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Busy Trying To Stay Busy


It doesn't matter whether it's attending an international travel exhibition, Disney management seminar or a promotion at the local Tesco - Formby Hall golf manager Mark Williams knows that every little helps.

Williams, who qualified as a PGA Professional in 2000, is set to celebrate four years at the venue in January 2013, having stepped up from academy manager to oversee the golf operations just a few months after his arrival.

It coincided with the venue, which has the likes of Royal Birkdale, Hillside and Southport & Ainsdale for neighbours, undergoing a multi-million pound transformation from a traditional club to a golf resort featuring a four-star hotel, leisure and spa facilities and a golf facility that included an 18 hole championship course, a nine-hole par three course, driving range and the PGA National Residential Academy.

It was Williams's first step into management and he drew on career that had seen him work at a range of establishments that prepared him for the task.

"When I came to Formby Hall and looked back on what I could offer based on my experience, I had worked at Southport & Ainsdale, a private members club, for six years as an assistant and professional, at a 45-hole, three-hotel resort in Austria for six years and at a busy 60-bay public driving range for four years," said the 38-year-old.

"I'd only been the head of the academy for six months, when I became the golf manager and my role evolved quite rapidly as Formby Hall evolved as well. We all had to move with the increased volume of business.

"When I look at the blend of jobs that I've had, I brought all of those to Formby Hall. If I hadn't experienced all of those roles, I couldn't do the job I'm doing now."


Thrown in at the deep end, Williams learned on the job, while he also improved his own knowledge, aware he needed additional skills.

"When I got the role, I quickly became quite involved with tour operators," he said. "I did three visits to International Golf Travel Market (IGTM), which was a real learning curve. I discovered there are hundreds of tour operators globally that want to send you golfers.

"There were all these huge golfing destinations represented from around the world such as Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Mauritius, Dubai, Portugal, and America. For England there was nothing apart from one hotel chain and us.

"It was three intense days where I was having meetings with operators convincing them to send people to us. From that, I learned how to attract people to Formby Hall.

"Aside from ITGM, I have attended a range of workshops including first aid training, food and hygiene courses, plus a Disney management course, where they explained how they trained their managers and how they operate their resorts. It was incredibly informative and I was able to bring that back to Formby Hall. You never stop learning and no-one should ever think they know everything there is to know."

Williams's day-to-day role entails running the operation and responsibility for 11 staff, while being able to deliver the right service for the range of customers visiting the resort including established members, hotel visitors and societies.

"In the academy, I've three fully qualified pros and one assistant. The three pros coach full-time. One is the head instructor and the other two are senior instructors.

"We have four guys in retail, one of which is a PGA assistant. As for the core staff, I have two guys on the driving range and another two who generally help.

"I'm responsible for them, sorting their hours, all of the regulations, but the one difference to say a head professional at a club is I am not responsible for wages. They are contracted to Formby Hall just like me.


Williams' experience at different facilities helped in landing the job at Formby Hall

"On the coaching front I work closely with the head instructor. We have both been in the trenches for many years and delivered thousands of lessons so we can pass on our experience.

"As for the golf shop, it's no longer just a shop but it's a golf resort reception area so over the past three years there's been a huge change in what's expected of us.

"We have to be accessible to let members sign up for club competitions, book their tee times, while we also handle memberships.

"In addition, we have guests who have come to a four-star resort and expect that service to match, but my way is that we want to exceed their expectations.

"How we stock the shop has evolved and that's entirely my responsible. I have to be able to cater for regular members and transient guests. That does create issues and we've had review our suppliers and select ones we know can have a stock service as we don't like to hold a lot of stock but do frequent replenishments."

Williams also has to focus on the wider business demands placed upon him by the directors and has to be able to meet those across each section of the golf operation.


I'm the guy in the front line, so in addition to doing my administrative work, I've got to have a great feel for the resort in terms of the type of client and what the membership want.

He added: "If you spent a week following me, you would see it's a mixture of roles from eight in the morning to seven at night, five days a week. It literally is non-stop.

"I have five intense days, where there's head of department meetings, board meetings, meeting suppliers, directors, the captain, the lady captain, the junior organiser, as all of those people use me as their main contact. I am the liaison between the membership and the directors.

"I also work with the golf sales manager and marketing manager and see what packages we can put together, and so I'm heavily involved with the budget.

"My owners know I'm the guy in the front line, so in addition to doing my administrative work, I've got to have a great feel for the resort in terms of the type of client and what the membership want.

"There are the different revenue streams to budget for, golf lessons, the driving range, buggy hire, the par three course, the championship course, hotel guests, societies, members, the store, and I'm responsible preparing the budget for all of that for the board. It then falls on my shoulders to meet those. If any of it falls short, it's down to me to explain why.

"I'm contracted to do 40 hours a week but in reality I do about 60. I won't go home until my emails are cleared and my daily to do list is complete. I don't have time to play catch up so I'm fully prepared to put the hours in as I know what's at stake."

To that end, the local Tesco Extra witness two days of activity from the various departments at Formby Hall - as they targeted 30,000 prospective customers. As Williams concluded: "These are still difficult economic times and for us here at Formby Hall.

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