Women & Golf ask the questions! There are a variety of roles for women within the golf industry. Here we talk career and work with Melanie Drake, the General Manager at Birchwood Park Golf Centre in Kent...

There are a variety of roles for women within the golf industry. Here we talk career and work with Melanie Drake, the General Manager at Birchwood Park Golf Centre in Kent...

W&G asks the questions...

Tell us about your career path?

I began my career as a hotel receptionist, and worked my way up to management. I spent six years working at two south coast hotel, golf and country club resorts. That was my first experience of golf! I wanted to expand my horizons, so I took a job in the Health and Fitness services industry, which was a great stepping stone in my journey into BGL which subsequently began at Thornbury Golf Centre. My current position as General Manager at Birchwood Park allows me to combine my experience in Health and Fitness as well as golf.

First impressions of Birchwood Park?

As I was originally at Thornbury Golf Centre, which is also a BGL venue, I had a clear picture of what to expect. Everyone that arrives at Birchwood Park for the first time can see that it’s a great club with a lively atmosphere. I loved the place as soon as I stepped foot in the clubhouse, but at the same time, I could see its potential which was exciting.

Birchwood Park has shown an increase in sales and profits over the last year. Why is it a successful venue within Burhill Golf and Leisure Limited?

I like the environment here and I genuinely relish every day I come to work. We spend so much of our time at work it’s really important that we enjoy what we do. I’m lucky enough to enjoy my job and ultimately this helps us succeed. I feel we have created a welcoming, all-embracing atmosphere which makes our members and visitors want to spend their leisure time with us, it’s like we are their second home.

What day-to-day challenges do you face?

What I love about this job is that every day is different. Therefore I’m always presented with new challenges and we never know what’s around the corner. They say that 80% of a manager’s problems are staff related. I’ve found that having a great team around me helps everything run smoothly. Let’s just say I’m nowhere near 80%.

Have you introduced specific initiatives to attract female golfers?  

In 2015 we’re really focusing on trying to introduce the lady members of our Horizones Health and Fitness Club to golf. We have a new Academy Manager and he will be working with groups of ladies who exercise together and will invite them to take their first step into the game, as a starter in the form of a group session on the putting green. We’ll also be making sure there is some coffee and cake as well!

We believe this is a great way to get more female visitors into golf, as they’ll feel more comfortable in a group surrounded by their friends. It’s important to take small steps, as we all know golf can be intimidating at times. We’re fortunate to have a fantastic short course in addition to the main course, which is a nice stepping stone for women who are relatively new to the game.

We’re also active participants in the BGL Golf initiative Learn Golf Free which is rolled out across the 10 venues. This invites beginners to sign up online or at a venue to take part in a group introductory lesson (up to eight people) run by our PGA Professional, which costs them nothing. It’s proven to be very successful over the last two years.

If you had to give one tip to another golf club general manager, what would that be?

It’s so important to get the basics right. I’d urge them to never lower their expectations and constantly try to raise their own and the club’s standards, in every possible way. At BGL, we try and offer real quality in everything we do from the coffee we serve to the condition of the courses; we make our centres a destination for every occasion.

Do you play golf?

I play off 18 and I’ve been playing golf on an off over the years. This year I am really going to focus on trying to play more and hopefully reduce my handicap. As the centre is busy it’s good to have the driving range and short course as it makes it easier to squeeze in a basket of balls or a few holes.