Conversations with Club Car – Featuring Gary Firkins and DJ Flanders of Troon International

Saadiyat Beach Golf Club

Senior Vice President of Troon International, DJ Flanders, joined Gary Firkins of Club Car for a discussion on the state of golf internationally. Check out the great insight from two respected members of the golf business world!

Gary Firkins: DJ Flanders, Senior Vice President of Operations at Troon International, thanks very much for speaking to Club Car. DJ, you’re based in Dubai and I believe courses are now starting to open in Dubai and the UAE in general; just give us a flavour of what’s happening and indeed, perhaps even, kind of a surge in demand from customers as they come back to golf.

DJ Flanders: Yes, that’s a very good point. We have seen all of the properties open up in all of the Emirates here in the UAE, and at Troon we have the benefit of having properties in all of the Emirates. The Abu Dhabi Emirates opened first and then we had Ras Al Khaimah, Al Zorah or Ajman open up and then Dubai has opened up as of last night. So, and the biggest thing we have seen is participation levels are up. I think because in this particular region everyone was kind of on lockdown, a pretty strict lockdown, so everyone’s very excited to get outside, so it was very important for our properties and our other properties here in the region to be prepared and to take the Covid restrictions that have been put in place by the Emirates Golf Federation the Emirates here in Dubai and the Government authorities to make sure we are keeping our golfers and associates safe while people are out enjoying the golf courses.

GF: And how do you go about preparing, because I think you know, I think for some venues, for some courses in some countries, this demand has come as a bit of a surprise and the restrictions are naturally restrictive. So how do you go about preparing; what’s been your experience and what do you tell other golf venues across Europe as we start to open up?

DF: Yes, sure. We benefit because we have over 400 golf courses around the world, so there has been a ton of idea sharing. But that being said, Troon, we’ve been sharing our best practices with other operators in the region as well because we feel what’s best for the game of golf, is more important right now than who manages the facility. So, I would say, recommend that everyone should be utilising the resources and I am happy if people want to reach out to me to get our best practice, I am happy to share it with them. Social distancing, spacing is a big part, we’re leveraging technology to make sure that people are making online tee times, or at worst case scenario, at least calling before coming so that we can anticipate every golfer that walks in the door. That gives us the ability to manage the flow of the operations. I have seen tee times increased at some properties; ironically enough what has happened because a lot of the groups have been reduced to three players or two players at some of the facilities, pace of play has actually been quite good, so they have gone to 15 minute intervals and then reduced it down to 8 because they are able to still do the social distancing while getting more people on the golf course and keeping them safe. So every facility is a little bit different, but you know there are definitely ways we can all operate; not touching the flag stick, removal of rakes, reducing the amount of touchpoints that people have while they are playing the facility is definitely key, removing magazines from the golf shop. We really have had to walk with the guest eyes on what they might want to touch and try to remove those things so we can get them out onto the golf course and keep them safe while they are out there.

GF: Is there one piece of advice you’d have for other golf clubs in terms of how you organize your teams from an operation perspective, to get people together, to be ready for this comeback?

DF: And that’s a great question because the team, you know you are balancing two things; you are trying to keep the members and guests safe but you are also, you know you’ve got a lot of your associates that are putting themselves out there every day, contacting with a lot of people and we need to make sure that they are staying safe as well. So a lot of health training and safety awareness has to be done behind the scenes; if there are clubs that are closed now, I highly recommend that they start doing all of that training now because then when they open up, their staff are fully prepared to make sure that every guest that’s walking in, is using the hand sanitizer, that they’re sanitizing the golf cart before they get on it, and the hand sanitizers when they leave, you know, just getting that repetition in place now so that is a new norm for them when they reopen and they are keeping themselves safe as well as the members and guests.

GF: Well DJ Flanders from Troon International, thank you very much for speaking to Club Car

DJ: Thanks Gary, thanks Club Car, appreciate you being here.