Guest writer David Thornton interviews female Golf Club Managers who are breaking down barriers and driving culture change in the UK
Nicky Linton-Briggs is the General Manager at Nizels Golf & Country Club. Owned by The Club Company, Nicky is totally aligned with their ethos and culture. She is a modern and forward-thinking people person who understands what great customer service means.
Firstly, what has been the reaction to your Ladies Team winning the 2021 Annodata UK Matchplay Club Classic?
The reaction has been fantastic. We are all super proud of them. They are great ambassadors for our sport-competitive but very sporting. We are planning a little Spanish fiesta as we speak.
Your background is the leisure and fitness industry, how did you get into golf club management?
I have a background in tennis and my first ever job was at a Country Club in the USA with golf so I have always had an interest in both sports. There are quite a few synergies between them. I was made aware of an opportunity which suited my location at the time 15 years ago at a golf resort and have never looked back.
The workload of a modern-day Golf Club Manager is very challenging. How do you manage, especially when you manage a very large team of 150 people?
It’s always a challenge managing a healthy work/life balance, especially with a young family but I have a strong team around me. My primary focus is always listening and reacting, where possible, to our members’ needs.
What changes have you made at Nizels and what are you most proud of?
Definitely how we’ve managed these past two exceptional years and come out of Covid stronger and wiser. We are a strong club but having to furlough staff was tough. I am most proud of the team I have built and the positive relations we have with our members. I want to support them and certainly feel supported by our membership. In terms of business recovery – I'm pretty proud of that too.
Do you think a General Manager should play golf?
Whilst I don’t think it is essential, I do think it is good to see the club from the angle of a playing member. Finding the time just to play nine holes is a challenge but I find it relaxing and it keeps me in touch with what is happening on the course.
What does “excellent customer service” mean to you?
I try to always put myself in my customers’ shoes. Good service means retention and sales and a successful business follows. I always start team first – happy, caring, respectful, energised, ambitious teams deliver great service and happy customers.
I see my club as part of my family: many members have become friends and we as a team genuinely care about our customers. My team often call up a member if they notice they haven’t been in for a while to check up on them. It is the small personal gestures that make exceptional service. Every day we try to make a positive difference to someone.
Nizels and The Club Company use a “Feed it Back” system to measure our service levels and we have customer satisfaction targets to meet. We send out surveys to 20% of our membership on a monthly basis and people can feedback instantly on any experience-good or bad.
I firmly believe that listening to your customers and aligning your club goals with the members is critical-you need open communication at all times.
How can the industry attract more female managers?
I think we are already, in The Club Company over 50% of our General Managers are female. I think we still need to break down the barriers in older more traditional clubs. I still have a gentleman who refuses to play off the red tees calling them Ladies tees when he would have a much more enjoyable game if he did play a shorter course.
What can golf clubs do to attract more female members?
Time is definitely an issue here. We need to speed up the game and have quick ways to get round a course. Clubs need to be super family-friendly too. Nizels has a creche, junior golf lessons and welcomes children, not all clubs do.
We also need to remove cost barriers-often the outside perception is that golf is really expensive or too difficult to learn which isn’t always true.
Academy-type memberships are a good idea and becoming more available for beginners to provide a pathway to full membership.
Group lessons with a bunch of friends on the range can be great fun too. The social aspect is important for women
What is the future for women’s golf?
It’s exciting, refreshing with huge potential. I often work from my club bar and listen to the wonderful stories of rounds played, the friendships, the happy banter, the endless opinions of the course and the support golfers give each other.
The handicap system makes it great for women. We just need to spread the word, make it group orientated and most of all fun!
When you spend time with Nicky you are struck by her warmth and openness which is genuine and not remotely fake. She cares about her members as individuals and is passionate about customer service.
She talked movingly about her 8-year-old son, Freddie, who is on the autistic spectrum and non-verbal. Looking after a child with significant special needs had “made me a much more empathetic person”.
A positive, glass half-full person Nicky is a perfect cultural fit for “The Club Company” and a great role model for aspiring female Golf Managers.
Words by David Thornton
David Thornton plays golf to stay alive and help him fight Parkinson's. He is an ambassador for social enterprise "Golf in Society" and is passionate about many things - family, cooking, Burnley FC and the need for golf to be genuinely inclusive. David is always looking for opportunities to write more about golf - websites, course reviews, interviews, features, golf travel, blogs… You can find him at [email protected]