Ashgrove Golf Club general manager Michael Ronan.
Ashgrove Golf Club general manager Michael Ronan

ASHGROVE Golf Club, just nine kilometres from Brisbane’s CBD, lives up to its reputation as being a friendly club, and general manager Michael Ronan ensures that the members and guests enjoy service with a smile.

Ronan, a golf fanatic and a very good player, has been at the helm at Ashgrove GC for seven years.

Inside Golf caught up with the 37-year-old Kiwi from Christchurch to find out his take on golf, the club he runs and himself.

Michael, what’s been your path to becoming Ashgrove GM?

I did a bachelor of business management degree and worked for the ANZ Bank for 10 years. I moved to Australia in 2007 and had a couple of years with ANZ and then moved to CBA. At the time, I was a member of the club when I applied for the job and was lucky enough to get it.

Have you had a mentor since joining the golf industry?

Yes, while I have been around golf clubs all my life, I found being a member of the GMA (Qld) extremely valuable. They are an enormous help to a new-comer to golf management.

What has been the most unexpected aspect of your job?

When I came to Ashgrove we were looking at a retirement village development. That’s what lured me to the role and I wanted to help get it off the ground. We spent five years working with a retirement village operator and were at a point of submitting a DA (development application) to council when the developer decided to pull the project.

Any other surprises?

Yes, when I worked in the bank I had one boss, but at a golf club you have eight bosses who are volunteers. It’s a different dynamic so it’s about learning and understanding how it all works. It has its challenges but I have been lucky because the boards I have worked with have been very supportive and encouraging of any ideas I have.

How has the club coped with Covid-19?

Covid has affected not only to us, but the industry in Queensland. We were lucky we were on an upward trend for two or three years prior to Covid. When I first started in the job (2014) membership levels were low. We had around 400 playing members and now we have 950. The club has grown exponentially. I have never seen golf as popular as it is now so it’s a good time to be a part of the golf industry.

What have been some of the changes since you became GM?

We are currently rebuilding the eighth hole and prior to that we implemented a new point of sales systems – a different membership model. When I first started here you had to be a uni student to be an intermediate member. So we changed the constitution to what an intermediate member looked like and made it a lot more appealing to a wider range of people. We have seen an explosion in young people playing golf.

What’s the average age of your members?

Seven years ago it was 69 and now it’s 52. One of the best comments came from our pro Garath Small who said, ‘it’s like working at a completely different golf club now’.

What plans do you have for Ashgrove in the years ahead?

After the 8th hole is finished we will rebuild the bridge on the 18th, but the retirement development is still bubbling away in the background. And we are always looking to improve the facilities in line with people’s expectations.

How would you describe your management style?

I’d like to think I’m an understanding boss. I like to have a good team of people who enjoy coming to work. I’m approachable and open. I’m always available to meet with staff members who want to come and have a chat about anything that’s on their mind.

You look like someone who enjoys their work.

I really do enjoy my job. Ashgrove is a unique club and the spirit here is a fair bit different to a lot of other clubs. We have a big social membership so a lot of people come and use the facilities to have a beer or a meal. While we are a golf club there are other aspects of the golf club that are as equally important as well. That’s what differentiates us from some other clubs.

What part of your job do members not understand?

When the club was in Covid lockdown I was the only admin staff member working. People would say ‘what do you do when there is no one in the clubhouse’. They don’t understand it’s a business that turns of millions of dollars and there are compliance issues and all sorts of things to deal with – just like any other business.

What sort of a golfer are you?

I play off scratch and I’ve been a proud pennant player for the club since I joined in 2007. I play every Saturday and every second Thursday.

What’s been your greatest achievement?

I won the club championship in 2017.

How do you unwind after work?

I have a four-wheel drive and like going away camping. I also have a 50kg dog we take down to Kedron Brook for a walk every morning.

About David Newbery

Chief writer David Newbery has been living, breathing and writing and editing golf for more than 30 years. His extensive knowledge of the game comes from covering golf around the world. Hired by Inside Golf in 2009, David previously worked as the editor of The Golfer for 25 years and before that worked for numerous daily newspapers in Australia and overseas. The Brisbane-based journalist describes his golf game as “a work in progress”, but has had the privilege of playing golf with some of the game’s best players including nine-time major winner Gary Player. David enjoys travelling, reading, music, photography and spending time with family and friends – on and off the golf course.

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