Meet the golf club manager: Tom Waldron

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 6, 2024 11:28

Droitwich Golf Club in Worcestershire has been investing heavily in recent years in course improvements, particularly via a new irrigation system and new course machinery. Here, its manager Tom Waldron takes us through some of the changes as well as his own career journey from PGA professional to golf club manager.

Can you tell us a bit about Droitwich Golf Club?

Golf has been played at Droitwich Golf Club since 1897 when the original nine-hole course was laid down on Bays Meadow. The legendary golf course designer James Braid was commissioned to redesign and extend the course and in November 1923 Lord Cobham laid the first sod of the 18-hole course.

We are a members’ club with an 18-hole championship course, driving range, short game area and putting green. In our clubhouse we have a ground-floor spike bar, with a restaurant and lounge on the first floor with views across the course. The club is in a healthy position with over 600 members.

The club’s got a number of projects going on at the moment, including the installation of a major new irrigation system. Can you tell us about them?

With the club’s continued success, and in line with our vision and plan, we have re-invested in a number of areas on the golf course. The main investment is the new irrigation system. In 2021 we appointed Irritech to complete an irrigation appraisal of our current system. Once the appraisal was completed it was clear the system needed to be replaced. We held a number of meetings with our members to discuss the project and created a storyboard for members to view in our boardroom. Once we completed the tender process, we held a special meeting at the club and presented the proposal to sign off the new system. Fast forward nearly three years and the new system was installed this spring.

We have also entered into a new agreement with Farols, John Deere, for a new fleet of machinery which is due to arrive in August 2024.

How has Droitwich responded to the last four years? Has it seen a participation boom as a result of the pandemic?

Despite the uncertainty at the time, Droitwich came out of the pandemic in a healthy position thanks to the fantastic work from the general committee. The initial boom was crazy and our membership numbers hit new heights. Thankfully, we managed to retain a lot of the new members following a successful introduction to the club. We have worked hard on our membership process to ensure it’s a seamless transition into the club and as a result we have seen an improvement in membership retention.

Is the cost-of-living crisis having an impact on the running of the club?

As a club we appreciate times are hard and have worked closely with our suppliers and brewery to keep costs to a minimum.

We have noticed a slight decline in secondary spend, but this was expected, and we hope with new initiatives and more attractive products, members will gravitate back to using the club on a more frequent basis.

Does Droitwich try to attract women and juniors to golf?

Yes, most recently we took part in the Girls Golf Rocks campaign and have committed to the Women In Golf charter. We are fortunate to have a thriving ladies’ section who are constantly supporting new ideas. We recently ran a ‘Ladies Open Day’ to introduce new ladies into golf. We also run half-term camps for juniors and host our popular family fun day.

How do you market the venue?

We market the venue through our social media channels, website, magazines and local events. We recently partnered with Golf Working to produce our new website. The new website has given us greater exposure, but also it’s more user friendly, allowing members and visitors to navigate easily.

Can you take us through your career journey to this role and, given that you’re still young but now with a lot of golf club managerial experience, where do you see the rest of your career going?

I started my career and PGA at Hatchford Brook Golf Centre. I spent a number of years there learning from PGA professionals and general managers. I started as a golf operations assistant and left as golf operations manager. Hatchford Brook gave me the platform to succeed to develop my career which I am very grateful for. I moved from Hatchford Brook to The Welcombe Golf Club as head professional and after 18 months was promoted to the club manager. I thoroughly enjoyed being club manager, learning all different aspects of the business, but also being linked to a hotel and spa broadened my knowledge of the hospitality and leisure industry. I moved on from The Welcombe Golf Club to Sapey Golf and Country Club as general manager. Sapey is a stunning 18-hole golf course in Upper Sapey, which also has three holiday lodges. This was my first experience managing a golf course with accommodation but it was clear how important adapting this model was for the finances of the club. Whilst I was at Sapey, the pandemic hit and whilst the future for us all was uncertain, it was interesting to see how we needed to adapt and the changes we needed to implement when golf was allowed to return. Towards the end of the pandemic I was approached by Droitwich Golf Club to become general manager. I played some of my junior golf at Droitwich, so it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.

I am thoroughly enjoying my time at Droitwich, and with several projects on the go it is hard to think about what’s next. I would like to think that I am managing a top 100 course in the UK in the future, but who knows when that will be.

You studied for a national diploma in golf before doing professional golf studies at the University of Birmingham. What were these courses like, and have they helped you in your professional career?

Yes, the national diploma provided me with key fundamentals to help develop onto the professional golf studies. I have also completed the PGA director of golf and I am currently looking at a number of courses and qualifications to see what I should apply for next.

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

I believe the golf industry is in a good position to continue growing. It is key that clubs continue to market their venues, increase service standards and work with the great companies that are available to us. There has always been a discussion around membership prices but in my experience with outstanding service standards and product then price comes second.

Seamus Rotherick
By Seamus Rotherick June 6, 2024 11:28
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