59club, the industry leading Customer Service Analysts and Training Provider has today announced its expansion into the Nordic regions of Iceland, Finland, Norway, Sweden & Denmark, bringing their wealth of Mystery Shopper Audits, Satisfaction Surveys and Employee Training Programs – created specifically for the golf & hospitality industry – to the fore.
Impressive expansion plans have already seen local 59club divisions established, currently supporting hundreds of golf clubs, resorts and management groups within the USA, Canada, UK, Europe, Asia, Middle East, Africa and most recently Australia & New Zealand. It was only a matter of time before the global leaders firmed up their support in the Nordic regions, as they work tirelessly to help clubs shape and develop their sales & customer service cultures.
After a long-standing engagement between 59club HQ and The Scandinavian Golf Club, alongside additional partnerships with European Tour Destinations within the Nordic regions; 59club are delighted at the prospect of having feet on the ground to further support these venues, and attract many more just like them who share the same focus of elevating customer service levels, with the desired effect of driving retention, revenues, and profits.
The new opening welcomes Sebastian Czyz Bendsen, as 59club Nordic’s Sales Manager.
Having graduated from Kent State University, OH, USA with a BA in Finance and a MA in Sport and Recreational Management, and after a well-spent career in golf – most recently in his home Country working with the Danish Golf Union – Sebastian joins 59club with a wealth of attributes and a self-confessed love of educating and guiding leaders towards innovative ideas.
Many would say he’s the perfect fit, offering industry experience and driven by his passion and excitement for connecting Golf Club’s within the Nordic regions, with the resource and global formula to excel their customer experience, and to create an even better community for their members & guests.
Of the announcement, Simon Wordsworth, 59club CEO said “Sebastian is a real go-getter, and well versed in the role that Customer Service plays in growing the game of golf and keeping players enthused and loyal to the sport. And now as he joins 59club, he’s ready to take the support and intel he can offer to clubs a leap further. Sebastian appreciates the complexities of club cultures and has worked with similar principals when supporting the US collaborations with the PGA of America, ClubCorp (now Invited), the TPC Network and Kemper Sports. All private golf corporations, and all searching for means to optimize their business, as well as recent initiatives delivered by the Golf Union.
“We are all excited about the impact that 59club will make in the region, our global benchmarking data is second to none, and as always, we are spurred on by the rewards our clients enjoy, as we deliver the roadmap to measure, train, support and reward the individuals, teams, managers and groups we work with to perfect the art of delivering Customer Service & Sales Excellence – we can’t wait to get started!”
59club, the industry’s leading Customer Service Management Specialist, has today announced that Lee Mathew Waggott will continue 59club’s growth across the South of Europe, supporting golf and leisure clubs, hotels, restaurants, and spa destinations to drive customer service & sales performance across their respective properties.
With nearly 15 years industry experience gained during time with Yas Links Abu Dhabi and European Tour Destination, The London Club; Lee is well suited to the role, and is no stranger to the 59club model either.
Under 59clubs direction, Lee played an instrumental role in developing the customer journey at Yas Links, realised at the 2022 MEA Service Excellence Awards, as the property scooped four gongs which included Golf Agronomy Team of the Year, Golf Operations Team of the Year, a Gold Flag Designation, and the leading award of the year; 59club MEA’s Ultimate Resort of the Year. All at a time when Yas Links hosted the 2022 Abu Dhabi HSBC Championships.
Lee went as far to say “Having used and experienced what 59club can do first hand as a customer makes me extremely excited to start my new role within Europe South. To be able to explore different visions, and support venues in the region following our Measure, Train, Support, Reward mantra, I strongly believe 2023 and beyond can truly be history making for all types of properties across the continent”.
Simon Wordsworth, CEO of 59club added; “We are all delighted to see Lee join 59club’s expanding network, representing clubs across Spain, Portugal, Italy & Greece.
“We have been fortunate to work with some incredible managers in the region over the years and have some of the finest properties in continental Europe within our portfolio. Many of whom have been with 59club from the very beginning of our overseas expansion. It was their willingness to work with the 59club brand, that led to our globalisation, and ultimately the formation of ‘local’ 59club divisions, serving its immediate community.
“That expansion from our headquarters in the UK led to openings across Europe, the USA, Canada, Asia, Middle East, Africa; and most recently within Australia & New Zealand, and we are delighted to strengthen our support in Europe South as we welcome Lee to the family.”
With leading venues such as Finca Cortesin, PGA Catalunya, Son Muntaner and Alcanada in Spain, as well as Quinta do Lago in Portugal and Marco Simone in Italy all engaged with 59club Europe South, Lee will continue to support the regions current roster of mystery shopping audits and customer satisfaction surveys, whilst introducing education pathways, networking opportunities and new innovations to Club Managers.
Those interested in a proven strategy to measure, train, support and reward staff performance to elevate the overall customer experience and operational outcomes, are urged to visit www.59clubeurope.com or reach out to Lee Mathew Waggott email@example.com for more information.
Trump International Golf Club, Dubai affords an exquisite championship links-style golf course, world-class golf, leisure & retail facilities, and the finest dining experience complete with the promise to exceed all members and guest expectations.
We caught up with the Director of Golf Operations at Trump International Golf Club, Phil Waine to discuss how the stunning property located in the heart of the DAMAC Hills ensures its promise of ‘excellence’ is realised.
Utilizing the feedback from 59club’s Mystery Shopper feedback over a 5-year period has enabled us to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the business at all touch points of the golfer’s experience. From here, we have been able to conduct our internal training around the areas of opportunity that have been collectively flagged within the audits. For example, upsell training in the retail department combined with product knowledge seminars and utilizing our preferred vendors such as Taylormade to conduct additional training.
We were also able to highlight potential staff shortages within certain areas of the operation and used this indicator to schedule staff amendments and instigate additional recruitment. Using the Mystery Shopper feedback, we can highlight and justify to our ownership the areas of recruitment required to ensure the Trump brand standards are provided on a consistent basis, and to also benchmark our experience against other leading golf facilities.
In addition, 59club’s mystery shopper feedback has been utilized for supporting justification around staff recognition awards such as employee of the month/quarter/year, combined with annual performance reviews.
We deliver our annual membership survey with 59club and without doubt it’s the most important satisfaction survey that we conduct each year at the facility. We deliver the survey in May each year and it is active for around a 3–4-week period. We feel it is important to provide members with a constructive communication platform to express their opinion on the membership experience at Trump International Golf Club, Dubai, and to highlight the strengths and areas of opportunity from their own personal standpoint. Members can also remain anonymous when conducting the survey which allows them to feel comfortable when expressing certain views.
Each year we have received excellent feedback and there is always a new concept or idea that appears within the comments that we have implemented into the membership experience. This can range from a new competition event/schedule, tee sheet format, additional practice facilities on the TrackMan Driving Range, golf course upgrades, menu item/pricing amendments within the restaurant outlets etc.
Once the survey is closed, the results are distributed to the membership via a newsletter communication with the summer (June – August) action plan attached. Since we launched the membership survey in 2019, we have seen an increase in overall membership satisfaction each year, with 2022 being our record satisfaction score.
On the back of the 2022 Member Survey action plan, we have outlined further facility enhancements and renovation projects for 2023 to ensure we can continue the member satisfaction trend into next year. These enhancements will not only benefit members but also visitor golfers and non-golfers from the surrounding community. In addition, we also deliver a daily guest survey, which is sent to each non-member just 24 hours after their round of golf. On completion, each participant will receive a personalized response from the golf team within 24 hours of receiving their survey response. This is an opportunity to address any concerns from the golfer, and to potentially encourage repeat play by applying a Promo Code for the next visit.
The daily visitor survey provides additional data obtained from the mystery shopper and member survey to again benchmark the golfing experience we are delivering to all non-members. We have applied incentives for guests to complete the survey to ensure we maintain a healthy capture % rate throughout the year.
In addition to the staff training, we align all satisfaction survey scores to individual and departmental annual KPI’s and include these within the annual business plan at the start of the year. All survey scores are reviewed monthly and benchmarked against the budget, prior year, and industry averages. They are included within all owner and management reports.
The action plans and training implemented on the back of the satisfaction scores from members, guests and mystery shoppers has been supported with positive trends on commercial performance year on year. We have seen growth in areas such as merchandise spend per round, membership and green fee in all non-member round segments. In addition, the Golf Club has received prestigious global accolades within the golfing industry in recent years and continues to be nominated in 2022. We feel the service provided by 59club has been a huge support mechanism to help us achieve these goals.
The 59club service excellence awards are recognition that the club is delivering the Trump brand standards to members and guests throughout the year. Working within golf facilities in the Middle East with demanding commercial targets, it is important to ensure service standards are not compromised when achieving these objectives.
The current Director of Golf role involves a lot of administration tasks and attending meetings throughout the week. Therefore, there is a limited amount of time where I can personally oversee all touch points of the operation firsthand. We operate a floodlight facility on the Par 3 Course which means we have tee times starting from 6am in the morning until 9pm in the evening with over 70 thousand rounds of golf accommodated during the year. The 59club software we implement at Trump International Golf Club, Dubai basically provides the team and I external feedback on the golf experience we delivery on a daily basis throughout the year. The information received can be measured and allows us to make key strategy decisions based on factual data received from all golf round segments.
To anyone not working with 59club, I would have to question how they are auditing their member and guest experience, and what information they are using to make key operational strategy decisions to help them advance and deliver excellence in a competitive marketplace.
59club are industry leaders in Customer Experience Management, with a wealth of ground-breaking Mystery Shopper Audits, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, and Employee Training Programs. They support many of the greatest names in the Golf, Leisure, Spa, F&B and Hotel Industries, to elevate Sales Performance and the Customer Experience across their respective client properties.
The CX Management Specialist has today announced its global operations have expanded into Australia & New Zealand. Bringing with them over 15 years of global customer service intel, plus a wealth of industry leading mystery shopping audits, satisfaction surveys, and employee education pathways.
Golf, Leisure & Hospitality Businesses within the region, can now look forward to enjoying the ‘richest’ rewards of their labor, as 59club’s proven formula of supporting club’s to elevate customer service standards and deliver improved profits is rolled out.
The latest opening serving Australia & New Zealand passes to Sam Hughes, the former Club Operations Manager at Glenelg Golf Club, Adelaide. Hughes’ experience at Glenelg Golf Club – widely regarded as one of the best Golf and Function Venues in all of Australia, boasting a string of awards to boot – coupled with his passion for delivering customer service excellence, will serve him well in his new role.
At the time of launch, Hughes was preparing to represent 59club at the Golf Business Forum / PGA Expo in Melbourne and went on to say; “It’s a privilege to be part of 59club’s global operations, and to be able to support neighboring club managers to integrate 59club’s proven formula to achieve the greatest service standards and financial successes.
“We’ve got off to a great start, planning and delivering a series of trial audits for club managers up and down the country, igniting their passion and desire for achieving service excellence, and I am excited to see our following grow after more trials and contracts are shared and exchanged in the months ahead.”
Hughes is not alone on this journey, and benefits from the support of 59club founder, Simon Wordsworth and his fellow Directors, along with the experience of seven other Regional Managing Partners spanning the UK & Ireland, USA, Canada, Middle East & Africa (MEA), Asia, with two others based in continental Europe.
The Customer Service Specialists are proud to work with hundreds of clubs world-wide, of all sizes and profiles, with customers who include the likes of TPC Network, Marriott Golf, Troon International, European Tour Destinations, Sawgrass, Emirates Golf Club, The Belfry Hotel & Resort, Gleneagles, Le Golf National and Marco Simone to name just a few.
Many of the greatest names in the industry credit 59club for their properties success, having worked with them to measure, train, support & reward their workforce, as they achieve sales & customer service excellence, while elevating customer acquisition, satisfaction and profits.
Stoke by Nayland is one of the busiest 36-hole venues in the UK with a significant membership who like to play a lot of golf.
Managing the differing needs of members, hotel residents and pay-and-play golfers represents a challenge, but also being just one moving part in a significant resort business means I have to coordinate the activities of the various elements of my own department – booking, retail, starters and marshals, greenkeeping and academy – as well as managing a relationship with key partners such as membership committees and other hotel departments, such as rooms and F&B.
I’ve worked with 59club for around 11 years – the last three here at Stoke by Nayland. Of all the many benefits we’ve enjoyed from working with 59club, I would say the most significant – and something that helps us grow as a golf club – is the ability to benchmark against other venues.
For example, how do you know that what you’re doing is any good, in comparison to other properties? The beauty of 59club is that it gives us the ability to choose a cluster of venues that are very similar to us and our operation and to see how they perform as a collective; and with that peripheral view ultimately, we’re able to benchmark ourselves in terms of where we lie in the market.
And that mystery shopper intel isn’t limited to those competitor properties either; we also benefit from insight into 59club’s industry benchmark defined by the 3 best performing venues, which is always slightly higher than the actual industry average data. So, we’re comparing ourselves constantly not only to our immediate competition but also with a range of properties, which really helps us.
I have an excellent relationship with 59club and we speak regularly, whether it is to discuss ideas related to the club, or to discuss challenges. We also use the data we receive as part of our internal induction process and ongoing staff training. We have monthly team debriefs where we use that data as the key training issue or the tool to highlight the training need.
If, let’s say, our mystery audit comes back and it appears that a retail member of staff wasn’t particularly clued up on an item of clothing they were trying to sell, that indicates, clearly, a requirement for further training for the team. Pretty much every month we’ll highlight the big downfall, for want of a better word, within any audit and we focus our training on that area over the next few weeks.
Again, the ability to benchmark our member and guest survey data against similar facilities, is absolutely vital for us. An example is where I ask the members to survey the bunkers – and we score six out of 10. To the untrained eye that score may look pretty poor, but what 59club can do for us, in terms of the survey platform, is telling us the average score that club members across the industry have rated their bunkers, and a lot of the time that industry data is not as high as you’d imagine.
In a perfect world you’re aiming for a 10 out of 10 but the ability to know that some of the better courses may only be scoring 8.8, for example, is a good tool for us to be able to manage what we’re trying to achieve. Six no longer looks as low as it might have done previously.
The benefits to staff training and planning are also manifold. It could be somebody in the halfway hut, who hasn’t greeted a guest in a particularly great manner, or the example of the retail staff. We go through a series of meet and greets and building relationships with people.
We sit down at the start of the year and one of the big things we do is we review the mission statement we have with the golf club. The mission statement doesn’t necessarily change much, year to year, but some of the measurements we use to ensure we’re on track do change.
In the last couple of years, we’ve set benchmarks in terms of the member satisfaction scores generated from our 59club surveys and a guest satisfaction score from our mystery shopper audits, and, additionally, one of the measurements we aim for has been the 59club silver flag award, which are presented to the venues that not only achieve the required standard of service as part of the mystery test audit criteria, but also provide excellent facilities for customers to enjoy… It plays quite a big role in the bigger picture.
We didn’t get to win the silver flag award we covet, so that’s something we’re aiming for this year, but we have seen multiple success at the awards based on our appetite for gathering feedback from members and guests and the effective management of the survey data we received. We won an ultimate service excellence award in 2019, being one of only two venues recognised at that standard, and again in 2020 we retained that premium title, and also in 2021, we were honoured with a service excellence award in the same category.
From a personal perspective the most important and valuable element 59club delivers for me, is the data; collecting data, helping make sense of the feedback and being able to action any kind of changes accordingly, because of what our actual customers and a panel of mystery shoppers are telling us. Ultimately, it’s a really objective measure of the performance of the golf business.
Furthermore, every year we run the members’ survey and, as a result of that, we identify the three or four lowest scoring areas, and we implement changes based on the feedback. The changes we’ve made in the past are ongoing, and we will address any further necessary changes when we complete this year’s member survey.
We deliver pretty much the same survey, annually – albeit we break it down into three different parts: you and your membership; the course and its facilities; and staff. So, we can track progress that way.
In 2020 we used the survey platform more frequently for really nuanced stuff. For example, when coronavirus hit, we surveyed the membership on its preferred choice of touch-free hole inserts and, from the golf-club perspective, it’s really factual. It’s not my decision to use option A, for example, it’s the decision of the membership, because they’ve voted on it. I’ve found it’s far easier to justify a decision with a set of data to support you.
Without doubt, if we weren’t working with 59club we’d have a really subjective view of the golf club’s performance. I would only have opinions to judge my business on, rather than truly objective measurements.
If you look at the real top-quality venues in the UK, there’s a very high possibility those venues are working with 59club and what that says to me is that 59club gives you a really good, stable platform upon which you can build your business, whether that be a service or a product.
There’s a very experienced team of people inside 59club, and, ultimately, if you follow the guidance of these guys you’re not going to go far wrong.
Knowing that, I don’t understand why clubs in our sector wouldn’t work with 59club, to be frank. It’s a tool that offers so much in terms of looking at the broader picture, as well as somebody who wants to look at minute details in terms of, for example, selling golf shirts.
It’s a no-brainer for me. I’ve worked with 59club for years and I will continue to work with them wherever I go in the future. It’s incredible value for money.
59club, the industry leading sales & customer service analysts has today announced its global operations are expanding into Canada. The new opening signals great opportunities for the Canadian golf & hospitality market, as 59club’s signature performance management tools and global intel are now made available to businesses within the region.
59club has driven a data revolution within the industry, and are famed for their insightful customer satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping audits and employee education pathways. Their expertise and industry insight into global sales performance and customer service standards are well documented, and many of the greatest names in the club industry credit 59club for their properties success, working with them to measure, train, support and recognize their workforce as they achieve sales and customer service excellence, while elevating customer acquisition, satisfaction and profits.
Headquartered in the UK and firmly established in golf, hotels, leisure, spa and restaurants, 59club now has seven divisions across the USA, Middle East & Africa (MEA), Asia, two in Europe, with the latest opening in Canada.
With customers who include the likes of TPC Sawgrass, Bobby Jones Links, Emirates Golf Club – Dubai, Thai Country Club, The Belfry Hotel & Resort, Gleneagles, Le Golf National and Marco Simone to name just a few, and hundreds of other properties. When it comes to driving sales and customer service excellence 59club are proud to work with venues of all size and profile, supporting club management to deliver unprecedented service experience whilst simultaneously driving revenues and profits.
And the front man behind 59club Canada is Club Study owner and PGA member Ryan Tracy. Commenting of the new opening, Simon Wordsworth Founder of 59club said; “Ryan will be a great ambassador for our brand, and we are all excited to begin working with him and his existing clients as we introduce our products and services to the wider hospitality business community across Canada. We champion ‘service excellence’, and with this new division, golf as a global entity only serves to become bigger, better and stronger, with enhanced services and greater experiences tailored to the discerning golf & hospitality enthusiast, engineered from real live intel and expertise”.
Tracy added; “I have been fortunate to serve the golf industry in Canada for the last 20 years, specifically with Club Study providing customized pools of operational data in club management over the last two years. When a mutual client made an introduction to Simon, conversations over our shared passions and subsequently the similarities between the two entities made the decision for us to work together a natural progression. I realized immediately that the insight that 59club creates will help operators in Canada, and I am excited to bring these resources to market”.
And now as Club Study falls within the 59club armory, the pair can deliver even more industry insight as the bi-weekly national surveys, which had previously been connecting Club Managers in Canada & US, are now made available to the entire 59club global network.
59club’s performance management tools have proved hugely beneficial for clubs across the globe – but now clubs can go one better in their efforts to streamline operations management and evaluate and advance member experience; by utilising the new mytell App.
This multi-functioning App captures live performance data submitted by the management team, employees and club members, supporting the venue to make informed decisions to elevate standards, satisfaction levels, retention, and profitability.
The management team through their use of the App can log observations during their daily departmental evaluations, both on and off the golf course.
With technology and convenience at the forefront of development, managers store data within measurable pre-set categories – spanning golf course & practice area presentation, maintenance & amenities, retail & front of house management and employee behaviour and well-being – meaning paperwork, email trails, group chats and the constant transferring of images becomes a thing of the past.
Complete with the ability to share live performance reviews with the team, set targets, track accountability, and monitor progress over time, the App fulfils every need.
A number of industry professionals supported the development of the new App, and they were all quick to praise 59club for the benefit the App would bring to the industry, as well as to them personally, one of those individuals was General Manager of Teignmouth Golf Club; Martin Hucklesby who said;
“Managing a golf club in my view is like any other service industry, it should be driven by its standards. The vastly different areas of expertise required to be able to measure, manage & record ‘a score’ to these standards has always been something that as a General Manager I have done via a spreadsheet as I have walked through the club & course. Now with Mytell, and using technology I am able to do this via an App. It is brilliant, highly recommended and is on the front page of my phone!”
And it’s not just management who stand to benefit, the App also controls member feedback across golf, health & recreation when it comes to the club’s culture & community, the facilities & member services, its food and beverage outlets, and a huge part of ‘club life’; its people.
Whether a club chooses to invite all club members, or they prefer to limit its users exclusively to those within the management team/board/committee or perhaps they want to go one further and create an engineered focus group; this clever little App will store and channel feedback along with supplementary ratings, comments & images to the relevant department.
59club Director, and the technical brain child behind the Apps content and development; Mark Reed said;
“This is a step-change for club operations, anyone who is responsible for the daily delivery of club standards and ensuring member and guest satisfaction – from Golf Course & Estates Directors to Spa Managers – will tell you that paper trails and breaks in communication detracts from getting the job done, and serving customers well, but now with the launch of our new mytell App; we believe, we have the solution!
“But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution: each venue can create its own bespoke, white-labelled experience, ensuring it retains control over which elements of the business its users can submit data around. And the App also contains the facility to create and customise subsidiary outlets, if, for example, the property has more than one golf course, fitness studio, or restaurant.
“From a member’s perspective it gives them an unprecedented opportunity to give praise where it’s due and highlight where they feel they are not getting value for money. The mutual benefits are numerous”.
The easily navigable App – available on both Android and iOS platforms – tracks trends, monitors patterns of performance, whilst generating statistics for periodic reviews. With feedback received within a secure dashboard, away from the public eye and with total confidentiality.
For further information on the mytell App, or any area of 59club’s industry-leading service, please contact your regional 59club manager.
We partnered with 59club 2 years ago and have been reaping the benefits ever since.
The ‘mystery shopper’ exercise is a fantastic, authentic way to review the standard of experience we deliver to every guest. Each visit we’ve received has helped us to identify where we need small tweaks to improve.
One important opportunity the exercise identified, is how we can bring forward our best-in-class guest experience, so that, from the resort’s very first touchpoint, even before booking, we set the standard for a seamless travel experience that invites guests to embrace their holiday mentality before they even set foot in the resort.
We understand our guests are seeking the very best experience, and that begins from the first contact they have with the INFINITUM brand. For our team, this initial engagement is often via a phone call or through our digital channels, and, ultimately, sets the tone for the entire guest journey.
Undoubtedly, our work with 59club has allowed us to better understand this initial experience and how we can use it to elevate the entire guest journey to ensure we deliver excellence at every opportunity.
And we will continue to work on elements of the business highlighted by 59club’s data. At the heart of a world-class guest experience is the team, and we are committed to ensuring our dedicated professionals across the resort are fully equipped to deliver this inspired experience wherever our guests come into contact with our brand.
We pride ourselves on our overall guest experience, delivered through our entire team’s extensive knowledge and dedication, but we are always looking for ways to improve and that is where working with 59club has been really beneficial.
We will, therefore, continue to support our staff with innovative, industry-leading training plans incorporating 59club’s expert guidance, to ensure we remain at the forefront of guest experience, as we continue to evolve and strive for growth throughout the resort.
That relationship with 59club has allowed us to identify the many strengths of the resort and how we can use them as an opportunity to go above and beyond our current offering.
This benefits the resort in two ways: firstly, it helps to elevate the experience of our guests, which remains at the forefront of every decision at INFINITUM; and, through building on our strengths, we can generate upselling and growth opportunities, which we are pleased to say have already driven value for the resort.
I see no reason why facilities like ours should not work with 59club. Because we’re always open to understanding how we can better improve our product to provide all our guests with leading service, our work with 59club has created an honest space to reflect on our guest experiences.
I would encourage others to search out such feedback with an open mind when it comes to finding new ways to improve.
Tom Rourke is general manager of Troon Golf’s The Els Club, in Dubai. Here he explains how working with 59club has achieved an unprecedented level of membership at the facility and why he regards 59club as an essential service provider, both now and in the future.
Although I had worked with 59club previously, I hadn’t utilised the membership sales experience audit as I was previously based at a daily fee only facility. Upon joining The Els Club and better understanding the membership structure, I thought the best thing to do would be to have 59club involved with some membership enquiries and mystery shops – to go through that experience to see where enhancements could be made to improve the conversion of our prospective member show rounds.
I met with 59club MEA director Mark Bull who discussed the expectations, the history of the previous membership enquiries from past mystery shoppers at The Els Club, the benchmarking process, audit criteria, and the recommendations to get the most success out of a potential new member or membership enquiry.
Subsequently, I sat down with our membership manager, Thomas Nicolson, and gathered his feedback before we instigated the first membership related mystery shopper enquiry. After receiving the initial audit report, Thomas and I analysed the feedback and established there were quite a few areas where improvements could be made.
Thomas is a great member of the team and together we very constructively worked our way through the audit feedback; with Mark Bull on hand to provide his insightful recommendations on further measures to advance.
Thomas took all of the data and feedback within the audit on board, and, worked to improve the membership enquiry process, and the following month, achieved a near perfect show round appointment mystery audit. The process has transformed our membership sales procedures, and, after receiving this great feedback, we started to look at the membership offering and made some additional adjustments.
And it’s really paid dividends. Thomas did a fantastic job: in December we had around 30 new members sign up; in January we had 40 new members; and, in February, another 15 – so it’s been a huge success. Since working with 59club, we’ve had more new members sign up at The Els Club than ever before.
It illustrates that by reviewing the customer journey and the show-round experience, utilising the 59club tools, and doing a refresher of all the Troon Golf operational standards as well, makes a massive difference, even at an incredible property such as The Els Club. We’re delighted with the results.
With 59club, the attention to detail from the tester is incredible and, when you’re able to review recordings of the telephone call, when you’re able to analyse the sales techniques demonstrated, and in other audits the upselling measurements in the golf shop, the photographs and the reports from the agronomy perspective as well, it is hugely valuable detail.
There was already an agreement in place with 59club when I arrived at The Els Club, but I would be looking to work with them at any facility that I would go to within Troon Golf. It’s an absolute no brainer – the costs you’re looking at for 59club, the detail and information you’re going to receive, and the improvements you can make, mean you’re going to get back that investment 10-fold, with all the enhancements you’re able to identify and implement.
As a new general manager or department head, there’s great value in reviewing the previous 59club mystery shops, so you start to understand the operation with a different set of eyes. And then to be able to meet with 59club and engage with them and understand what’s happened previously, the feedback that was given, and whether any adjustments were made, is a big help.
I’m also a believer in the integrity test side of the business, especially on the driving range or areas where, maybe, there’s fewer associates, or they’re further away from the main hub of the clubhouse. It’s fundamental for department heads and the GM to study these mystery shops and integrity checks, just to have some eyes on those areas from an experience side and a security perspective.
To be engaged with 59club to monitor your business, make improvements, and for it to complement Troon Golf, is for me, just the minimum standard. After the first couple of mystery visits and the results of the integrity tests, associates begin to see things differently and take call handling, sales processes, and cash handling more seriously.
It’s really been an eye opener for the team – you always get a few shocks, speedbumps and hiccups along the way, but you start to make improvements and the revenues will start increasing. Certainly, using 59club services will only increase revenues, whether that be on membership, green fees, retail, or on the driving range. To receive that detailed feedback helps enormously.
There is such incredible value in the level of detail in the reports, it’s a set of independent eyes, seeing it through the eyes of the guest, which is so incredibly valuable. Nine times out of 10, you are going to see an increase in revenue, and that is an absolute no brainer.
The wider business goal for The Els Club is to become more of a country club and engage with the local community. The Els Club will always be, fundamentally, built on an incredible golf course – Ernie Els did a fantastic job with the design.
But we’re currently underway with the construction of two padel tennis courts, a spa, ladies hair salon and a gents’ barber shop, and, because 59club does not just specialise in golf, we will also be engaging with 59club in these areas of the business.
59club is very much across the whole area of hospitality and the business – which Troon Golf also specialises in – and it will further enhance the guest and member experience, help drive revenues and give the general manager, and his decision makers, and department heads the information they need at their fingertips.
As the flagship facility, all the fantastic standards we have within Troon Golf are at the very highest level at The Els Club. But, with 59club – whether it be SOPs, training, uniform standards, or something else – we’re just going to get additional feedback, which will only further enhance what Troon Golf has in place and ensure it is followed, consistently. We’re already at such a high standard, but it will give more information, data and feedback – and it’s always great to receive.
We can also utilise other platforms within 59club that might not be on the guest side of things, such as associate training. There’s always something, for example, upselling, that you can never improve enough. If you want to improve the engagement with the guest, improve product knowledge, and the way that information is delivered, 59club is a great partner to guide you through that process and deliver training sessions. Department heads at Troon Golf always do an incredible job, but it’s additional support, and that goes a long way.
Having a 59club division ‘on the ground’ here in the region has made a big difference. I was very fortunate, previously, to do my PGA training with (59club CEO) Simon Wordsworth, and have worked closely with both Mark Reed, Matt Roberts and Andrew Etherington, so I know it’s an incredible team; but, having Neal Graham and Mark Bull on the ground here, is a great addition to the club. They are on hand with recommendations, training, or support, and will pop over at any time.
You don’t ever feel with 59club – unlike some – as if you’re on ‘the meter’; you know you’re calling them over to have a coffee, catch up and go through some feedback. You feel they are a pure partner and that they simply want to enhance the guest journey, and the operation, and genuinely care about The Els Club as a business. Both Mark and Neal have great experience in the region and it just further complements the club.
I feel the 59club team understood our goals from the start; the key part for us is we are all about membership – so we want to hit our full membership cap of 200 members which we’re now very close to achieving. They understood that, and, also, the history of The Els Club: that the number one focus is golf. They looked at how they can assist us and give recommendations, improve that mystery shop and guest journey, so that we could attract more members. Then we looked at the F&B experience, the upselling in the golf shop, the engagement during the experience with the guests, the experience on the golf course – every part of the business. But, number one, was membership and, then, the driving range, just looking to make sure policies and procedures were being followed.
It’s an absolute pleasure to be associated with and work alongside 59club and I’m sure the relationship and support will continue to enhance and complement The Els Club and Troon Golf’s operating and hospitality standards.
This year we were delighted to receive two 59club Service Excellence Awards, in both Golf Retail Team of the Year, and, The Els Club was awarded the highest honour, the Gold Flag Designation, which is credit to the hard work and high standards we all work to achieve.
I do genuinely respect and value what 59club offers and to see it branching out now all around the world, is wonderful. It’s something golf never had previously, and I just hope everyone else values it as much as we do, and doesn’t see it as an expense line. Properties need to see their products and services as something that provides tangible value; with 59club your guaranteed to improve the overall experience, and ultimately that will make a difference to your profits.
Philippe Pilato has worked at Ryder Cup venue Le Golf National for more than 26 years and now holds the position of general manager. He outlines how 59club helped elevate the facility to a top service provider and explains how its processes can help French golf in general.
We have been with 59club since 2016, just two years before the Ryder Cup, and, at that time, we were not able to provide a good service to the visitor, in particular, to international clients. Working with 59club helps us improve our services and the quality of our services.
In 2015 and 16 we were only used to working with French visitors and members. Two years out from the Ryder Cup we started working with foreign visitors and it was clear we needed to improve the quality of our service. We needed independent analysis of our strong and weak points, which is important for both the manager and the team.
We use 59club’s visitor-experience analysis and the my59 customer survey tool, as we needed to know better the needs and wishes of our clients.
We have many different clients at Le Golf National – we have subscribers, we have players who play one or two times a week, visitors from abroad including a lot from the USA, corporate customers and day guests – and, at the beginning, we didn’t know what they needed or expected when they played here.
We segment by type of customer with the survey tool and it’s very interesting and beneficial to receive the varied feedback it gives us.
When we started with 59club, in 2016, our initial results weren’t particularly good – we’d been geared up primarily for domestic visitors until that point. When we started receiving the results of the visits we shared the information with the whole team – the greenkeepers, the welcome desk, in the back office – which was hugely beneficial and we also started staff training with 59club.
We focused on our strong points, which we knew – the golf courses and the pro shop – and the weak areas, such as the service. We’re in France and it’s very expensive to have a lot of employees. We can’t have the same number of employees on the service side of the business as our contemporaries abroad. We needed to be very strong when the customer arrives in the pro shop because this is the first contact they get with a Le Golf National employee.
Across the five years of testing we’ve seen around a 50 per cent improvement in our mark for the ‘meet and greet’ part of the test, and this comes because, thanks to 59club, we trained our staff to be focused solely on the client. Previously, employees were only focused on themselves; we showed them that the most important person at Le Golf National is not them, but the client in front of them.
We did that a lot; it remains a job we do every day as a matter of course and this is why we have improved substantially since 2016. We are much more focused on the golfers, what they expect, and why they’ve chosen to come to Le Golf National. That simple thing – and the way we were able to do it – is the reason our scores are now so much better.
We’ve also tried to be better before and after the arrival of the client. We achieved more consistency with reservations and written confirmation, and things we did not do before partnering with 59club.
We tried to train all the team to adopt a 360-degree vision – the only job on the front desk is not just to offer a smile and to welcome the golfer, you need to be focused on every point: the car park, the driving range, on the first tee, and so on.
I think encouraging staff to think outside of their own sphere and look at the bigger picture has been instrumental in our overall improvement. Indeed, overall, I believe our average rating is among the best in France. The benchmark 59club offers is showing this with our above-70 per cent averages.
We still have a lot to do when it comes to on-course service because, as I explained, we do not have a lot of people in the marshalling team, the buggy bar, the starter, or speaking to the players on the course and asking if they need anything, for example. This area, admittedly, we can still improve upon and we will improve this aspect of the customer experience. I’m not saying we will be perfect but it will be a better experience – nobody’s perfect.
Much of this can be put down to the expense of employing people in France – as I have already mentioned – but the client expects a certain level, with a starter and a marshal, and somebody to take their golf clubs for them at the end of a round. We do have wonderful employees, really, because on some days we may have 200 people on the golf course and it’s very tough for them with so much to cover, yet our customer satisfaction figures remain good.
I would have no hesitation in recommending the services of 59club because it helps professionalise the service one offers to golfers. I think we need this is France. I recently visited a golf club with three of my colleagues from Le Golf National and was astonished that of the three people at the reception desk, not one looked up and said ‘Hello’ or welcomed us in any way. And that’s the simplest thing to do anywhere in the world.
In France we need to continue to professionalise our service teams because this is often the case at golf clubs in the country. We receive a lot of feedback from visitors to Le Golf National, and, because of 59club and what it does for us, they’re saying the services and quality of service here is one of the best they’ve experienced in France.
The problem is not the people, it is a management issue. The team needs to know what it has to do and, I believe, in France, they’re not sure what they should be doing, and that comes from the management. People come in, they take the credit card and take 50€ and send them out to the course and the job is done. But there’s so much more to it than that – or there should be. Sadly, in France, people on the front desk are not sure of what they need to do, so there is much training to be done across the industry.
Working with 59club has helped me, personally, to concentrate on the right things and I think that would help many general managers in France. I think it’s a ‘magic’ tool and has helped elevate Le Golf National to where it is now.
For those wanting a proven strategy to retrain and upskill their workforce, measure in-house standards, elevate customer acquisition, satisfaction, and profits, there has never been a better time to engage with 59club.
Kristoff Both, the director of Club de Golf Alcanada, on the holiday island of Mallorca, tells all about his time working with 59club, the success it has borne, and the many customer-service accolades celebrated during their seven-year engagement.
We all think, as golf managers, that we know our product; that we don’t need anybody from the outside to tell us if the grass is green or not, because we play golf and we see most of it from the outside.
But there are certain procedures that, sitting in your office, you don’t always get to grips with – that might be the different touchpoints: the restaurant, the pro shop, the caddymaster or the halfway house, where we need to know about the friendliness and professionalism of the staff.
So, for us, 59club’s mystery shopping audits are really productive – plus it takes me out of the line of fire! It’s not me who is saying to somebody ‘I don’t think you’re doing this or that’, it’s somebody independent and it’s there in black and white in front of them.
Once or twice a year, we also receive an on-site teaching seminar with a member of the 59club team whose experience in the industry speaks for itself, so it’s also very convincing and constructive for the team here. You have a professional helping them who’s been there and implemented that practice in the industry.
Most of the seminars or further education we can get here in Spain are not specific to golf, it’s for customer service in general. But to have somebody talking about retail skills, tee-time management and the overall customer experience in golf makes it more entertaining, hands-on, and relevant to the team.
As a consequence, the team is more conscious of things like upselling and cross-selling, and, while we’re some way from being on it 100 per cent, it’s a constant reminder that we have to do these things, and we have to do them better.
The comparison tool, where we can measure our service levels and sales aptitude against our competitors, is very useful and insightful. It’s not a race, but it’s beneficial to be able to demonstrate and ask ‘Why others are performing so much better?; what are they doing differently? Or what are they offering that is different or perceived to be better?’ Learning from others is another way we can progress as a team and as a facility.
I believe the biggest change we have implemented since working with 59club is in our booking procedure, which is now far more professional.
When you look at the results of the mystery shopper audits alongside some of the other venues, it has to be borne in mind that some venues have staff dedicated to simply taking bookings, so they have different procedures to the staff here who are answering other telephone calls and dealing with customers in the shop. But our written confirmations and practices are now more thorough in terms of the information within.
I also believe there’s been a noticeable improvement with the caddymasters in the way they interact with customers. Indeed, everything around the customer touchpoints has evolved down the years we have been working with 59club, and the results from the audits have been instrumental in that evolution.
I’m looking forward to working closely with the new southern Europe 59club division, headed by James Beesley. I was pleased to learn that they will be providing documentation translated into Spanish, for the Spanish market. To be able to give my team access to the system, instead of me having to translate everything, will make it a lot easier.
For the staff who do not have the ability to read English it would be hugely advantageous, and beneficial for Alcanada as a whole, to have everything in Spanish. And I imagine that goes for clubs in all other countries, too, to be able to work in their native tongue.
The history of our relationship with 59club speaks for itself – we have been working with 59club for seven years and we’re very happy. They’re very professional and very helpful in all aspects. And you only have to look at the range of products they continue to introduce to see that it’s not a company that is standing still. They’re progressing and, as their client, we can progress too.
The service excellence awards began as a nice little extra, but as more and more clients become eligible and, as 59club becomes more international, the awards will quickly become the ‘Oscars’ of golf in Europe; just as they have been regarded in the UK for some time now.
It’s always nice to receive recognition for the hard work you have done, so we do appreciate the 59club awards. There’s also an element of competition between colleagues at other venues who’ve known each other for some time, so that adds to the allure.
It’s encouraging for the staff to be honoured with an award – Alcanada is currently a 59club gold-flag destination, the highest accolade available for a venue’s performance. It’s a great achievement for us to be mentioned in the same breath as venues which are regarded as at the top of the game.
I’ve been in the business for some 20 years, and in my 18th year at Alcanada, so it’s very important for me not to be standing still, and products from 59club help me stay alert and abreast of what’s happening and available in the industry.
We need to continue looking for ways to improve and change things, and 59club helps me to do that. It encourages me to look around corners and not to do things the same way they’ve always been done.
If I had to sum up 59club in one word, it would be ‘progressive’: it’s always progressing and pushing the boundaries, and that, in turn, pushes its clients to achieve more, which is of benefit to the whole golf industry.
Addendum: One year after working with 59club, Alcanada received a silver flag in recognition for its service excellence, and has, subsequently, been recognised every year since, culminating with a Gold Flag designation.
For those wanting a proven strategy to retrain and upskill their workforce, measure in-house standards, elevate customer acquisition, satisfaction, and profits, there has never been a better time to engage with 59club.
North American customer service satisfaction and benchmarking firm 59club USA announced today they have reached an agreement to extend their partnership with TPC Network which operates 30 high-end golf properties in North America many of which are featured on the PGA TOUR. The extension allows 59club USA to continue to use its proprietary, industry-leading software and objective data analysis tools to provide TPC Network with valuable, quantitative and unbiased customer service feedback. 59club USA will provide these services to 14 of TPC Network’s 30 golf properties.
“The training and testing platform created the much-needed visibility into our sales organization that we’ve wanted for a long time,” said Vic Aliprando, VP of Business Development of PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties. “We now have a consistent sales training program for all new hires which allows us to focus our retraining efforts specifically on those that need it and on the areas that they need. Mike and his team are incredibly responsive and have done so much to help our sales team.”
59club is a service-based management tool and customer service provider which uses objective data points and images to measure, improve and then maintain standards of customer service, in turn increasing visitor and member retention. Results of on-site testing from 59club are a boost to customer satisfaction, revenues and profits for clubs who use their services such as customer satisfaction surveys, mystery shopping services and employee training – both virtual and on-site.
“TPC Network and their team understands the importance of consistency when it comes to sales and customer service,” said Mike Kelly, Managing Partner of 59club USA. “We’re extremely excited to continue our relationship which has already paid dividends for their tremendous properties.”
59club USA has established and developed relationships with more than 50 well-known golf clubs and resorts in North America including 14 TPC properties, We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Scottsdale, Cuscowilla on Lake Oconee, The Mid Ocean Club in Bermuda, Haig Point in South Carolina, Ruark Golf Properties in Ocean City, Maryland, and Bobby Jones Links – one of the world’s largest golf management companies.
About 59Club USA
59Club USA is specifically designed to elevate sales and service standards. 59club USA provides mystery Shopper Audits, Customer Satisfaction Surveys, and Training Services, empowering venue managers to analyze their entire visitor and member experience, enabling them to set targets, monitor performance and ultimately make informed decisions to enhance their guest services. To learn more about 59club USA, visit https://www.59clubusa.com/.
About TPC Network
Owned, operated, and licensed by the PGA TOUR, the TPC Network is comprised of 30 premiers private, resort and daily fee golf properties designed by some of golf’s most elite architects. Twenty of the clubs are operated by affiliates of PGA TOUR Golf Course Properties, Inc. Each TPC has hosted or has been designed to host TOUR-sponsored golf tournaments. Since TPC Sawgrass first opened its world-renowned PLAYERS Stadium Course in the fall of 1980, TPCs have provided the PGA TOUR with rent-free venues for tournaments, helping to boost championship golf purses and increasing charitable donations to grass roots non-profit organizations. At the same time, TPCs have provided recreational golfers with the unique opportunity to test their skills on the same layouts where the world’s best golfers compete.
TPCs are known for their history of hosting PGA TOUR-sponsored golf tournaments, their outstanding conditioning and amenities, as well as a commitment to environmental excellence. The TPC Network is also distinguished by its unwavering commitment to further the PGA TOUR’s giving back mission through support of charitable and community-based programs. For more information, please visit www.tpc.com. For the most up-to-date news, follow the TPC Network on Twitter (@PlayTPC), Instagram (@PlayTPC) or Facebook.com/TPCNetwork.
59club, the industry leading Customer Service Analyst and Training Provider has launched three Human Resource Survey templates that address all areas of the employment roster, from measuring the New Employee Experience, general Employee Satisfaction, plus an Employee Exit Survey.
When it comes to customers; satisfaction surveys have been a vital part of 59club’s mission to drive the member and guest experience across our industry. If the reality is that ‘happy employees equals happy customers,’ then it’s high time we also prioritise employee well-being. As J. Willard Marriott famously said,“Take good care of your employees, and they’ll take good care of your customers, and the customers will come back”.
The new survey templates can be used to quantify employee wellbeing, engagement & satisfaction levels. The venues management team will also be able to identify what motivates individuals and how they can support their employees continued growth within their existing role, also providing clarity and vision over personal career progression.
The Employee Satisfaction Templates are available right now and ‘free to use’ for all my59 Survey licence holders, alongside a wealth of Golf & Hospitality Member & Guest Satisfaction Templates.
The question templates are available to all in English immediately and will be rolled out in other languages across all 59club territories shortly. To enquire about owning a my59 Survey Licence, please visit www.59clubeurope.com.
The intelligent software can be adapted and moulded to suit every differing properties persona, meaning that the industry can now gain valuable Human Resource data from inside their own four walls, complete with the ability to make direct industry comparisons to monitor and advance their employee experience.
Simon Wordsworth, 59club CEO and Founder said; “Your staff are your number one asset, if they are nurtured, allowed to develop and progress, there are nothing but positives for the business, cost savings throughout and without doubt greater revenues and repeat clients. As a business we have always been involved with measuring staff performance and providing training solutions to remedy those weaknesses, this new development allows the employee, manager, and the employers performances to be evaluated and improved.
“In this current climate, with so much insecurity, staff “out of position” and undertaking new and multiple roles, we need to ensure that we boost morale and prioritise employee satisfaction. As a business and industry, we will be able to harvest and retain talent to better service our customers and drive the enjoyment factor within the game we all love.
“If you have access to my59mentor, our online virtual training platform, as the industry’s needs start to evolve as a result of the data, we and our partners will be able to work together to strengthen our offering to educate your team in situ”.
To discuss your business needs and how 59club can assist you to achieve Service Excellence utilising a variety of Satisfaction Surveys, Mystery Shopping Audits, Financial Comparison Tools & Employee Training Programs; contact your local 59club Area Manager – and make a positive change today to realise your greatest potential.
Golf Business News Interview with Paul Armitage, a partner in 59club Europe West and North Africa, covering France, Belgium, Holland, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Morocco and Tunisia and recently appointed COO of Open Golf Club
GB Paul, your new roles must involve you in a lot of travelling. How are you coping in the COVID-19 crisis?
PA Well, we can still travel around in France, which is most important for the new job because we have got golf courses dotted around all over the country.
GBN How many courses are in the group?
PA Owned and operated there are 11 – one of them is in Belgium and ten are in France – and then we run a ‘marketing network’ in addition. Golf courses have been brought in under the banner of Open Golf Club and we actively promote them in exhibitions and IGTM. There are about 40 at the moment, all over Europe.
GBN You previously spent six years as Managing Director at Le Golf National, host of The Ryder Cup Matches in 2018. You must look back on that period with enormous pride and satisfaction because it all went so well.
PA Yes, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s time to move on. When I was first employed back in 2014 I was handed a lot of missions and all those boxes have been ticked. I could have chosen to run all the day-to-day operations at the Club but I’m the sort of person that needs a challenge. I like to be able to change things. That doesn’t mean I need full autonomy so I can do what I want – no – but I like to have an objective and to go through it from A-Z, changing things on my way to succeed.
GBN Who has been appointed as your successor?
PA When I announced my resignation, which was in December last year, I wrote a letter to my boss suggesting that he should give my deputy manager a chance. Philippe Pilato has been at Le Golf National for 25 years, almost since the day it opened.
He was a golf pro and he looked after the Academy. I thought we’ve got ‘a hidden gem’ here because we needed to implement customer service and a lot of tender loving care to put into what we were going to serve out to customers in the immediate future.
We were going to raise the bar, raise the prices and bring in a new experience. To get that to a successful end you need somebody who’s got a lot of empathy and love.
I said to Philippe look I think you are going to have to change jobs. He looked a bit down, thinking oh I’m going to get the sack here and I said no, no, you’re going to have to go home and think about this but I would like to identify a director of customer service for Le Golf National. Why do I want one? Because the Club needed someone who every day gets up and thinks about how they can give a wow or a great experience to customers. There was nobody in particular on the staff who was doing that.
He came back a few days later and said yes, let’s do it.
So that’s where he came from and he’s been a very, very, extremely good customer service manager. Then last year I took him up to Director of Operations – golf operations – and now he is GM!
GBN What have been the benefits to Le Golf National from hosting The Ryder Cup? Is there a payback for the huge investment of time, money and people?
PA There has definitely been a pay-back especially in the case of Le Golf National. First, the Ryder Cup obliged the French Golf Federation and Le Golf National to change, to not consider itself as a local pay-and-play public golf course but as a world class destination. I think we have created something there which is unique as a model because it’s probably, even at 150 euros or 175 euros, the cheapest round of Ryder Cup golf in the world. And it’s open. It’s not like many major golf destinations where you have to be invited by a member or you can’t get on. And the third thing is that we’ve got an extremely good standard for those who come from those kind of places where they’ll not be too surprised to come in and they’ll have customer service and a team, badged up and welcoming, and bag-drops and buggies and everything you need at a world-class major tournament destination.
So I think that’s the major benefit. We have repositioned Le Golf National completely keeping at the same time a local, regional and national customer base happy.
GBN And what about golf in France generally?
PA I think that this year everybody is struggling to have a normal year. I think COVID has knocked that on the head. There’s a lot of golf being played this year but there’s not a lot of normal golf, if you know what I mean: people travelling, playing in as many competitions as they have done in the past.
I think that France is resisting well though – official golfer numbers are down by around 3% this year.
The Ryder Cup in France also delivered as far as the media is concerned. Although we didn’t get live coverage on free to view terrestrial TV, we got a lot of media coverage, much more than we would have got from a French Open, so golf was definitely in the spotlight thanks to the event.
Now, when you talk to anybody about golf in France, there is the demystifying process which has been started so it looks and feels less elite. People in France definitely identify themselves more easily with golf.
A lot of people this September are coming into Open Golf Clubs for our ‘Golf Discovery Days’. They started last weekend and participation and sales have been quite good, in fact very, very encouraging for a COVID year when everything is supposed to be doom and gloom.
GBN And then golf is coming in the Paris Olympics in 2024?
PA Yes. I actually think that the Olympics could do even more good for golf in France.
We will get public TV coverage because it’s public television which has the rights to show the Olympics so there’s absolutely no reason why they should not put golf on TV. It’s almost definite that France will have both boys and girls in the Olympics. We probably won’t get a medal, but It won’t be like a Major Championship, at least we’ll have participation. I mean this month in the US Open there were four French players and I think that’s a record.
So from a ticketing point of view there should be a younger public coming to the Tournament because the ticket price will be very much accessible and it’s more of a general public environment. So, I think that the Olympics could do even more good for golf in France and is definitely great for French Golf 6 years after the Ryder Cup.
GBN Right, let’s talk about 59club because soon after you wrote your letter to your colleagues at Le Golf National in December, you must have been making your decision about getting involved with the 59club. We announced that in Golf Business News back in February.
PA Yes, indeed. I did everything the right order and there was absolutely no surprise to anybody about 59club. It was all talked through with the Federation and the staff and hopefully they will be using some of the 59club tools soon too. And the same with Open Golf Club.
There was absolutely no issue either with 59club because Open Golf Club will use the tools and are interested in the success of 59club. My role at 59club is to set up the business with Simon Wordsworth and our associate partner in France called Sylvain Marcati who comes from customer service in another industry to golf. I was determined to get this product on to the French market from 59club which helped me hugely at Le Golf National from 2017 onwards to improve our standards.
I think we were capable of improving them ourselves but we weren’t capable of benchmarking to know if we were doing enough and getting there quick enough and moving things in the right direction and also the training aspect of 59club, the tool is very powerful. I wanted the French market to benefit from the wealth of products which only Le Golf National and another golf club called Terre Blanche were using. Now we’ve got nearly 30 golf courses working on it already.
If golf in France wants to survive we have to stop, and this is important to say, we have to stop playing just the price game. We have to stop just using price as the way of satisfying the customer and getting new customers through the doors.
We have to use the service quality aspect to get results as well and get the prices up because golf has an insatiable thirst for investment in machinery and staffing. It costs a lot of money to run a golf course. So yes, if we all get on the bandwagon of customer service and improving our standards then there’s no way a customer can say, why did you put the price of the green fee up by a pound or two?
And that’s why I brought it in. So we’ve gone through quite a few weeks of translating it. COVID came along and to be honest it’s put us back half a year or a year on our business plans but I’m not bothered because it actually came at a perfect time to get it just right. So we have spent ‘lockdown’ getting the tools translated correctly into French and now German. They will be going into other languages soon.
GBN Yes, because you’re involved in other countries too, aren’t you? Not just France?
PA Yes. We have created a company which will look after all of Western Europe apart from Spain and Portugal. We also have Morocco and Tunisia. We’ve got France, Germany, Austria, Holland, and Benelux so we’ve got a lot on our plate. A lot of it is taking shape right now and we are even looking at other European markets as we speak.
GBN Your objective to move away from concentrating on price, has that gone a long way?
PA There were a lot of golf courses just communicating price and not service or standards. Online prices were going, and in fact are still going, way too low because if you start with a rack rate of £40 for a green fee and then you offer 50% off that price; or you are in a network and you’re offering 50% off with a loyalty card then there’s not much left for the operator after commissions and you’re paying VAT. There’s probably only £15 a round left for you.
Out of that you’ve got to cut the grass, you’ve got to pay the staff to smile and you’ve got to get them in on a Sunday, which can be costly and difficult to recruit in France, etc., etc.
We should train up every single general manager in France, England, wherever about yield management. There’s no shame in saying we don’t know how to do it. Why would you sell a green fee on a Sunday morning for 15 euros? Well some people are doing it because they think that it’s the right thing to do. They think that if they don’t do it they won’t have a customer.
Well that’s not yield management, that’s shooting yourself in the foot. So, yes, I’m heavily into the business of helping managers to increase their customer satisfaction and their customer service which automatically, according to the lessons learned from Le Golf National, will turn into turnover.
People will come back. Repeat play thanks to quality is a reality. Customer service will do that once people have had a chance to compare. Word of mouth is still your best advertisement!
So all of that has gone through my thought process over the years. I have moved away slightly from discounts without thought process. Which doesn’t mean that I don’t do it at all, but I have really professionalised my attitude towards yield management. I still do reductions, but I want to do them when I have a good chance of increasing my revenues! Not lowering them!
GBN What is the impact of COVID on golf in France?
PA We’re pretty much back to what I would say is going to be normal as far as golfing is concerned.
GBN Normal or better than normal? There’s been a lot of talk about an increase in rounds played during July and August.
PA Oh yes, in terms of business July and August have been record months. They have been record months on a few Open Golf courses.
GBN Just a few moments left so can we talk about The Open Golf Club specifically? That’s the most recent announcement we’ve had about your career to date. You have been appointed as COO, I believe.
PA Open Golf Club is highly respected company here in France. They have been under the radar for quite a while. It’s a family business which today is still family-owned. Laurent Boissonas has taken up the reins. He wants to try and keep the spirit of a family company, but he definitely wants to modernise process and operations.
We have some wonderful facilities. They are premium places like Le Touquet with the hotels and 45 beautiful holes and then 30 minutes up the road is Hardelot, which is a European Tour qualifying stage venue – although not this year because there won’t be any, thanks to COVID, but next year I guess. Hardelot has 36 magnificent holes, very, very well-known to the Brits but not so well-known to the French.
Then we’ve got a van Hagge like Le Golf National at Seignosse, which is a magnificent golf course just north of Biarritz. In the mountains behind Cannes we have two golf courses and then around Marseille we have three and then in Paris we have two.
So we’ve got some wonderful sites. These golf courses are not desperate for investment either because the family have always kept high capex levels on the courses and they are pristine but we need to look at positioning the chain even more in the higher end of the golf market, making sure people know who we are and what we are about.
There’s a definite objective to do more customer service, modernising our approach by using modern tools such as online booking services. We also run all of the restaurants and hotels and we have a strategy there with some out of the box thinking.
So we will be coming up with new concepts in 2021, bringing in new lifestyle concepts.
The 9 hole concepts and the 6 hole concepts, they have a reason to be – there’s no doubt about it – but it’s still a lot about having a day out with friends or corporate friends. but you may need to do a couple of hours of work or an hour of work and deal with your emails before you go for the beer after a day of golf or after breakfast. We’re looking at that kind of aspect.
So yes there is lots of work to be done at the golf courses we own and then the other part of my job with Laurent is we’re going to kick off some new business revenue flows and we’re also going to be looking at good opportunities to grow.
GBN Within France or beyond?
PA I think we would look beyond but not too far.
GBN You are a very busy man, Paul.
PA I just love it and my family know it. I just love to be thinking and creating. I like to get into the office early and jot things down. It gives me a couple of hours before everyone else comes in just to formalise ideas. It’s exciting working on new concepts and when I’m happy at work I also perform better at home.
GBN That’s great Paul, thank you very much. Is there anything else that you would like to tell our readers?
PA Yes. Stay safe during the COVID crisis but come over to France as soon as it’s over and play some golf!
– After almost three years of unprecedented growth, David Shepherd, Chief Executive – The Scandinavian, reflects upon the power of 59club survey data and handing decision-making power back to his members.