Meet the golf club manager: Tony Roche

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 14, 2022 12:44

The golf club manager at The Warwickshire talks about joining and managing a country club that was just about to reopen following a lockdown, transitioning from running a golf publication to being a manager in the industry and working for a group featuring 15 golf clubs.

Can you tell us a bit about The Warwickshire?

The Warwickshire Golf & Country Club is one of the Midlands’ premier golfing facilities. A 36-hole championship golf venue set in 465 flowing acres in the centre of picturesque Warwickshire countryside. Our superior golf facilities include two 18-hole championship courses, the Kings and the Earls, a nine-hole short course, a 26-bay driving range and golf tuition from beginner to expert. The Warwickshire is home to 56 spacious standard and superior hotel rooms offering a blend of luxury and comfort.

At the resort health club we have a 20-metre swimming pool, spacious gym, wet spa and beauty treatments on site.

The Warwickshire is a perfectly located hub for golfers, families, business travellers and those seeking a rejuvenating spa break.

What have your, and the club’s experiences of the pandemic, from March 2020 to the present day, been?

During the pandemic and the lockdown of 2020 I was working for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts as European golf sales manager. A large part of my role was looking after our resorts in Spain, Portugal and also back home in the UK.

Just like The Warwickshire and all other golf and hospitality venues that ceased to trade during this period, with it came the uncertainty of job security for many of its employees.

Golf clubs again closed for the third Covid lockdown, which came into force on January 5, 2021. They had remained closed despite entreaties from England Golf, who issued a report claiming golf could safely be played during lockdown.

In April 2021 I joined The Warwickshire as golf club manager and was immediately tasked with preparing the golf club for the game’s safe return. Add to this the incredibly wet and difficult winter we had just experienced and the challenges we now faced with regards, climate, staffing and Covid restrictions, and to ensure a safe, happy and prosperous return to golf for everyone.

It was a time for ‘all hands on deck’ to prepare the course and facilities for members and visitors again.

The Warwickshire is one of the Club Company’s 15 clubs. Are there any benefits (or extra pressures) working for a company that has so many golf clubs on its books?

Working for one of the Club Company’s 15 country clubs does have its added pressures as we strive to be the UK’s premier collection of golf and country clubs, offering members that feel-good experience through wellness, golf and more.

The standards and expectation levels are set very high as a company, as we strive to unveil a host of innovations designed to encourage more members and visitors to our clubs. The team across the group are always at hand to help each other out and give advice no matter what department or role they work in.

Golf membership with The Club Company includes reciprocal access to all golf courses within the group. Other benefits of golf membership include complimentary access to your home club’s health and fitness facilities, as well as discounted membership rates for your family, and of course the opportunity to hold an official handicap and participate in club competitions.

Being a country club you’re reliant on more than just the course and clubhouse for revenue. How important are the other areas such as the gym and spa?

We’re an active club teeming with vibrant, energetic members. Our social atmosphere is second to none, and you’ll quickly find you fit right in. Yes, all great golf clubs start with its golf facility, and as an added bonus, we’ve recently refreshed, upgraded and renovated all our facilities to ensure our members are provided with the best clubs the industry has to offer. Getting and staying physically fit and healthy is a personal goal for most modern club members.

Fitness is the third most important activity at clubs after golf and dining, and it is the one thing that club members – regardless of age, race, gender or culture, consider equally important. A state-of-the-art fitness and wellness facility shows members how much you appreciate them and your club is on the cutting edge when it comes to amenities.

Are you trying to attract more juniors, beginners and women to the game?

If you are looking to change the landscape of the sport, then there should undoubtedly be more women and juniors in golf. We have recently introduced new ladies’ member evenings at the golf club, led and orchestrated by the already thriving ladies’ section themselves.

The ladies’ section at The Warwickshire has a terrific social environment where women can stay behind for a glass of wine, a chat and a bite to eat afterwards. Junior golfers are The Warwickshire’s next generation, so it is important that we welcome them in the right way.

The ultimate junior facility needs to offer a safe and positive environment, variety, opportunity, progression, integration, encouragement / support, affordability and most of all enjoyment. This is the area that I am most excited about. A complete new set-up and plan of the junior section is scheduled for this year.

How do you market the venue?

Whether it’s membership retention or generating new members and repeat bookings we are always working to increase the lifetime value of our customers and grow our bottom line. As with all parts of the business we do commit to having a robust online presence, which helps generate more interest with a little bit of out-of-the-box thinking, but I am a great believer in getting members involved in ‘their’ club to create increased value of the brand and get the word out about playing golf at The Warwickshire.

From charity events, quiz nights and open evenings to social gatherings and golf competitions, we have it covered. Many people associate their best memories of the club with those fun times with family and friends, old and new.

You used to be the managing editor of Golf Society News. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I have always had a passion for sport, mainly football when I was young. My late father was an avid golfer in the 70s and 80s and he used to take me with him to practice hitting balls in the field near where we lived. Practice areas and driving ranges were virtually non-existent back then and looking back I think it was more of him using me to go and collect the balls and bring them back to him rather than introducing me to the game.

Either way I was hooked and I started playing golf on a regular basis soon after. The passion never left me and I love golf to this day. I started running golf holidays, competitions, charity days and ran my own golf society, before I was asked to write a golf club review for a local golf magazine in the area. This led to me writing for a local newspaper as well as various other freelance work with a few other golf publications.

It was then I decided to launch my own golf magazine: ‘Golf Society News’. I was responsible for the content and quality of the publication ensuring the editorial was engaging and informative. This magazine was distributed to golf clubs across the Midlands before I eventually sold the business to work in golf full time.

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

It’s no secret to anyone who plays golf that 2020-21 surprised almost everyone in the golf industry. The biggest surprise wasn’t Covid-19, or even that golf courses throughout the country shut down for a good part of the year.

The surprise was that once open, golf courses flourished. They boomed. They exceeded participation numbers that hadn’t been reached since the early 2000s when Tiger Woods influenced a lot of kids to try the game. Growth rates of 30, 40 and even 50 percent are not uncommon, depending on the part of the country where you might have been trying to grab a tee time. As the world reopens and a new younger generation of golfers acquaints themselves with golf’s challenges and frustrations, the future for the game still looks bright.

They’re hooked on the game, they want to get better, and as a result the game has become less intimidating and more welcoming. The Warwickshire is going from strength to strength and is in a great position in 2022. The opportunity is there for us to retain this heightened interest in playing golf by ensuring we provide a product that golfers can enjoy with family and friends. I cannot wait to see what the future holds for us.


Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick April 14, 2022 12:44
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