Manager of the Year finalist: Michael Rutter
Michael went from member to chairman to manager of Ryton Golf Club within just a few months.
Ryton GC is the perfect example of how a good manager and a successful marketing strategy can turn a club’s fortunes around.
In January 2012 Michael Rutter became chairman of Ryton, a 123-year-old Tyne and Wear golf club that had experienced a decade of decline. The club, by its own admission, was in danger of going under and needed a change in direction. It introduced discounted five-year and life memberships in order to solve the immediate cash flow problem. Within four months, Michael was appointed club manager.
On day one Twitter and Facebook accounts were set up, along with the introduction of a customer database. The website was revamped and the club began advertising in golf magazines and local press. The database, which now contains over 4,500 contacts, the majority having visited the club during the last two years, became the driving force in the marketing campaign. In recent times a loyalty card scheme has been introduced to give further value to returning customers.
As a result of this aggressive marketing approach, green fee income rose from £22,000 in 2011 to £55,000 in 2012, and then to £96,000 in 2013. Membership figures, which had dropped from almost 700 in years gone by to less than 400 in 2011, are now back up to 460, representing a £10,000 increase since 2011, despite the loss of 17 members to the new five-year category.
While this turned large losses into healthy profits, Michael has also been keen to invest the money back into the club. An additional member of admin staff has been employed (along with an extra greenkeeper) enabling Michael to concentrate on management, while large sums have also been invested into course and clubhouse improvements.
Elsewhere, in the last two years the club has opened a pro shop, which it never previously had and has been received with positive feedback from the members, has brought in new course furniture funded by sponsorship and has brought buggies in, that have generated income and also been well received by members and visitors.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to have a committee and chairman that have helped and supported me,” said Michael, “and above all allowed me the flexibility to manage.”
“The club has made incredible leaps forward,” said the club’s chairman, Paul Whittaker, one of four people to nominate Michael. “Many other clubs around us are now mirroring our marketing strategies – thanks to Michael we are now seen as a forwarding-thinking and smart outfit.”