Tee Time For Professional Golf Management at Groton Country Club?

Kris O'Reilly : December 15, 2014 10:25 pm : Golf, Groton Country Club, News, Swimming

Another deficit looms for Groton Country Club

Another deficit looms for Groton Country Club

A report by William Gustus, a consultant hired to review and recommend improvements to the operation of the Groton Country Club cited a continuing decline in revenue from the golf side of the operation, aggravated by the lack of a permanent general manager, as reasons for a 11 percent decline in overall revenue over the past year. The report predicted a deficit by the end of the FY15 budget, in June 2015, but it offered solutions that Gustus wrote could spur the GCC to break even by the end of FY16.

Among other recommendations, the $12,000 report by Gustus, who is an owner of Settlers Crossing golf course in Lunenburg and town administrator of Lynnfield, suggested hiring a general manager skilled as a golf professional. If both skill sets can’t be found in one person, he said the town should hire a general manager to oversee the overall club and a part-time golf professional to give lessons.

Selectman Stuart Shulman, the board’s liaison to the GCC, said a meeting with GCC members to discuss the report is scheduled for Thursday, December 18. The meeting is not open to the public, Town Manager Mark Haddad said Monday evening at the Groton Board of Selectman’s meeting.

The GCC has been without a permanent general manager since Bob Whalen retired in June 2014. Town Manager Mark Haddad took over as interim general manager. Full-time golf pro Jim Tennant, who was hired in April, resigned in November, shortly before the end of his seasonal contract.

Problems cited by the report include:

  • A 13 percent decline in golf revenue due to fewer golf memberships, a failure to attract daily fee play, and a lack of emphasis on tournaments and open league play
  • An unexplained 30 percent decline in golf cart revenue
  • No coordination among the golf, pool and function operations
  • Inadequate financial controls
  • Minimal marketing efforts
  • No comprehensive profit and loss statements
  • The alarming use of the town’s liquor license by the restaurant leasing space at the GCC, and a lease structure that puts the town at financial risk if the restaurant defaults

View or download the report here.

While the pool side of the operation generated revenue and the function side broke even, a lack of coordination among the various departments was cited as problematic. “In short, nobody with authority, and with the time to coordinate individual departmental operations, is available to create a single cohesive organization where all divisions feed off each other to the betterment of all,” wrote Gustus. “There needs to be one manager that coordinates the operations of all divisions and oversees the overall budget for the Country Club.”

The report recommends the GCC be considered an enterprise fund in the long term, not a town department, which would require the operation to be self-supporting. Currently, “spending at the Country Club is constrained only by the limits of the approved budget, not actual receipts,” wrote Gustus.

Shulman said the report clearly highlighted the poor performance of the golf operation, which he implied was mostly attributable to a golf pro without a “head for business.”

“I’m looking at the numbers and they aren’t very good. You can draw your own conclusions,” said Shulman. “The primary problem is that we did not increase the usage of the golf course.”

The report said the town received less money than in previous years from camps, lessons and retail sales at the pro shop due to the compensation package negotiated with Tennant. Tennant retained most of camp tuition and all revenue from lessons and the pro shop, which he personally stocked. According to Gustus, the former general manager said an undocumented verbal agreement guaranteeing the town $75 per camper could have generated several thousand dollars more than the $1,300 Tennant paid the town.

The report also said the town purchases liquor for the restaurant using the town’s liquor license, which “should be discontinued as soon as possible.” In addition, “the golf operation has ceded all alcohol sales on the golf course to the restaurant despite the fact that the town is the license holder. The pro shop sells no beer for on-course consumption, and this unequivocally reduces public play,” Gustus wrote.

When asked if having the town manager fill the role of general manager was the correct decision, given the problems highlighted in the report with lack of coordination among department, minimal marketing and loose financial controls, Shulman said, “In retrospect, it was probably not the greatest decision we ever made. It was an emergency.”

Three calls to Town Manager Mark Haddad seeking his thoughts on the report and his role as interim manager were not returned.

The report included a suggested marketing plan including:
• A regular schedule of monthly events marketed to the public
• Offering additional benefits to increase memberships, including open events and “frequent player passes” as an alternative to full membership
• An online store listing items for sale at the pro shop
• Email and social media marketing
• Strategic partnerships with area schools
• Video advertisement to run on local access cable

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