The Official Home for Asian Golf Awards
The prestigious and much sought after Asian Golf Awards programme is now enshrined in its own dedicated web site. This virtual museum in cyberspace is devoted to recognising and honouring the best in the Asia Pacific Golf industry – men and women and clubs that collectively help deliver a world class experience for golf! It is widely regarded as the “Oscars” of the Asian golf club industry. The programme has just finished its 18th year and winners in over 50 award categories were recognized during the staging of the Asian Golf Awards in Da Nang, Vietnam.    

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A rolling stone gathers no moss

by Stacey James Walton, Managing Director, GLS Asia Limited.
Golf Club and Golf Resort Management Services

It is an old proverb often interpreted as referring to symbolic nomads who avoid taking on responsibilities or advancing in their own knowledge, experience, or culture. Another interpretation equates "moss" as to "stagnation"; as such the proverb can also refer to those who keep moving and lacking for fresh ideas or creativity.

So, where am I heading with this old proverb in the context of the golf industry and club management? Well, it’s two-fold, first it is about addressing the need for change as an industry and making golf relevant for the future growth of the game and business development for stakeholders. It’s also about club management core competencies and leadership skills to drive the principals of change management in an organization.

Change is inevitable. Let’s take a look at change from an industry perspective. Since 1497, golf as we know it today originated from a game played on the eastern coast of Scotland in the Kingdom of Fife during the 15th century. Players would hit a pebble around a natural course of sand dunes, rabbit runs and tracks using a stick or primitive club. Today, we see a constant influx of new technology, equipment and distances that tour professionals are reaching make a championship golf course of 7,000+ yards seem too short for them whereas we can count on one hand how many rounds are played from the black tees or ‘tips’ in every day club life. The controversy of designing and building courses at 6,500 yards seems a very logical one to me.

So, where are we heading in the next 100 years with the equipment, technology and in building golf course designs making them relevant for the needs of amateurs and sustainable as a business? There is a significant performance gap on the golf course between amateurs and professionals something that needs to be addressed. I expect that the “golf ball” and course designs of the future will be quite a hot topic around the conference.

The first known Rules of Golf were drawn up in 1744 in Edinburgh for the world's first 'open' golf competition at Leith by the Gentlemen Golfers of Edinburgh, who would go on to become The Honorable Company of Edinburgh Golfers.  The Royal & Ancient Golf Club (R&A) In 1897 were given control of the Rules and Golf by the common agreement of the existing clubs, who were mostly British. The R&A published the first 'national' set of rules in 1899.

The US Golfing Association, founded in 1894, adopted the R&A rules of 1899 and published them in 1900 for American golfers. Golf associations outside of USA and Mexico continued to recognize the jurisdiction of the R&A in the matter of the rules of golf. For fifty years from 1900, the R&A and the USGA operated separately but, since 1952, they have worked co-operatively to produce a universal code.
 
A major milestone change is when the USGA and R&A announced a series of proposed changes to the Rules of Golf, which would take effect in 2019. Significant changes will promote the pace of play and become less penalizing such as removing the one stroke penalty when a ball is at rest is moved by accident, talking relief is measured by a fixed distance of 20 inches or 80 inches from the reference point or the reference line; this can readily be measured by using markings on the shaft of a club and in the case of dropping the ball, it can be dropped from at least one inch above the ground. These changes are welcomed by club management and golfers worldwide. Having spoken with the R&A the next project currently being worked on is developing a recognized global golf handicap system.

It only took 260 years for the members of St. Andrews on September 2014 to vote in favor of permitting women. Whilst female players could already use the St Andrews links course, widely regarded as the 'home of golf', they were not allowed in the clubhouse and had no significant part in the sport's rulemaking arm, the R&A.

Recently, I read an article about the top 10 world money list of female professional golfers vs. male. The differences are significant, does this present an opportunity for change at a commercial level for golf tours and corporate sponsorship? In Asia, we are experiencing rapid growth of ladies playing golf and couples.

If you haven’t already read the HSBC Vision 2020 report then I recommend on doing so as the future lies in ladies’ golf, junior development and making the game shorter and courses relevant for the next generation which has already been experienced with newer formats of the game such as the sixes. I also think we will see more format changes in the future as Live TV coverage is not sustainable in the long term and this where change drives creativity and innovation for golf. The next decade will present some very exciting times for the industry and the game as well as opening the doors to corporate sponsorship in using golf to reach their target audience.

The best definition I found on change management “is a structured approach to shifting individuals, teams and organizations from a current state to a desired future state. It’s an organizational process aimed at helping employees to accept and embrace changes in their current business environment”. 

Managing change is a contemporary issue on the curriculum of most Executive MBA’s or Master degrees with a business component. A skill, that is required for 21st Century senior executives and club managers and being equipped with the competencies of identifying the need for change and designing an organizational strategy to manage and deal with change.

Therefore, from a club management perspective at the clubs that GLS Asia manages the following 9 core competencies assist in developing our general managers and heads of department. We use these competencies to evaluate and develop our team and to assist with driving change. 
 
 
1. People Management

Conducts performance reviews, identifies training needs, offers constructive feedback and ensures colleagues have development plans in place. Coaches the individual and the team in order to support career progression and facilitate succession plans for the department. Takes care of colleagues and sensitively resolves issues and problems within the team, maintaining team stability. Identifies what motivates colleagues, adapts style accordingly in order to bring out and capture the best in all team members. Recognises and rewards achievement

2. Influence

Presents logical opinions in an assertive way when trying to persuade and convince others Has confidence to constructively challenge peers and managers and face up to and resolve conflicts. Is visible and has a strong impact in and around the golf club or resort.
Communication
Communicates clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Is open and honest and encourages two-way communication, briefing their team on a regular basis. Is confident when speaking with a variety of customers, colleagues and peers, pitching information at the right level

3. Developing Relationships

Able to gain and build trust and respect from colleagues and suppliers and other departments. Keeps their word and delivers what they promise. Aware of cultural differences and adapts style accordingly. Diplomatic in difficult situations. Shows passion and empathy for customer service Proactively makes regular contact with people around them, adapts appropriately to their needs and requests.

5. Planning

Sets short, medium and long term plans breaking large tasks into manageable pieces. Sets departmental action plans / objectives, with clear deadlines, allocating resources appropriately. Continually reviews plans to ensure deadlines are met. Is focused, organised and able to juggle different priorities in order to meet deadlines

6. Analyzing Information

Controls costs, wastage and effectively manages payroll and expenses against budget. Able to analyze departmental results and data, drawing logical conclusions. Proactively seeks out and researches all relevant information when trying to resolve a problem.

7. Decision Making

Confident in making sound decisions with minimal guidance. Takes calculated risks, considering all relevant factors and has contingency plans in place. Demonstrates an inspirational and innovative approach to problem solving. Learns from mistakes and is open to new ideas, embracing new processes and change.

8. Commercial Awareness

Supports the delivery of the company business plans. Keeps up to date with trends, technology, new legislation, local market and world events that may impact the company. Proactively creates new opportunities to drive sales and maximize profit

9. Resilience

Takes ownership and accountability. Reacts quickly with determination and energy, whilst remaining calm and level headed in order to deliver results. Creates a focused, fun atmosphere where the team is hungry for success. Takes personal responsibility for developing own skills and ensuring continuous learning is taking place.

In summary,

Change happens for the pressure of both internal and external forces in the organization. Change in any part of the organization affect the whole organization. Change may affect people, structure, technology, and other elements of the organization. Change also affect the rate of speed and degree of significance of the organization. Change may be reactive or proactive. Strong resistance to change is often rooted in deeply conditioned or historically reinforced feelings. Patience and tolerance are required to help people in these situations to see things differently. Bit by bit. 

In essence, change is inevitable and as managers we do not forget the effects of the Tiger factor at the turn of this century which made such a difference to the game and its popularity I just wonder if the pace of change in golf over the next decade will be even faster in our industry and keeping it relevant for the next generation. 

Professionally, to be an effective leader in the 21st Century we need to be able to identify the opportunities and need for change, campaign change, adapt to change and implement the changes we see fitting for our industry, club and stakeholders. Then, measure the success and failures as a result of change as sometimes change can be for the better or worse.  Enjoy this year’s Asia pacific golf conference and look forward to discuss industry and management of change with you during the course of the program.