IAN Cottle, general manager of Burleigh Golf Club on the Gold Coast, doesn’t believe it takes too long to play a round of golf.
“I enjoy the four-or-so hours it takes to play a round,” he said. “Sometimes when playing nine holes you can feel like you are just getting warmed up.”
Inside Golf caught up with Ian, who has been at the helm of Burleigh Golf Club for 11 months, to discuss all things golf.
What was your path to becoming a golf club manager?
I started working in clubs in Sydney when I was 20 while I was studying architectural drafting. My first job as golf club manager was at Katoomba GC.
What has been the most unexpected aspect of your career as a golf club GM?
Certainly some of the close relationships you develop with members. You can be there for some high and low points in their lives. It is fantastic to share family events such as christenings or people renewing their wedding vows.
Have you had mentors and how have they assisted you?
My president at Cumberland Golf Club, Michael Poe, was a very good teacher. He lectured finance at UTS (University of Technology Sydney) so you couldn’t throw up smoke in a financial proposal. He wanted to make sure the I’s were dotted and T’s were crossed and that has stood me in good stead.
What are the greatest challenges running Burleigh?
The club has had declining revenue year-on-year for the last five years so it’s a matter of arresting that decline to meet the financial and mortgage commitments of the club. Revenue growth is certainly a strong focus.
What have been some of the changes since you became manager?
Nothing extravagant, just moderate and constant improvements are needed. The club has 1000 golfing members so you have to be respectful of their needs and the traditions and history of the club.
What plans do you have for Burleigh GC going forward?
We have an opportunity to improve our gaming area. Our course quality is the main contributor to people joining the club so we have to maintain the presentation of the golf course. Publicising the venue is important – making people aware they can visit for social golf or in tour groups.
What do you make of the current state of golf?
We had a mid-year finance meeting recently and in it we referred to the 2013 National Golf Participation Report. It documented that in 2013 national golfing memberships fell below 400,000. The 2013 figure for the Gold Coast’s 29 clubs was a 7 per cent decline and in that same year Burleigh was down 3.3 per cent. Inherently, golf is a quality product overseen by proactive people so the industry will be strong over the longer term.
Does a joining fee have any place in the current climate?
Yes. The same report stated that 18 per cent of golf clubs had growth in excess of 10 per cent. If your weekend fields are full then you have the luxury of having a joining fee. It discourages people stepping away for a year or two and encourages longevity of membership.
What part of your job do members not understand?
The job is all encompassing. You can be talking to someone about membership one minute and preparing the profit and loss for the Board the next. The job is so varied and members rightly have high expectations. That’s why we are called a general manager.
Is golf overpriced in terms of subs and green fees?
No. It costs a lot of put labour on the golf course and keep it in the condition that people expect. The industry needs to protect the value of golf.
How healthy is the future of Burleigh GC?
Burleigh is in a great part of the country for outdoor activities like golf. The lifestyle on the Gold Coast is fantastic. Our membership is strong and is full of decent people. When I see a prospective member, I say they should play the course to make sure they enjoy it, and have a drink in the members’ lounge to make sure like the people as well. Our members are good people, the course is in excellent condition and the clubhouse facilities are outstanding.