Meet the director of golf: Langland Bay Golf Club’s Andrew Minty

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire January 20, 2020 10:21

Andrew talks about how the club formed an affiliation with Pebble Beach in the USA, the awards both he and the club have won in recent years, the state of the game in Wales in 2020 and the Hollywood celebrities he’s found himself working with.

Can you tell us a bit about Langland Bay Golf Club – including how Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones ended up playing there recently?

Langland Bay Golf Club is a uniquely situated golf club with sea views from 15 of our 18 holes. We pride ourselves on the consistent condition of the course and the customer service we give our members and guests.

Michael and Catherine have played Langland before over the years. Catherine and her parents live just up the road from the golf club. Catherine’s dad and brother are already members here. However on this visit we wanted to make things a bit more special for them. We gave Catherine and Michael honorary membership of Langland, which they were delighted about. I played 18 holes with them, which was a fantastic experience. Lovely down to earth people and we are very proud to have them as members. They said they would be back home more regularly and would play here more often

Speaking of Hollywood celebrities – you once taught George Clooney to play golf! How did that happen?

I met George while he was taking time out of filming Ocean’s Thirteen. We spoke about golf and he said he was a struggling 20 handicapper who wasn’t confident around the greens. I proceeded to give George a lesson on his short game. I gave him some tips on chipping and pitching and got him hitting some great shots by the end of the lesson.

Thinking back, I spent over an hour with him, didn’t charge him, just had an autograph … I missed out there! A great experience again and such a gentlemen, who was also a really good laugh.

How did you manage to get an affiliation with Pebble Beach? 

Sarah Stirk from Sky Sports visited Langalnd to do a programme on golf in Wales. She referred to Langland as the ‘Pebble Beach of Wales’. From that, I visited Pebble Beach and arranged some meetings with their golf team prior to arriving. I played the courses and had tours around the world-class facilities. I then asked, that based on the quote, our setting and so on, could we have an affiliation where our members would get exclusive benefits and discounts and to keep close ties.

Five years on, we have a great affiliation with them. I visited them again last year and once again played the courses and met with the staff. We have also sent groups of members over, where they have been looked after and continue to enjoy the affiliation we have with one of the best courses in the world.

Even though you’re still young, you’ve been quite a big name in the industry for several years now – and you were once the youngest ever director of golf in the UK. How do you think that role and the industry itself have changed since then?

I think the role of director of golf has grown massively over the last few years, with a number of golf clubs seeing the benefits of having a manager who has a golfing background, who can manage and understand all aspects of the business and can relate to the staff and members with ease.

The PGA director of golf qualification is what gave me a great grounding and understanding on what it takes to fulfil the role effectively. The necessity to have an understating of agronomy, strategic management, marketing and customer service and also being able to manage people. Golf clubs are now realising that they are a business and, to compete and retain members, a director of golf is the person to guide that business and move it forward. This role works for members’ clubs and also larger corporate venues.

What do you find are the biggest challenges managing the club today?

The biggest challenges I see, are clubs staying competitive without discounting and devaluing their product.

More emphasis, in my opinion, should be put on adding value to the membership package, instead of giving it away cheaply.

The same goes for green fees.

Set your rate, work with tour operators closely and cluster packages. Don’t devalue!

Langland Bay – and you personally – have won a number of awards in recent years, including Welsh Club of the Year and Manager of the Year. Can you take us through what you’ve won and what you did to win them?

Welsh Golf Club of the Year was back in 2013.

This was an award I really wanted the club to win for all the hard work we all put in and it’s an award that is very prestigious and recognises that a club has consistently moved forward and is successful. We have also been shortlisted for this award on a further six occasions.

We also won a tourism award for ‘Best Attraction’ and more recently a ‘Luxury Lifestyle’ award and also a 59Club ‘Customer Excellence’ award.

The awards are around revenue generation, PR, marketing and customer service. The social media presence, revenue generated from these platforms and the awareness of golf in general for beginners and more established players.

Winning the UK golf club ‘Manager of the Year’ was the biggest thing I’ve accomplished in my career so far.

I am lucky that I enjoy my job, I look forward to coming to work every day and I’m constantly trying to learn and improve.

Certainly an honour to win it and something that I will always be proud of achieving.

You’ve been involved in running several high-profile golf events. Do you have any advice for others in the industry hoping to run a forthcoming one of their own?

My main bit of advice is simple: planning.

Early planning meetings, dissecting the planning report and what the event expects of you. Getting all your staff in and having regular meetings leading up the event to ensure everyone knows what to do blindfolded. After all, each event you host, no matter how big or small, is showcasing your club, your product and you!

Celtic Mitsubishi sponsors you. How did you achieve that?

One of our members owns Celtic Mitsubishi of Swansea and I have been lucky enough to have a sponsored car for a number of years. I promote their business as much as possible and the relationship we have is very strong. Fantastic company to be a part of.

What does the PGA mean to you?

I am and will always be a very proud PGA member. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the PGA. I owe them a lot. I am proud to be a part of the heritage and tradition and I continue to be committed to upholding the traditions of golf whilst also helping to shape the future of the game and raise the profile of the game of golf.

You’re a director of Wales Golf. What’s the state of golf in Wales at the moment and what is Wales Golf doing to help clubs?

I have been a board member of Wales Golf for more than four years and I enjoy every minute of it. We have a great board of directors with a fantastic team at Wales Golf who work tirelessly. It’s a pleasure to be associated with them.

Golf in Wales is doing very well with a number of exciting things on the horizon. Our vision at Wales Golf is ‘Everyone’s Game, Anywhere’. The support for clubs is second to none and the initiatives have proven very lucrative and popular, in particular the New2Golf scheme. The workshop and events, the business support schemes, disability golf, handicapping and course rating. The list is endless and the professionalism and experienced staff at Wales Golf make this happen on a daily basis.

Is Langland Bay trying to attract more women and juniors to the facility?

At Langland, we have had the largest ladies’ membership of any golf club in Wales for a number of years. We have New2Golf classes each year, where we have on average 40 participants from women and girls, over 50s and juniors. Langland is committed to growing junior golf and we are going into all the local schools and also having extensive junior coaching at the club each week. We have a great membership who look after new members and integrate them very well into the club.

How do you communicate with existing members?

We use a number of ways to communicate with our members. From push notifications on our app, regular email correspondence, newsletters, members’ forums and also regular surveys.

I have an open door policy and always make time to speak to the members, but also try to pre-empt any questions relating to the course or club by sending our regular correspondence and updates.  An extremely effective way I have found of gauging feedback is by surveying the membership. We use 59Club’s MY 59 system, which allows me to put together bespoke surveys on any topic I wish. I can also set the surveys up for new members to send out at strategic times of their induction process and the start of their membership journey.

What is the club’s approach to customer service?

My philosophy is that ‘Better never stops’. My staff must give the best customer service possible to allow the members and guests to have the best experience possible. We have regular mystery guests that visit our club and report on every aspect from the initial phone conversation, the upsell, the arrival, the food, locker rooms, staff attitude, appearance, course and so on. This analysis gives me fantastic information that I use with the staff meetings in order to learn from our mistakes and congratulate and praise the staff on their good marks. Customer service is paramount to me, as you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

What is the club’s approach to marketing?

Marketing is one of my favourite aspects of club management. There is nothing like coming up with an initiative, designing an advert and promotion, putting a budget and a marketing plan together and then watching the bookings come in.

Back in 2010, when I first started at Langland, I remember reporting to my board that I was going to use some of the marketing budget to target social media … the board looked at me bemused. Now it is our most lucrative form of advertising where we have not only secured new members from the various social media platforms, but also a tracked revenue of over £140k.

When I was offered the job at Langland, I made sure that there was a marketing budget in place to enable me to boost the profile and to get in the necessary material I needed to promote the club. The club has always backed me on this and trusted my judgement.

You are involved with STRI  – what do you learn and do you have any advice for fellow golf club managers when it comes to course management? 

We have used STRI for a long time and they are an invaluable resource for us. The visits, the advice, the analysis and the professionalism is fantastic. Our members read the reposts regularly as we track the analysis on our website’s members’ section. They have heled us with advice on all aspects of our course from project work, drainage, irrigation, bunkers and so on. I urge every club to use STRI to enable them to work with your greenstaff to give a watertight evaluation of the course with a plan that can be followed and the peace of mind to members that all the necessary evaluations and analysis has gone into the course to come out with the outcomes.

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire January 20, 2020 10:21
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