Meet the golf club directors: Clare and Graham Bond

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 27, 2020 07:45

Clare and Graham are the two directors at Lanhydrock Hotel & Golf Club in Cornwall. Here, Graham talks about running a family-owned golf venue and what 2020 has been like with regards the lockdown, the surge in demand to play golf and the slump in foreign visitors.

Clare and Graham Bond

Can you tell us a bit about the venue, including from when you first became involved with it?

The Bond family bought the club from the receiver in 1993. The course had been open for a couple of years with a temporary clubhouse and foundations had been laid where the clubhouse now stands. Over the years we have invested a lot into the course which could have easily been done when first constructed for relatively little.

Geese at the ninth hole’s pond

Whilst not long, the course is a firm favourite as we see many return players year after year – a challenging course but plenty of opportunities for pars and birdies.

We added the 45-bedroom hotel and bistro dining area in 2006. Being centrally located in Cornwall we accommodate an array of residents from the leisure and business sectors.

The club’s PGA pro Alister Tawse on the range

What were your experiences like as we entered the lockdown? How fearful for the future were you?

It was a totally unknown scenario. You think in ‘this day and age’ they will soon come up with a cure. With great bookings for 2020 already secured it was a worry that the bulk of our main season – April to September – would be completely wiped out.

Graham and Christian Bond

Whilst we have analysed all areas of the business we can only look forward in small periods of time as we work within government guidelines.

Looking ahead a little reinvention of ourselves will be a necessity.

Oliver Bond with Bruce and Basil

How was the course maintained during the lockdown? Apparently, as well as your greenkeepers, family members also helped out?

Lockdown started right as our important spring maintenance schedule began and thankfully it was possible to adapt shifts so the team didn’t need to come into close contact. We were then able to crack on with jobs as it was very important to maintain and improve the facility – after all, we had to have a course that we could sell to the customer once we would open again.

We have started several improvement projects, but these will need to be finished when the course is a little quieter. Our two sons helped when they could – Oliver, when he was on extended leave from the army, and Christian over the last couple of months.

They both have had plenty of experience of working on the course over the years and so not a lot of training was needed there!

Members on the terrace

How busy has the course been since it reopened? Have you had an increase in members?

The course and golf range have been extremely busy, and we are thankful for the dry weather we have had as this helps limit wear and tear. We have also enjoyed a rise in membership, especially with players between the ages of 18 and 30 years old. I think the work by the greens staff in presenting excellent playing surfaces has played an enormous part in this.

Christian and Oliver Bond

We also have the benefit of an extensive bar, bistro and patio area for people to relax. Even with many covers removed to help with distancing, we can accommodate a good many people at one time after their round.

You moved into the hotel when lockdown started, and detailed running an empty golf club during a pandemic on Facebook – can you tell us a bit about that, and particularly the role the dogs have played in the story?

Initially this was fun, I even used the gym! But reality soon sinks in and the loss of business concentrated our minds on how we might have to operate in the near, and distant, future.

Bunker renovations (watched over by Bruce)

Our two black labs, Bruce and Basil, helped lift the mood as they had a great time with long walks and exploring the wooded areas of the golf course which is normally off limits to dogs!

The clubhouse

How have you adapted to the new social distancing guidelines? What was it like reopening the clubhouse in July?

Greenkeeping work at the venue

We gave this much thought on how it was best to operate between the business, staff and customers – we have ensured to be clear to all our visitors that there is a shared responsibility during these uncertain times. As and when required, staff were invited back to work and consulted on their working conditions. We also removed approximately 30 percent of our covers to create ample distancing and have kept as many external windows and doors open to allow free flowing air.

Generally, customers have been very sensible with just the odd occasion when we have had to advise on ‘best practice’ as people have quickly adjusted to this new normal.

The 18th at Lanhydrock

Are you seeing a different type of golfer at your venue now?

Certainly more players between 18 and 30, probably due to other sports not being allowed to commence as yet.

The clubhouse from the ninth hole pond

Staycations are set to be big over the next 12 to 18 months due to Covid-19, and Cornwall has been particularly cited as where UK tourists will visit, have you seen any evidence that this is true?

Cornwall is certainly busy, and I would say we have seen more types who would normally visit in May, June and September play the course this July and August.

The fantastic weather will have made most of the visitors’ experience of the south west an enjoyable one. From our point of view, unless we regain the foreign travel group business, our hotel bookings will be made at short notice and reliant on the weather.

The driving range has been busy since it reopened

How have the non-golfing revenue streams at the venue, such as the hotel and the restaurant, been impacted in the last few months?

Hugely – a lot of our business is based on numbers so the loss of weddings, conferences, functions, foreign travel groups, and of course our renowned Sunday carvery, has put a big dent in our business model. Regrettably, we have had to release some staff linked to this side of the business as a consequence.

Graham Bond

Do you think the golf industry will permanently be changed as a result of what’s happened and, if so, in what way?

I would like to think that a certain percentage of players new to the game, and those playing more regularly, will now ‘get the bug’ and continue playing. I think the weather we experience over winter and into spring will certainly be a factor, although retail will be very difficult; being in a low populated part of the country with relatively low average wages, we are reliant on the holiday visitor.

Graham and Basil

Finally, it’s a family affair running Lanhydrock. What are the pros and cons of this?

I think the main pro is the pride in building up a business from scratch. Clare joined me when the boys came along, leaving her job in banking and knowing nothing about golf but being very capable at ‘talking the talk’!

Clare and Bruce

Her family were fruit merchants, so she has a natural interest in the catering aspect of our business. We built the hotel wing together and enjoyed several breaks away doing research – we both love travelling so that was no hardship.

Bruce and Basil

We are total opposites so somehow it works, although we do take work home … there are no rules in our house about no work talk, it’s our life!

 

Alistair Dunsmuir
By Alistair Dunsmuir September 27, 2020 07:45
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4 Comments

  1. Swinden October 3, 12:45

    Great venue and a great team

    Reply to this comment
  2. Paul October 1, 10:02

    My wife and I had the pleasure of staying and playing Lanhydock towards the end of August this year.
    The whole experience was very good and the course had greatly improved since I last played it about 20 years ago and was a delight to play. Well worth a visit

    Reply to this comment
  3. Tony C September 28, 11:05

    Sounds like Clare and Graham have coped very well. It looks a terrific facility and venue. Great to hear about an increase in 18-30s playing. Certainly something I’ve noticed too. Best of luck going forward.

    Reply to this comment
  4. Peter September 27, 19:42

    Good to hear! There is no middle road in family run businesses ! Either very well done with sound leadership…or dysfunctional with everyone doing their own thing! Clare and Graham have things well in hand !

    Reply to this comment
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