Meet the golf club manager: Simon Greatorex

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire February 24, 2020 06:23

The general manager of St Enodoc Golf Club talks about managing a prestigious golf club, the challenges involved in growing the game, positive economic data coming out of Cornwall in the last couple of years and his own career from a promising golfer to a successful golf club manager.

Can you tell us a bit about St Enodoc Golf Club?

The first golf played at St Enodoc was in 1888, when a group of undergraduates played on part of the present Church Course confined to the area around the Church of St Enodoc and the Daymer Bay area. This led to a group of local gentlemen laying out a few holes among the dunes in Rock, and this led to the formation of the club in 1890. In 2020 the club has developed to two 18-hole courses, the championship-length Church Course and the Executive (par three and four holes) Holywell Course. James Braid is credited with designing both the Church Course and nine holes of the Holywell with an additional nine being added in 1982.

Today the club has a membership of just over 1,900 members and the Church Course continues to be ranked highly in the world and UK course rankings in the golfing press.

The 8th green with the Himalaya bunker in the background. (Image by Stuart Morley)

What has been your career path to be this club’s manager?

I have played the sport from the age of 11 and took over as secretary of Bramshott Hill Golf Club in the New Forest at the age of 28.

After 11 years I relocated to the club of my birthplace – Yeovil Golf Club and spent six happy years before being given the amazing opportunity of managing St Enodoc.

You’ve been a golf club manager for nearly two decades now, how has the role changed in that time?

The pace of change for golf club management has mirrored life and cultural changes in general. So much more in today’s role as a manager is based around information technology and time being perceived as the most valuable commodity to everyone. Most golf clubs are now managing vast quantities of information to try and keep its customers informed about the golf club and its activities.

The par five, 16th hole (David Cannon)

Golf clubs as a result have become much more commercially-minded as opposed to the more committee- or volunteer-led groups that were perhaps more prevalent 20 years ago. Club managers in the 21st century need to have far more of a knowledge base in this respect whilst legislation also has changed a great deal in 20 years which impacts on almost every aspect of golf club management.

ROCK, CORNWALL – MAY 24: The par 5, 16th hole at the St Enodoc Golf Club, on May 24, in Rock, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The sporting leisure market in general has also changed markedly over the last two decades with well-documented declines in many core participation sports in the UK in preference to other activities or hobbies. With regard to golf in particular, the amount of young people being introduced to the sport and then following a path to further education is much greater in 2019 than in the late 90s which hinders the opportunity in many cases to recruit young adult participants. This I believe is the biggest threat to the future of the sport in terms of an increasing average age of participant members or visitors.

What do you find are the biggest challenges managing St Enodoc today? 

St Enodoc is a club that is highly regarded by both its members and visitors and the maintenance and management of their expectations is the biggest challenge. A great team of highly motivated staff and committees helps greatly in trying to offer the very best experience on every occasion to all that drive through the gates.

ROCK, CORNWALL – MAY 23: The par 5, 16th hole at the St Enodoc Golf Club, on May 24, in Rock, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Most recently the extremes of weather have presented a number of challenges in terms of the near drought conditions of the summer of 2018 and two years of snow and blizzard conditions, both of which are rare occurrences for the generally temperate Cornish climate. Plans are in place to extend our water storage capability to ensure we are able to cope with more unpredictable patterns of weather in the future.

ROCK, CORNWALL – MAY 24: The approach to the green on the par 4, 1st hole at the St Enodoc Golf Club, on May 24, in Rock, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

You’ve said a key competency to being a good golf club manager is to keep up to date with what’s going on in the golfing industry. How do you do that?

Like many of my colleagues’ clubs, it is deemed important to subscribe to industry bodies such as the Golf Club Managers’ Association and the British and International Golf Greenkeeping Association to name but two, not only for the resource bases they have, but also the opportunities they give you to network and compare notes with your fellow colleagues. We are also very fortunate to have a course advisor, Chris Haspell, who has worked at links golf courses his whole career and gives very sound advice based on his vast knowledge of caring for the playing surfaces at St Enodoc.

Is St Enodoc trying to attract more women and juniors to the facility?

We are always interested in anyone who expresses an interest in the sport. The club subsidises a junior academy which runs throughout the year, and we are very fortunate to have over 400 lady members currently who take part in a very well-organised section of the club. More recruits are currently being introduced.

How does St Enodoc fit in with the local community?

Every golf club that is close to a local community has a role to play in terms of offering a facility for people to enjoy their leisure time and contribute to their standard of living. The club also concentrates on supporting local charities each year with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust and the Cornwall Air Ambulance Heli Appeal being the two beneficiaries in 2019. In 2018 the club donated £17.5k to Cancer Research based at Trelisk Hospital in Truro from the various fundraising activities that had taken place that year.

What is the state of the golf industry in Cornwall?

An overview of this for me would be in two respects. Based on the yearly returns by our county golf gnion it would seem that many of the clubs’ memberships are stabilising in terms of halting the general slide in member retention nationwide, and the other being numbers of visitors that are choosing Cornwall as a holiday or leisure break destination have been very high – certainly in the last two years. Cornwall remains a great place to play golf whether you live here or are just visiting. There is so much diversity in terms of the type of golf you can experience. There continues to be investment in the sport in Cornwall to improve and add to already first-class venues.

How do you communicate with existing members? You used a ‘suggestion and feedback’ book at Yeovil Golf Club, what’s this?

The club has a long standing ‘suggestion book’ that is permanently on display in a prominent position in the clubhouse whilst we have many items of correspondence that are received weekly by the club office, all of which we endeavour to reply to!

What is the club’s approach to marketing?

The club uses all of the main media channels – website / Facebook / Twitter / email and in addition we have a public relations agreement with Helen Heady PR, based in London. The club also has agreements with a number of travel agencies and tour operators who assist in the marketing of the club.

One in particular is the Atlantic Links, which promotes the five clubs in the south west that face the Atlantic Ocean – St Enodoc / Trevose / Royal North Devon / Saunton / Burnham & Berrow.

When you were at Yeovil Golf Club, nearby venues were returned to farmland but your club maintained its membership – the largest in Dorset. How?

Yeovil has a great 27-hole facility and practice facilities and is a big enough concern to maintain a large membership. Much of the work done by all involved at Yeovil was to focus on value for money, providing two enjoyable, well looked after golf courses. During my time spent there we focussed on the above, which included significant investment in improving the clubhouse facilities and golf courses, and offering some packages that were tailored to introducing the sport to local residents. I am really happy to say that the club is in a really strong position and continues to improve under the watchful eye of Chris Huggins.

You were a Category 1 golfer aged just 14 – any regrets that you pursued a career in the clubhouse rather than out on the course?

Although it didn’t dawn on me at the time (as I was a typical competitive teenager), I was fortunate enough to grow up playing the game with Mike Smith and Richard Bland. Anyone who plays golf on the south coast would back me up by saying that it wouldn’t have mattered how much I practised or dedicated myself at that age, I would never have been as naturally talented and gifted as they were. This didn’t spoil my love of the game – in fact it inspired me try and find a way to make a career based on something you love doing. In this respect I owe them a debt of gratitude.

What are your predictions for the UK golf industry over the next five to ten years?

I think for the industry as a whole it much depends on what political decisions are made nationally.

Almost all golf clubs will be affected in some way by what happens with the referendum decision on the withdrawal from the European Union, mostly from the equipment and products we need to buy to more hurdles in terms of freedom of movement.

The introduction of the World Handicapping System is also on the horizon and although I am an advocate of changing some of the processes that govern the present system, I have a reservation on how this may impact on competitive play at clubs.

The Church Course with the 18th green to the fore. (Image by Stuart Morley)

Your predecessor, Tuck Clagett, is a very well-known and respected figure in golf club management circles. What’s it been like taking over from him? 

Tuck has been, and remains, very helpful and supportive since my appointment in 2017. The club bestowed honorary membership to Tuck for the services and contribution he made to the club during his 15-year tenure and this is testament to how highly thought of he is at St Enodoc.

Simon Greatorex. (Image by Nick Reader)

I feel very fortunate that he has been a sounding board for many ideas and issues that have had to be dealt with to date, which has been a great help to me personally.

 

Tania Longmire
By Tania Longmire February 24, 2020 06:23
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1 Comment

  1. Greg February 27, 12:33

    Hi Simon, what a great read. I am a semi retired Australian golf administrator with a professional career in the sport covering 40+ years and found your assessments scarily similar to my own. Coincidently, My wife and I will be moving to Truro full time later this year to be with a son and the grandkids. On a previous visit to Truro prior to retirement when was the CEO of GolfNSW I was delighted to accept an invite to play St Enodoc by one of your predecessors and had fantastic experience. Once settled in Truro I would love catch up and share experiences over a soft drink. Best regards Greg Mills

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