Summing It Up
The building blocks to management firm’s lasting success may be in their ability to improve and expand clubs and resorts beyond the golf course.
In acknowledging awards bestowed on three facilities managed by his company in a “Best New Clubhouse” competition, OB Sports’ President Phil Green commented, “In many cases, the clubhouses now have as much to do with the overall success of a club as the golf course.”
“OB Sports has learned a great deal over the years working with highly skilled architects,” Green added. “We would like to think that our contributions to such issues as theme development, traffic flow, effective space uses and other key operational components have played a role in the success of these buildings.”
Clearly, no golf management firm can hope to survive today by thinking that the job begins and ends with the golf course and its related facilities and amenities. Many emerging firms in the field, in fact, are going out of their way to establish their expertise in non-golf areas. RDC Golf Group recently spun off a tennis division, not only to manage stand-alone tennis centers, but also to enhance its appeal to full country clubs looking to revive long neglected tennis facilities and programs.
Heathland Hospitality Group, another new management firm, has landed business from traditional country clubs in the Philadelphia area by emphasizing its ability to “attack the greatest challenges facing clubs today: quality of product and service, F&B revenue, and all costs associated with running the clubhouse,” according to President Bob Wurtz.
“We have made significant improvements [for clients] in lowering food and labor costs while greatly invigorating the member dining experience and rebuilding profitable banquet experience,”Wurtz says.
In some cases, he adds, the savings have come directly from physical changes that improve efficiencies, such as a kitchen redesign that saved one client $175,000 in operating costs.
Then there’s Trophy Golf Management, formed at the beginning of this year when Michael Zmetrovich and Lee Lockhart, two former executives of a club management division of the Nicklaus Companies, secured its first management contracts from a golf-oriented private club (Coral Creek Club in Placida, Fla.) and a golf-oriented resort (Paradise Ranch in Grant’s Pass, Ore.).
While “golf ” is literally this new company’s middle name, Trophy Golf Management is also seeking to establish a niche in private residence clubs, and has already signed a long-term agreement with Private Quarters Club to manage its Lake Geneva, Wis. and Nassau County, Fla. properties.
“Private residence clubs are the hottest new category of fractional, second-home ownership today, and demand is far outpacing supply,” Zmetrovich asserts. “[These clubs are] not to be confused with timeshare interests. [They attract] privileged, fractional owners [with the opportunity for] ownership and deeds to shared, high-end luxury residential properties. [They] offer exceptional services and amenities such as private club memberships, housekeeping and concierge, at superior locations with high levels of exclusivity and luxury.”
Tapping into this and other emerging markets for management services will require a new, broader-based approach, adds Lockhart, Zmetrovich’s partner.
“[While] most golf courses are built as part of residential or resort communities, the vast majority of golf management companies today are only equipped to handle the golf component,” he believes.
Trophy Golf will try to set itself apart, he adds, “by not only overseeing the golf operations, but also offering management and consulting services for residential golf communities, resorts and golf-oriented lodging properties.”
As that trend takes hold, management firms will need to offer a whole new level of design and renovation expertise that goes well beyond what is required to set up a pro shop or men’s grill. After all, anyone who’s had to deal with interior decorators knows how quickly their cost estimates can go through the roof just for an individual room or house. Extrapolating that over the full extent of a country club renovation or expansion, the prospects can be downright terrifying.
The good news for management firms is that their ability to amass collective purchasing power only stands to add to their appeal, as more outdated, unattached properties are confronted with the renovate-or-fade-into-oblivion dilemma.
An example of how a management firm can help control the cost of design projects while expanding into new arenas comes from Western Golf Properties. Its procurement division helped to keep a lid on expenses at its Borrego Springs (Calif.) Resort. This was no small feat for a project that included upgrading each of 100 guest rooms and suites with Egyptian cotton linens and revamping the decor of the dining facility—from new carpet to linens and paint. The renovations also included upgrades to the resort’s poolside furniture, including the addition of cabanas (see photo).
Even the most-established management firms are now demonstrating how they can keep in step with the need to handle club development projects that extend well beyond golf-related facilities. ClubCorp announced earlier this year that it would be partnering with Pulte Homes of Delaware Valley (Pa.) to develop Applecross Country Club in East Brandywine Township, about 35 miles west of Philadelphia. Along with the first Nicklaus Design golf course in the Philadelphia area, the development plans include a 22,000-sq.-ft. clubhouse and 19,000-sq.-ft. community sports center that will include exercise facilities, an indoor and outdoor pool, and two outdoor tennis courts. In addition, an existing barn will be converted into an indoor basketball court and golf cart storage facility. C&RB
Design IDEAS from Management Firms and Their Properties
If you bring
Taking in the village… After completing an extensive renovation of its layout and clubhouse, The Village GC in Panorama Village, Tex., a Houston suburb, hosted a “Community Day” to showcase the club, which had been private but now is owned by the municipality and managed by Billy Casper Golf. BCG executives joined club staff to take local residents and business leaders on a tour of the upgraded facility. The day was capped off with a “Helicopter Ball Drop” to raise money for hurricane relief. “The facility has evolved into a tremendous resource and economic engine,” said a Billy Casper spokesman. “Rounds are on the rise, outing sales have increased and [the club is] being used for everything from local charity golf tournaments to business meetings to weddings.”
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