Meet the Golf Club Manager: Tony Roche

Warwickshire Golf Club manager talks about joining and managing a country club which was about to reopen after a lockdown, going from running a golf publication to being a manager in the industry and working for a group including 15 golf clubs.

Can you tell us a bit more about Warwickshire?

The Warwickshire Golf & Country Club is one of the finest golf facilities in the Midlands. A 36 hole championship golf course set in 465 acres in the center of scenic Warwickshire countryside. Our superior golf facilities include two 18-hole championship courses, the Kings and Earls, a nine-hole short course, a 26-bay driving range and golf lessons for beginners to experts. Warwickshire is home to 56 spacious standard and superior hotel rooms offering a blend of luxury and comfort.

At the resort’s health club, we have a 20 meter swimming pool, spacious gym, wet spa and on-site beauty treatments.

Warwickshire is a perfectly located hub for golfers, families, business travelers and those looking for a rejuvenating spa break.

What have been your experiences and those of the club in the face of the pandemic, from March 2020 to today?

During the 2020 pandemic and lockdown, I was working for Macdonald Hotels & Resorts as the European Golf Sales Manager. A big part of my role was looking after our resorts in Spain, Portugal and also the UK.

Much like Warwickshire and all the other golf and hospitality venues that went out of business during this period, uncertainty over job security came for many of its employees.

Golf clubs closed again for the third Covid lockdown, which came into force on January 5, 2021. They had remained closed despite pleas from England Golf, which released a report claiming golf could be played in safely during lockdown.

In April 2021 I joined Warwickshire as Golf Club Manager and was immediately tasked with preparing the Golf Club for the safe return of play. Add to that the incredibly wet and difficult winter we have just experienced and the challenges we now face with respect to climate, staff and Covid restrictions, and to ensure a safe, happy and prosperous return to golf. for everyone.

It was an opportunity for “everyone on deck” to re-prepare the course and facilities for members and visitors.

Warwickshire is one of 15 clubs in the Club Company. Are there any perks (or added pressures) of working for a company that has so many golf clubs on its books?

Working for one of the Club Company’s 15 country clubs comes with added pressures as we strive to be the UK’s premier collection of golf and country clubs, providing members with a feel-good experience. being through wellness, golf and more.

The standards and levels of expectation are very high as a company, as we strive to unveil a host of innovations designed to encourage more members and visitors to our clubs. The group team is always available to help each other and give advice, no matter what department or role they work in.

Golf membership with The Club Company includes reciprocal access to all golf courses in the group. Other golf membership benefits include free access to health and fitness facilities at your home club, as well as discounted membership rates for your family, and of course the ability to hold a official handicap and to participate in club competitions.

As a country club, you depend on more than just the course and the clubhouse to generate revenue. How important are other areas such as gym and spa?

We are an active club full of dynamic and energetic members. Our social atmosphere is second to none, and you’ll quickly find that you fit in perfectly. Yes, all great golf clubs start with their golf facility, and as an added bonus, we have recently refreshed, upgraded and refurbished all of our facilities to ensure our members have the best clubs in the industry. Getting and staying physically fit and healthy is a personal goal for most modern club members.

Fitness is the third most important activity at clubs after golf and meals, and it’s the one thing that club members – regardless of age, race, gender or culture – consider equally important. A state-of-the-art fitness and wellness center shows members how much you appreciate them and your club is up to date in amenities.

Are you trying to get more juniors, rookies and women into the game?

If you are looking to change the landscape of the sport, then there should definitely be more women and juniors in golf. We recently introduced new women-only nights at the golf club, led and orchestrated by the already thriving women’s section itself.

The Warwickshire ladies’ section has a great social environment where ladies can stay for a glass of wine, a chat and a bite to eat afterwards. Junior golfers are Warwickshire’s next generation, so it’s important we welcome them in the right way.

The ultimate junior facility should provide a safe and supportive environment, variety, opportunity, progression, integration, encouragement/support, affordability and above all fun. This is the area that excites me the most. A complete new configuration and a new layout of the junior section are planned for this year.

How do you market the place?

From retaining members to generating new members and repeat bookings, we are always working to increase our customer lifetime value and grow our bottom line. As with all parts of the business, we’re committed to having a strong online presence, which helps generate more interest with a bit of out-of-the-box thinking, but I’m a big believer in involving members in “their club to create increased brand value and awareness of the game of golf in Warwickshire.

From charity events, quiz nights and open houses to social gatherings and golf competitions, we’ve got you covered. Many people associate their best memories of the club with those fun times with family and friends, old and new.

You were the editor of Golf Society News. Can you tell us a bit more?

I always had a passion for sport, mainly football when I was young. My late father was an avid golfer in the 70s and 80s and he used to take me with him to practice hitting balls on the course near our home. Practice areas and driving ranges were virtually non-existent at the time and in hindsight I think it was more him using me to fetch the balls and bring them back to him rather than introduce me to the game.

Anyway, I was hooked and started playing golf regularly soon after. The passion never left me and I love golf to this day. I started organizing golf holidays, competitions, charity days and ran my own golf company, before I was asked to write a golf club review for a local golf magazine of the region. This led me to write for a local newspaper as well as various other freelance work with a few other golf publications.

It was then that I decided to start my own golf magazine: “Golf Society News”. I was responsible for the content and quality of the publication ensuring the editorial was engaging and informative. This magazine was distributed to golf clubs across the Midlands before I finally sold the business to work in golf full time.

What are your predictions for the next few years for the UK golf industry?

It’s no secret to anyone who plays golf that 2020-21 surprised almost everyone in the golf industry. The biggest surprise wasn’t Covid-19, or even the closure of golf courses across the country for much of the year.

The surprise was that once opened, golf courses flourished. They exploded. They surpassed the number of participations that had not been reached since the early 2000s, when Tiger Woods inspired many children to try the game. Growth rates of 30, 40 and even 50% are not uncommon , depending on what part of the country you may have been trying to get a departure time from. As the world reopens and a new, younger generation of golfers learn about the challenges and frustrations of golf, the future of the game still looks bright.

They’re addicted to the game, they want to improve, and as a result, the game has become less intimidating and more welcoming. Warwickshire continues to go from strength to strength and is in an excellent position in 2022. The opportunity is there for us to maintain this increased interest in the practice of golf by ensuring that we provide a product that golfers can enjoy with family and friends. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

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