Panmure Golf Club in Angus is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world. Its manager only took over last year – here he talks us through the work that’s been going on, from introducing modern technology to surviving the lockdown.
How significantly has the pandemic affected the running of the club?
The coronavirus pandemic has obviously had a significant effect on the club operations, but thanks to the wonders of technology, the management of the club has remained mainly unchanged, as I can essentially work anywhere with my laptop, iPad and phone.
We have utilised software to allow online meetings so we had regular management board meetings throughout lockdown. Our member communication strategy was critical during the pandemic and ClubV1 easily allowed us to maintain regular contact.
Did you have to introduce an emergency membership renewal scheme or initiative?
We were very fortunate that our renewals were due by February 2020, so the majority of fees had already been collected prior to the lockdown. Since then, we have received tremendous support from our membership.
How would you describe your experience of the pandemic, so far, as the manager of this club?
I have been very lucky to have the support and guidance of our vastly experienced and knowledgeable management board. From the outset, we created emergency budgets and cash flow forecasts and agreed the short term strategy with key indicators to monitor the financial impact for the club.
In addition, the management team have been critical and via clear and open communication we have deliberated and generated operational plans and objectives. It is a very difficult situation but we have focused on the bigger picture and the opportunities we can generate for the club.
In general, how would you describe the golf club?
I feel a recent review sums up the club perfectly: “Panmure is a handsome and distinguished links with a certain amount of panache”.
Is it more difficult to bring in modern initiatives such as online tee times given that Panmure is one of the oldest golf clubs in the world?
We are very proud of the club’s history and protecting our traditions and heritage, but the membership has been very open to change and we have modernised a number of practices during my first year.
After initially trialling the online booking system at weekends, we surveyed the membership using the 59Club software and with extensive member support we extended it to seven day booking.
In addition, we implemented the ClubV1 members’ app, which has been very well received and provides members with loads of information which enhances their experience.
The club has a connection with Royal Calcutta. Can you tell us about that?
The club’s origins were borne of the close trading relationship between Dundee and Calcutta in the halcyon days of the Jute Industry, with the clubhouse being modelled both architecturally and spiritually on Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
From my understanding, a number of the founding members were connected to the Jute trade, where mill owners were extremely wealthy and mostly stayed in Broughty Ferry, a suburb of Dundee. Broughty Ferry boasted 93 millionaires around 1900 and was the richest suburb in the UK outside the City of London.
What does an average day in the club, from start to finish, entail?
After working in the golf industry for over 20 years, there is no average day and this is one of the reasons I am so lucky to work in this profession.
As general manager I am responsible for all aspects of the club operation, from financial management to sales and marketing, club governance, health and safety and so on. With the extensive core competencies required to effectively manage the club, every day is very different.
Can you tell us about your career – and how you ended up managing such a prestigious golf club?
I am very lucky! Over the past 20 years, I have now had the privilege to work at proprietary and privately owned clubs, all with very varied operations. I feel I have gained a large amount of experience in the core competencies of club management and I have delivered positive results. In addition, I have been very fortunate to learn a lot from the people around me and via the club managers’ management development programme. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn, but I continue to enjoy the journey.
What do you find are the biggest challenges managing the club today?
As we continually strive to make improvements, updates and revisions to the club operation, time management is a challenge and needs to be effectively prioritised.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by a fantastic management team, with extensive knowledge of the industry so this makes the task much easier, as collectively we can overcome most challenges.
What do you normally do to entice new members to join the club? And to ensure existing ones keep renewing?
We have recently implemented a new ‘introduce a member’ reward scheme, which gives us the opportunity to encourage the current membership to promote and recommend new members. An introduction to the club is a very strong way to encourage someone to join and we want to build long term relationships.
We have also created a new membership brochure, which clearly shows what we do and what the person receives for their annual subscription.
How do you market the club to visitors?
We utilise a number of platforms to market the club. We are currently finalising a new website using Club Systems’ software and we use a mixture of digital and traditional media.
In early March our director of golf travelled to California with a small number of other clubs to market Scotland as a golfing destination. Over the past four years the club has attended the Scottish Golf tourism week, which has been hugely effective for building relationships with tour operators. Panmure is in an area that golf fans all over the world want to visit.
How often do you work with other local clubs and accommodation providers?
We work with a number of local partners and Angus Council via the Carnoustie Country group, with some of these clubs working together to operate the Carnoustie Classic, a four-day competition which has been successfully operating for 15 years.
In addition, we run a green fee package with Monifieth and Montrose and we are continually looking to expand our relationship with local accommodation providers.
Given all the challenges the golf industry has faced in the last few years, how much does the club rely on non-golfing additional revenue streams?
The club relies very little on non golfing income and whilst the golf industry has been facing numerous challenges, we are delighted we continue to show growth in membership and visitor revenue.
The club has said in recent years that it wants to be more family friendly. Have there been any developments?
The club strategy is being reviewed as part of our new business plan, which will see the creation of a long-term action plan and adjoining policies for the course, facilities and so on.
The family promotion will be revisited as part of this process, but in recent times we have offered free junior membership for the children or grandchildren of all full members. In addition, the ladies were recently amalgamated into Panmure Golf Club and we completely revised the governance structure, to match the modern requirements of the club.
The club uses Club Systems software. How has it benefited you?
As previously mentioned, the introduction of the ClubV1 members’ app has been very well received and new members are suitably impressed when they are made aware we have a smartphone app. The app information really enhances the member experience and even the simple function – of members updating their own contact details – reduces administration time and maintains our database up to date.
In addition, the HowDoiPay function, which allows online subscription payments, has really helped, especially with our international members, as it makes the process very easy and integrates with ClubV1 so all renewals are automatically reconciled with the member profile.
Would you recommend it to other golf clubs?
I would thoroughly recommend Club Systems, as I rely on ClubV1 on a daily basis and it continually delivers. During the pandemic, we could not have operated so effectively without the cloud based solution.
Name something that makes your life as a golf manager easier every day?
Using my network of club managers, I have been very lucky to meet a lot of fantastic people, especially through the club managers’ association and I know without hesitation that I can pick up the phone anytime for help and support.
Particularly given the backdrop of Covid-19, what are your predictions for the next few years for the golf industry?
With the recent resurgence for membership, I really hope we can maintain this positive interest and start to break down the stigmata that golf unfairly receives. We need to continue to modernise for today’s expectations and focus on customer service experience.