Driving change by creating culture

John Shortt
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John Shortt

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The landscape for golf club managers in Ireland has historically been an unusual one. Brought in to manage a club filled with members where each one has a voice, a vote and invariably an opinion on one matter or another which is in contrast to everyone else, it can be a tricky place to exist.

Over time this landscape has changed and developed and with advent of the Club Managers Association, more specific training for club managers and the ever growing movement towards creating a culture within the workplace, golf club managers now have a lot more to offer than simply sitting behind a desk and taking membership fees.

One such manager is Brendan McDermott, General Manager at Belvoir Park Golf Club and recent recipient of the Ulster Manager of the year from the Golfers Guide. Currently, the only golf club manager in Ireland with a Level 3 qualification in the Golf Club Managers Association, McDermott also has a PGA Director of Golf Qualification, along with a Club Management Diploma and has brought a wealth of experience and no small level of attention to detail to the Belvoir Park club in Belfast over his 3-year tenure thus far.

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McDermott will be a name familiar to many as he was on the PGA Ireland circuit for ten years and worked at Mount Juliet, Waterford Golf Club, Dundrum House and Rathdowney before moving to Kirkcaldy and Bothwell Castle in Scotland.

“When I first came to Belvoir Park it was clear that there was a lot of work to be done and I’m delighted to say that we’ve gotten through a lot of it,” said McDermott who is also a 26-year PGA veteran with a PGA Fellow qualification.

“I’m very dedicated to sport and it’s management and I believe that you can never stop learning, particularly in this industry. Earlier this year I completed the PGA Excel accreditation and the GCMA Level 3 accreditation and I take great pride in these awards as to me they are not just badges of honour but are testimonies to the dedication, time, and effort I’ve invested in this beautiful sport. They help me to push the boundaries and strive for more each day and I love being involved in an industry which lets you do that.”

Having visited and seen first-hand the changes at Belvoir Park it’s fairly clear that McDermott has brought not just his learning and education to bear but also his eye for detail and the offering at the club has improved dramatically from what it was a few short years ago, not just on the course with presentation either but also in the clubhouse.

“Yes, people have occasionally said to me that I’m chasing perfection where it can’t be found but it’s not really that at all. I’m just looking to improve a small amount on where we were yesterday and if you can do that over a prolonged period of time then that adds up to some massive improvements.

“On the course we’ve done a huge amount of work in recent years from tree clearing, building new pathways, clearing out areas of the course and generally making sure that the course presentation is up to the standards that the members expect from a club of this calibre.

“In the clubhouse we pride ourselves on presentation and our F&B service and quality and we’ve implemented Belvoir Park Golf Club Values as a statement which includes excellence, transparency, respect, integrity, equality and inclusivity. I’m very focussed on creating a culture within the business that represents these values and all the staff at the club have bought in to the process so we have an excellent culture within the team now that permeates through to the customers through service levels and quality of product and that can be seen right through the organisation.”

It’s hard to argue with the points being made and when you enter the clubhouse, speak with the staff and even take to the golf course you can sense that things at Belvoir Park have turned a corner.  The course was always very good, the clubhouse is also a fine structure but it’s the small things like staff attitudes, the clubhouse presentation, the atmosphere around the club and when you take to the course the attention to detail, that have uplifted Belvoir Park in recent times.

McDermott, like most good managers won’t take all the credit though but he has created a culture and let himself be the agent for change at Belvoir Park, where staff are empowered to deliver on his high standards. “This is a team effort. I’m just one person and, while I lead the team, it is the team that implement the values that we all agree on and it is they who are at the coalface with the customers so I need them to be fully committed to the process and I’ve been delighted with how they’ve taken to the ideas. The culture of the club has fundamentally changed and I’m so very proud of what we’ve achieved that I would encourage every golf club manager to look at what we’ve done here and use it as a case study going forward.

“We have an organisational structure at the club where I report to the Management Council and the Committees but we all recognise that many of the key decisions that impact our business are made outside of the council and committee. They are made on a daily basis by our front of house team, our pro shop team, our course staff and so on. They are the ones who impact on the success or failure of the business and they are doing a fabulous job.”

Looking at the success to date it’s safe to say that things at Belvoir Park are moving in the right direction under the stewardship of McDermott and who knows what new and improved offerings will be on display there over the coming years.

As I left the club I commented the amount of work that has gone in from everyone and how hard it must have been, McDermott left me with this little nugget…..“Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion,” and it’s clear to see the passion for the Belvoir Park project is alive and well.

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