Profile: Ely City Golf Club’s manager Tom Munt15th October, 2012 by Emma Williams
A programme of cost cutting and increased efficiencies has allowed a young golf club manager to fund new developments and initiatives and boost membership without sacrificing joining fee income.
Tom Munt’s background in leisure management and the experience gained in running a pub with his brother seem to have equipped him well to improve the fortunes of Ely City Golf Club in Cambridgeshire.
“After taking up golf as a teenager I was keen to embark on further education that would allow me to stay in the industry,” he explained. “I studied leisure management and golf studies at Bucks New University and did a gap year at Blue Heron Pines Golf Club in New Jersey, and then went on to work in leisure management before buying the pub and then working in corporate business development for a small chain of hotels and golf clubs.”
A move to Golf at Goodwood introduced him to the estate’s innovative marketing ideas before he secured a role at Ely City as commercial manager.
“I was brought in to work alongside the former assistant manager who was taking on more of a secretary’s role,” Tom commented. “Using my commercial experience, my initial brief was to market the club and develop functions, but when my counterpart left, I persuaded the committee that I could take on the full manager’s role with the help of an assistant.”
It was never going to be an easy job to replace former manager Mike Hoare, now chairman of the GCMA’s national committee.
Using his business flair, Tom set about developing a range of financial objectives, rather than following traditional manager routines.
“I was confident that I could cut costs by removing frivolous expenditure,” he commented. “I was also keen to improve the marketing of the club, introduce new products and ensure that existing ones were promoted properly. Another goal was to increase non-member income.”
These areas have been Tom’s main focus for the past 18 months and he praises the reception his plans received from the committee: “They were extremely supportive and open-minded, which was very helpful,” he said.
“The first job was to look at expenditure. I sourced different suppliers and obtained better prices and some items were eliminated altogether, including Sky TV and newspapers in the clubhouse. By reducing the number of hanging baskets and turfing over one flower bed, we cut gardening costs considerably. In all, expenditure was reduced by £40,000 in the first 12 months.”
A review of membership products followed, with new categories including business and corporate membership added, and advertising space in the clubhouse and sponsorship deals offered. “In 2011 the new membership categories brought in £15,000 with sponsorship adding another £1,000.”
Like many clubs, increasing membership is a priority for Ely City. But rather than considering waiving the joining fee, as has been a common approach, Tom tried something different.
“This was an idea suggested by Keith Lloyd [CEO of the GCMA] and borrowed from ladies’ golf in New Zealand – a ‘buddy system’ was set up which entitled two or more ladies to join together at a discounted rate.
“We have offered potential members the opportunity to share the joining fee if they join at the same time within a limited period, and this has generated 85 new members. We actually had 10 people from the local Post Office join at the same time!”
Another initiative which had a big impact on the bottom line was designating the club a Community Amateur Sports Club (CASC).
“We have to follow certain principles of non-discrimination and no longer post prospective members’ names on the noticeboard. We also have to give an assurance that the club is ‘non-profit’ – so it, and its assets, can never be divided among the members. But it has shaved 80 per cent off our rates bill – some £26,000,” he explained.
Given Tom’s pub management background, it is no surprise that the bar and catering provision came in for scrutiny.
“I’ve worked closely with the bar and catering managers to review suppliers and cut costs, and have set them personal targets, some of which have financial incentives,” he explained.
“We also looked at increasing functions, introducing the opportunity to have business meetings in the bar, and revamped the snack and specials’ menus accordingly. Turnover has increased slightly but costs have fallen significantly, so bar and catering profits increased from £5,000 two years ago to £26,000 in 2011.”
So popular has the functions’ side become that the club now needs to amend its liquor licence to reflect the level of outside business. “We always had the facilities and the staff to build non-member business – in common with most golf clubs there is spare capacity in the evenings,” he said.
Having improved its finances, Tom can now invest in the club’s future, with £125,000 of new greens equipment added to the fleet last year, and a three-year programme of bunker renovations worth £85,000 in progress.
“We surveyed members and remodelling of the bunkers was the improvement that they asked for, so it is good to put it in place,” he commented.
Rebuilding tees and updating the changing rooms are future items on the agenda.
He emphasises that all of the investments are made without having to resort to waiving the joining fee to attract new members. “We have already been asked when we are running the buddy scheme again so we know there is scope for even more new memberships. It is essential for managers to ensure that clubs are financially secure in order to provide the services that members want; I now feel content that I can focus on the club itself rather than the finances,” he stated.
And an exciting time beckons with the club celebrating its 50th year; a memorable founders’ dinner in April is to be followed with a week of celebrations in July which will culminate in a grand ‘Jubilee Ball’.
“Every club is unique and the routes to financial stability will vary, but a supportive and forward thinking committee is crucial. Lots of clubs leave it too late to cut their costs, but this must be the first course of action before slashing membership fees and giving away much needed revenue. And although it goes against the grain to advertise membership vacancies, it is the way forward for many clubs,” concluded Tom.