Having played golf since the age of 11, Simon took up a career in the sport when he was appointed the Secretary of Bramshott Hill Golf Club in the New Forest at the age of 28. After 11 years there, he moved back to Somerset where he became the General Manager of Yeovil Golf Club, the club of his birthplace.
Following that assignment, he was given the opportunity to manage St Enodoc Golf Club, home of the highly-regarded championship Church Course designed by James Braid and the adjacent Holywell Course, which also boasts a number of holes created by Braid.
The Greatorex Story
I have held the position of General Manager here at St Enodoc since June 2017, where my responsibilities include the day-to-day running of the club, working with three principal committees and overseeing all aspects of club business.
With both local and country memberships full and a regular stream of UK and international visitors coming to play what is one of England’s finest championship links, my role is diverse, interesting and challenging. I am not sure I have had a catapult moment in my golf career that has brought me to the position I am in now - I prefer to see it as a result of a combination of hard work and fortune.
How are things at St. Enodoc now versus a year earlier?
St Enodoc in the last 12 months has seen a huge cultural shift in behaviour towards the usage of the club’s courses and facilities. The club has a very high percentage of golfers that live a distance away from Cornwall and markedly we have seen a much greater occupancy, and a longer stay period of time, from our country members than we would have done a year ago.
What is been the most significant learning experience for you personally during the pandemic?
The pandemic has been an enormous learning curve in having to adapt all of the organisational aspects of the golf club, especially during the lockdown periods with regard to contingency, safety and organisation of every factor involved with the restrictions and precautions needed to operate on an ongoing basis.
The hardest elements of all were having to work remotely from other colleagues and the implementing of the processes we needed to adopt to ensure everything could operate as close to normal as possible.
What steps have you implemented from a communications perspective to your members as matters have unfolded?
We have spent a significant amount of time and resource to ensure that our members and visitors alike were well informed throughout the duration of the pandemic. A great deal of help has been provided by our website and IT/Golf Management software providers with regard to being able to communicate across as many media channels as possible.
Our team at St. Enodoc has been truly magnificent in their attitude towards communicating all of the required regulations with regard to the Covid restrictions.
Overall, what has been the percentage increase in total rounds played from your membership - measured from pre and post perspectives?
The Church Course saw 14.5k rounds from its members in 2020 against just over 11k in 2019 with provision made for more member tee availability, resulting in our green fee revenue coming in significantly lower against 2019.
On the up side, the Holywell Course had more golf played on it in 2020, even with the 12 weeks of enforced closure by the government, than the whole of 2019, reflecting the huge surge in interest in the game at all levels.
Has that meant an uptick financially for the club and have those revenues been plugged back into enhancing the upkeep of the overall turf conditions?
Because of decisions made around safety and government advice post each lockdown to minimise travel, the club did not benefit in the same way as many clubs have immediately after the easing of lockdowns, given our location in the south west of England. We created more member tee times at the expense of visitor times during 2020 and are continuing this policy in 2021 until all restrictions have stopped.
On an ongoing basis, we place a great deal of investment in the maintenance and conditioning of both our courses and this has continued during lockdown, which has also given us the opportunity to do additional work to the some of the holes and fairways, so it has been a productive time in many ways.
What is the level of bookings from those outside your area -most notably overseas golfers from the USA, and Euro continent respectively?
Bookings from other continents have understandably become very few and far between due to travel restrictions. I think this will continue to be the case until the majority of the planet has been vaccinated against COVID.
A number of clubs have had issues tied to securing a proper level of staffing. Has St. Enodoc faced a similar situation and how have you handled such things?
Staffing and hospitality recruitment in Cornwall is always very difficult as it relies heavily on tourism. St. Enodoc is around seven miles from the nearest town and Cornwall in the spring and summer is all about hospitality. I have been astounded at the number of vacancies that are going unfilled currently – especially when we have seen the effects of the pandemic on businesses and the economy as a whole.
Before the pandemic, many clubs throughout the UK were seeing the need to reach out to other groups such as Millennials, women and minorities to engage them to take up the sport. Are you doing any such outreaches and if so, how has that fared?
During 2020 we experienced huge demand for membership. We currently have waiting lists in all categories of membership and have recently taken the decision not to induct any new members from those lists until the next subscription period. There are approximately 120 applicants waiting to join the club from 2022 onwards
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally, what would it be and why?
Speed of play – this just seems to get slower and slower as the years progress. Things like yardage/rangefinders and all sorts of other distractions have added to the length of time it takes for rounds to be completed. I think initiatives like the three minutes rule (when searching for lost balls) are encouraging signs this trend could be reversed, but I think rule makers need to go further to make everyone’s round more enjoyable by speeding up play – especially during competition play.
The biggest challenges facing the immediate Cornwall area, short and long term, in relation to golf is what? What specific steps do you see being needed to do so smartly and effectively?
Currently, as I have documented, the short-term issue is satisfying demand. It seems Cornwall has become even more popular as a regular holiday or leisure destination due to the difficulties regarding overseas travel and subsequent rise in staycations. For members’ clubs and their committees, this has become a difficult balancing act between capitalising on opportunities to recover lost revenue and providing enough tee space for members.
Long term, the challenge is to keep all those who have come back to golf during 2020 interested in the sport and keeping it up. The clubs that work hard to integrate those that have either come back to golf, or are learning from scratch and those that respond to just how varied the choices are now in terms of what type of golf individual’s wish to play, and when, will in my view be the most successful.
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