Golf Industry Guru Helping Courses Navigate What Can Be A Complicated Business
Golf Industry Guru Gurus, Scott Masse (L) And James Cronk (R) - Image Courtesy GIG Website
By Brad Ziemer, British Columbia Golf
Golf is not only a hard game, it’s also an extremely difficult business. Think about it. There’s a lot more to operating a golf course than simply ringing in green fees.
There’s the food and beverage side of the operation. There’s the agronomy side of the business. There’s staff to recruit, manage and retain in today’s challenging environment and so much more...
“It’s really complicated,” says James Cronk. “As a manger, a general manager, as an owner, you have to have some understanding of how to run a restaurant, how to grow grass, how to sell and market, how to deal with human resources.”
Cronk and partner Scott Masse have started a business designed to help golf course operators and their staffs. Golf Industry Guru is now in its second year of operation and has close to 100 clients (golf courses) signed up. They make up what Cronk likes to call GIG Nation.
The idea of creating a business to help courses operate more efficiently has been percolating inside Cronk’s head for quite some time. Cronk has done significant work as a consultant to the golf industry and has literally travelled the world to speak at industry seminars.
“I used to get on a lot of planes and fly all over the place and I always thought to myself there has got to be a better way,” Cronk says. “And in my travels I would come across all of these wonderful trainers and consultants and speakers and I would learn all of these things and would say to myself, 'man, the people that I know who run golf clubs would love to hear that.' Not everybody can go off and attend all of these things.”
What Cronk and Masse have done is create a site where clients have access to education, training, tools, templates and tips from some of the most successful golf and hospitality industry leaders in the world. “Our platform is like a master class for golf,” Cronk says. “We are upwards of a couple hundred hours of content now. It’s webinars, podcasts, templates, blogs, articles, and all that stuff. It also has a community where you can ask questions. Every employee of a club gets access to the platform.”
Cronk and Masse are no strangers to the British Columbia golf scene. They first met many years ago when Cronk was working at Marine Drive Golf Club as an assistant pro and Masse was a junior member. They have spent considerable time working together in the golf industry at places like Golden Eagle in Pitt Meadows and Westwood Plateau in Coquitlam. “We joined forces because really I am not able to accomplish anything other than ideas,” Cronk says with a chuckle. “So Scott is the doer and makes stuff happen. It’s a great partnership.”
Covid has been both a blessing and a curse to their new business. “Covid was a bit of a blessing to the world of online training because when we had GIG on our minds most people around the world didn’t even know what Zoom was,” Cronk says. “They didn’t even know what video training was. All of sudden everyone was understanding that, oh, we can do this in a different way. That’s how we came to be and we have been having a blast.”
On the down side, the golf boom that Covid created gave golf courses something of a false sense of security. Their tee sheets were full, so some managers didn’t feel like they needed the kind of help GIG could provide.
“Covid also slowed down our business because it’s only when people are struggling that they think that they need help,” Cronk says. “And with everyone so busy the last two years they’ve barely had time to lift their heads out of their tills. Now they are kind of realizing, oh yeah, I’ve got some more time now and I can’t find staff and our customers have different expectations.”
Cronk says finding and retaining staff is the big issue for most golf courses. “A big part of that is managing millennials and their changing expectations and getting people to do jobs that no one wants to do anymore,” Cronk says. “Twenty-year- olds don’t want to do dishes anymore and they don’t want to dig sand traps at five in the morning in the rain. . .kids want to be trained, they want to learn things, they don’t want to be doing the same thing over and over again. So that’s the issue, finding, attracting, maintaining, managing staff is definitely the No. 1 thing.”
But definitely not the only thing. Cronk says GIG aims to provide information on nearly everything involved in golf course operations. Want some tips on training your course marshals? They’ve got that covered. A course on beverage cart operations is in the works. “Our members ask us for stuff,” Cronk says.
“Someone will say I am looking for a document or template on a policy on comfort dogs in the restaurant. That was one of our actual questions. So we go out and find a guru on comfort dogs and then we turn that into a GIG template and that goes out to our GIG Nation and anyone who is looking for that can search it on our platform and go through it.”
Earlier this month, GIG spent time filming a course at Point Grey Golf & Country Club — a GIG client — on what Cronk calls the 'big six' of table service. “What’s happening right now at restaurants all over the place is that a guy or girl walks in the door and the next day they are serving customers.
"The restaurant would love to train them thoroughly and effectively, but they don’t have the staff. They are just trying to stay open. This is something where you can say to your brand new employee, over the next couple of days I want you to watch this four-hour course, watch it on you phone or listen to it on your drive home. You are at least going to know more than you did two days ago.”
GIG clients range from high-end operations like Royal Melbourne in Australia and Predator Ridge in the Okanagan to mom and pop operations. They pay about $3 a day or roughly $1,000 a year. In Canada, members of the National Golf Course Owners Association of Canada get a slight discount. “Our product is not intended to be the only thing a club uses to train staff, but we have tried to make it so affordable it is a no-brainer,” Cronk says.
Morgan Creek Golf Club in Surrey was one of the first courses to join GIG and director of operations Ron Good says it has been an invaluable tool for his club. “We think it is extraordinary,” Good says. “It has given us such a great resource at our fingertips. It’s fresh, it’s up to date, James has connections around the world and has access to some great people. We never had a resource like this and it is extremely cost-effective for us. It makes training so much easier because staff can go in when they have time to look at different modules. We are really pleased with it.”
Kendall Keeley, general manager of Eagle Ranch Resort in Invermere, B.C., says GIG has been a huge benefit to him as someone relatively new to golf course management. “I am a younger general manager so walking into a job like this I didn’t have a lot of experience to draw upon,” Keeley says. “So to be able to log into their platforms and have those things already created that I can just grab helps me greatly. Also the leadership courses that they do have been great.”
Keeley said GIG has been a big assistance to the resort’s human resources department and its golf shop has used the platform to help increase sales. “This year we have seen our sales increase even with fewer rounds played,” he said.
Cronk and Masse see significant growth opportunities for GIG. They hope to soon make a major push into the United States and also Europe. “We’re close to the century mark so we are on our way,” Cronk says.
Go to golfIndustryGuru.com