Posted on: 25 March
The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it course closures, new operating protocols and an explosion in memberships and rounds that all required nimble management, constant communication and buy-in from every staff member across each aspect of the business.
The way Wembley Golf Course in Perth dealt with all of these unique challenges and how they embraced change to improve their operations has earned General Manager Josh Madden the 2020 PGA National Management Professional of the Year award.
Conceding that golf facilities in Western Australia were less impacted by COVID than other states such as Victoria, Madden explained that once he and the staff at Wembley identified the opportunities that they had been presented they took full advantage.
“We’re always trying to improve and strangely COVID-19 provided the re-boot button we needed to make a few hard decisions that we’ve changed permanently in 2021,” Madden says.
“We moved our coring and scarifying rotation up from August/September to the first week we were closed in March. We mobilised in three days and did all 36 holes and the result was an outstanding product all winter that was better equipped to handle the golf traffic that we experienced in 2020.
“It also gave us a chance to revisit our tee sheet management and make some changes that would have been very difficult to manage without the break that COVID-19 provided.
“The results have been terrific. We’re communicating better with our social groups and managing the traffic better which ultimately resulted in a better pace of play for more people.
“It all worked out but was a lot of work by my fantastic team behind the scenes both on the golf course and within the pro shop.”
Already one of the busiest golf facilities in the country, golf’s boon in popularity broke records at Wembley.
The pro shop and golf course experienced increases of some 25 per cent month after month but it was on the automated driving range – the perfect athletic outlet in a pandemic – where the impact was most significant.
“Patrons hit 111,000 balls in one day in July. Those kinds of numbers were unheard before COVID-19,” Madden reveals, estimating that more than 16 million balls were hit on the range over the course of the year.
“That’s a big number for one day in the middle of winter.
“Clearly the driving range provided a socially-distanced golf experience that the public embraced at the right price.
“We normally allow the team to re-charge their batteries across our Perth winter and take some leave to prepare for a busy summer. July 2020 turned out to be busier than December 2019.
“All of a sudden we were off and running delivering service to record numbers of new and seasoned golfers alike.”
Like a coach with a team stacked with talent, Madden credits the staff he leads for bringing Wembley through a year of change in a better place than when it started.
“I think we’d all like to say that it was all planned out and we knew what was happening, but truthfully 2020 challenged my team and I to remain resilient, flexible and adaptive,” adds Madden, who presented a 45-minute online webinar to PGA members with PGA staff member Brent Davis on COVID-19 preparation prior to reopening.
“There were positives that have come from this and resilience was the lesson that was reinforced. We just had to work through it each day and do the best we could as a team.
“I’ve been really proud of the changes that our team made to get the most out of this venue and how everyone dug in and supported each other when we were really busy.
“We had to make some hard decisions that involved change and that’s always uncomfortable, but the team delivered.”
The Greg Normal Medal is now available for public view – watch the video here.
Article from PGA Australia (Tony Webeck)