Desert Mountain Club, Greenville CC and Butterfield CC have seen the benefits—financial and practical—of joining a group that works with vendors to bring buying power to all areas of club operations.
Shawn Emerson has been the Director of Agronomy at Desert Mountain Club in Scottsdale, Ariz. since 1996. The club just added its seventh course to the expansive property. Maintaining that amount of land is challenging enough on its own, and Emerson didn’t need to be saddled with purchasing headaches to add to his day-to-day workload.
“Our buying process was difficult, [with] each individual golf course having to purchase all of their needs on their own,” Emerson says. “We had trouble working with the chemical companies on the rewards programs and getting them to understand that all golf courses belonged to Desert Mountain. We are one golf course with seven different billing addresses.”
Before joining VGM Club, a company that provides discounted purchasing opportunities for all aspects of club operations—from the pro shop and clubhouse to agronomy and food and beverage—by executing collective bargaining agreements, this was a difficult situation to maneuver, Emerson says. Desert Mountain was not getting consistent pricing and was unintentionally buying more on relationships, rather than price points.
But then Emerson was introduced to VGM through his vendors. “Our John Deere and Nutrien reps explained the company to us and how it worked and would be beneficial to us,” he says. “We then set up a meeting with our local VGM rep, Troy Hoffman, to get more information. Troy has opened many doors for us [that have] led to a much cleaner and easier experience when purchasing products.”
As a VGM member, Desert Mountain now consolidates ordering from vendors. “This has allowed us to track and manage our needs more easily and efficiently,” Emerson says. Another benefit, he adds, has been the ability to get consistent “non-golf” pricing on items through big box stores and other retailers.
“VGM helps us get national pricing, not just local pricing,” he says. “In VGM, we have a partner that takes care of us and fights for us to get us the best pricing.”
No More Nightmares
Greg Hobbs, who has been General Manager of Greenville (S.C.) Country Club for 14 years, learned of VGM while negotiating a master lease on golf course equipment. Prior to his relationship with the company, Hobbs says, buying was tedious.
“[It was] time-consuming with multiple quotes [and the need to] determine reputable vendors,” Hobbs says. “VGM is very knowledgeable of the quality of items, due to feedback from industry end-users. I love the velocity reporting and the feedback.”
For Hobbs, some of the biggest benefits of joining VGM include savings, product comparisons, rebates and “their staff’s knowledge of club operations.”
Jimmy Terry is in his seventh season as Executive Chef at Butterfield Country Club in Oak Brook, Ill. The state of the club’s purchasing program was a “nightmare” when he first arrived, Terry says. “We had three different broad-liners and at least another 20 vendors for the rest of the staples in the kitchen and around the clubhouse,” he explains. “I worked hard in the first year to streamline the number of vendors we do business with.”
In 2014, General Manager Scott Azinger decided it was time for Butterfield to join the VGM program. “We purchased a new fleet of golf carts that year, were amid renovations on the golf course and the clubhouse, and were really starting to hit our stride in kitchen,” Terry says. “Our savings the first year alone with VGM were through the roof.”
Since that time, Terry says, he and other Butterfield managers have worked closely with a VGM Regional Sales Manager, Chris Kehe, to make sure the club can capitalize on all that VGM has to offer.
A few times a year, Terry says, he’ll be approached by fellow chefs inquiring about VGM, and he’s quick to reaffirm the value of the partnership. “It has proved to be an invaluable resource to me as I ‘cut my teeth’ in this facet of the industry,” he says.
Lessening the Burdens
Vice President–Marketing Cam Schultz describes VGM as a purchasing solutions company that began with an emphasis on the pro shop. Adding the agronomic side to the business is an example of how the company has continued to look for new ways to lessen clubs’ expense burdens.
“We saw needs and went out and found the best companies and the best brands, to give additional value on the agronomy side, which has grown over time to be regionally specific,” Schultz says. “A golf course on Cape Cod is going to have different needs than a course in the desert. Not one brand will get you coast to coast.”
The company has also introduced myVGMClub, a feature that allows members to track their savings and gain access to all of the club’s supplier partners within a member-exclusive dashboard. In addition to not restricting members to a typical 8-to-5, Monday-through-Friday schedule, myVGMClub allows them to “see savings, the value of their membership, and additional opportunities,” Schultz says.
Clubs can also take an à la carte approach to pick and choose what services they’d like. “It starts with a human relationship and we never force compliance,” Schultz says. “In due time, our members come to see value in other contracts.”