Meet the manager: Adam Walsh

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 5, 2019 20:05

The general manager of Farleigh Golf Club in Surrey talks about the growth of nine-hole golf and how he has become the youngest of just 51 golf club managers in Europe to achieve ‘Certified Club Manager’ status.

Farleigh GC has a reputation for excellent customer service. What does the club do to achieve this and how much of your role is devoted to customer service?

Customer service is all about getting your recruitment process and training on point. I feel that employing people, particularly customer-facing staff, can only be done well if you recruit on personality and that is exactly what we do every time.

What do you think are your biggest challenges at Farleigh?

We are in an immensely competitive golf market and without question one of the busiest golfing areas in the UK. This does create a requirement to differentiate not only with the quality of your playing surfaces but with the environment that you create inside the club. We always ask: ‘What makes us different so that we don’t have to compete on price?’

Farleigh is part of The Foxhills Collection. What are the pros and cons of this compared with a standalone private members’ golf club?

Being associated with Foxhills has a raft of benefits. We have the benefit of a well-established club and well-regarded business to learn from, not to mention the fact that our members receive some valuable treats when they renew their membership with some access to golf there.

We are a very different course stylistically so I suppose the only difficulty may be if a golfer, due to our links with Foxhills, would expect a parkland golf course and a hotel at Farleigh.

Farleigh has 27 holes of golf. Are you seeing a growth of interest in the nine-hole version of the game and how do you tap into that demand for quicker versions of golf, if you’re experiencing them?

We do have a demand for nine-hole golf, particularly on the weekend mornings. We fully support fitting in as much golf as possible and with time pressures in this day and age, nine holes can be a real pleasure. At Farleigh we make that easy with our three nine-hole loops. We like to think of Farleigh as somewhere that fits in with your life.

Farleigh also markets itself as a food and beverage destination. What is the club doing to enhance profitability of this operation?

Our profitability comes from being dynamic. Many people cut costs to enhance profit but this is a short-term solution and will not last the test of time.

We are very flexible with our staffing levels which enables us to increase payroll when we are busy and decrease when we are quiet.

We always use quality ingredients but work strictly to cost of sale percentages, which strikes the correct balance of value and commerciality.


With regards to marketing, what does the club do to attract potential new members and visitors, and retain existing ones?

We are moving away from transactional marketing and like our style to be more that of ‘telling a story’. Regular engagement and social media that is visually impactful works a treat. Try to keep it fun and don’t do what everyone else does as this becomes invisible in a crowded marketplace.

Farleigh is a popular wedding destination. What challenges does this pose for you as its manager and do you have any advice for other golf clubs thinking of venturing into this area of business?

The key consideration is firstly how it impacts on your membership. We are fortunate enough to be able to segregate our wedding guests reasonably well from the members and their guests. Items such as a mobile bar can definitely be a worthwhile investment to allow you to create space between different parties.

I would also highly recommend if you wish to tap into this market that you hire a dedicated events sales person as their knowledge of ever-changing wedding trends will be crucial.

It’s essential to keep up to date with the latest style or popular theme.

Is Farleigh trying to attract more women and juniors to the facility?

Our facility is extremely modern and family friendly. We do everything we can to create an atmosphere where all golfers feel welcome and actively promote both areas, whether it is providing junior golf coaching in the community or offering taster sessions for prospective lady golfers.

Does the club have investment plans for the future?     

The owner is always open minded to an investment opportunity as has been shown since he made the purchase of Farleigh with millions spent on upgrading every aspect of the club.

Every year there has been investment in the business, whether it be on-course or inside the clubhouse, and this will continue I am sure.

Has your PGA training helped you in your managerial career?

One hundred per cent. My inside knowledge of what members and guests truly want from their club and golf course shapes every decision that I make on a daily basis.

I would say not only does it educate my decisions but it also gives me credibility when I spend time with them. Golfers like to talk to golfers and in that sense my relationships become easier to build.

How involved with the Club Managers’ Association of Europe (CMAE) are you and what have you learnt via their educational offerings?

I recently passed their CCM qualification and believe that I am the youngest of only 51 in Europe to have this distinction so it is a real highlight of my educational career to date. The CMAE is absolutely invaluable in my role, as I can take the best of club education and mix it with a fine network.

I recently became the inaugural chairman of their ‘Young Managers’ Group’ and this has proved successful with just under 100 delegates attending in three sessions so it has been a great year.

If you are considering education for our industry, I really can’t recommend it enough.

Prior to being named general manager of Farleigh, you were the club’s golf sales manager, which involved attracting corporate income. What did you do to achieve this?

Generally speaking corporate income is the result of networking and a quality product.

We have lots of repeat customers from the corporate sector and I think that we offer such a great range of services for all their needs.

You have a fun and relaxed clubhouse with all required business facilities, a great selection of nines to relax on before or after a meeting and good food.

The key is getting this message across and building relationships with the local community.Get the name out there, deliver on quality and you have a recipe for success. Don’t underestimate the businesses that your members are involved with either. They are pre-qualified corporate prospects.

Adam Walsh becomes latest CCM

Adam Walsh has become one of six managers to achieve the globally recognised Certified Club Manager (CCM), following five years of study and an exhausting eight hour exam.

He joins Alessandro Napoli and Cristian Fiora from Italy, Russell Stebbings from England, Andrea Faldella from Dubai and Carlos Linares from Spain, which means the number of CCMs in Europe is now 51.

Walsh said: “I am absolutely delighted to have achieved the CCM qualification through the CMAE. The Management Development Programme [MDP] has been extremely powerful for me, helping my day to day quality of work immensely through outstanding education whilst at the same time allowing me to build up a truly fantastic network of industry colleagues. I look forward to the future as my growth as a manager continues.”

Stebbings, general manager of Frilford Heath Golf Club, added: “I have developed some great relationships and support networks during the CCM process but most importantly it has improved me as a manager, a person and helped me improve the clubs I’ve worked in.

“I feel very privileged to be one of the first 50 certified club managers in Europe.”

Linares, general manager at La Romana Golf Club, said: “To become part of this growing family it is a dream come true as a result of many years of hard work.

“Being a CCM is not the end of the path but the start of a new journey!”


Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir March 5, 2019 20:05
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