Manager of the Year finalist: Simon Smith
The manager of Aston Wood Golf Club once hit a 382-yard hole-in-one on the course.
There cant be too many people like Simon Smith. Formerly England’s heavyweight karate champion, who once fought in Tokyo’s Budokan Temple in the world championships, Simon is also a golf professional who can count the European Tour’s Robert Rock as a former caddie!
He was appointed manager of Aston Wood GC (after being the club’s professional for the previous 14 years) at the height of the recession in 2009, with the club up for sale and membership numbers dropping. He couldn’t stop it then entering administration, although he skillfully steered the club through stormy waters – quickly helping to stabilise its financial position. Simon oversaw a project in which 100,000 tonnes of waste was imported and planted at the venue, generating £120,000. That money, plus funding from the new owner, has meant that Aston Wood is building a £2 million development, including a driving range, biometric centre and gym, which is set to increase revenues significantly.
Via recruitment and retention, membership numbers have also been addressed and increased. Open days, links with local schools and incentive schemes with existing members have all been deployed. One of Simon’s premier achievements has been a partnership with ‘Lions and Legends’, formed by ex-Aston Villa footballers, with their celebrity and business friends. The group now sees Aston Wood as its home, attracting many golf and gala events. Membership retention has also been secured by a focus on customer service and a thriving social calendar, partly helped by him relaxing the dress code on one of his first days in office. “We almost become an events’ business from every October now,” he said. Food and beverage turns over nearly £1 million a year while, for example, a now-regular fireworks night that the club runs attracted a staggering 2,000 visitors last year.
“He is the complete golf manager,” said member Jon Martin. “Under the most difficult of circumstances he has been able to improve revenue, membership and performance by creating a warm, welcoming environment for members and visitors alike at what is so much more than just a premier golf club.”
Simon is too modest to accept the praise however. “A great deal of the club’s success surrounds assembling and motivating the right team around you,” he said.