Headland Golf Club general manager Ben Dobson and Kingston Heath general manager Gregg Chapple share ideas
Headland Golf Club general manager Ben Dobson and Kingston Heath general manager Gregg Chapple share ideas

HEADLAND Golf Club general manager Ben Dobson has returned from his fact-finding mission to Melbourne’s Kingston Heath Golf Club armed with a plethora of good ideas.

Dobson, who has been at the helm at Headland for seven years, spent three valuable days at Kingston Heath shadowing general manager Gregg Chapple.

There, he was able to pick Chapple’s brains and observe how a major metropolitan golf club operates.

“Going to Kingston Heath took me out of my comfort zone, but it gave me a really good insight into how a major club operates,” Dobson said.

“Gregg was amazing and happy to tell me anything I wanted to know.

“I also spent time in the golf shop, with the house manager and the course superintendent to find out how they do things differently.”

One thing Dobson discovered was that Headland was not that dissimilar to Kingston Heath in many areas of operation and that pleased him.

“We are doing okay,” Dobson said. “There are a lot of things we do well and a lot of things we do similar to Kingston Heath – things like the machinery replacement program, a strong emphasis on strategic planning and good member communication.”

One thing Dobson would like to implement is what Kingston Heath calls an “hour of power” or “go zone”.

“It’s where key staff put on ear muffs and turn off phones and emails,” he explained. “They set themselves some goals for work that has to be done and there are no interruptions for that period.

“That is something we can implement here because the amount of work that doesn’t get done due to phones and emails is incredible.

“But you have to know what you want to do in that time and use it properly.”

Another initiative Dobson is keen to implement is relieving the course superintendent of some of his administration duties (accounts and budgeting).

“This allows the superintendent to spend more time working on the golf course where his experience is needed,” he said. “It may mean sending an admin staff member to the maintenance shed for a few hours a week.”

Better staff communication is something all clubs can improve on and Dobson is keen to follow Kingston Heath’s lead.

“Gregg is very open, gives his staff freedom and is not constantly looking over their shoulder,” he said. “That allows them to flourish, but he does have the ability to rein them in if necessary.

“I got a few good tips on how we should communicate more effectively.

“Currently, I have a weekly meeting with all department heads on an individual basis, which is essential but takes time.

“I can keep these meetings operations-based and efficient by introducing a monthly meeting of all the department heads to update them on strategic and board matters, ideally the morning after a board meeting. It keeps the flow of information open and streamlined.

“Gregg has policies and procedures for everything and it’s very detailed.

“They do succession planning for their board to make sure they are moving in same direction.

“The Kingston Heath staff and department heads are heavily involved in strategic planning and it’s something I would like to introduce for our next set of plans.

“If we have more input from the staff then they take more interest and ownership of the plans and can happily move forward and attain all the outcomes.”

They might seem minor, but clubs like Kingston Heath value-add by giving non-members a memento to remind them of their Kingston Heath experience.

Members who are approaching a milestone birthday receive a personal hand-written card. It’s a nice touch and something members appreciate.

Dobson has spent 11 years at Headland, the first four years as assistant manager and the past seven years as general manager.

“It was my first club after finishing university so I inherited ways of doing things from people before me,” he said.

“So, it was good for me to go out and see how they do things at Kingston Heath.

“It was an amazing opportunity and I recommend other managers do the same.”

FOOTNOTE: Ben Dobson was invited to Kingston Heath after winning an Inside Golf bursary.