Early this year, we heard the good news that Real Club de Golf El Prat will implement its sustainability plan and renovate its two Greg Norman-designed golf courses (“Yellow, “Pink”). I was curious how they the current golf business challenges and the pandemic.
I hope you will enjoy my interview with Ariana Martín Balet, the general manager of Real Club de Golf El Prat.
How has the pandemic changed the expectations from golf club membership?
The pandemic has had a very important economic impact on golf clubs, especially in the city of Barcelona where golf courses were closed for more than 3 months and all income from events, tournaments, sponsorships, and visitors dropped drastically.
However, this crisis has provided an opportunity for the sport of golf to increase the number of players during the pandemic worldwide, in particular in our club where we welcomed 450 new members. Our challenge now is to consolidate this growth and keep improving our service to guarantee our Members’ satisfaction.
Golf Clubs have an important role in satisfying needs that were limited during the pandemic, such as the contact with nature, creating community, fostering friendship, and making people a bit happier.
What do you do to attract & retain the best professionals in your club? What are the biggest challenges in it?
Golf Clubs are part of the hospitality world and, as such, a strong team of people is key to ensuring that the customer experience is up to expectations. Motivation, teamwork, and communication are the basic elements to achieve it.
The executive team of Real Club de Golf El Prat is made of 8 professionals responsible for a total staff of more than 120 people:
- José Gómez – Head greenkeeper,
- Jorge Olmos – Director of Operations,
- Miquel Angel Blasi – director of the Valles Golf, which is a public rate course attached to the Real Club de Golf el Prat,
- Marcello Della Vecchia – Director of international sales and marketing,
- Daniel Pérez – Director of corporate and sponsorship sales,
- Xavi Poch – CFO,
- Yigal Lenti – Food & Beverage director,
- Gemma Fuster – Communications Manager,
- And finally, myself leading the social area.
I would like to take this opportunity to mention Jose Gomez who, last month, was named the best head greenkeeper in Spain by the Spanish Association of Greenkeepers. This recognition is important and makes us very proud and encourages and motivates the whole team to work even better.
The executive teams meet periodically to share information about our areas of responsibility, discuss improvements, adapt plans, and ensure that we are all moving in the same direction, agreeing on priorities and objectives. Motivation and training the executive team are essential in driving the daily life of the club.
In this sense, we organize leadership, self-awareness training to improve our skills to be better persons and leaders. We care a lot about staff motivation and we tend to include the subject in all of our meetings.
Motivational and training plans are agreed together with the team and all together we manage suggestions and complaints to ensure everyone is happy in their position. Our challenge is to create a trained, motivated, versatile, and efficient team.
Individual economies were affected by the temporary lay-offs adjustments we were forced to implement during the pandemic; this has affected the general mood of the teams. In this sense, we offer tools to manage stress and anxiety through mindfulness courses.
Where is Real Club de Golf El Prat in digital transformation?
Another opportunity that Covid has provided is digital transformation. The pandemic allowed us to automate processes such as reservations and check-in among other services. At Real Club de Golf El Prat we have an App that over the last year has been consolidated as the main communication and interaction channel with our members.
We still have a long way to go but for now, we have a good base from where we can develop and improve. Digital transformation will eliminate back-office tasks and will allow people to be more efficient and focus on customer satisfaction. Efficiency will have consequently loyal members and clients that will generate more revenues.
Do you plan any capital investment in your amenities in 2022?
Considering the uncertainties that arose at the beginning of 2021, we will close 2021 positively and one of the keys of our Strategic Plan is economic sustainability.
Despite having suffered the consequences of COVID for the most part of the year, we are proud to have a positive forecast and to say that we will close the year with a net profit of around 100,000 euros.
This excellent outcome is the result of efficiency improvements implemented in the last 18 months, the success of our Sustainable course plan, the contribution of the membership recruitment Plan (223 new members in 2021 and 450 registrations since we started the plan in 2020), and at the beginning of the recovery of third-party incomes, such as visitors’ green fees, sponsorships, tournaments, and corporate events.
Having achieved this positive net result is important, not only because of the change in trend that this implies, but also because this allows us to generate enough cash to restart the necessary investments to maintain our Club.
This year we have improved the driving range, with a tee line that allows us to improve the recovery time of the natural grass areas, furniture, and a new fitting complex that will enhance the way our golf Professional teach.
What do you do to make Real Club de Golf El Prat attractive to women and younger generations (e.g. Millennials, Generation Z)?
45% of our members are women and we are very proud of this. To get more women attracted to golf, we launched Happy Golf, which consists of a full program for beginners based on group golf lessons and tournaments (normally they play a scramble and very easy formats to make golf friendly) while their kids are also in the golf academy.
This beginner’s community has its own WhatsApp group managed by the club where we provide content, events, and tournaments according to beginners’ needs.
To be able to create a community, it is key to understand what the motivations of each group are.
As an example, Generation Y and Z, born from 1980 and onwards and being the future of the club, were raised in a context of globalization and mobility, they are globalist people, highly oriented to have unique experiences, travelers, communalholic, they care about ethics and respect the environment.
Considering all that, we do our best to meet their expectations through club’s events and tournaments. As an example, we had a meeting at the “Old beer factory Damm”, one of the most iconic places in Barcelona, with Ona Carbonell, an Olympic synchronized swimmer medalist very well-known sportswoman in Spain.
All our young members had the opportunity to listen to this great winner and learn more about how her experience made her a better professional and person. Ona is the embodiment of effort, sacrifice, overcoming failure and fear, trust, teamwork, respect, acceptance, and family.
Values that she explains flawlessly with revealing examples. She was very endearing and valued everyone attending the event. Those values are the same values we share at Real Club de Golf El Prat.
How do you want to take advantage of mobile commerce?
Being a private Club, mobile commerce is not our core business but we have a good number of tee times available for visitors and an entire department dedicated to green fee sales.
We launched a new website only a few years ago and are already looking to create a new one.
Real Club de Golf El Prat is recognized as one of the best golf courses in Spain and Europe and a lot of golfers from all over the world (the USA is our fourth market), book our services online.
For this reason, we are featured in the most famous and recognized booking platforms and golf communities.