One week after announcing that Troon, the largest golf hospitality management company in the world, would assume the day-to-day management of The Golf Club at Southwind beginning Monday, company representatives were in Garden City this week to meet with club owner Craig Boomhower, as well as club staff and members.
Troon officials who visited Garden City and Southwind on Tuesday included Jim Bellington, senior vice-president of operations; Brandon Fowler, director of property transitions; Scott Van Newkirk, executive vice-president, global development officer; and Don Shirey, vice-president of business development for Troon Management Group.
After a day of meeting with club employees, the Troon representatives had a town hall-like meeting with members Tuesday night at Southwind.
On Wednesday, Boomhower spoke about some of the overall goals and objectives he hopes to see materialize when the five-year management agreement takes effect Monday.
“Obviously, I like the group,” he said. “They bring a lot of credibility to the region and locally.”
Boomhower indicated that Troon will be handling day-to-day operations and working with staff to implement changes as they are suggested and then decided upon.
“It will be more on their side,” Boomhower said in response to the changes that might be implemented. “They will make suggestions, and they’re in charge. They know what goals they will want to set, and it’s up to them to see those happen.”
Van Newkirk said that Troon brings experience in golf course maintenance, equipment, golf operations and clubhouse management.
“We’re excited to be involved, and even though Garden City is somewhat remote, we look to create an enhanced experience for what they already have," he said. "We try to look at everything and then suggest improved ways to do things better.”
Troon currently manages 270 properties in 36 states and 31 countries.
“I think we bring a value proposition for the club, and by that it includes leveraging our purchasing power — from golf carts, to maintenance to big ticket items,” Van Newkirk said. “Every department of the club, we have things built in that will make it a better experience for the members.”
Fowler, who will be the point-person for Troon during the first months of transition, said that there will be a period with a learning curve for all parties.
“It’s a learning process for us, and we will lean on our experts to help define goals and how to achieve those,” Fowler said. “Initially, we are probably looking at a 90-day evaluation period, with reports being made at 30 and 60 days to see where the improvements need to be made, and then to see how they are working. It will be clearly defined for everyone as to what we’re going to be doing.”
Fowler said each facility that Troon manages has its own unique characteristic.
“Every club is a little different,” Fowler said. “We want to find out what the culture of the club is like and to create a vibrancy in activities for everyone. We want to meet the people and get their feedback, and get their ideas and then make a determination on how to achieve those objectives.”
Bellington indicated the transition comes at a time when the golf operation is slower as the winter months approach.
“Making the transition with Cole (Wasinger, Southwind general manager/golf professional) and his team and the ownership will be much smoother given the time we have,” Bellington said. “It gives us time to assess the survey information we will gather and then to implement changes when the (2018) golf season begins. That’s part of what we’re doing on this visit.”
Bellington said the the Troon style of management has been successful for more than two decades, and it is their plan to see that work at Southwind.
“We’re looking to improve and embrace what they’re doing and what can we do to make it better,” Bellington said.
Van Newkirk said that it would be the management group’s experience that can help upgrade the club in all areas of the operation.
“We’re able to share our best practices and experiences from all over the world,” he said. “We’ll conduct a comprehensive survey of the membership and see what they are looking for. There’s a million different avenues to do that, but we want to drive the membership experience and help build an improvement plan for them.”
Included in that will be marketing and strategic planning for increasing membership.
“For people to be interested in joining, they have to feel as though it has a value to it and to improving their quality of life,” Van Newkirk said. “Providing a wide-range of benefits to the members is what we want to do, and to have it at high level of quality.”
Shirey had said previously that the Southwind membership would be able to avail themselves of playing privileges at all Troon Privé facilities, as well as at the company’s resort and daily fee facilities.
“We want to provide them a facility and services where they can’t say ‘no’ and want to belong there,” Shirey said.
Boomhower has been the sole owner of the club since January 2009, when he purchased it from the E.C. Brookover Sr. family, who was the founder of the club in 1980 when it opened as Southwind Country Club. Boomhower incorporated the name change to The Golf Club at Southwind after his purchase.
In early January, Boomhower notified members through email that the club had laid off several of its staff and was closing the clubhouse operations for an indefinite period of time.
According to some county officials, the club had been going through financial struggles for some time. The club re-opened April 1, with Wasinger being named the general manager and golf professional. Wasinger, a Garden City native, had been the head golf prof at Buffalo Dunes Golf Course since January 2009.
Originally founded as Southwind Country Club, the private facility was the dream of E.C. Brookover Sr., who owned the property in the sandhills area south of town. It opened its doors in the fall of 1979, and in 1980.
Throughout its history, Southwind has been ranked at various times among the top 10 courses in Kansas by Golf Digest, and is currently ranked No. 10.
Contact Brett Marshall at firstname.lastname@example.org