
SO 20 LD 17
SO 20 LD 17
The Hertfordshire Hertfordshire - £8M
Peterstone Lakes Golf Club South Glamorgan - £1.5M
Gatton Manor Hotel & Golf Club Surrey - £4.0M
For a confidential discussion about the sale of your golf business, or to register your requirements - contact: Tom Marriott MRICS
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Ben Allen BSc (Hons) MRICS
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PING set to appeal £1.45m fine for breaching UK competition law Golf club manufacturer Ping Europe Limited (PING) has been fined £1.45 million for banning UK retailers from selling its golf clubs online. The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has found that PING broke competition law by preventing two UK retailers from selling its golf clubs on their websites. PING is required to bring the online sales ban to an end, and must not impose the same or equivalent terms on other retailers. Whilst PING must allow retailers to sell online it may require them to meet certain conditions before doing so. These conditions must, though, be compatible with competition law. The CMA found that, while PING was pursuing a genuine commercial aim of promoting in-store custom fitting, it could have achieved this through less restrictive means. Ann Pope, senior director for Antitrust enforcement, said: “The internet is an increasingly important distribution channel and retailers’ ability to sell online, and reach as wide a customer base as possible, should not be unduly restricted. “The fine the CMA has today imposed on PING should act as a warning to companies that preventing its products from being sold online could be illegal,” added Pope. The level of the fine imposed on PING reflects that the CMA found the breach of competition law occurred in the context
of a genuine commercial aim of promoting in-store custom fitting. In a strongly-worded defence, Ping Europe Limited said: “PING Europe profoundly disagrees with the announced decision. Our Internet Policy is an important pro-competitive aspect of our long-standing commitment to custom fitting. This ensures the customer is fitted in person, something which cannot be achieved in an online environment. “PING Europe strongly believes consumers should be custom fitted in person by a trained PING fitter before purchasing PING golf clubs – that is why we adopted our Internet Policy.
Take three for 59club
BMW PGA Championship to move to September date
Specific to the golf and leisure industry, the 59club have created a Customer Service Tracker (CST) that sums up customer experience in three critical questions. Designed to provoke thought and generate high completion levels, the CST survey simply asks: Did the experience represent value for money; Did we offer a warm, welcoming and friendly experience; and how likely are you to recommend us? Simon Wordsworth, CEO at 59club said: “The customer service tracker is an extension to the wealth of management tools that are already revolutionising sales and service standards at our client clubs. “It’s invigorating to be part of the driving force that is advancing standards within the golf industry, and we look forward to engaging with more businesses who share the common goal of wanting to make the experience in golf great for the benefit of each and every one of us.”
8 | GMé September 2017
The PING G400 family
The 2017 BMW PGA Championship
The European Tour has announced that the BMW PGA Championship will move from its current date in May to a new September slot from the 2019 season onwards. The move comes following news that the 2019 US PGA Championship, which will be played at Bethpage Black, will move from its traditional August date into May, with The Players Championship on the PGA Tour moving from May to March.
“This personal face-to-face service is the key to realising the full value and performance designed and built into every PING club. PING Europe will be appealing the decision to the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) to demonstrate how our policy benefits consumers and improves choice. “We remain committed to distributing custom fitted and custom-built golf clubs in a manner that is in the best interest of the consumer. We are confident the CAT will recognise PING Europe’s Internet Policy is an appropriate and justified means to ensure we continue this valuable service to golfers.”
The specific date of the 2019 BMW PGA Championship will be released in due course but it will be central to a strong and robust end of season schedule on the European Tour. Keith Pelley, chief executive of the European Tour, said: “Significant changes to the global golfing calendar have given us the opportunity to move the BMW PGA Championship to a more favourable date from 2019 onwards. “Wentworth Club is an iconic location in the realm of British sport and the BMW PGA Championship is always hugely popular with the public as was seen in May when it launched our Rolex Series with 110,000 spectators in attendance over the course of the week. “This is a new chapter for the event but we expect similar interest in the autumn, as was shown historically by the World Match Play Championship when it was played at Wentworth Club at that time of the year.”
Golf Business Innovation Show thinking outside the box
In brief... Emirates and the European Tour have renewed their existing European Tour Agreement for four years until 2021, with the new deal including Emirates becoming an Official Partner of The 2018 Ryder Cup. The agreement renewal means that Emirates will continue to be a sponsor for the existing nine European Tour events which culminate in the prestigious DP World Tour Championship, Dubai, at Jumeirah Golf Estates in November. Le Touquet Golf Resort, France, is ushering in a new golden age for European golf travel with the opening of a new clubhouse, designed to blend into the linksland environment while offering guests contemporary comforts and hospitality. Inspired by the vast beaches and mountainous dunescape that characterises this stretch of France’s north east coast, the new clubhouse nestles at the heart of the resort’s three golf courses, La Mer, La Forêt and Le Manoir.
February 1, 2018 will see the launch of a new conference and exhibition at The Celtic Manor Resort, Wales, to help golf clubs become more sustainable and profitable through innovation and diversification. The brainchild of promoter Graeme Kirk, the Golf Business Innovation Show will examine and share ideas and experiences from leading and innovative clubs throughout the UK, on creating new products, services, and increasing footfall and revenue to their clubs. “Having work in publishing and B2B events for 16 years – and been a keen golfer for 25 – I have seen too many golf clubs closing during the decline of participation in golf,” said Kirk. “At the same time I have seen many clubs have huge success, take the initiative and utilise their land and clubhouse space to develop completely new income streams. Whether that is accommodation, bespoke restaurants, weddings and functions, alternative outdoor activities, spas, gyms, the list goes on. “In order for golf clubs to be sustainable, many clubs are starting to look at their businesses as a venue not just a golf club,” added Kirk. “One thing all golf clubs have is land, as well as their clubhouses, but how they
Promoter, Graeme Kirk
Academic milestone marks next step for Spink & love.golf
In one of the biggest deals of its kind in the UK, Carnoustie Golf Links, host of The Open Championship in 2018, has placed an order for seven state-of-the-art golf simulators from Foresight Sports. Once completed, The Carnoustie Golf Links Indoor Centre will be the UK’s largest indoor golf facility of its kind and the first to operate so many golfing simulators under one roof at an Open venue. Wentworth Club has been awarded GEO Certified accreditation by the Golf Environment Organization, the international standard in course sustainability. Kenny Mackay, Wentworth director of golf courses & grounds, said: “Wentworth’s ambition is to be the world’s premier private golf and country club and sustainability is absolutely key to this.”
best utilise that space in order to become a more attractive venue to non-golfers is the bigger question. “Certainly there is no one solution, but there are many opportunities and options well worth exploring. Clubs across the UK are already diversifying and providing multiple services in order to generate alternative sources of income. “The Golf Business Innovation Show will showcase multiple case studies, and share experiences from clubs that have, or are in the process of, diversifying, and there will be plenty of opportunity for ideas sharing and networking in an open environment to talk about non-golf related income opportunities.”
Alastair Spink, MSc
Alastair Spink, founder and head coach of love.golf – the award-winning social group golf experience supported by Syngenta – has been awarded a Master of Science in Sports Coaching from the University of Birmingham. Spink has spent the past four years studying the experiences of women and girls at golf clubs in the UK, highlighting
the prevalence of traditional gender and cultural beliefs that still exist within the clubs’ day-to-day practices. He explained: “It seemed natural for me to look beyond women’s current perceptions of golf and sport in general to discover whether these views originated from their experiences as young girls. “My research, alongside the market studies developed by Syngenta, highlight that many hurdles are still encountered by females, but we now have some considerable insights into how best the golf industry as a whole can address these issues and realise the benefits of encouraging more women into golf,” added Spink. Spink’s MSc is a continuation of his previous research into what makes a successful golf coaching programme for women, with the importance of creating the appropriate coaching environment and the focus on group learning forming the basis of the love.golf programme, with this academic milestone marking the next step forward for love.golf.
golfmanagement.eu.com | 9
Real Club Valderrama becomes one of the first clubs to invests in E-Z-GO ELiTE Real Club Valderrama in Spain, has purchased a fleet of 40 E-Z-GO ELiTE golf cars, which were supplied by local dealer, Green Mowers. Fitted with integrated Textron Fleet Management GPS, the new ELiTE series from E-Z-GO features Samsung SDI lithium batteries which require zero maintenance and comes with a five-year warranty. The new golf cars charge in half the time and require less out-of-wall power than leading lead acid competitors. COO of Valderrama, Javier Reviriego said: “Valderrama has been setting the benchmark for golf courses across Spain and Europe since the 1980s, and it is important that we continue to be ahead of the game and provide the best possible quality for our members. “We invested in the E-Z-GO ELiTE series as the Samsung lithium batteries are a huge step forward. It is a new era for golf cars, and we are proud to be amongst the first to offer the new technology on the course. “We first started using E-Z-GO five years ago. We tried other golf cars, but the quality of the E-Z-GO vehicles was the best – I first heard about the new ELiTE series at the PGA Show in Orlando earlier this year, and I knew Valderrama had to be the first to invest in the new technology.
“As a club, we are very environmentally conscious, so the fact that the new golf cars take half the time to charge saves us a lot in energy.” The batteries in the ELiTE vehicles are controlled by an advanced battery management system that monitors efficiency, temperature, state of charge and the health of the batteries.
GMG unveils new branding
Gleneagles stalks Deere and serves up rare course
Golf Management Group (GMG) has unveiled new branding and an updated website for their purchasing alliance. “The new branding conveys a very clear message to a new way of working, specialising in core areas of expenditure via new sub divisions within the current structure,” explained director, Scott Partington. “The new strap line ‘We Know Golf’ also portrays our clear understanding of the golfing industry, with directors at national and regional levels all having first-hand experience of the day-to-day operations at a golf club. “Industry experts ensure that GMG exclusive terms remain competitive, which is a very important factor when dealing in fluctuating markets such as utilities and catering purchases for example. “The change in the business model has been driven by the membership. Working with over 500 golf clubs in the previous seven years has given us a clear understanding of the cost centres that require the most attention,” added Partington.
Gleneagles has signed an exclusive contract with John Deere for the supply of golf course maintenance equipment and related technology to the three championship golf courses at the award winning hotel and golf resort in Perthshire, Scotland. The resort’s director of golf, Gary Silcock and John Deere’s worldwide Agriculture and Turf Division president James Field, officially confirmed the agreement before the recent 2017 Solheim Cup. Gleneagles will host the return fixture in 2019. “Following completion of recent renovation work on the King’s & Queen’s courses to bring them back more in line with James Braid’s original design vision, our courses continue to provide customers with a world-class experience that is second to none,” said Silcock. “With three critically-acclaimed 18-hole championship courses to choose from, Gleneagles remains, quite simply, a golfer’s paradise. “This new agreement with John Deere will see our two worldwide brands work-
10 | GMé September 2017
Javier Reviriego (left), COO at Valderrama with Javier Ramírez, managing director of Green Mowers
“The lighter batteries have significantly reduced the weight of the golf cars, which protects the turf on the course,” Reviriego continued. “We spend a substantial amount of time and resources to present the best possible playing conditions at Valderrama, so this will certainly make a difference.”
ing together to further increase quality and productivity on the courses, through the adoption of innovative, market leading technology. “We are going through an exciting period for the greenkeeping industry, as we see the introduction of satellite guidance and telematics fleet management systems dedicated to turfcare. “As part of our ongoing investment programme, we look forward to working alongside John Deere and local dealer Double A Trading to help develop these systems and keep Gleneagles at the forefront of European and world golf.”
Gary Silcock (left) with James Field of John Deere
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Designed by Swan Golf Designs, Royal Bled opens in Slovenia The official reopening of Royal Bled, Slovenia’s oldest golf course, was also a proud moment for the recently rebranded Golf Business International. For Howard Swan, the chairman of Golf Business International led the team which completed the extensive renovation project in his capacity as architect with Swan Golf Designs, while other members of the group also provided input and experience. During a spectacular two-day event, which also marked the 80th anniversary of the original course in Bled, HRH Princess Jelisaveta Karađorđević, of Serbia, hit the first ceremonial shot on the redesigned layout. The renovation project at Royal Bled was undertaken over three years, with at least 18 holes of the 27-hole complex remaining open throughout. The work encompassed the redesign and reconstruction of all greens, tees and bunkers, together with the addition of ten new lakes.
In addition, a comprehensive practice facility was created, with a double-ended range, two practice chipping and bunker greens, putting green, and a pro-teaching suite kitted out with the latest video analysis and ball tracking technology.
The project team combined local skills, knowledge and expertise, all under the guidance of Swan and his son, William, who said: “It has been a great pleasure and privilege to work with the Solak family on the renovation of the King’s Course.”
Allen & Marriott Withers joins worldclass.golf join forces in non-executive role HMH Golf & Leisure and Ben Allen Golf & Leisure have teamed up to form HMH Golf & Leisure in association with Ben Allen. The directors of the two companies – Ben Allen and Tom Marriott – are well known in the golf industry and have been involved in a large proportion of the UK’s most important golf property transactions over the last 25 years. In the past 12 months or so, both directors have handled combined golf club and golf hotel sales of £46m; currently have six properties under offer totalling £19.85m; have £12.5m of property currently on the market; and will shortly be bringing a further six businesses with a combined asking price of £18m to the market. Ben Allen, who until recently was a director at GVA and formerly of Humberts Leisure said: “Tom and I have been competing against one another for over 20 years, so working together in this niche sector of the market makes eminent sense for us and for our clients – our market contacts are second to none. We look forward to the future with great enthusiasm.” Tom Marriott added: “Ben brings an incredible amount of knowledge and expertise with him, and has been in the business for as long as I have – between us we have been involved in over 200 transactions – and together the team will offer the best service in the sector.”
12 | GMé September 2017
As momentum continues to build toward the launch of worldclass.golf in 2018, the network of world-class golf destinations has announced that former CEO of Jacobsen, David Withers, has joined the board of directors in a nonexecutive role. Withers, 52, joins worldclass.golf with over 30 years experience working within the golf industry, during which time he has travelled the world visiting highcalibre golf facilities, and has witnessed first-hand the level of customer service which is expected from clubs who attain membership of worldclass.golf. “During my time at Jacobsen, I worked closely with CEOs, general managers and directors of golf at some of the finest golf clubs in the world,” said Withers, “so I fully understand the concept behind worldclass.golf, which is centred around delivering a truly world-class visitor experience at member clubs. “It’s simply not enough these days to have a well-designed golf course, in excellent condition. Visitors – especially those paying a premium for their greenfee – demand a high-level of service, on-and-off the course, and I am excited to lend my knowledge and experience to worldclass.golf, whilst helping to grow the network around the world.” Commenting on Withers appointment, managing director, Michael Lenihan said: “David brings an amazing amount of
industry knowledge to worldclass.golf, and having spent the last six years as CEO of Jacobsen in the United States, he has an unparalleled network of contacts not only in North America but around the world. “I have known David for the best part of 16 years now, and he has always struck me as someone who prides himself on his attention to detail, and coming from a customer-service background, understands fully the growing emphasis on the ‘visitor journey’ at elite golf clubs. “His network and professionalism will be a great asset to worldclass.golf as we head towards the launch in spring 2018.”
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CMAE president, Marc Newey to bow out in style, as European Conference heads to Marbella The ninth CMAE European Conference on Club Management will take place at the H10 Andalucia Hotel in Marbella from November 26-28, 2017. The conference will have a full schedule of education sessions based around CMAE’s ten core competencies of modern club management, and will feature speakers on demand-led subject matters pertinent to active club managers. Opening the Conference will be Javier Reviriego, COO of Real Club Valderrama, who will speak on how his team delivers club management excellence. Conference delegates will have the exclusive chance to visit Real Club Valderrama for lunch and play nine-holes on the famous Championship Course on Tuesday November 28. Other speakers include Rob Hill from Global Golf Advisors, who will present the findings of the 2017 Club and Golf Benchmarking Initiative for the first time, along with observations on what they mean for club managers. Paul Armitage from Le Golf National in Paris will present a case study of change that has had to be implemented at Le Golf National since 2014, and will give an insight into how the Ryder Cup was brought to France as a country, and not as a host site.
The CMAE’s AGM will also take place during the two-day conference, where president Marc Newey, will step down and be succeeded by David Roy, manager at Crail Golfing Society in Scotland. “Last year our members asked us to revive the European Conference and there is nowhere better than Marbella to stage it,” said Newey.
Exciting times for Stoke Park
Le Grande Mare in Guernsey opens American Golf store
Stoke Park Country Club, Spa & Hotel is investing a ‘significant six-figure sum’ in its golf academy as it looks to build on the success it has achieved in the last few years. The Buckinghamshire club is also investing in new staff to help bring through a succession of talented youngsters and complete beginners. Chris Murtagh, 33, has been appointed head of instruction, where he is joined by 31-year-old Tom Reid, who takes up the post of senior teaching professional. Commenting on the news, Stoke Park’s director of golf, Stuart Collier, said: “This is an exciting time for the academy. Not only has a significant six-figure sum been spent on its refurbishment, but we also welcome Chris and Tom into their new roles and believe both of them will be integral to the success of the academy in the future. “They have both demonstrated a strong commitment to helping golfers improve, whether they are youngsters heading for county honours, complete novices, or existing members looking to rid themselves of niggling little habits.”
American Golf is bringing the biggest brands in golf to Guernsey with the opening of its latest store. The nationwide golf retailer has invested over £130,000 into the store based at La Grande Mare Golf Club, equipping it with a state of the art fitting studio and complementing the investment with five new appointments to the staff team. The new store is American Golf’s first investment into the channel islands and marks what Chris Vermeulen, managing director of La Grande Mare, considers to be the finishing touch to the facilities on offer. “We’re incredibly proud of La Grande Mare so we’re delighted that we can now offer the island’s golfers a retail venue that is the equal of all the other facilities,” said Vermeulen. “From day one the team at American Golf have been completely focussed on providing the best experience for every golfer. We now have an unrivalled level of product choice and expertise, and it’s all delivered with a focus on the needs of our golfers. We really couldn’t be happier with how things have gone.”
14 | GMé September 2017
The iconic 17th, on the back-nine at Valderrama
“We wanted to build upon the tremendous success of our Management Development programmes, and create more networking and social opportunities for our membership to enjoy. “To be able to play the back nine of the iconic Ryder Cup course at Valderrama will be a great way to conclude the Conference.”
American Golf at La Grande Mare
Upon opening and after months of planning, new store manager Mark Renshaw is excited to begin helping Guernsey’s golfers improve their game. “La Grande Mare is a fantastic venue for us to help the island’s golfers get the very best out of their game,” he said. “It’s our first venture into the Channel Islands so we’re determined to get it just right. The team we’ve put together is full of enthusiasm and with the large investment American Golf has made, the facilities really are second to none.”
In words & Pictures A brief pictorial round-up of events from around the industry, including news of a new position for Torbjörn Johansson who assumes the role of director of education at the CMAE.
In brief... The London Golf Club has updated their irrigation system with the Rain Bird V8 irrigation and control software which has already revolutionised water regulation at the club. The V8 system combines computer-aided design with GPS geo-referenced images, and has quickly improved irrigation practice at the club and reduced water usage costs. Macdonald Cardrona Hotel, Golf & Spa, near Edinburgh, has completed a series of important renovations to its Dave Thomas-designed course, with the group investing more than £90,000 to renovate the bunkers and install Blinder Bunker Liner to enhance drainage. In addition, the former European Challenge Tour venue has also completed a programme of sand exchange on every bunker, while renovation work has also been completed on the course’s numerous pathways. England Golf staff picked up the pace when a Speedgolf demonstration was held on the Bracken course at their Woodhall Spa headquarters last month, turning the spotlight on the more athletic format which combines running and golf. England Golf partners British Speedgolf through its Golf Express campaign, which encourages busy people to play more often, and during September it will be promoting this and other shorter and quicker formats of the game. Royal Dornoch Golf Club is supporting a drive to make potentially life-saving equipment more readily available in the town. The club has two defibrillators available for golfers and visitors – in the clubhouse and at the half-way house on the Championship Course – and has now provided financial help to install a machine outside Dornoch Medical Practice.
The CMAE has appointed Torbjörn Johansson as its new director of education, who succeeds Michael Braidwood, who left to take up the position of general manager at Qatar International Golf Club.
London Golf Club has announced that Lee Sayers will be re-joining the club as the new golf courses and estate manager, having worked at the club previously, first as assistant course manager, then later as head greenkeeper.
FootJoy has announced that Russell Lawes has been appointed to the position of sales and marketing director for the UK Region with immediate effect, following the deployment of Richard Fryer to FJ headquarters in the US.
Gavin Grenville-Wood is the new general manager at Oak Park Golf Club, who along with new course manager Anthony Burnell, and the club’s new head chef Mick Ogden, is heading up a new core management team.
South Africa-based Peter Richardson is the latest overseas recruit for Golf Business International, which continues to increase its global reach. Richardson’s experience is in development, property, management, and sales and marketing.
The latest woman to take control of a golf club is 49-year-old Heather Tubb at Cams Hall Estate in Fareham, Hampshire, who becomes the first female general manager in Cams Hall Estate’s 25-year history,
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pgas of europe
“There are a number of ways we can activate this female demographic but one that has had success is the use of Open Days”
SWING RIGHT A group of ladies enjoying a taster lesson at Stoke-by-Nayland Golf Club (main picture)
Recruiting Women via Open Days As Mark Taylor of the PGAs of Europe explains, offering a Women’s Open Day could create new opportunities for your facility, as well as generate some much needed revenue.
GMé Media Partner The PGAs of Europe is an association of 36 National PGAs with a collective membership in excess of 21,000 golf professionals across Europe.
MEDIA PA R T N E R
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What has become clear in recent times is that women are potentially one of the largest growth participation areas in golf. So knowing this, the big question is whether your club or facility is looking at new ways to recruit and retain women golfers? Firstly it is important to understand your facility and completing a facility profile may help to identify its strengths and weaknesses, analysing and highlighting why your current women members/ clients re-join/return and why some may have left? There are a number of ways we can activate this female demographic but one that has had success is the use of Open Days. These days can help raise the profile of golf within a community and change the perception of golf in new and varied demographics. Amongst other things, Open Days can also promote your club as a welcom-
ing and safe environment, and increase revenue streams and membership both in terms of target groups and also in general. Through work at England Golf, we have found that the majority of women will want an offer that reflects value for money, something that fits into their lifestyles, a range of opportunities, and also to know how golf can keep them fit and social. An Open Day is a great way to showcase your facility and see if you can provide evidence of meeting these offer needs – in one fell-swoop can you show that your facility can successfully answer their questions and fulfil their needs and wants. Open Days are just one way – or certainly part of a wider activity – that you can showcase your facility, but you could also create member referral schemes to leverage your existing client
network; you can target local businesses, other sports or clubs, school teachers or parents; or even local women’s groups like the UK’s ‘Women’s Institute’ or ‘Mums in the Know’. CREATING A PLAN Regardless of the method you use, there is an element that is 100 per cent required – a plan. In this case a plan for an Open Day should be relatively straightforward but is it still very necessary. Creating a plan will help you establish the key elements to the day, and how to leverage your existing clients or members so that they act as buddies or ambassadors to show people the facility and create social bonds immediately on engaging with you.
It can also help you to see how to leverage your existing assets such as your coaching team, and what you can offer to people for free as a taster, and what elements of the course or specific facilities to just show or to get them to be involved with. You will also need to think about the equipment and personnel required; what sort of dress code there might be; and how to effectively communicate that to people so there is no ambiguity. It’s also important to ensure that you have clear signage, and ensure that all staff and volunteers are on message. One of the most important things to think about is the before, during and post-event marketing activities. It’s important to get people through the door with an attractive offering, and
then when they are there, you need to ensure you think of data capture, followup opportunities with those interested in taking things further, and how you might then activate and convert these new clients. Think about how you might get their feedback and also incorporate the new clients into existing social groups to create a harmonious client base. You can also use the chance to create some content for your marketing activities in general, so gather photos, testimonials, video interviews, and create social media activity before, during and after as well to generate some buzz around your work – this way it won’t just be the people who actually physically attended that only get exposed to your activations. GMé
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Reviriego looking for lasting legacy at Valderrama Peter Simm talks with Javier Reviriego, chief operating officer at Real Club Valderrama, about the club’s prestigious history; the 1997 Ryder Cup and its world-renowned reputation for the high levels of customer service the club aspires to.
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valderrama.com A ROYAL GEM Right, the par 5, fourth hole ‘La Cascada’ and main picture, the par 4, second hole, ‘El Árbol’
If you could pick any golf course to play in Europe, it’s a pretty safe bet that Valderrama would feature towards the top of your wish-list. Nestling in a secluded corner at the western end of Spain’s Costa del Sol, the exclusive club and Robert Trent Jones Snr’s’ world-famous layout is regularly ranked number one in Europe and the venue golfers most want to visit. It seems hard to believe that it is nearly 20 years ago since Seve Ballesteros was seen charging around the legendary Spanish course’s immaculate fairways, galvanising his European team to a memorable victory over the United States at the 1997 Ryder Cup. The event firmly established Valderrama on the worldwide golfing map, paving the way for it to host numerous high-profile tournaments including the Valderrama (formerly Andalusian) Masters, and the venue has gone on to deservedly claim its place at Europe’s top table of golf courses. It’s also hard to believe that it’s the best part of two decades since I previewed the course and event for GMé in the launch issue, and if I’ve managed
to achieve half as much as Valderrama has in the same period of time then I’ll be a happy man. There have been a few changes at the club since Seve last blessed its fairways, but the course remains a favourite with the world’s best (its roll call of winners includes Major champions Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Sergio Garcia). The clubhouse is adorned with lasting reminders of Seve and co’s feats over the last 20 years, and at the heart of Valderrama’s continued success is an overriding drive, desire and commitment to deliver the best possible customer experience – something that has helped keep it as the benchmark for luxury golf destinations. I had the privilege of enjoying the club’s acclaimed customer service for myself earlier this summer following an invite from Javier Reviriego, COO of Valderrama, and can fully testify to the five-star quality of the product and experience. “If people come here and pay a certain amount of money we should make sure that they are well looked after,” said Reviriego.
“If people come here and pay a certain amount of money we should make sure that they are well looked after” twitter.com/gme
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valderrama STANDING TALL Left, Javier Reviriego, COO of Valderrama; top right, the signature 17th hole during the Volvo Matchplay and bottom right, the par 4, 13th
“They demand a Valderrama experience and that is what they receive, right from the moment they arrive”
“They demand a Valderrama experience and that is what they receive, right from the moment they arrive. And we have mystery shoppers all the time to ensure that our guests receive the high level of service they expect. “The team here know we have mystery shoppers but they know the standards and service we should be delivering. We also make sure we follow up with guests the day after they visit to ensure our levels are maintained. “We want visitors to feel like members for a day, and we have to make sure that when they leave here they are blown away by the hospitality. “We know they are going to be blown away by the golf course but clients need to be happy with everything else so that they come back.” With 450 members from 42 different countries – from as far afield as Australia, Japan and Korea – as well as demand from players all over the world, keeping everyone happy is no easy task, but it’s a balancing act that Reviriego has done with aplomb since he arrived at the club from the nearby Finca Cortesin Hotel, Golf & Spa resort in 2011.
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Taking charge at a time when green-fee numbers were going down (Valderrama had even accepted twofor-one vouchers the year before), the 42-year-old, has succeeded in almost doubling visitor numbers in the last six years, raising income received from green fees to around €2.5 million. Whilst realising the needs of his members, Reviriego also recognises that such a famous course is bound to be in high demand from fee-paying guests who are more than happy to pay highlevel green fees if the experience is good enough. He said: “The expectation of many members is to have the golf course in the best possible condition 365 days a year. “We have members that would like the club to be private but we want to give people the opportunity to play Valderrama. We have to respect our members, though, so there are four tee times at weekends instead of eight with 12-minute intervals. “When I joined in 2011, green-fee sales were declining. Visitors were still coming but the experience they were
receiving was not up to the standard that it should have been. “There are still a large percentage of clients who put quality and service in front of price when selecting their golf holidays. I believe that this will never change and clubs like Valderrama should focus their business to such clients and offer the best possible experience. “Last year we had around 6,000 visitor rounds, 3,000 guest rounds and 8,000 member rounds. In 2011, we had 3,200 visitor rounds. In terms of income, we took €2.5 million in green fees last year and had lots of repeat business, which is something we’ve worked very hard at. “People come to Valderrama because of the history and the experience – which is something we try to deliver all-year round. Augusta provides a great experience for two months of the year – but they have it easy!” The benefits of Reviriego’s approach, and his first-class knowledge of business and the golf industry, are clear for all to see. Increased revenues have helped the club to implement a five-year investment plan costing €6 million to bring Valderrama’s facilities on and off the
Valderrama the vision of Jamie Ortiz-Patiño
course up to the standard expected of a high-end luxury venue. And while some people might have preferred to shy away from tinkering with a proven winning formula, Reviriego embraced it and, with the assistance of designer Kyle Phillips, has introduced a number of improvements to the course and its greens to ensure that it remains as one of the stand-out venues in world golf – and a layout that will continue to test the very best players. He said: “The money that has been brought in over the last five years has all been reinvested in the course and the clubhouse. “Kyle Phillips has helped a lot with the revamping of the greens and the areas around them. The greens are 25-26 years old and if you want to stay top quality, you have to change. They were good but not good enough for the future. “Golf should involve accuracy, skill, strategy and the ability to move the ball both ways. When the European Tour comes here I always have these discussions about how the course should be set up because I don’t want people shooting 20-under-par.
“We have spent €4 million already and will be spending another €2 million. We have put in new cart parts on the front nine and will be doing the same thing on the back this winter. “The revamping of the back nine ends in February. That will be the end of our five-year plan and we then aim to consolidate the Valderrama Masters and make it one of the best events on the Tour and up there with the BMW PGA Championship.” Judging by his previous track record, it would be a brave man who bets against Reviriego achieving his aim and adding to Valderrama’s already legendary status. And don’t rule out the Ryder Cup making a future return to the club’s famous fairways either. When asked about the chances, he replied: “Who knows about the Ryder Cup returning here in the future? “It’s a great course for the Ryder Cup and Sergio (Garcia) and Jon Rahm are great for golf here.” Sergio emulating his hero Seve and captaining Europe at Valderrama, what a story that would be. Just remember where you heard it first. GMé
Real Club Valderrama is located in Sotogrande, Spain; a few miles north of Gibraltar, and approximately one hour’s drive from Malaga International airport. Valderrama is a private members’ club with a limited number of starting times offered for visitors, and has been consistently ranked as number 1 in Continental Europe since the late 80’s and has been included in the Top 100 in the World since 1999. The Par 71 championship course measures 6,951 yards (6,356 metres) from the professional tees, and the fairways have been described as the best in Europe, if not the world. It is not an easy course – nor was it intended to be – it was designed so as to call forth thought and precision for every shot. The course was designed in 1974 by Robert Trent Jones, Sr, and was originally known as Las Aves (Sotogrande New). In 1984, Jaime Ortiz-Patiño, acquired the golf course and committed to bringing the course to a new level, with Trent Jones agreeing to come back and redesign his original layout of ten years earlier. Together the two men spent many hours walking around the course and discussing where and how improvements should be made, with the course renamed Valderrama, after the ancient estate on which the land is situated. The pair shared a common aim... to create a course that would present a test of golf to the everyday golfer and the first-class player alike.
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gmé 20 years
20/20 Vision as GMé marks publishing milestone September 1997 saw the launch of GMé, and as the magazine celebrates 20 years serving the golf industry, Aidan Patrick spoke with founder and publisher, Michael Lenihan, about how the magazine came into existence. A chance encounter while relaxing at a Spanish golf resort, may well have turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to Michael Lenihan, publisher and founder of Golf Management Europe (GMé). For it was in the spring of 1996, that Lenihan decided to visit La Manga Club, in Spain, having sold his former magazine, Football Management, and where he came across a magazine which would shape the next 21 years of his life. Lenihan explained: “Having just sold a football magazine that I launched in 1993, I was looking for some downtime, and a chance to reflect on the next chapter in my career. “I’d visited La Manga Club a few years earlier on a press trip – the resort was in the infancy of establishing its football academy at the time – so I knew the fivestar Principe Felipe hotel would afford me the time to relax, and take stock of what I wanted to do next. “At the time I didn’t play golf and, besides watching the Open on TV every July, I had very little interest in the sport. What I loved about La Manga, was the beautiful scenery and the exclusivity that the resort had back in the late 90s, and,
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even to this day, it holds special memories for me, as it’s where I proposed to my wife, Jane.” So, with little interest or knowledge of the golf industry, how did Lenihan stumble across the idea to launch what has become one of the longest established golf magazines in the business, respected not just in Europe, but around the world? “One afternoon, I’d had enough of sunbathing,” added Lenihan, “and decided to wander over to the tabletennis tables that were located poolside and stumbled across a magazine by the name of Golf Enterprise Europe which was laying on a table. “Curiosity got the better of me, so I decided to pick it up and have a read – I suppose you could say that professional curiosity got the better of me. “At the time, I didn’t know an awful lot about the golf business, but, coming from the football world I had learned a thing or two about how a modern sports business operated. “I also noticed that quite a few of the advertisers were, in fact, former clients of mine, especially those involved in the greenkeeping sector. Grass is grass after
all, and, if you pardon the pun, the seed was sown.” That fateful trip to La Manga Club was in the spring of 1996, and there followed an extensive market research campaign, coupled with a marketing drive to see if a business magazine for the golf industry was viable. “I knew from my time publishing Football Management, that unless you have both the readership and advertisers on-board from the outset, most new magazine launches are destined to fail,” said Lenihan. “So, I spent the best part of a year researching, researching and researching to ensure that if I decided to launch a golf magazine, it had a reasonable chance of success.” The summer of 1996 must have been a testing time for Lenihan, as his daughter was born in the July, and fatherhood added extra parental pressures which came as a bit of a shock for the entrepreneur. “Tara being born at the end of July really focussed my mind,” admitted Lenihan. “My wife and I had moved into a new house just before the trip to La Manga, so, within the space of six
gmé 20 years BACK IN THE DAY GMé publisher, Michael Lenihan (far right) talking with clubhouse architect, Douglas Barker at the Clubhouse exhibition in 1999, and below right, overlooking the Old Course at St Andrews in 2006
“directors of golf and CEOs simply didn’t exist back then”
BACK IN THE DAY Michael Lenihan researching the magazine
months, I had sold a magazine, taken on a mortgage and become a father – all of a sudden I realised that whatever my next move was career wise, I knew I had to make a success of it.” Working from his kitchen table, and a makeshift office in a spare bedroom, Lenihan worked tirelessly to formulate the content of the new magazine, before moving to a new office complex in Waterlooville, Hampshire, a move which was forced upon him by his new-born daughter. “I’ve always been the type of person that needs to work in absolute quiet, and can’t even have the radio on unless I’m designing,” laughed Lenihan. “So, to have a six-month-old baby at home while I was trying to concentrate was proving to be more than a little challenging. Once I knew the idea for a golf business magazine had traction, I decided the time was right to rent an office and take on staff.” But, even at that point, in early 1997, the title of the magazine had yet to be finalised, and Lenihan recalls vividly the thought processes behind the name, Golf Management Europe. “I knew, from the conversations I had conducted during my research, that the term ‘management’ kept continually coming up in conversation, and, as I needed to differentiate the new magazine from any similar magazines that were around at the time, I decided
to focus on the management theme,” continued Lenihan. “Twenty years ago, most golf clubs were either managed by a secretary or manager – directors of golf and CEOs simply didn’t exist back then – and, as the new magazine was aimed at helping golf club managers operate their golf clubs, it seemed to make sense to stick with the management name. “Naturally, given the fact the magazine was going to cover all of Europe and not just the UK, I needed to factor in the word Europe, and before you knew it, Golf Management Europe became the working title of the magazine, a name which was only recently shortened to GMé when the title was re-branded in 2014.” The decision to delay the first issue until September 1997, was a deliberate tactic taken by Lenihan and his editorial team – which comprised David Bowers and Peter Simm, both of whom still write for GMé – with the launch timed to coincide with the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama. “It’s fair to say the 1997 Ryder Cup at Valderrama heralded the start of a new era with regards to the commercialism of the Ryder Cup, and I was very keen to position the new magazine at the forefront of this new era for the industry,” recalled Lenihan. “In fact, the very first edition featured Valderrama on the front cover, together
with an article written by Peter Simm, so it was somewhat fitting that, earlier this year, Peter and I visited Javier Reviriego, COO at Valderrama, for an interview which appears in this 20th anniversary edition.” Looking back over the past 20 years, if he had to choose a single highlight of his time working in golf, what would it be? “That’s easy,” he smiled. “Before I started the magazine, I didn’t play the game, and only messed around on a pitch-andputt course on the seafront. After the magazine launched, it was noticeable that, as publisher, I began receiving invitations to attend golf days and media visits, and it dawned on me rather rapidly, that I’d need to learn to play. “So, along with David Bowers, I took some lessons in the summer of 1998 at Chichester Golf Centre in Sussex, and haven’t looked back since. “Golf is a very sociable game, and I absolutely love visiting and playing golf courses all over the world, and getting to know the people that drive this sport forward – I honestly feel blessed to work in such a fantastic industry. My only regret is that I didn’t learn to play until I was in my late 20s.” And, as Lenihan embarks on the next chapter in his publishing career, he will always be grateful for that fateful day back in 1996 when a chance discovery ignited his passion for the game, and business, of golf. GMé
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IN SUSPENSE Play is suspended during a competition
DEAD WOOD A tree struck by lightning on a course
Responsible actions in a Thunderstorm Further to the editorial comment in the July edition of GMé regarding lightning, Scott MacCallum investigates the best course of action to take when thunder is afoot. In May of this year a club golfer was playing golf at Fynn Valley Golf Club near Ipswich, Suffolk, when he was struck by lightning and sadly passed away from his injuries a few days later. The first thought, other than one of sympathy for Philip Shard’s family, friends and playing partners, was that of how unlucky he was. A saying in this country is that you’ve got as much chance of “insert unlikely event” as you have of being struck by lightning, and that if a poor victim had been at the other end of the “luck spectrum” he would have been celebrating a win in the Euromillions Lottery. For information, you are four more times likely to be struck by lightning than you are to win the lottery. However, like the bookmaker who underestimated the chances of a hole in one in a Tour event and used ignorance as his defence for not paying out, we are totally underestimating the threat from a lightning strike on a golf course.
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A fifth of all lightning strikes on people in Britain occur on golf courses and around three people a year are killed by strikes. So by that reckoning there are three people killed by lightening every five years on golf courses, which means that it is anything but a freak – once in a lifetime occurrence – and we should be taking the threat much more seriously than we have done up until now. It must be noted that our American cousins are so much more aware of the consequences of a thunderstorm and that Lee Trevino’s joke about “Even God can’t hit a 1-iron” is making light of a particularly serious issue. Lightning causes 51 deaths per year in the US. It must be said that professional golf does take the issue extremely seriously and in some professional events it is disqualification if you hit a shot after the klaxon has been sounded. However, that sort of rigour doesn’t always exist in club golf.
MOTHER NATURE The full force of lightning can be both beautiful and frightening
One general manager in the UK who certainly doesn’t underestimate the threat lightning causes is Ed Chamberlain, of Broadstone Golf Club, in Dorset. “To believe that it is the club’s responsibility to warn golfers of the dangers is a very dangerous road to go down,” he said. “The nature of golf, especially at members’ clubs, means that golfers are often on the course from 5.30am until 9.45pm, with the only members of staff at the time possibly an apprentice greenkeeper or a young, non-golfer bar person,” explained Chamberlain. “Expecting a golf club to provide a suitably qualified person during every one of these hours, seven days of the weeks, 52 weeks of the year, would be
beyond the capabilities and budgets of most clubs. “Even if a club does manage this, the forecasting of lighting is virtually impossible – it can pop up from nowhere at times and the logistics of ensuring golfers are all able to hear a klaxon and find safe shelter over such a large area, especially in a storm, is incredibly difficult. “Lastly on this point, if clubs are deemed liable for this, we will see much more ‘safety first’ use of klaxons, probably met with a golfer attitude of ‘why on earth have you stopped me playing, when there is no lightning anywhere,’” added Chamberlain, who, as a young assistant pro, was working at a club when a golfer was struck and died, so he is emotionally invested in the issue.
“What I feel that I have learnt from my many hours of research and thought on this topic, is that I come back to the understanding that rather than expecting clubs to take ultimate responsibility when they will struggle to be ‘belt and braces’ when it comes to it, golfers need to ultimately take responsibility for their own actions, and the golf club will help them do this. “As a result, Broadstone does all it can as a golf club to minimise the risks caused by sudden thunderstorms,” he stressed. “We as a club have taken a number of measures to try and help. We will always sound a klaxon when appropriate staff are on duty, which covers approximately 6am to 6.30pm.
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“To believe that it is the club’s responsibility to warn golfers of the dangers is a very dangerous road to go down”
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“We have a lighting warning system through Meteorage which alerts us of any lighting strikes within 30km via text message to the general manager, head professional and head greenkeeper,” stated Chamberlain. “We don’t always sound as soon as we receive a text, but it alerts us to the possibility. We then liaise with one another, study weather patterns and decide the appropriate course of action.” So what do the rules have to say on the subject? Rule 6-8 makes it clear that a player is entitled to discontinue play if he or she believes there is danger from lightning: Although bad weather in itself is not a good reason for discontinuing play, bad weather accompanied by lightning, or the very real risk of lightning most certainly is. Common sense dictates that play in these circumstances must be discontinued in the interests of safety. Even if the klaxon is not sounded and the player honestly believes that there is a real risk of danger from lightning, then he or she is entitled to proceed under the provisions of Rule 6-8 and discontinue play. According to guidance issued by the USGA – who have produced a ‘Safety First’ poster for clubs to display in their clubhouses – as soon as golfers hear thunder, they should seek refuge in a large permanent building (such as the clubhouse, or halfway house) and move to the lowest elevated area. Under no circumstances should golfers take refuge under tall objects such
as trees, and should avoid exposure to large, open spaces wherever possible. If it is not possible to evacuate the course with immediate effect, the USGA recommend that golfers should spread out from your group, and squat down tucking your head down whilst covering your ears. It goes without saying that you should avoid contact with any metal objects, and stand away from your golf clubs and trolley. In addition, never seek shelter in a golf car, and avoid any close proximity to water. It certainly appears to be that the most consistent advice is to head for lower ground – such as a ravine or a bunker – and make yourself as small as possible if you are unable to reach a building. Granted you may well get soaked during a heavy downpour, but that’s certainly preferable to the alternative. It certainly shouldn’t take a tragic event like that which occurred at Fynn Valley to galvanise the golfing public into taking the issue more seriously, but you can be sure that there will still be a large number – sometimes those with a good round going – who feel that the potential of winning a few quid in the Medal is more important that risking his or her life in a thunderstorm. However, for a number of people that proved to be a risk which certainly wasn’t worth taking. As Chamberlain says, clubs will help but golfers have to take responsibility for their own safety. GMé
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“we didn’t play for money. We played to win, for pride, for your country, and to be the best in the world”
© Black Knight Archives
In conversation with Gary Player Gary Player is quite simply a living legend. Now into his 80s, he shows no sign of slowing down, and still finds time to shoot the occasional round in the mid-60s. MASTER CLASS Gary Player on the first tee at The Masters (above), and main picture, with his haul of Major trophies (l-r) PGA Championship, The Masters, The Open and US Open
GMé At what age did you first become interested in golf, and did you always have a desire to become a professional sportsman? GP I fell in love with the game of golf in my teens after my father took me to play at Virginia Park Golf Course just outside of Johannesburg in South Africa. Up until then, I fancied other sports like cricket, track and rugby. But golf came very naturally to me. I realised early on golf did not subject the body to punishment, other than swinging a club relentlessly for hours on end. The potential for longevity was there. You see, golf is a game one can play for your entire life. People can play with one arm or one leg, in a wheelchair, and it’s a game you can enjoy in almost every country in the world. It also helped that I met Vivienne my future wife on the golf course. We have been married now for 60 years! GMé You turned professional in 1953 at the tender age of 17, so what was life like on tour in South Africa during that period?
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GP Very different from today’s game. I worked giving lessons at a local club first starting out earning £20 a month – no private jets or tournament courtesy cars. At that point, there was hardly any money to be earned on the South African Tour and you were forced to go abroad. But we didn’t play for money. We played to win, for pride, for your country, and to be the best in the world. GMé Did you ever doubt your decision to pursue a career in golf, and what would you say was the hardest challenge you had to overcome? GP It would have been easy to pack my bags and move permanently to America with my wife before we had children. However, I am a proud South African and wanted to travel to compete in tournaments all over the world. My goal was to become a true global champion. So, the hardest part for me was being away from my family for months at a time. I missed the birth of several of my children. There was a lot of times when I was by myself on the road living in hotel rooms and in airplanes.
© Black Knight Archives
HIGH LIFE Life is somewhat different now compared to how Gary Player’s career started out in South Africa
It was tough, but gave me courage and a purpose. GMé You’ve won 168 tournaments throughout your career, but if you had to single out just one, what would you say was your career defining moment and why? GP Either when I completed the career Grand Slam by winning the 1965 US Open – I still remain the only nonAmerican to do so – or perhaps when I completed the Senior Grand Slam in 1988, because although I was competing against the same players like Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino, I won more than they did because I was so fit. I was probably in just as good a shape when I was 50 as when I was 25. I highly commend Bernhard Langer for being the second man to accomplish the Senior Slam this year as well as passing my total Senior Majors record. It furthers the truth about fitness and diet helping your longevity on the golf course.
GMé What prompted the move into golf course design back in the 80s, and to-date, how many courses have you designed? GP It was a natural transition as my playing career became less demanding. You see, retirement is a death warrant. So is slowing down. I wanted to keep moving and having a golf course design business certainly keeps me busy. There was absolutely no way I was going to stop competing or stop being active. Throughout my time as a pro, as early as the 1960s, I consulted on many projects and knew the industry. I blink my eyes and now we have designed more than 400 projects across 38 countries. GMé What would you say is your design philosophy, and do you have any personal favourites from your portfolio? GP Our saying is: “Environmental sensitivity, sustainability and playability.”
A golf course should be a gift to the players and to nature. That’s tough, just like it’s hard to pick a favourite tournament win. In South Africa, the Links at Fancourt where the 2003 Presidents Cup was played is one of my favourites, as well as the Gary Player Country Club where I host a European Tour event. DLF Golf and Country Club in India is hosting a European Tour event after being open only a few years. Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi is super. If you ask me next week, I will probably have another different selection. GMé In 1983, you established The Player Foundation, which has raised more than $63m for children around the world, so what sort of projects does the Foundation support? GP Actually, my son Marc started The Player Foundation and our first project was the Blair Atholl school in rural South Africa. We turned it into a proper facility that could provide education for
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“We need to make golf less expensive, quicker to play, more accessible, more fun. Let the kids play music on the course”
BLACK AND WHITE The ‘Black Knight’, Gary Player
hundreds of unprivileged children. They (the children) became our mission. We now support several charitable organisations around the world, and I get personally involved with all of them. Our Gary Player Invitational series of charitable events are staged around the world, and the money we raise at the event stays in the host country. Just last month in London, we raised money for Depaul, who is an organisation that supports homeless youth in the United Kingdom. GMé Of all the courses that you’ve played around the world, can you pick out just one, as the best course you’ve ever played, and why? GP No doubt it is the Old Course at St Andrews because it’s the home of golf. The history, tradition and the old town are very special indeed. GMé Do you still find time to play golf, and if so, how often do you get the chance to play and what sort of scores do you shoot? GP I do and my game is sharp. I just won a tournament playing with Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Jerry Pate – we shot 18 under par!
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© Black Knight Archives
And can you believe it, our prize money split was more than I received for winning The Masters. Shows you how far we have come in that regard. My entire family, 44 of us, went to Thailand this summer for my wife’s birthday. Playing with my grandchildren, I shot 65. Of course, a score this low would be difficult for me to shoot at a course like Augusta, but I still love the game and enjoy playing. GMé Is there any reason why you have always worn predominantly black apparel out on the course, and was this a conscious decision? GP It’s my style, my mantra, my identity. My father encouraged me to come up with a brand that would differentiate me from other players and we decided on all black which became the “Black Knight” back when I first became a professional golfer. It’s been an important part of separating myself from others and hopefully will continue after my passing. GMé Throughout your illustrious career in golf, can you highlight one area of the modern game which you feel has benefitted golf, and one aspect which has diminished it?
GP We have to thank the fans of professional golf and the weekend golfers, as there are more of them than there are professionals. The sponsors and the media have helped golf become a global game and spread around the world, so we must appreciate their contribution as well. In my opinion, nothing has diminished golf, but at the same time everyone – especially golf’s governing bodies – need to be conscious of how the advancement in equipment is negatively effecting golf courses because of how far professionals can hit the ball. Let the amateurs and weekend golfers use the latest and greatest, but put restrictions on equipment used in the professional game. We need to introduce bifurcation. GMé In your opinion, how do we, as an industry, widen our appeal to non-golfers irrespective of age or gender? GP We need to make golf less expensive, quicker to play, more accessible, more fun. Let the kids play music on the course. And there is no reason to ever exclude women in club membership. We must welcome everyone who wants to play. Change is the price of survival. GMé
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blind golf VISUAL AID A guide helps a blind golfer aim up a putt from the fringe
Blind Hope for Golf Charity The England & Wales Blind Golf Association provides blind golfers with the opportunity to participate and compete in golf, writes Stephen Killick. What’s your handicap? Do you play off low single figures? Or perhaps you are a bit of a hacker? Whatever your level, imagine if you had to hit the ball with your eyes closed or squinting so that the ball is a blur. How difficult would an already difficult game be then? For members of the England & Wales Blind Golf (EWBG) Association, that is what it is like each time they tee the ball up, let alone being faced with delicate pitch shots over bunkers or tricky downhill putts on slippery greens. The mere fact that you have no difficulty reading this article, shows how fortunate you are compared to those who have lost their sight but are still determined to play their favourite game. And not only do they play it – many of them play it extremely well. This year’s Order of Merit champion for the association is John Eakin, who plays off a handicap of nine and, in 2015, was captain of his club, Royal Ashdown Forest in East Sussex. Many others have won competitions at their clubs playing against golfers with 20:20 vision. In the association there are three categories of golfers, ranging from B1 for the totally blind to B3, the least severe of visual impairment levels. And whilst some visually impaired players get to know the layout of their home courses, they all need guides to assist them in competitions and when playing at new courses. The shortage of those knowledgeable golfers willing to spare the time to help guide players has sadly resulted in a
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number having to withdraw from some of the six tournaments that have been organised during 2017, especially those that are played over two days or more. Quite often blind golfers are able to persuade members of their family to help out but it is not always possible, especially if they are working or are nongolfers. A guide has to build up a relationship with his or her player giving them as much information as they require. This may involve lining the player up on the tee, pacing out distances on the green and explaining the line and strength of the shot. One of the patrons of EWBG, broadcaster John Inverdale, said: “I can honestly say that playing 18 holes with a blind golfer is one of the most stimulating and life-affirming experiences that you can have as a sportsman.” Many of those who have guided golfers in tournaments say the same thing. The standard of play is often exceptional and many casual observers would be hard pressed to tell that the players were blind at all. The only modification in the rules of the game laid down by the R&A is that players are allowed to ground their clubs in hazards without penalty. One of the highlights for members of the association is to be selected for the annual Auld Enemies Cup competition against their Scottish counterparts, when the top nine in the order of merit are chosen with three wild card picks by the captain in Ryder Cup style. This year’s match is being held at Kinross starting September 18.
“playing 18 holes with a blind golfer is one of the most stimulating and life-affirming experiences that you can have as a sportsman”
As well as National there are also International open competitions with over 20 countries having become part of the family of International blind golf. Every two years members of EWBG compete for places in the ISPS Handa International Blind Golf Association world championship where two EWBG members from each sight category will compete in a medal contest over 36-holes. Next year’s event will be held at the prestigious Parco de’ Medici club in Rome with previous championships contested in Japan and Australia. What all the events require are willing sponsors and most recently, as is the case in many fields of competitive golf, they have been increasingly harder to find against the economic uncertainty brought about by recession and more recently Brexit, especially in England and Wales. Virgin used to provide complimentary rail tickets to players and their guides for
the Auld Enemies Cup, but has changed its charity, whilst half the contribution for the annual EWBG Masters tournament has also been withdrawn this year, which leaves only three years before full funding could be withdrawn completely. Speaking about the EWBG, BBC radio commentator and journalist, Iain Carter, said: “When I play with a blind golfer I feel I am in the company of someone with a rare talent. They should be supported in every way possible.” The association is constantly looking for guides and sponsors, but this year needs help more than ever. It is appealing to all golf clubs throughout England and Wales to consider ways in which they could help and there are a number of them. Club captains can provide financial assistance by choosing EWBG as their designated charity of the year, whilst club managers and directors of golf can offer courtesy of the course or discounted rates to stage an EWBG event.
Similarly individuals or companies willing to sponsor an event, advertise in the programme or even donate a suitable gift to be auctioned should get in contact with the EWBG. Those who cannot afford to contribute money can always offer their time, not only by volunteering as a guide but also by acting as a spotter or marker at one of the tournaments. Peter Alliss, the doyen of golf television commentators, has been a patron of the EWBG since shortly after its foundation in 1982, and commented: “The association has built up steadily over the years, and continues to attract more and more new members. “I would like to thank everyone who has helped EWBG raise funds, whether it is by staging various events, sponsorship or donations. “If you’ve discovered EWBG for the first time, can I ask you lend us your support in order the charity can continue its unique and valuable work.” GMé
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MAKING STRIDES New CEO, David Shepherd
PRETTY AS A PICTURE The 16th on the Old Course
Visitors set to flock to The Scandinavian One of the best kept secrets in golf, The Scandinavian Club in Denmark has all the facets to one day become a world-class golf facility. Michael Lenihan travelled to Copenhagen to meet-up with new CEO, David Shepherd.
When flight BA812 landed at Copenhagen airport at the beginning of last month, passengers on-board could have been forgiven for thinking that they had just landed in the middle of monsoon season as opposed to a Scandinavian summer, such was the ferocity of the rain. With Denmark experiencing its wettest summer for nearly 40 years, the decision to relocate from the continuously warm temperatures of the Portuguese Algarve, to a climate which, for a third of the year, could be laden with snow, would make most people question their judgement. Not so though David Shepherd, new CEO at The Scandinavian Club, located just outside Copenhagen, which boasts two Robert Trent Jones II-designed courses, and a clubhouse which has won design awards around the world. When Shepherd, 34, decided to leave his role as director of golf at Monte Rei in Portugal, he knew that to advance his career he needed to find a position which would satisfy not only his professional ambition, but that of his young
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family who have relocated to the Danish town of Farum. “I don’t think there was ever a massive desire to leave Monte Rei,” said Shepherd, reflecting on his time at one of Europe’s finest facilities. “It’s a great place, but I’d done eight years there and felt like I’d done my part of the journey. “I had a good team around me, who I thought were ready for stepping up, and I was ready for a fresh challenge. I’d been the director of golf there for five years, and done what I thought was a good job – we increased the average rate, and we increased the number of golfers hugely. “The golf operation had become really quite successful and we’d grown the brand, and it was just a time that had come to an end and a readiness to move on and have a new challenge.” That new challenge came out-of-theblue, when Shepherd received a call from Niall Flanagan, of Club Inc, enquiring if he’d be interested in the role of CEO at The Scandinavian. “As a family, we felt like that there was another fairly big challenge awaiting
DESIGN APPEAL The 18th green on the Old Course, with the architecturally acclaimed clubhouse as a backdrop
us away from Monte Rei, whether that was Dubai or Asia or somewhere else in Europe – we were ready for another challenge without coming back to the UK,” recalled Shepherd. “So when Niall called and told me about the position, and the vision of the owners, it ticked a lot of boxes for me.” Admitting that he knew very little about The Scandinavian at the time, Shepherd began to research the club in readiness for an interview which took place in August of last year. He recalled: “The clubhouse is unique, and is one of those clubhouses that you just don’t forget. It’s not a traditional golf clubhouse, and is a stunning piece of architecture. “As part of the interview process, I spent some time driving around the golf courses and started to become really excited about the challenge and possi-
bilities that lay ahead. I had an idea as to what The Scandinavian wanted to be, which was still a members’ club, just a lot better. “I wanted to grow the membership, and communicate far better what was here, as this place has everything, including great practice facilities, a good location and a good catchment of golfers. “We’ve got an international airport very, very close, and a great clubhouse with a really great restaurant. We’ve got two solid golf courses that work, and a really great course manager in Russell Anderson. The basics had been put in place by the team before, but it just didn’t function, so my vision was to make everything work and elevate The Scandinavian to a higher level.” The original concept behind The Scandinavian, which was opened originally in 2010, was that of an ultra-exclu-
sive, members facility centred around two Robert Trent Jones II-designed courses – The Old and The New (which was opened just six months after The Old). Yet, as with many new projects, the reality of opening a world-class golf facility is often more challenging than at first anticipated. “I think the original vision of being a particularly closed membership had sort of run out of traction,” continued Shepherd. “I think what it needed, from when it very first opened, was to change the mentality from ‘ultra-closed’ to a really great welcoming members’ club with a little bit of visitor play.” With 660 paid-up members at The Scandinavian, and two courses which have a combined roundage of 24,000 per year, there is plenty of space for the club to expand, with Shepherd admitting that visitor numbers are ‘very, very low’.
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“The Scandinavian is already one of the premium clubs in Europe, I think”
PREMIUM The 9th on the New Course
“We’ve got plenty of room,” added Shepherd. “We’ve got plenty of space. If we’re smart and if we do it well, we could have substantially more visitors, and the members would still have all the availability they need. As long as we manage that process of welcoming new visitors in the right way, we’ll have no problem.” With most members favouring the Old over the New, it could be tempting to price visitors’ greens fees for the two courses at different price points, especially in an effort to drive more traffic towards the New – but that is a consideration not yet on the agenda. “The members prefer the Old, but I don’t know why,” said Shepherd. “I think there are stories that when the New course opened, it was incredibly difficult. I think the members preferred the Old from that stand point. “But, the New, over the last six or seven years has developed, and Russell and his team have done a lot of work to make it more playable. Yes, we could position one higher and one a bit lower, but I don’t think that is the best way forward – it’s better just to have two really great courses.” And with plans to encourage up to 4,000 additional rounds each year from visitors, each paying 1500 Danish Krone (€200), that’s a significant influx of income coming into a club, which, typically, opens only for eight months of the year. Indeed, the club has already started to invest in its infrastructure and recently signed a new deal for a comprehensive fleet of Toro course maintenance equipment, and also has plans to make some minor design changes to the course. “I think we’ve planned five holes to be changed this winter, but they’re not
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fundamental design changes,” explained Shepherd. “They’re just changes to trees that have grown and lines of sight that have been blocked. There’s some areas that we’re going to tidy up and clear out, but no strategy changes. The golf courses are good. They don’t need fundamental changes, just clean ups to make them more playable by clearing out some landing areas.” With the winters harsh in Scandinavia, and the club closed for most of the season, one could be misled into thinking that Shepherd and his staff take an extended vacation for four months, but nothing could be further from the truth. “Monte Rei was fairly slow paced but consistent. Yes, we had a busy March and a busy October, but the golf director role was fairly even paced – we didn’t have huge, huge peaks. Whereas here, I need to be here all of May, June, August and September because they are our busy key months as the season is so short. “The winter break gives us planning time and preparation time. The back end of this year, we’re all already looking at what we need to do this winter: what changes do we need to do, what additions do we need to make? “We’re looking at all that now so that when we close, or when we start to have a little bit of free time, we’ve got a list ready of things that we can do that are going to make us great.” Another area which Shepherd is keen to develop is that of the ‘visitor experience’, an area where he excelled at his former place of employment. “It’s still only eight months since I arrived, and for four of those we were closed,” smiled Shepherd.
“We’ve only been in the golfing season for four months, and trying to get feedback from the players who are playing; trying to watch how their experience is; trying to watch what their journey is; and getting some international golfers here to tell us what they think of the experience has been all that we’ve thought about. “I think as we move to the back end of this year and definitely into next year, we will put some time into expanding the visitor experience. I think some of the feedback was that the club feels very much like a members’ club which I take as a positive because that’s what we are. We are a members’ club. “I also know what that means from my time at Monte Rei, and that means that we maybe don’t deliver a visitor experience that you would get at Monte Rei or Yas Links. We’ve got to put some time and effort into that as well, but the first part of this season has been all about membership. “We’ve got to make sure that our members want to stay with us, and make sure our members are retained. We then need to bring in the right type of new members who are going to appreciate what we’ve got. “The Scandinavian is already one of the premium clubs in Europe, I think. But to make it really, really great, we need more members, more social activity, and more of a club feel. It’s already great, everything is here.” Indeed, The Scandinavian has it all; except, perhaps, for the warmth of a Portuguese evening, with the sun setting on the veranda while drinking a glass of locally produced, red wine. But you can’t have it all. GMé
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dom pedro golf
Dom Pedro Golf on a Journey of Success The Dom Pedro Golf Collection, can lay claim to having five of the best golf venues in Portugal in its collection, including the world-famous Old Course at Vilamoura. Aidan Patrick spoke with chairman, Stefano Saviotti, about his investment plans for the popular brand.
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dompedrogolf.com TOUR MASTER Right, Pádraig Harrington, winner of the 2016 Portugal Masters at Victoria Clube de Golfe; and main picture, the opening hole on the Old Course at Vilamoura
Creating a hospitality brand isn’t straightforward. It takes a clear vision and unwavering commitment to deliver an experience that keeps customers coming back. Dom Pedro is a name that will resonate with regular visitors to Portugal. The Group has seven hotels across the country and has recently embarked on a major new investment, adding scale to its already impressive Vilamoura hotel portfolio. Dom Pedro Golf, the group’s newly formed, dedicated golf business has recently unveiled The Dom Pedro Golf Collection. Vilamoura’s five headline golf courses now sit under the Dom Pedro Golf banner, as the largest stakeholder, and comprise what many believe to be the finest cluster of courses in Europe. Whilst many may assume this to be a new venture for the Dom Pedro Group, it is in many ways a return to its grass roots. “We have been in Vilamoura since the beginning,” commented Stefano Saviotti, chairman, Dom Pedro Hotels. “I remember it when it was practically nothing, just farmland. It was clear even then this area had significant potential.” Dom Pedro started with the Dom Pedro Golf Hotel, a mainstay for golf travellers to The Algarve, in the early 70’s and which was a leader in the early development of the destination.
The first move would prove to be one that would shape Saviotti’s career and set in motion the initial strategy for the Dom Pedro Group. “We ended up bidding and winning a management contract for the only golf course at that time,” continued Saviotti. “It was around this time I fell in love with the game and knew it had great commercial potential for the Dom Pedro brand. “On reflection, opening up the hotel there and making a considered move into golf was a defining moment for the Algarve, ultimately helping to shape what is now a multimillion dollar sector; golf tourism.” Saviotti embarked on his hospitality career almost 50 years ago, learning his trade in Italy and Switzerland. The first moves to build the Dom Pedro empire were made in 1969, with the opening of the first Dom Pedro hotel on the island of Madeira. The group broke ground in Vilamoura in 1974, eventually opening the first Dom Pedro hotel in the Algarve in 1976. It is fair to say that the move made by Dom Pedro attracted interest from contemporaries. Having instilled confidence in the market that Vilamoura had all the ingredients of a major tourism hotspot, momentum quickly grew. Today, the five golf courses in Vilamoura each rank amongst the best experiences in world golf.
“On reflection, opening up the hotel there and making a considered move into golf was a defining moment for the Algarve” twitter.com/gme
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dom pedro golf
“We want to bring new ideas of service to Vilamoura and enhance the golf experience for all who visit”
HANDS-ON Stefano Saviotti, chariman of Dom Pedro Hotels
The collection is certainly the most popular in Europe, comprising The Victoria Course, designed by Arnold Palmer and host to ten European Tour Portugal Masters and counting; The Old Course, heralded as one of the most authentic continental European golf experiences; as well as the outstanding Pinhal Laguna and Millennium Courses. Attracting tens of thousands of guests per year, the appeal is easy to see. The proximity of the golf courses is immediately apparent. The clubs sit within a 5km footprint, and are never more than a five-minute transfer from any hotel. Vilamoura’s off-course offer is the perfect complement. Again, with the vast majority of attractions within a stone’s throw, whether it is shopping or dinning in the Marina, pristine beachfront realestate or an escape to pine framed woodland walks, Vilamoura is a complete destination. “My first impression of Vilamoura was mixed between what it was versus the potential,” reflected Saviotti. “It was predominantly farmland, but there was such a distinguishing landscape, which is very much what you see today when you arrive. One moment you feel like you are in perfect manicured gardens, with beautiful vegetation and orange groves; then you find yourself in a marina, surrounded by a community of boats, great restaurants and entertainment.” Saviotti’s passion for the region is unquestionable: “Just round from the Marina you have some amazing beachfront accommodation and a real coastline lifestyle. “Five minutes up the road you have five of the world’s best golf courses. It really is a precious place.”
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Whilst Vilamoura has evolved into a major destination and welcomed an eclectic mix of developers, it has always retained a certain boutique charm. The central hub of Vilamoura may be a constant hive of activity, though you don’t need to go far to unearth secluded and unspoilt coastline of the Algarve. “We still have many protected areas, which will ensure that we never suffer an overpopulated development,” added Saviotti. “The coastline is breath-taking and I feel one of the major attractions. We have the best beaches, perfect for vacationing.” The vision for Dom Pedro Golf is clear: build on the famous collection of golf courses in Vilamoura by strategically investing in the experience, whilst considering how golf might continue to grow under the new ownership to complement other established arms of the group. “I have always been looking for a route back to the golf market in Vilamoura,” said Saviotti. “The golf course collection is the perfect complement for our business and will give us a great additional foothold. Bringing together golf and Hospitality is a dream come true.” There is a youthful exuberance that shines from Saviotti when you mention golf. It is without doubt a passion, which, fortuitously, also complements the group’s core business. “We want to bring new ideas of service to Vilamoura and enhance the golf experience for all who visit. We are investing in the clubhouses, the courses, the facilities and amenities that will set Vilamoura apart from other destinations in the minds of visiting golfers.” When asked if there are future opportunities Dom Pedro Golf is considering,
for Saviotti, there is no hesitation: “We are always interested to consider business opportunities that make economic sense. We already have an established footprint in golf – but we are always looking. For example, we have entered early discussions about how we can grow the Dom Pedro Golf brand further.” One of the inherited aspects has been The Portugal Masters. Now in its eleventh year, the European Tour event, part of the Race to Dubai series, has been the stage of some exceptional events. “The broadcast power the Masters gives the region is unbeatable,” continued Saviotti. “You get to see what the Algarve has to offer, whilst watching some of the best players in the world take on The Victoria Course.” Portugal has not always enjoyed a buoyant economy, which makes investments in events of this nature all the more important. As Saviotti explained: “The government have real vision in their support for the event. Golf tourism has huge value to the nation and in particular to stakeholders in the Algarve, as well as nationwide. By continuing to pursue headline events, the government ensure the product is visible and front and centre with the golfing public.” The European Tour have been forthright in its desire to keep mainstays in some of its founder destinations. “Portugal, as well as Spain, has been a leading light in The European Tour’s history,” commented Peter Adams, tournament director of The Portugal Masters for ten years. “It gives our members a great playing opportunity and always creates a great television spectacle.” The 2017 edition will be staged, September 21-24. GMé
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golf ibiza Golf Ibiza by azuLinehotels has undergone a number of managerial changes over the years, and has made some major investments to attract more golfers to the island, as Ella Boyden discovered on a recent visit.
Driving Investment at Golf Ibiza
“The island has a lot of history and tranquil spots which make a stark contrast with the famous nightlife”
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS The new E-Z-GO fleet at Golf Ibiza
On arrival at Golf Ibiza by azuLine hotels – the only golf course located on the tiny Balearic Island in the Mediterranean – you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d made a wrong turn, and arrived instead at a British expat’s white-washed holiday home in the hills. However, upon entering the clubhouse and navigating your way through the distinctly Spanish-style restaurant and courtyards, a beautiful view of undulating fairways nestled between dramatic mountainous scenery greets you. The club first opened as a nine-hole course in 1972, and was named Roca Llisa after the local area which was – and
still is – located half way between Ibiza Town and Santa Eulalia. In 1991, a group of locals purchased the property, and set about developing a further 18 holes, with the current club now comprising a total of 27 holes; a par-72, 18-hole course called Golf Ibiza, and the original nine-hole course, Roca Llisa. Other facilities at the club include a driving range, locker rooms, a charging system for guest trollies, a pro shop, golf tuition service, a bar and a restaurant. Sat on the sun-drenched terrace of the club’s restaurant, Hoyo 19 (Hole 19), managing director Jose Antonio Cachón began to explain the evolution of the
golf course, and some significant milestones for the club. Ibiza born Cachón has a strong background in engineering having overseen more than 4,000 projects to date, so when locals approached him in 1991 to design technical aspects of the new course such as drainage, irrigation and construction, he gladly accepted the invitation. Cachón constructed 18 holes from scratch – using the original nine holes as a blueprint – with the new 18 hole course affectionately being known as Ibiza de Golf. The club placed an audacious bid to host the 1997 Ryder Cup, the first to
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“The new equipment has been a big investment, but we are already reaping the benefits”
WHITE HOUSE The clubhouse entrance
DRIVING STYLE Jose Antonio Cachón, managing director of Golf Ibiza
be held in continental Europe, missing out to Real Club Valderrama which bore witness to a famous European victory, led by golfing legend, Seve Ballesteros. Earlier this year, a new management team took over operations at the club, with new owners, azuLine Hotels – who own 12 hotels, 11 of them located on the island – re-branding the offering as Golf Ibiza by azuLinehotels. “The new ownership of the club is fantastic news for us,” commented Cachón. “It has meant that we can invest in new facilities and machinery to raise the standard of the golf course.” This year, the club has invested in a brand new fleet of Jacobsen golf course maintenance machinery, and it is also the first club in Europe to have purchased E-Z-GO golf cars with integrated TKVGPS, when the vehicles were delivered at the beginning of this season. “The new equipment has been a big investment, but we are already reaping the benefits,” Cachón continued. “We have 14 people on the maintenance team including a foreman and a consultant – Octavi Creus – who visits the course once a week.
“We only use recycled water on the course, and we have to be very careful with all of our maintenance methods,” added Cachón. “One of the reasons we have chosen Jacobsen is because the machines do not stress the turf, and they fit in well with the environmental policy that we enforce at the club. “We attract many local residents, but also many tourists who are not familiar with the course,” added Cachón, “and in the past, we have found golf cars in lakes and damage to the turf because golfers wander from the paths. “Now, with the new golf cars, we are able to geo-fence the golf course using GPS, and remotely immobilise golf cars if they try to enter restricted zones. “From the golfer’s point of view, they are able to order food and drinks from the new golf cars, and see maps of the course detailing yardage to the greens. “This is a big step forward in making the golf club more attractive to visitors, and providing a golfing experience to surpass the mainstream golfing resorts of the Balearic Islands and resorts in southern Spain.
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“Ibiza is usually associated with young partygoers, but we are trying to change that perception at Golf Ibiza by azuLinehotels,” said Cachón. “The island has a lot of history and tranquil spots which make a stark contrast with the famous nightlife. There really is something for everyone in Ibiza.” With the interview drawing to a close, we ventured onto the golf course in one of the new E-Z-GO golf cars, to take a closer look at some of the spectacular holes to feature on the course, including the signature seventh hole, The Everest; whose name is certainly justified. That evening, I reflected on the visit to the only golf course on the island, and wondered why such investments were being made, with the apparent lack of competition. It became clear from talking to Cachón that whilst there is no competition in Ibiza, there certainly is in other parts of Spain. It is not only about attracting holiday goers who think of a round of golf as an excursion, but to mark Ibiza on the map as an eclectic island which can offer a golfing experience to rival the big names in Spanish golf. GMé
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“We believe Mackenzie & Ebert’s plans will transform the Himalayas Nine into one of the finest stretches of links golf in the country”
MIDDLE GROUND A visualisation of the new sixth hole
Moving Mountains on the Himalayas Nine As Sam Elder writes, Mackenzie & Ebert have ambitious plans to breathe new life into the Himalayas Nine at Prince’s Golf Club, whilst at the same time restoring some of the links characteristics to pre-World War II status. Prince’s Golf Club, in Sandwich Bay, Kent has announced extensive and ambitious plans to redevelop the Himalayas Nine, and has hired golf course architects, Mackenzie & Ebert to handle the reconstruction. Work began last month, with the Himalayas remaining open with minimal disruption throughout the process. Martin Ebert and Mike Howard of Mackenzie and Ebert Limited have visited the links on multiple occasions to assess the land and scope for the project, and produced an Historic Report which has analysed historic, pre-war and wartime RAF photography of the site, unveiling several interesting features that will be reintroduced. Rob McGuirk, general manager of Prince’s Golf Club, which hosted the 1932 Open Championship, commented: “The entire club is very excited by this project.
“We believe Mackenzie & Ebert’s plans will transform the Himalayas Nine into one of the finest stretches of links golf in the country. We’re committed to continuous improvement at Prince’s and this is certainly the most ambitious phase of development the club has seen for decades.” The works will re-route the nine significantly, with the current second and third holes combing to make a long par-five. The new second tee will be located to the right of the existing first fairway and will play to a maximum of 615 yards. A short, signature par-three, fifth hole will then be constructed, playing towards the sea after the existing fifth – which will become the new fourth hole – with the changes increasing the par of the nine holes to 36. The new fifth hole will measure between 120 and 160 yards with a variety of tees to be designed.
Another notable change is to the current eighth, which will become a short, drivable par-four with permanent wetlands either side that will be strategically and ecologically valuable. Strategy will also be dictated by the existing bunkers. A new set of tees for the hole – to be placed atop dune ridges present to the right of the existing hole – will also allow the practice ground in front of the clubhouse to be developed further. Extensive changes to the bunkering, water hazards, green surrounds, out-ofplay areas, tees and clearance of trees are all included in the complete summary of works. Work began last month on the new fifth hole, which will be followed by the new second fairway development and the construction of new teeing areas on the new second, third, fourth, sixth, eighth and ninth holes.
golfmanagement.eu.com | 47
SIGNATURE DESIGN Work begins on the new par-three, fifth hole
Once this work has been completed, the focus will turn to the fairway bunkers, with completion anticipated by the end of the year, before opening for play late spring/early summer 2018. Commenting on the renovation of the Himalayas Nine, which will be shaped by 1st Golf Construction, Martin Ebert commented: “The course at Prince’s changed significantly during World War II due to the fact it was used as an Army base. “The impact of the War did, however, enable a redesign by Sir Guy Campbell and John Morrison which resulted in the current three loops of nine. “Developing a rough-edged style for the bunkers on the edges of the fairways will help to recapture the old character of the pre-War bunkers, whilst restoration of the famous Himalayas bunkers between holes eight and nine will provide an iconic feature of focus. “Bunkers that are surrounded by closely-mown turf will maintain a revetted style, as will green-side bunkers – a re-thinking of some bunker locations was necessary, primarily to ensure that elite golfers are forced to make strategic decisions off the tee,” continued Ebert. But it is not just the bunkers that will receive an overhaul, with the expansion of wetland on the sixth hole and land
48 | GMé September 2017
either side of the eighth set to be introduced as new, permanent wetland. The tee boxes will also be re-designed, as Ebert explained: “The intention is to utilise the dune ridges in the new tee complexes, whilst holes four (the former fifth) and eight will have tees relocated to higher grounds to provide better views of the hole and the sea. “Existing long ‘runway’ tees will be removed, for example on the ninth, to be replaced by tees of varying height for better variety and view ability. “In general, taking some tees up to the dune ridges will improve the views of the holes and the coastline,” he added. As part of the redesign, all trees will be removed as they have been deemed ‘not indigenous nor do they enhance the landscape’, whilst removing the existing eighth tee will allow the practice ground in front of the clubhouse to be developed further. “The 1950 aerial photographs show that green complexes in general used to be much larger, allowing for more variety and exciting pin positions, and this size will be restored,” said Ebert. “The third, fifth, sixth and seventh holes have potential for expansion to their former sizes, whilst the sixth green used to be further to the left and this position should be restored.” GMé
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“aren’t we constantly being told that the biggest issue facing the golf industry currently is attracting new participants?”
Trying to Get Into Golf is not as easy as you’d think My son – a beginner – and I (a useless golfer) decided we’d like to go together to a golf club to undertake some lessons to enable us to get to the stage where we could at least go out on a pay-and-play course for 18 holes together. As I approach the autumn of my years I’m very keen to spend more time with the ‘kids’ – they’re all in their 20s – doing stuff together, so I logged on to the Get Into Golf website (www.getintogolf.org) to see where we could indulge. I live on the Hampshire/West Sussex/ Surrey border, so there’s no shortage of possible venues… I thought. Imagine my surprise then, to discover that between now and the end of October, within a 20-mile radius, just two golf clubs had anything to offer – and one of those was only junior lessons. Imagine if I were a complete novice approaching retirement – I wish! – looking to get into golf. Nothing really local is reaching out to me with open arms and saying “we’d love to teach you how to play; come and see us”. By my rough calculations, there are more than 25 golf courses – let alone driving ranges – within that 20-mile radius and only one, East Horton Golf Club, could offer anything suitable. Through no fault of the club’s, that is a 35-minute drive away. Given the Get into Golf programme – a very worthy attempt in my opinion – is partnered with Sport England, Change 4 Life, England Golf, the PGA and the Golf Foundation, and supported by Sky Sports, it’s seems to me surprising that more clubs aren’t embracing the concept.
50 | GMé September 2017
ANYONE FOR TABLE TENNIS? Although I’d rather be playing golf with my son
If clubs are waiting for bigger hitters to offer their support, they may be disappointed. This is about as joined up as it’s likely to get. And, after all, aren’t we constantly being told that the biggest issue facing the golf industry currently is attracting new participants? Are some clubs simply putting their head in the sand hoping that the golf industry fairy will sprinkle some magic dust and make it all OK? It’s not going to happen – as in life, you’ll only get out of it what you put in. On the other hand, in my town, the table-tennis and bowls clubs – within half-a-mile of my front door – each actively welcomes and encourages beginners and targets them with ‘local’ marketing campaigns.
What’s more, they also provide equipment free-of-charge while learning. Whatever the moral is of this sorry personal tale, the bottom line remains that the golf clubs bought for my son for his birthday last year, are now gathering dust in the garage, while we spend most Monday evenings indulging in a fun game of ‘wiff waff’ as Boris Johnson would call it. GMé
David Bowers email@example.com
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