COULD more dialogue between the game’s governing bodies and public golf course operators be a solution to growing the game?
It’s a view put forward by Matt Day.
The general manager of Perth’s Wembley Golf Course says the attitude towards public golf courses needs addressing and sees an opportunity for Golf Australia and the PGA to work more closely with public golf courses.
“It’s important the public golf market remains strong,” Day said. “We have seen Burswood shut and Rosehill is about to close.
“It becomes a worrying trend when you see public golf courses owned by councils or the state government closing because it puts more pressure on other courses.
“Golf Australia needs to recognise that 1.2 million rounds on Perth’s public courses is a significant and important number.”
Still, Day concedes private clubs, through capitation fees, primarily fund Golf Australia and that must remain their focus.
However, he argues most golfers learn to play golf on public courses.
“People generally don’t learn to play at clubs like Lake Karrinyup – they learn to play at public courses,” he said.
“What we are saying to GA is how do we, as an industry, convert those people into longer-term golfers? How do we convert the young people that use the driving range, but don’t play golf?”
Day said private clubs would be the big winners if there were more focus on assisting public courses.
“If we have the players, train them properly and get them interested they will join a private club,” he said.
“There is room for Golf Australia, the PGA and other peak bodies to have a conversation on a more frequent basis with public courses. This is how we can assist each other to grow the game.
“It’s GA’s challenge to convert them into club golfers as much as it is ours.”
That said, Day, who has been at the helm of the Town of Cambridge Council-owned Wembley Golf Course for the past 12 years, says there is never a dull moment when it comes to his work.
“With public golf there is a new challenge every day and I look forward to coming to work to see what the day is going to present,” he said.
“We run a 36-hole golf course, 80-bay driving range, teaching and practice facilities, retail shop and a fleet of 70 golf carts.
“It’s a great place to work and I have a good view out of my office window.”
Mind you, Day doesn’t have much time to gaze out over the course as he has his head down working on a $10m-plus development.
One of Day’s major challenges is to ensure Wembley Golf Course returns a profit to the council.
“Next year it will be $1.63m,” he said. “If the rates go up three per cent it ends up being another $40,000-plus annually.”
Day said the complex’s power bill had almost doubled in the past five years putting further strain on the bottom line.
“In Perth, golf is a competitive green fees market so you haven’t got a great deal of room to move there,” he added.
“But our aim is to provide a quality product within a tough environment.
“Having a very good operations manager in Jim Heron, course superintendent Darren Wilson and great staff makes that task a lot easier.”
Born in England, Day, 43, has lived in Perth since arriving as a nine-year-old. His father David, Joondalup Golf Club’s first secretary-manager, introduced him to golf.
He has a Bachelor of Business degree majoring in marketing from Edith Cowan University and says his management style is “open and inclusive”.
“Because I am based at the pro shop, staff have the opportunity to talk to me whenever there is a need,” he said.
Prior to his job at Wembley, Day worked in management roles at Baileys Fertilisers, CJD Equipment (John Deere’s Perth golf and turf distributors) and Nuturf – one of the biggest turf chemical and fertiliser companies.
He has a certificate in turf management.
Due to work and family commitments, Day, who is a member at Joondalup, seldom finds time to play golf.
“I play off 11. As far as driving the ball I’m probably an eight-marker and a 38-handicapper when it comes to the short game,” he laughed. “I only play seven or eight times a year.”
Perth’s Wembley GC kicks on
IN business, they say you have to spend money to make money.
And that’s exactly what Perth’s Wembley Golf Course will do over the next 12 to 18 months.
Wembley’s general manager Matt Day told Inside Golf that, subject to final council approvals, $10-11m would be spent upgrading a facility which already has two 18-hole golf courses, an 80-bay automated driving range and a 200 square metre pro shop with an indoor putting green.
“We are looking to build a 200-seat function room, restaurant, bar, new change rooms, 18-hole miniature golf and a children’s playground,” he said.
“It’s about updating the hospitality component of what we already have here.
“This is stage two of the redevelopment. In stage one we spent $12m on the range, pro shop and car parking facility.
“It means we will have spent $24-$25m in five years.”
Wembley Golf Course puts through 150,000 rounds of golf and more than 9.5 million golf balls are launched into orbit on the driving range.
“That’s paid golf balls and does not include teaching activities,” Day said.
Wembley GC hopes to start construction next February.
FOOT GOLF: In an effort to attract younger people to golf, Wembley Golf Course this month will launch Foot Golf at its 36-hole complex.
“We are aiming to have it available to the public in mid-July,” general manager Matt Day said.
Foot Golf started in Europe but has become a phenomenon in the US. More than 100 golf clubs already offer the service and that figure is expected to grow to 500 within the next 12-18 months.
Like golf, Foot Golf has par-3s, par-4s and par-5s, but players kick a soccer ball counting kicks until it’s holed in a 55cm “cup”.
“On a normal length par-5 golf hole there are three Foot Golf holes,” Day explained. “So you can get 18 holes of Foot Golf into a standard nine-hole course.”
Patrons will be able to play Foot Golf at Wembley every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday afternoon. It will take between 90 minutes and two hours to complete a “round”.
“It’s something new and brings different people to the complex,” Day said. “It uses nine of the 36 holes, which are sitting empty otherwise.
“It’s become popular at US courses because it’s an additional revenue stream.
“We think there is a level of interest for it. It’s been well received by the people we have told and opens up new markets – kids, mums and dads.
“It’s not going to replace golf … it’s just another revenue stream and it will bring other people to the facility.
“We have an 80-bay driving range, which attracts the younger crowd and we believe Foot Golf will attract younger people. It’s has a lot of positives.”
GALLUS APP: Wembley GC, too, has introduced an Application specifically aimed at golf.
The Gallus App has a number of features including a built-in GPS system, multiple scoring methods including stableford and par scorecards, live leaderboards and even books tee times.
“Once you’ve logged in, it will track your history,” Day said. “It’s got five or six features and because it’s free it’s been well received.”
Available for Android and iPhones, Wembley already has attracted around 3500 downloads.
“It’s also a great marketing tool,” Day said. “It lets you contact and attract customers when business is quiet.”