Integrated Team Management: Does It Still “Play in Peoria?

Features - Operations

Andy Morris revisits a topic Golf Course Industry explored 11 years ago.

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December 3, 2018
Andy Morris
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I recently ran into Pat Jones at the Green Start Academy. Pat and I have known each other for over a decade and back in 2007 he wrote an article about our management team and the Country Club of Peoria. The article focused on how we had integrated our management team and how we worked and communicated together. Pat asked if I could write an update or “the rest of the story” about the club today and how it has adapted after a decade. He passed along a copy of that February 2007 article and I took a stroll down memory lane as I looked it over. In reading the article, I realized how our club has changed and evolved over the years, and yet the core management principles that were established back in 2007 are still in place.

For a club that is 121 years old, we are still in the game. Our membership has always stayed in the 450- to 500-member range and as managers we have learned to operate and control costs around that revenue stream. Since 2007, we have had four general manager changes and an interim GM to fill the gaps. I was fortunate enough to be invited to fill that interim GM position and it has always been a rewarding experience.

That said, I was always glad to hand it off to the new GM once they arrived. My passion is turf management and there is no denying that. Each GM has been uniquely different and had their own ideas and direction they wanted to see the club go, but many of the policies and procedures for communication established over a decade ago are still functioning and in use.

The three general managers mentioned in the article were Mark Bado, MCM, Scott Brownfield, a PGA Professional, and myself. Mark left the club in 2008, but Scott and I are still working together. Mark remains one of my closest friends in life and a mentor to me. Chris Reis, CCM, is currently our GM. In the 2007 article, we discussed the implications of one of the team members leaving and how that could impact the management team. In general, each new GM has accepted the communication pathways and weekly meetings as part of their operational procedures.

We still have open lines of communication between departments. Weekly and daily meeting are still held among different department heads just like they were established in 2007. The team still realizes that we all play a part in a member’s or guest’s experience at the club and each of the managers play a role in that experience. That commitment is even communicated to the line-level employee as established in the policy over a decade ago.

The 2007 article suggested that clubs needed to be dynamic in order to meet the needs of their members. Our club is no different and has made many changes in order to serve our members. The club today is much more family-oriented and kid-friendly. The youth programs in swimming, golf, tennis and summer kids camp are well attended and supported by the membership. In the last decade, we have seen many more family age members join the club, yet we still have older traditional club members to consider. That may be one of the biggest challenges we face as a club. How do we make the club exciting and more casual for our younger members while keeping the traditional members engaged?

We work hard at striking that balance every day the doors are open. The addition of a new “sports bar” themed area in the club has been a great success but we still offer a formal dining area for those who would like that experience. The dress codes have been loosened to provide a more casual environment. We have a “kid’s zone” where mom and dad can drop the kids off and then go downstairs and have a nice relaxing dinner. We have a casual Friday evening cocktail party on our front lawn circle every few weeks during the summer. Members can just drop by and socialize for an hour after work then get home to their families.

We strive to make the club an extension of our member’s homes just as we did in 2007, always understanding that we need to be dynamic in nature and constantly think of new ways to engage and provide services for our membership. Townhall meetings are held a few times each year for the membership to have an open forum to communicate expectations and needs to the board of directors at the club. All this is done in order to build a club that serves all our members.

On the golf side, we still have men’s league, ladies’ day and our gentlemen’s game (seniors), but new to the mix are a much more active junior program and a junior golf team. We even have a junior club championship that is played annually. We also have a ladies evening league for women who work but want to enjoy a round of golf and camaraderie with other professional women. Scott Brownfield and his staff do a fantastic job at promoting and developing these programs. The goal is to provide the activities and interactions that our members want and expect from the club and those expectations are different for every member.

We continue to host numerous golf outings and fundraisers during the season. These events are good sources of revenue and exposure for our club. We continually look for and discuss ways to improve our operations, in not only golf, but club-wide. Everyone’s input is valuable and appreciated, but more importantly, their input is respected.

As for me, I have seen many changes after 15 years at the club. Scott Brownfield and I have worked together for all 15 of those years. Have we always agreed with each other? Not always, but we have always respected each other for what we each bring to the table. I know superintendents don’t always have the best relationships with their golf professionals, but I can tell you it is much easier when you do.

When we add Chris Reis, our new GM, into the fold, then we are an even better team. We have a commitment and trust in each other and share ideas and information.

It is undeniable that a team can accomplish far more than any one individual could accomplish on their own. So, even 11 years after the publication of that first article, it’s more true than ever that integrated management is what “Plays in Peoria.”

Andy Morris is the superintendent at Country Club of Peoria in Peoria Heights, Ill.