Rhys Beecher - My career in golf

Rhys Beecher - My career in golf

10/08/2022

Growing up in Wales, Rhys Beecher took up the game of golf when he was just five years old. Playing at the likes of Carmarthen Golf Club, St Pierre and the Ryder Cup venue of Celtic Manor, Rhys studied Applied Golf Management at Bournemouth before completing his PGA Training at both Royal Porthcawl and Celtic Manor.

Having enjoyed successes in the UK, a near 20-year stint followed in the Middle East, with Rhys securing roles at some of Dubai and Qatar’s most prestigious courses. After working as Academy Director and Director of Golf, he has now returned to England and the Royal Automobile Club in Surrey.

How did you hear about the roles in Dubai and Qatar?

Before Dubai, I was an Assistant Professional at Celtic Manor, so I was doing time in the shop, assisting the Teaching Professionals, working in retail, outside services etc, which was a great experience covering all facets of the operation at a busy venue. My wife and I would travel to Dubai for Christmas and Easter to see her family who lived there and, as a result of some networking with local contacts, I was fortunate to be offered a job at the Montgomerie Golf Club, Dubai.

How is this new role at the Royal Automobile Club different to the one in Qatar?

At Education City Golf Club in Qatar, we had a 33-hole facility, which I was fortunate enough to be involved in from conception through to fruition. My background is with larger venues that have busy courses, which The Royal Automobile Club most certainly is. The differing factor is the 17,000 strong membership, which is huge compared to what I've had in the past! But the number of rounds that we do, the business volumes and the number of events are similar. The differing factor is that my background is proprietary clubs and Royal Automobile Club is a member’s club.

I've come from a proprietary background with Celtic Manor and the Middle East clubs, all of which are commercially driven. This is a big change for me, but one that I really wanted to do. One huge difference here is the reporting structure, where-by the various committees and, ultimately, board have their own personal investment in the club. It is refreshing to be perfectly transparent. Our challenges in the Middle East can often be due to the disconnect the owners have, not from the business, of which they are committed, but from the course, as they don’t play as often as members do.

How is the new role going at the Royal Automobile Club?

In short, the role is still very new, but certainly enjoyable. I am learning every day and I'm very lucky that I've got expertise around me as well. We have a talented and committed team who pride themselves on delivering a memorable experience. Our Course Manager (Iain Dye) has done some terrific work with his team in recent years on enhancing the course condition, whilst our Head Professional and Operations Manager (Jason Neve) goes above and beyond to ensure the operation is catered for.

I have some exciting projects ongoing, which will only serve to enhance the club and course as it continues to grow in popularity amongst our members.

What does your new role involve?

The course has a massive membership base, as well as a huge reach. So, along with the 17,000 members, we also have just over 1000 pass holders who are enrolled in golf specifically, so the course is very busy all the time.

I oversee the golf aspect of the club which includes two 18-hole courses (The Old and Coronation). Maintaining the presentation and playing standards of the course is a high priority, whilst planning future developments in the form of a strategic vision. A lot of work has been completed already by Iain and his team, so ensuring the course remains in top condition and excels going forward is a priority.

We're investing in enhancing the quality of the golf course all the time and I am working on projects surrounding that. However, customer service and bringing a heightened service offering is also a focus for me coming into the club. I do have a strong attention to detail and when you have such a busy and vibrant club, I do believe it is the focus on detail that ensures we stay committed to providing a strong hospitality experience.

What was the application process for the role and did being away in another continent affect that?

I was approached by a recruiter, having expressed interest in re-patriating back to the UK. A change such as this does not occur overnight and I had been looking for the right role for around a year. Patience is exceptionally important during this process, however, having been approached for the role, the application process was very brisk.

I think the biggest decision, which I'm so glad that I made, was that even though I was based out in Qatar, I flew across to the UK twice for the interviews. There's no point just doing it over zoom or teams, it just doesn't work. You must show the recruiters and employers that you're committed to the role, so I made the decision to fly over and stay the night in the hotel. That was great because I got to see more of the club and get a sense of what it’s about. Following the first interview, I was invited back a couple of weeks later for a final interview, again flying over from Qatar to attend in person with a new interview panel. This was again critical in providing the right impression of my commitment to the role.

What do you think set you apart for your new role?

I try and be thorough with what I do. I came over and researched the club and did my homework. The interview played to my strengths, in that I was asked to prepare presentations relating to areas of the club and business I would be responsible for. As some advice, I would always go through this process regardless of whether a presentation has been requested. It takes you through the process of learning material, understanding the role and being able to convey this to a panel.

I ended up doing two presentations for the facility, one on my overall analysis of the property and mystery shop experience, the second being focused on enhancing customer service quality and what I would bring to the team. To answer these questions, you have to know the unique nature of the club you are interviewing for and not only the high-level knowledge.

What do you aim to achieve in the role?

For me, it's about helping to steer the golf section in the right direction. The club has committed to golf and building the profile of the golf courses, so I see my role as very much ensuring that it's steered in the right direction, helping the club make the right decisions to enhance golf and to create a better member engagement and member enjoyment. With the club being so vibrant and expansive within its membership, it would be a great achievement to grow what is already healthy and expand on the services offered currently at the club.

What advice would you give to fellow PGA members applying for new jobs?

As a priority, remember that finding the right role is a two-way discussion. The club is looking for the right candidate but, as the candidate, are you looking for the right club? I think sometimes, if you're keen to make a change, you can look at the jobs board and just go for everything. You must remember that it's a small industry and clubs will seek opinion on you as a candidate. Employers always call on people within the network to find out what the applicant is like, so choose which role you want and make sure that you research the club in detail. If within a new location or region, visit the area and get to know as many people as you can, especially those with an inside understanding of how the club operates. 

When it comes to the interview process, always go above and beyond, so that when you get there you've got all the answers to the questions you might be asked because it's a horrible feeling standing in front of someone who asks you about a product and you don’t have the answer. Sometimes this inside knowledge will help you spot any red herrings during the interview and anticipate those tricky questions where there is clearly some background history at the club.

Your network can provide invaluable assistance during this process, both in terms of referencing your attitude and aptitude and helping you understand the nature of the club you are applying for.

So networking is one of the most important factors?

Absolutely! One of the commitments I made was to grow my UK-based network. My network in the Middle East was expansive with suppliers and other club managers and PGA professionals, but coming back to the UK, particularly as I had been away for a long time, I didn’t have that many. So, my commitment was, and still is, to attend as many golf-related events as I can. This is certainly something I would recommend, as you need to have a network for bouncing ideas around.

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