Mark Chapleski, Troon Executive Vice President, has just retired at the end of July following 24 years of service with the golf and club management business. Since 2017 he has overseen the expansion of Troon’s international portfolio to 40+ facilities in 20 countries.
Feeling inspired, I decided to reach out to Mark Chapelski and inquire about the golf industry and the golf club business.
I am curious about your perspective on the current state of the golf industry and your predictions for its future.
Looking back on your 24 years at Troon, how would you evaluate your experience?
My experience with Troon has been phenomenal; a brief amount of time in Scottsdale, then 4 years in Japan, followed by 19 years in Dubai, really gave me experiences worldwide!
I have been to more than 50 countries in the pursuit of growing the Troon brand, have had the pleasure of talking about the great game of golf to so many, and have been able to meet and share my passion for golf with so many of our industry leaders, whilst hopefully inspiring my peers and colleagues coming up behind me.
I am probably most proud of the number of people’s lives we have positively impacted by creating employment opportunities at Troon facilities.
Seeing young men and women grow and develop into successful industry leaders, sharing in the joy of their significant life milestones like marriage and becoming mothers and fathers, and watching them become fantastic contributors to society is the most rewarding to me.
Over the years, it is these relationships with our people that I value highly; being able to support and guide the next generations and learn from them, too, has been quite special.
The opportunities to see the world with Troon are growing every year like myself, and it is brilliant to see so many of our individuals open to opportunities that take them out of their comfort zone and help them become worldly individuals.
If there is one thing I would have done differently, it is to provide flexibility with our services earlier. We do this now quite successfully but did not start pushing this aspect until about 5 years ago.
For example, every golf club worldwide would like to have the best agronomic conditions they can within their budgetary constraints.
We help save money and provide expertise in agronomy, which most clubs are not able to do on their own.
In all cases, the old saying “two heads are better than one” applies; with us, hundreds of “heads” have seen every possible circumstance in building, growing, and maintaining a golf course.
What are the main challenges of golf club managers and owners in the EMEA & APAC regions today?
The costs of running a golf operation continue to escalate. Water has always been expensive, but products to maintain the courses and equipment to do this continue escalating at higher rates than inflation.
These are the main challenges we see and that we try to mitigate at our facilities.
Explain in which countries there are growth opportunities for golf and Troon!
We see Asia as a strong future growth region for golf and Troon; it is an incredible region that offers some brilliant golf courses as well as unique cultural experiences for the golf traveler.
Asia’s population accounts for just under 60% of the world population, and you see a growing middle class in these countries. This provides golf with a great opportunity to grow the game.
We are currently in Cambodia, a very small golf market at this point in time, which is a fantastic country to visit and Vattanac Golf Resort is a very special facility.
We have outstanding courses across The Els Malaysia, including Desaru Coast, which has seen a huge increase in tourism numbers post-pandemic.
This destination will continue to gain popularity with higher participation in local demographics, as well as those from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and international golfers further afield.
We have multiple courses in India, several of which we provide agronomy support to.
We have yet to get into Thailand, a region rapidly showing itself to be an increasingly prosperous market with many courses that have an opportunity to be professionally run. Vietnam is another country we are looking at doing more with in the future.
We are also looking at further expansion into parts of Europe’s affluent golf market.
With a combination of established markets like the UK, Spain, & France alongside emerging and rapidly growing markets in Scandinavia and Portugal, Europe presents us with a unique opportunity to expand our business whilst affirming Troon as the world’s leading golf course management company.
It certainly makes for an exciting period for Troon moving forward.
To retain their best professionals, what steps should golf clubs take?
It depends on what you are referring to when you say retaining their professionals. However, having proper compensation and benefits packages is critical if you want to attract top-class managers.
This is an area in which Troon specializes in and has been a driving factor in why we are regarded as the world’s leading golf course management company; our teams consist of some of the best professionals in the industry, allowing us to excel in the deliverance of our services.
It’s also a way I see Troon being able to break into the European market, as historically, there has not been the same level of compensation for professionals across Europe as there has been in other leading golf markets such as the US and Canada.
Another factor is staying relevant and reinvesting in the golf club, whether a golf course renovation or a clubhouse renovation; keeping things dynamic is positive for the associates, the members, and the guests.
Learning opportunities and workplace culture are also something we place value on at Troon.
Offering development opportunities, such as mentoring aspiring managers and departmental cross-training or enrolling individuals in programs like Troon’s LEADer program, is also key to retaining your associates.
Creating a caring and consciously kind environment, one of Troon’s core values, is something we seek to instill at every facility around the world.
What degree of digitization do you see as necessary for golf clubs?
Digitization is critical to stay relevant in today’s world, where everyone has a mobile phone and is constantly connected; the expectation is always an easy, one-click type of experience for the user to satisfy their needs, and the world of golf is no different.
Those who choose not to move forward with technology will be surpassed by the competition who do, and it will not take long.
The degree of digitization will vary as to what is absolutely necessary, but unless you are a high-end private club, having an online booking platform is an absolute minimum requirement.
We have seen clubs across the world implement all sorts, from
- digital advertising screens in the clubhouse,
- to facility apps and online booking platforms,
- memberships via digital wallets,
- utilizing beacon technology at the club and QR codes for F&B menus,
- Bluetooth speakers in golf carts, technology to enhance the range,
- VR/3D tours of the clubhouse and
- video newsletters.
It is all about the experience for golfers from the moment they engage with your club, which needs to start before they have even stepped through the door.
What strategies should golf clubs implement to increase their green fee revenues? Is yield management an effective approach?
If you do not yield managing in today’s market, you should not be running the club! Airlines have been doing this for 40+ years, and hotels are not much less.
We are in a similar business, selling a perishable commodity (the hotel room, airplane seat, or tee time only exists once, if it does not get sold, it is gone forever).
We need to sell the right tee time to the right golfer at the right moment and price through the right distribution channel. Revenue or Yield Management 101.
We also see facilities getting creative with their propositions, creating additional revenue streams, and maximizing golf course utilization; initiatives like
- twilight tee times,
- floodlight golf,
- par 3 competitions,
- and footgolf means we can get more people onto the golf course during traditionally “dead times.”
Can you share any insights on the current trends in golf tourism? Additionally, where and how do golfers prefer to spend their golf vacations?
Firstly, golfers’ interest in exploring new and exotic destinations is growing. While traditional golf hotspots like the US and Scotland remain popular, we’re seeing an increased curiosity towards Asian countries as well the Iberia region.
These destinations offer exceptional golf experiences and a chance to immerse in unique cultural adventures. Golf travelers are seeking more than just tee times.
Experience-driven travel is on the rise, and golfers want to combine their passion for the game while exploring the local culture, cuisine, and attractions.
Sustainable tourism is another significant trend we’re seeing, with golfers becoming more environmentally conscious when seeking out courses and resorts to visit.
For example, golf tourism in the Iberia region has been experiencing remarkable growth and attracting visitors from key markets worldwide.
They have been actively attracting international golf travelers, with the Algarve, Catalonia, and the Canary Islands being the most sought-after regions.
The high-quality courses, pleasant weather, and additional facilities and services have been key determinants for golf travelers choosing these destinations.
In a more general sense, interestingly, we’re witnessing a shift towards group and family travel. Golf vacations are becoming family affairs, and resorts that cater to both golfers and non-golfers with family-friendly amenities are gaining popularity.
We’re constantly monitoring these trends and adapting our offerings to meet the evolving demands of golf travelers.
Our focus on sustainability, technology integration, and personalized experiences ensures that we stay ahead in the golf tourism market and continue to provide unforgettable experiences to our valued guests.