Marriott Golf, The Belfry and Wentworth were among the big winners at the prestigious, annual 59Club awards, presented by Europe’s leading golf-specific mystery shopper service.
Compered this year by BBC sports presenter Dan Walker, the 59Club awards reward the very best in the golf industry, across 18 categories, and celebrate the achievements of outstanding individuals, teams and venues.
A total of 14 awards were handed out, plus 10 silver and eight highly prized gold flag honours.
Wentworth Club was acclaimed as the ultimate golf members’ club, while four-time Ryder Cup venue The Belfry secured the accolade of ultimate golf resort.
Lynn Hood, the managing director of The Belfry, said: “We are delighted to have received such an accolade from our peers, which underlines our commitment to deliver the highest levels of customer service and unforgettable experiences for all of our guests."
The prized silver and gold flag awards are split between resorts and member clubs and, consequently, subject to different criteria.
An impressive seven resorts – Formby Hall; De Vere Belton Woods; De Vere Slaley Hall; De Vere Cameron House (The Carrick); Close House; The Duke’s St Andrews; and Goodwood – achieved sufficiently high ratings to receive silver flags, while The Belfry, Celtic Manor, Rockliffe Hall and Marriott Forest of Arden performed to such an outstanding level they were each accorded gold status.
Three members’ clubs – Brocket Hall; Dubai Golf – The Emirates Club; and Broadstone – received silver awards, while resorts Al Badia, Stoke Park, Dubai Golf – Dubai Creek and Wentworth Club secured the coveted gold flag.
James Shippey, golf club manager at Al Badia Golf Club, one of the first golf venues outside the UK to win a gold flag award, said: “For us to be awarded the gold flag award in our first year is something of which we are immensely proud."
But the evening wasn’t just about recognising large resorts and groups, it was also to highlight individual excellence, such as that demonstrated by John Glendinning, from Close House, who received the award for golf manager of the year.
He said: “It was such a shock to win the award up against such strong candidates. To receive this award from Simon and the 59Club team was such a privilege.”
Wentworth staff picked up two ‘gongs’ with Scott McMurray heralded as greenkeeper of the year, while Mark Allcorn was recognised for the ‘leading individual golf sales performance’. The award for most-improved golf sales team also went to the Surrey resort.
Proving that smaller venues can excel as a service provider as well, Daniel Young, from Woldingham GC, in Surrey – part of the Altonwood Golf Group – was recognised as golf retail manager of the year, and Roger Tomey, from Mytime Active’s Dibden Golf Centre, in Hampshire, received the title of food and beverage manager of the year.
De Vere secured a hat-trick of team awards with De Vere Carden Park hailed as having the golf sales office team of the year and golf membership sales team of the year, while De Vere Dunston Hall had the leisure membership sales team of the year.
Keith Pickard, regional golf director for De Vere, said: “It is always an honour to have the excellent service at our resorts recognised by industry experts at these awards, and it is testament to the hard work and consistently high standards of each team across the portfolio. We have fantastic people and processes in place across our resorts.”
Marriott Golf retained the golf group of the year title, while Q Hotels’ Hellidon Lakes Golf & Spa Hotel, in Daventry, was recognised as having the most-improved golf operation team. And Marriott’s third award of the evening went to Marriott Breadsall Priory which possessed the golf operation team of the year.
Alison Ainsworth, Marriott’s senior director of golf, leisure and spa operations Europe, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have won golf group of the year for the second year running. Continued investment in our product and service is paying real dividends for the customer and that has been reflected in this year’s awards."
The 59Club awards’ evening – sponsored by Golfbreaks.com, teeofftimes.co.uk, Swatkins, Methven, Felicitas Media, Fluid Productions, Tacit Golf and Pro Shop Europe magazine – is regarded by many as the ‘Oscars’ of the golf service industry.
Simon Wordsworth, 59Club’s chief executive and a fellow of the PGA, said: “It is a privilege for us every year to welcome the very best individuals and teams in our industry – and as you can see from the full list of winners, success stories can be found in all areas of the industry.
“The awards are unique in that they are based on real data collected throughout the past year. Huge congratulations to the individuals and teams who have come out on top – it’s a true testament to their hard work.”
59Club, Europe’s leading golf-specific mystery shopper service and a PGA Official Supplier, is fast becoming the industry standard for measuring and comparing customer-service levels and analysing all key revenue streams for golf venues, and is committed to the on-going development of club managers and PGA professionals.
The unique benchmarking and training service has already benefited hundreds of PGA members and golf course operators, who utilise the company’s performance analysis tools to enable managers to compare their standards of customer service and facility offerings to those perceived as their main competitors.
The core service includes a series of mystery shopper recorded-enquiry calls and live visits, followed up with regular analysis and training to ensure venues can identify trends and improve, or maintain, service standards.