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Great communications

This article first appeared in On Course - Issue 26

Ian Church, Secretary/ Manager and Huw Morgan, Course Manager at Ashburnham Golf Club explain the need for communication in a team and how respect for each others role works well.

Communication through team work is often hard to put into practice at golf clubs. At Ashburnham Golf Club a new partnership has reaped success and shown the need to communicate within a team.

Secretary/Manager, Ian Church, and Course Manager, Huw Morgan, are joining forces to take Ashburnham's fine reputation to even greater heights. By bringing their expertise together in their fields, they see their success can be greater than the sum of what they bring separately to Ashburnham.

Ian Church states quite simply: "Consider us as a pair of Siamese twins, but joined at the legs, heart and brain. If you try and surgically separate us, you'd end up killing us both. In a golf course management sense, I don't see how I can achieve my goals without Huw doing his job. I know he is one of the best there is and that means I can give him free reign to achieve the goals that we want. We both agree on what needs to be achieved, but never the way in which it is to be done to get there."

Similarly, Huw Morgan realises the importance of Ian's job: "Ian brings in the money to help finance the tools, materials and resources needed to execute the work on the course. We have many areas where large sums of money need to be spent and this will have to come through visitor greenfee income. Thankfully Ian is an expert in this.

"A good relationship is vital to the success here at Ashburnham. I have worked for some great secretaries who have trusted me and wanted to work with me. I have also worked with people who wanted to control my job as well as trying to do their job. One job is hard enough, no-one will benefit if we interfere in each other's work." Huw continues.

"Ian is a link for me to the main committee - we work together for the greater good of the club. There is often a problem with individuals being jealous of the success people have achieved. Secretary/Managers and Course Managers should mutually respect each other in terms of the qualifications and knowledge they both have and work together at all times" Huw said.

Ian goes further: "When we were in the process of offering Huw the position of Course Manager, I insisted that the Directors consider paying him a salary equal in amount to my own. In employment terms he still reports to me, but I'm firmly of the belief that what a top class Course Manager can bring to the team is of equal value to any good Secretary/Manager. We get paid exactly the same amount. I'm sure that some managers may be very surprised to learn that, but it works and it's fair."

Morgan and Church both understand that without each other being on the top of their game, the golf course will suffer. The fall out then goes on to adversely affect club members and other staff.

Planning has already started at Ashburnham for future tournaments, including the Home Internationals in 2010. Ian and Huw are vital cogs in that process. They meet or speak daily to communicate what is going on in both departments. Head of Department meetings usually take place on Tuesday mornings at 10.30 for 30 minutes. During this meeting the week ahead is discussed and any problems ironed out.

Standards required at golf clubs have risen to unprecedented levels in the last 10 years. All staff must be trained to be able to cope with these demands. Golfers demand high standards on the course, in the clubhouse, proshop and administration office. Golf clubs have to employ professional people with the correct skills, experience and customer service to manage their departments and produce the standards required.

The relationship must be down to trust, respect and shared positive experience. At Ashburnham, Ian and Huw trust each other to do their jobs professionally, respect each other for the areas that they bring to the team and which invariably allows them to focus on their own areas of expertise. The shared positive experiences are that Ian delivers what Huw needs (money to pay for the materials and tools Huw and his team use to get the course to the required standard) and Huw delivers what Ian needs (a golf course that exceeds expectations and acts as a springboard for Ian to use to generate further business). Call it the chicken and the egg!

In 2007, greenfee income more than doubled in comparison to the previous year, and it's anticipated that it will be approximately four times the 2006 level in 2008. "Some people have suggested that going from £28,000 to £65,000 in a year is easy to do. But for the last 20 years, our greenfee has been at about the same level. If it was so easy to do, why didn't the team at Ashburnham figure it out sooner? In my view, it all comes down to two basic principles: work hard, and work smart. Huw and I do both in copious amounts and the benefits will lead us to achieve £200,000 in 2010. Once you strip away our incremental wages and material costs, can you imagine what we are going to be able to do with an extra £100,000 every year?" Church asks rhetorically.

After only nine months working together, great progress has been made with increased visitors giving positive views of the course improvements. The GUW has bestowed its approval by naming the club to host the 2009 Welsh Amateur Strokeplay Championship and the 2010 Home Internationals. Morgan goes on to say "[The GUW] is not only saying it approves of the path we are laying down, but this is its vote of confidence in the ability of Ian and I to achieve the required standards."

"We are both reaping the rewards of each other's hard work and the future looks very bright for the members of Ashburnham."

"Watch this space..."

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