Managing a Top Golf Club

London Golf Club is close to Brands Hatch, a short hop on a helicopter from London, and well placed in the busy South-East of the UK. The club is pitched at the top of the tree and is ideal for those wishing to enjoy premium quality golf on two outstanding courses with a relaxed, yet elegant, environment to socialise in before and after playing. The club has a multi-million pound turnover and whilst it would be vulgar to discuss actual sums, it is quite clear that this is a substantial golf business.

At the heart of the business is club membership, with annual fees making up nearly a third of all revenues. There are over four hundred individual members and about 120 corporate memberships: both sets of members are very important to the London Golf club and work well together. Membership of the London Golf Club is not cheap, but represents excellent value for money when you consider that there are two immaculately manicured Nicklaus Design courses available throughout the year, enviable practice facilities and a vast - but intimate - clubhouse, which is a fabulous place to enjoy regardless of your golfing prowess.

The management of the whole complex is split into sections, with Austin Gravestock as Chief Executive and Dan Naudo as General Manager, with Peter Todd running all of the grass management, heading up an impressive team of 27 greenkeepers. Paul Stuart PGA is Director of Golf, being responsible for delivering all aspects of coaching, custom fit and associated golf services. The team work very well together with their shared goal of ensuring that all customers, members and visitors get the best possible service and golfing experience. Everything is considered to ensure that this happens and the level of detail that is covered is remarkable. Behind the scenes there is a major bag and trolley storage area and members booking their round will have their clubs prepared for their game. There is a fleet of 50 Club Car buggies with the latest Visage GPS system, which not only allows the golfer to know the exact yardage from buggy to the green (front, centre and back), but also allows the management to know where the buggies are on the course and how much battery charge is left in each buggy, which really helps to avoid letting anyone down with low battery issues: this is a typical example of the club’s attitude to ensuring that problems are eliminated before they can surface. Paul Stuart is responsible for the Golf Services team who look after the golfers’ needs and warmly encourage them to enjoy their game - delightfully never having to chivvy players along, as their presence alone encourages a good pace of play.

Members can also pay to have an electric trolley for the year. This service is again run through the Golf Services team. A member then has a fully primed Powakaddy ready for their arrival. This again is a really thoughtful service, as the hassle and inconvenience of transporting charged batteries to and from the car and charging them up, etc, is neatly removed.

Many of the cars at the London Golf Club are really special and it can look like a supercar showroom at times, with V8’s and V12’s burbling with exotic power as they prowl in and out of the members’ car park.

The club has recently introduced a member photograph at all of the terminals. This is one of the excellent innovations from ESP to improve the efficiency of the operation. If a member hands their card to a member of staff for any item to be purchased, the photo is instantly displayed on the terminal screen, which increases security to ensure that all sales are ordered by the actual member signing, whilst also allowing new staff to get to know the names and faces of each valuable member. The personal touch is vital to all clubs, no matter what they charge or how big or small they are, but the practicality of getting everyone’s name right across a staff of a hundred people is made far easier by this excellent addition to the ESP management system. Staff all carry their personal wristband, which is the easiest way to let each transaction create an easy to follow audit trail, should the need arise.

The General Manager, Dan Naudo, said: “We are always striving to deliver the best service we can, and ESP has helped us to achieve this with their technology and their professional attention to our requirements. We are all very impressed with the ease of the system and their outstanding back up.”

ESP had previously been used at the London Golf Club until 2010, when NFS Hospitality was used for a few years. This includes terminals at every point of the business, including the greenkeepers’ complex, so that Peter Todd and his team can check on the course bookings to make sure that they can prepare the course and carry out all the specialist maintenance programmes without getting in the way of the golfers. Lee Turner-Jefferies from ESP spoke to Golf Features:
“We were very disappointed to lose the contract here in the first instance, but obviously respected the decision. We always keep up a dialogue with all of our friends in the golf industry, current and past clients - and we hope future customers. We want to know how they are doing and we are always happy to help, even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a sale. To be able to reintroduce our most advanced system to the London Golf Club was a real pleasure and they now have the best tools to provide the finest customer care for their whole operation. We have rarely seen anyone who goes to such great lengths to ensure that they can deliver the best service, and they richly deserve to be at the leading edge of quality golf facilities.”

The club uses a membership credit system all implemented using 7 point of sale terminals and a total of 38 PC users for the ESP management system. A member can use their credit to pay for any service or product and this has to be perfectly administered and exact. Members of staff gently insist on a card swipe for each transaction, which prevents any misunderstandings when their statements come through each month.

The golf shop has a substantial turnover and has developed over the last few years into a golf shop and fashion boutique. Refreshingly, London Golf Club has no silly dress rules: there is a theme of smart informality to those using the club, with jeans welcome, so many take full advantage of the shops range of fashion products (including designer jeans). Mobile phones are also allowed, with most using their devices with suitable discretion so that nobody is inconvenienced.

London Golf Club is a joint venture partner with the PGA European Tour. This has resulted in several very prestigious events being staged at the venue, most recently the 2014 World Matchplay Championship and previously the European Open and other mainstream events for both professionals and amateurs. The club is soon to host the Brabazon Trophy, the most prestigious of England Golf’s stroke play events and it is bound to attract the cream of amateur golf. Peter and his team will have the course in pristine order for the event, which is nothing unusual, as the course is always in superb condition.

There are several food and drink areas at London Golf Club. The main golfers bar is a thriving hub for the club, which has its own kitchen and bar and can cater for the normal trade from two busy courses, without problem. It has its own patio area and golfers tend to spill out onto the patio to watch their friends and colleagues complete their rounds while enjoying a suitably fine glass of revitalising fluid. The food is well priced and cooked to the very highest standards and served beautifully in the sumptuous surrounds.

The club has succeeded in creating a great atmosphere - it feels comfy and clubby, whilst being undeniably special. There are four further function rooms, which can host huge weddings or smaller corporate gatherings. The first Sunday in each month is set aside for club lunches and they are very popular and a great way to gel the membership and encourage other family members and friends to come to the club. London Golf Club won planning permission for a major new hotel to add to its existing facilities. The initial infrastructure for the project has been completed, thus winning a certificate of commencement and retaining the planning gain indefinitely. Timing for the start of work on this major new project is a closely guarded secret, but it is certain that the complex will always be amongst the best managed facilities in its class. For more details please visit: www.londongolfclub.com