Turning to a local golf course management company has proved to be a good bet for Silverstone Golf Club in Las Vegas.
Maximizing resources to reduce expenses. The premise sounds simple for any business that wants to turn a profit. Sometimes, however, it takes a village—or at least a management company—to put the concept in motion.
Par 4 Golf Management, a Las Vegas-based firm that oversees operations at four golf course properties, took over management of Silverstone Golf Club in that city in December, and the results are already evident.
P.J. McGuire, Director of Golf Course Maintenance at Par 4, believes the reason for the property’s rapid improvement is simple.
“We hire good people, and we let them do their jobs. We have a wealth of resources to back them up,” he explains.
Par 4 is only a three-year-old company itself, so building the company is a work in progress as well. (Other properties now in the portfolio include Badlands and Primm Valley (Calif.) golf clubs, and Spanish Trail Country Club.)
McGuire says the size of the company allows personnel to “think outside the box.” And even though the company is small now, he adds, there is no intention of staying that way.
“We’ve gone from an upstart to the largest golf management company in Las Vegas,” he reports. “We have more properties and more golf holes under management than any other company in the area. With our management structure, we can take properties that have lost money for years and turn them around quickly.”
A Custom Blend
Par 4 strives to strike the right balance between customizing and localizing operations at its properties, while avoiding the “corporate” stigmas that can come with being part of a management company.
“That will be the trick moving forward. Most management companies struggle to balance those two facets of the business,” says McGuire. “With the economy of golf at the present time, the opportunity for management companies to streamline and offer reduced operating costs will be the most important piece of the puzzle. To be around for the long term, we simply have to make golf profitable.”
There’s plenty of experience to draw on for this effort—the major players at the three-year-old company have a combined 40 years in the golf business, while the management team at Par 4’s parent company, Par 3 Landscape and Maintenance, brings 200-plus years of experience to the table.
McGuire also credits Par 4’s business model with the company’s ability to turn around struggling golf courses in a short period of time. Par 4 has adopted a partnership approach in which its compensation is tied to the performance of a property.
“We don’t have management fees. Our pay is directly tied to the profitability of the club,” he reveals.
Local knowledge is another asset that Par 4, which manages three properties in Las Vegas and one in California, can offer.
“The Par 4 owners are all local,” McGuire reports. “Our management team has been in Las Vegas for decades. We’re invested in our properties.”
The company also takes an individualized approach to the management of each of its properties.
“We tailor our services to each property, depending on what the ownership needs and wants. At some properties, we do everything. At others, we’re just the maintenance provider,” says McGuire. “We tend to highlight the strengths of each property and push the brand based on its strengths.”
Golf Course Superintendent Samuel Villanueva, who started overseeing golf course maintenance operations at Silverstone when Par 4 took over the property, confirms that the model is working well at the individual course level.
“I make my own golf course maintenance decisions,” he says. “But with 500 people in the company landscaping department alone, I can always call them for help. I can manage the golf course without having too many employees on my payroll.”
In addition, notes McGuire, the company’s corporate structure and ample support team allow Villanueva to focus on agronomics, rather than on other management issues such as purchasing or planning special events.
Par 4 oversees all operations at Silverstone, which has three nine-hole courses in a residential area of Las Vegas.
“Silverstone has its own identity because of the kind of golf course it is,” notes Villanueva. “If you’re looking for a less stressful round of golf, this is the spot.”
In addition, McGuire says, “It’s perfectly suited for large corporate outings. It’s a 27-hole property, and with a 36,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse, it’s a great place to have a meal or an awards banquet.”
In April, Silverstone drew about 2,000 people to a three-day special event that featured golf industry vendors ranging from golf ball manufacturers to clothing companies.
“We set up a large demo area on the driving range, and we drew staff from our other golf properties for support. They were all qualified, educated, knowledgeable professionals that know the business, and we didn’t have to hire any temporary employees,” reports McGuire.
Share and Share Alike
However, Silverstone does not need to hold a special event on the grounds to garner support from the management company. From offering buying power to creating marketing strategies, Par 4 can support Silverstone and its other properties in a number of ways.
“Any time we can buy for four properties instead of one, it gives us a little more muscle,” McGuire reveals. “We have a marketing person that markets four golf courses, instead of paying salaries for a marketing person at each individual golf course.
“We can offer our properties a multitude of options and packages,” he adds. “We can do things cheaper and more efficiently than stand-alone properties and other management companies.”
Villanueva oversees a staff of 17 people at Silverstone, but says Par 4 helps him run a lean course and grounds operation.
“We use additional staff from the management company, mostly for detail work,” he says. “They helped us out when weeds started growing in March and April, and they can help us with pruning in the fall. If we need additional equipment, we can borrow it from the other courses.”
According to McGuire, focusing on the details is what the management firm can do best.
“We can run the course and grounds operation at a lower cost,” he reports. “Our goal is to make the golf course more user-friendly so that people can enjoy the game.”
As a result, Villanueva adds, many of the golf course maintenance practices changed when Par 4 took over the resort property.
In the spring, the maintenance staff started topdressing and verticutting every two weeks, and it has made bi-weekly fertilizer applications.
The crew has aerified the greens twice already and plans to aerify again in the fall.
“The course was in bad condition when we got here, but now the grass is green and the greens are rolling good,” says Villanueva.
To reduce water usage, he adds, the staff has converted four acres of turf around the tees to decomposed granite.
Villanueva also finds the input from McGuire and other company personnel beneficial.
“P.J. comes out and offers ideas and suggestions. He helps me schedule projects,” he says. “I’m here every day, and I see the same things. P.J. can drive around and see things that I don’t see.”
The management company extends its benefits to golfers as well. Members of the Silverstone 200 Club, which offers four types of memberships, have playing privileges at the other Par 4 properties, and Villanueva says plans are in the works to increase family usage of the golf course and to ramp up Silverstone’s junior golf program.
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