Meet the head of golf: Andrew Jowett

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick March 26, 2021 12:19

The new head of golf at Gleneagles talks about future plans at ‘The Glorious Playground’ and how the business has supported staff and customers during the pandemic.

Our readers will be familiar with Gleneagles, but could you tell us a little more about the estate?

We refer to Gleneagles as ‘The Glorious Playground’ and I think this sums up the estate perfectly. Our heritage is obviously deep-rooted in golf thanks to our James Braid-designed courses, The King’s and The Queen’s, that both celebrated their centenaries in 2019.

Our third 18-hole championship course, The PGA Centenary designed by Jack Nicklaus, has also become an iconic modern tournament venue, and is the only golf course in Europe to have hosted The Ryder Cup (2014) and The Solheim Cup (2019).

Whilst readers’ of The Golf Business will be broadly familiar with our golf facilities, they may be less aware of the wider attractions and pursuits we offer guests across the 850-acre sporting estate.

From horse-riding, tennis, off-roading, shooting and fishing to gun-dog training, falconry, walking and cycling, Gleneagles is a fantastic gateway to a host of experiences that can be enjoyed by the whole family.

In recent years under the ownership of Ennismore, Gleneagles has also undergone a complete transformation, which has seen a reinvention of rooms and suites, and the introduction of new food and drink options.

Whether guests want the laid-back atmosphere of The Dormy clubhouse, offering hand-made pizzas and Indian dishes from traditional Tandoor ovens, or the luxury of Michelin star dining in Restaurant Andrew Fairlie, Gleneagles has something for everyone.

What were your experiences of lockdown from March 2020 up to re-opening a few months later?

We all approached lockdown with great spirit. A company pillar, ‘One Team’, really shone through as we made a huge effort to all stay in-touch and support each other.

Even though golf returned slightly earlier than the hotel side of our business, we all stayed connected across the property. That connectivity cascaded down from our managing director, Conor O’Leary, through his executive team and into departmental heads, making sure we were in contact with colleagues on a regular basis either through our workplace platform, direct messaging, or via social media. Colleagues were offering support to anyone that needed it, posting videos, messages and thoughts. We tried to do lots of fun things as well – our executive chefs, for example, were posting simple recipes for people to cook, our PT instructors were hosting video fitness sessions, and it all made a huge difference.

14/09/2019. Ladies European Tour 2019. The Solheim Cup, PGA Centenary Course, Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland. 13-15 September 2019. A panorama of Europe’s Celine Boutier of France tees off during the Friday afternoon Fourballs. Credit: Tristan Jones

How did you approach reopening?

We pride ourselves on the warm and friendly customer experience we offer everyone at Gleneagles and how we approached reopening, after the initial lockdown period, was no different. Additional staff training was crucial in ensuring customers were given the best possible support and experience while on the estate.

We introduced member-only play for the first month to carefully manage the amount of people visiting us and to allow us to refine the customer journey, if required. This allowed us to continue to offer an experience in keeping with the standards we set ourselves at Gleneagles, while also managing the social distancing measures we had put in place.

We’ve received tremendous feedback from our members for the way we communicated with them throughout the closure right through to the re-opening, they were just as excited as we were to get them back out enjoying the courses.

After this initial one-month period, we then gradually opened things up to members and their guests, and moved from two-ball to three-ball play.

AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 12: A view from the recently constructed new tees to the right of the water on the par 3, 14th hole on the Queen’s Course at Gleneagles on August 12, 2019 in Auchterarder, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

What social distancing measures did you put in place?

The team were exceptional in ensuring members and visitors had complete confidence in the processes and procedures we introduced. Clear signage allowed guests the freedom to enjoy their experience, and stay safe. Like many venues, there was no access to communal touchpoints on the golf course but we were very focused on ensuring Gleneagles still offered a world class sporting experience for everyone.

Tell us about your promotion to head of golf?

I’m genuinely thrilled to be head of golf at the beginning of a new era for golf at Gleneagles. We have great plans for the future and the team is passionate about developing a range of initiatives that we have in the pipeline. We are blessed with some of the best facilities in Europe, if not the world, and we believe there is a wonderful opportunity to connect golf to family wellbeing and fun, and make the sport far more accessible and engaging to more people. Watch this space!

AUCHTERARDER, SCOTLAND – AUGUST 12: A view of the par 3, 13th hole showing the recently planted heather areas between the tee and the green on the Queen’s Course at Gleneagles on August 12, 2019 in Auchterarder, Scotland. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

What were your thoughts about closing courses again in England, Wales and Ireland?

We empathised with the courses that were affected and were in touch with many venues and friends within the industry offering a hand of support. One huge positive was the way in which golf’s governing bodies pulled together for the good of the industry. We were 100 percent behind this collaborative approach and wanted to offer insight and advice however and whenever it was needed.

Were you worried Scotland would follow suit?

Because of regional variances, we were fully aware of a constant fluidity to this situation, and that changes could occur quite quickly. We just focused on delivering timely communication to members, guests and visitors throughout the pandemic – for which the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive – so we were prepared for any eventuality.

Have you seen a surge in membership enquiries, mirroring other UK venues?

We saw a significant increase in the volume of golf membership enquiries after the first lockdown and that has continued to remain really positive. Because of the country-wide surge in participation and interest, golf has a fantastic opportunity to showcase itself and engage with prospective players in a much deeper and more relevant way. At Gleneagles we are already focused on initiatives for 2021, and beyond, that will take advantage of this level of enthusiasm for the sport. The next few years are going to be a really exciting time to be involved in the golf industry.

Have you increased marketing to ‘staycation’ golfers?

Domestic business is consistently strong for us and a ‘long, lazy weekend’ at Gleneagles is a frequent diary date for many of our regular customers. The lockdown period did see an increased focus on our Scottish market, and it also allowed us to develop some new programmes and packages. For example, we introduced a hugely popular four-ball golf promotion in October that extended a positive summer sales period. We also used it as a platform to announce Solheim Cup European Team captain, Catriona Matthew, as a Gleneagles ambassador.

How damaging has the pandemic been so far and how have you adapted?

We have put our team and our customers at the centre of every decision we have made and the subsequent response has been overwhelming and very positive. The passion the teams have shown across the estate has been truly inspiring and the feedback from our customers has been heart-warming and rewarding. Gleneagles is a special place. We feel the positive feeling it gives people is different to other venues and this seemed to be amplified even more during the pandemic.

What were your experiences of the Solheim Cup in 2019?

I will never forget the buzz of The Solheim Cup. That final Sunday was one of the great sporting moments of recent years and to be a part of that was very special. The event was a phenomenal success on so many levels and the whole team remembers the event with a huge sense of professional pride and satisfaction. The work that goes into an event of this nature, before a competitive golf ball is even struck, is huge. Any team that has been involved in staging a high-profile, globally significant sporting event will relate to the hours that teams have to invest, to ensure the staging is prepared to the very highest standard.

Gleneagles International Pro Am
Pic Kenny Smith, Kenny Smith Photography
Tel 07809 450119

The venue will be hosting the 2022 Senior Open. Tell us more…

I’m already excited at the prospect of many of the greats of the modern game competing on The King’s Course. It will be a real spectacle, and we are so proud that another major golf event is coming to Perthshire. Many of our members remember The King’s hosting the Bell’s Scottish Open, and they can’t wait to welcome another significant event. We are in the early days of planning but I’m confident competitors will relish playing The King’s Course. It has been returned to the 1920s ‘inland links’ vision of the architect, James Braid, with generous, faster-running fairways, and bunkers that are now more in play.

Does Gleneagles reach out to beginner golfers, including women and juniors?

Getting as many people as possible to enjoy the social, physical and mental benefits of golf sits at the heart of what we endeavour to offer everyone at Gleneagles, whatever level you may be at.

We continue to welcome tens of thousands of avid golfers each year to enjoy what the estate has to offer, but it is also vital we make golf accessible to everyone, ensuring it can be enjoyed by the whole family.

We are very fortunate that we are blessed with amazing facilities to allow visitors to access golf on whatever level they wish, from having fun on the hotel’s nine-hole pitch-and-putt course and the par three Wee Course, through to tackling one of our 18-hole championship courses. Our PGA National Golf Academy, supported by a team of PGA golf professionals, is also the perfect family-oriented facility from which we can introduce everyone to the game.

You’ve been working in the industry for a while now, how do you think it and the role of golf manager has changed in the last 20 years?

We have seen a big, positive shift. There are more senior managers at golf clubs and resorts, as owners and committees see the benefit of having a tactical, specialist leader bringing together all elements of the business. From agronomy through to coaching, operations, financial management, retail and forecasting, the role of a modern senior golf manager is now so varied, and a great career for anyone interested in club management.

What are your predictions for the next few years for the UK golf industry?

It’s inspiring to see golf’s governing bodies develop initiatives that will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the future of golf and at Gleneagles we are fully committed to growing the game of golf and amplifying the positive benefits it can have on health, wellbeing and family life. It’s a genuinely exciting time for the sport.

 

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick March 26, 2021 12:19
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2 Comments

  1. LAB March 28, 19:45

    Nice wee read from Golf Business about AJ

    Reply to this comment
  2. Iain Butchart March 26, 18:23

    Congratulations Andrew

    Reply to this comment
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