People in Golf - Declan McCollam

Declan McCollamBackground
A PGA golf professional for over 30 years, Declan McCollam has held multiple positions within the industry from playing professional in the mid 1980s, to Operations Manager for Europe with Troon Golf. 

Returning to Australia in 2011, his objective has been to reestablish Troon Golf throughout the region and to increase the Troon portfolio and assist clubs with their development. A fifteen year veteran with Troon Golf, McCollam has held positions with Troon In Australia, Middle East, and Europe. 

Currently the GM at Brookwater Golf & Country Club he has been concentrating on delivering a superior product back to the marketplace in south east Queensland. Brookwater is the #1 rated Public Access Golf Course in Queensland by Golf Digest.

The McCollam Story
Declan began working in the US in 1993 at the PGA Tour course in West Palm Beach, PGA National. McCollam worked with German, and German speaking guests, over the European winter months and realised the same standard of service and client satisfaction that golfers were experiencing in the US needed to be brought to the rest of the world. After several years of working the winter months in the US, McCollam joined forces with Troon Golf in 2000 who were starting out in Australia. McCollam believes that this was the beginning of a new era for him and took him into a new arena in the golf industry and back to Europe in a senior role with the company in 2007. He believes that this was the turning point in his career. 

You wake up in the morning - what’s the driving passion?
Knowing that together with Troon Golf we can, and are, making a difference to each and every facility we are involved with. While working with a team of dedicated professionals who are all working towards the same goal. It is inspiring! A love for golf helps too. 

What are the key lessons the golf industry learned from The Great Recession in ‘08-’09?
That nothing is a given and the industry must always have the ability to adapt and regroup. We lived through this in the UK at The Grove and managed to maintain and grow our business by being flexible with our guests and managing their requirements and budgetary needs. We had to adapt and move with the constraints the GFC had put on the luxury product sales. If that meant hosting smaller events more frequently, that’s what we did. 

Troon has been a major participant in golf course management / ownership for quite some time. Define the approach taken as it relates to enhancing the golfer experience when visiting a property?
Our members and guests are the backbone of our business. Greeting every person in a professional manner and welcoming them to the facility is the start of a great experience. Smiling associates, clean and well presented retail, food and beverage and locker room facilities are all part of the initial experience and wow factor our guests expect at a Troon facility. Together with our pristine golf courses and superior playing surfaces, our guests experience a service level and quality of golf course that is second to none. 

From a work perspective – what is your biggest pet peeve?
Severe weather fronts that damage the golf course and revenue streams. 

What is the biggest challenge - short and long term facing Troon?
Troon is instrumental at being the world leader in upscale golf course management, but we are always looking at ways to improve our business, agronomic and operational models. Staying ahead of trends and being market leaders and innovators within the industry is a challenge that we thrive on each and every day. Long term we need to find that one thing that will bring more of a younger demographic back to golf.

Many companies tour the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach you follow?
We believe in a guest experience. A wow factor from the first point of contact to the last. The guest dictates our every move and we must be able to read the needs of each guest and communicate with them in such a way that they feel they are the only person we are dealing with. 

Can you provide an action taken by Troon that came about because of feedback from customers at the various properties?
We have introduced many operational changes over the years for the benefit of guests, because we believed the guest feedback warranted action and would improve the overall guest experience. The introduction of iced towels was introduced by Troon in Australia due to guests getting too hot and complaining of the heat and having no way of cooling down on course. Now we carry complimentary iced towels in the drinks carts during the warmer months.

The major golf organisations globally - USGA, R&A, PGA of America, LPGA, PGA and European Tours - are all seeking ways to build interest
among Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counselling them what would you advise be done?
Think outside the box! We cannot continue to be viewed as the old persons sport, or the sport with the rigid rules. Golf has to be fun for everyone. I think the PGA Tour in the US have got this very well covered and have made golf events fun for the whole family. 

You can change one thing in golf unilaterally - what would it be and why?
Reduce golf course maintenance costs by introducing more low maintenance courses - Els Club Langawi. The industry and designers went through a phase in the late 80s and early 90s building golf courses that were absolute monsters to play, but more so, too expensive to maintain and owners became reluctant to maintain the courses at the level they required because of the cost.

Best advice you ever received - what was it and who from?
Listen and show interest in what is being said, regardless of the fact that you may not agree or believe what is being said. Hear people out and do not shut them down in conversation. People respect being listened to and you showing interest in their story - Jim Flick, golf professional.