Meet the Golf Club Manager: Edward Craven

The managing director of Romanby Golf & Country Club in Yorkshire talks about running a club founded by his father, dealing with the recent surge in demand, marketing on Sky Sports and building accommodation on site and a new performance studio.

What is your history with the club?

Romanby was officially opened in 1993 after my father converted it from a working family farm into a golf course. After graduating from college with a business degree, I began my career at Starwood Hotels, working in Belgium, Singapore, and then Australia. I officially joined Romanby in 2011 and have worked in most departments of the business, from golf course administration, grounds maintenance and professional shop management to weddings and receptions. I am now the general manager of Romanby and specialize in marketing and business development.

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

I don’t think anyone could have envisioned many lockdowns during the pandemic. The first lockdown coincided with perfect weather conditions, which was frustrating considering golf can easily be a socially distanced sport. We have, however, granted concessions to members in other areas of our facilities as compensation for their lost earnings.

The latest lockdown coincided with possibly the wettest winter the UK has endured since records began. The effects of the forced closure were therefore less painful for our members. For our visitors, the bad weather also mitigated the effects of the closure. Golf then came out in March 2021, earlier than most other sectors and at this point the demand for Golf was overwhelming. Our Course Director, Robert Upton, and his team have done a fantastic job providing the essential maintenance required to reopen the facility on such short notice.

Upon opening, we reintroduced our members’ 10-day advance booking service with all vacant tee times available to visitors, after all, we all deserve our golf fix! This has made the golf course busier than ever, according to BRS (our booking provider); as of March 2021, we are the third busiest club in our county.

The hospitality side of our business however took a bigger hit but came back into full gear soon after. We managed to reschedule 90% of our reservations with good customer service and good communication. It meant an even busier time for country club manager Craig Beadling and his team as lockdown restrictions were eased.

How do you market the place, especially via social networks?

We do most of our marketing online through social media and through our email database. We are proud to be a modern and welcoming club and being present on these platforms is essential. Almost all visitors to golf clubs do a lot of research before booking. It is therefore essential to publish regular and quality content to give customers a glimpse of what they could experience if they decide to book. Hole layout, images and social tags are all used to promote the installation. Check out our profiles on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.
Another area I invest a lot of time in is our website (www.romanby.com). A clean, well-presented website is important, with call-to-action buttons so members and visitors can easily navigate the site. I regularly monitor which pages have the most visits, what the bounce rate is, and where I can place strategic ads to encourage further engagement. The website is also optimized for mobile and tablets, which is crucial with 74% of our website traffic using this type of device.
You may have also seen us advertise via Golf Now on Sky Sports with the ‘hole in three’ advert which is currently airing nationwide. It’s been a big talking point in and around the club with our members proud to see us on TV. It was first shown during The Ryder Cup, which drew 3.5 million viewers on Sunday alone – fantastic exposure for the club!

How have you diversified into other sources of income, such as weddings, and what results have you seen?

During the confinement we did a lot of renovation work in the country club. We have modernized the locker rooms, the bar and the bridal suite. As soon as we reopen, we have a brand new look, and we receive more and more requests that are well managed by our team.

Our lighted driving range is a huge asset with few golf clubs in our area having such a facility. This attracts many golfers from local golf clubs as well as ours.

We also have a planning request which is in the final stages to build 19 luxury lodges on site, close to the country club. This night will be for golf packages, tourism and wedding parties. Hopefully if the lodges are successful we will have more surplus to further improve the facilities with golf being our number one priority.

You have a new performance studio, can you tell us about it?

We are fortunate to have a PMG (Performance Managed Golf) Academy which is led by European Tour Coach Mark Pearson. Mark brought a wealth of experience to the club, recruiting head teaching professional Brian Ridley, a former County Durham coach and AimPoint specialist, and Sunningdale PGA professional Matthew Richardson. All run from a newly built Trackman performance studio. Both are available for coaching programs and do up to 70 hours per week in class.

Besides golf coaching, we also specialize in performance fitting for anyone looking to purchase new golf clubs. When it comes to golf equipment, Dan Twiby, our on-site club fitter, has been trained to a high standard in club analysis and fitting. With the support of our supplier Snainton Golf, we offer a multitude of choices at competitive prices on the Internet. Dan believes that no golf equipment should be purchased without going through a thorough Trackman evaluation to ensure we have the right equipment in your hands. We take great pride in having complete fit solutions for Ping, Cobra, Callaway and TaylorMade. It doesn’t stop there; Dan is also popular for Trackman gap sessions and loft and lie club adjustments.

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

Mark launched StartGolf, a group coaching course focused on beginners, and ‘FUEL golf’, a junior golf program designed to encourage young people to play. These five-week courses are run on a rolling schedule, so we are constantly seeing new players at the club.

We have always had a fairly diverse membership base. Fifty percent of our new members after lockdown were juniors and ladies; it’s great to see these areas of the club growing.

Do you offer strategic pricing points and how do you target your audience to maximize revenue?

Pricing in the golf industry is extremely sensitive. Our peak price is weekends, with a slightly lower midweek rate. We also have a number of off-peak prices where the cost drops throughout the day, attracting a diverse population of golfers. Price is important to us because we want people to get what they pay for when playing Romanby. Our goal is to continue to improve our reputation, ultimately attracting more golfers to our club. Our all-inclusive membership is also competitively priced with several different age categories. We advise if a golfer is willing to play more than 35 rounds of golf per year, then membership will be valuable to them. Otherwise, they are more than welcome to pay and play when it suits them best.

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

Unlike many businesses that have unfortunately faced an overall negative impact on their ability to operate during Covid, we’ve seen golf grow in popularity, which is exciting to see.

We are organized to continue to grow and we still have availability for new members to join our club. With Covid seeing a large influx of people getting into golf, it is our job to keep the momentum going and encourage as many people as possible to take up the sport.

Personally, I think value for money is essential for golf courses to thrive in the future. Exceeding customer expectations is something I am passionate about and an area we are constantly looking to improve. We have just launched a communication journey for each individual customer. Every reservation now receives a confirmation email before arrival with a link to a digital hub. This includes information such as directions to the club, point of contact for the day, where to check in, course guide, trail index, bar menu and more (all things a golfer likes to know before arriving on a new course). We then greet them in a professional and friendly manner when they arrive for their tee time. After their round of golf, we then send a personalized email to see if they enjoyed their experience asking for feedback so we can seek to further improve our services.

For more information, visit www.romanby.com

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