Haverhill Golf Club's new general manager reflects on challenging start to his tenure
For Haverhill Golf Club’s new general manager Matthew Bacon the last few months have felt like nothing he could have ever prepared for.
The 27-year-old started his job a week before the government ordered all golf clubs to take the unprecedented step of mothballing their sites to halt the spread of the coronavirus.
But the new man at the helm of the Coupals Road club quickly swung into action to make sure a detailed robust plan was ready to go well ahead of the seven-week hiatus ending last Wednesday.
With long-serving Steve Ward retiring from the general manager role, Bacon, an ex-England Schoolboys player, came over from two years managing his home club of Costessey Park Golf Club, on the fringe of Norwich, for a new challenge. And he certainly got one.
“It is definitely a very different first few months to what I expected,” he said.
“I couldn’t have ever imagined it but in some ways it is good as you are forced to learn new things and get on with it.”
As well all the operational and financial complications put before him, the last week has seen Bacon mucking in to manage the huge volume of calls for tee time bookings ahead of their re-opening.
The club normally runs with an online system but throughout last week it was unable to operate with the new restrictions that had to be put in place. At the same time he was seeing a spike in interest from potential new members calling up.
In producing a nine-page ‘Returning to Golf’ document circulated to their 600 members after last Sunday’s announcements, having got ahead of some clubs by anticipating safety precautions, he had taken some difficult decisions.
Members have been restricted to nine-hole rounds after the course was effectively split into two separate loops,and a maximum of two peak tee times a week.
“We had to make sure we gave everyone a fair chance to get back playing,” he said.
When he came into the job he also knew head PGA professional Paul Wilby is retiring after nine years, with current assistant Ollie Rush set to replace him on June 1.
But although there has been a lot of change for members, he is confident the club was already on a good footing and with a great course, meaning there is no need for sweeping changes.
“As well as the course, definitely one of the things that attracted me to the job at Haverhill was how strong the committee was and how focused they had been with the future,” said Bacon, who still competes on the East Region PGA circuit.
“They have got some great plans in place and I was really keen to develop those and help them implement those in the coming years.
“Unfortunately this has made it financially a bit uncertain but I am sure the plans will take place, it may just take a bit longer.”
Improving the experience for members is what he said his top priority will be.
“I think my previous roles have been really focused on customer service and golf clubs generally have been very traditional and maybe not as dynamic as they’d like to be. So I think that is certainly something I am able to offer,” he added.
More by this authorRussell Claydon