Meet the Managing Director: Glenn Rayner

From Bedfordshire Golf Club, Rayner details the investments the club has made over the past two years, driven by increased attendance, such as in a swing studio, changing rooms, dining facilities, course machinery and bunkers, the governance structure of the club and how it organized county teaching sessions for girls.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Bedfordshire Golf Club?

Bedfordshire Golf Club was established in 1891 but moved to our current freehold site in 2000. We are located just west of Bedford in Stagsden. We are a members club with an 18 hole championship course, nine hole academy short course, 23 bay lighted driving range, short game area, swing studio and large retail store. In our clubhouse we have a bar and terrace on the first floor with views over the Bedfordshire countryside, a dining room with its own terrace and a reception room which can accommodate up to 120 people.

The club has 600 full members and over 200 academy members. Both of our courses are maintained to a very high standard and our Academy course is ideal for the short game of experienced golfers as well as beginners and aspiring golfers.

In terms of the number of members and visitors, what changes have you seen since the start of the pandemic?

Our membership is full, with a waiting list of nearly 200. We have seen huge golf adoption and demand for new members and visitors over the past two years, probably one of the only positive things to come out of Covid! Our short nine-hole course, driving range and retail business have experienced excellent growth, aided by the arrival of many new golfers. Revenue from our Academy Course and driving range in addition to our usual membership revenue has allowed us to reinvest heavily over the past few years.

What is the club doing to get more girls playing golf?

Bedfordshire County Golf has set up a targeted girls academy for our county which we run over six Sunday sessions offering lessons with our team of pros on the course, short game area and short course. We had over 20 girls in each session with a high return rate every week. The key factor I took away from that was that the girls really enjoyed making new friends as much as playing golf. Indeed, I have a daughter who is 12 and I want her to play, but it’s about bringing the girls together to enjoy the game.

We were part of Girls Golf Rocks which is a great initiative. We also recently hosted The Rookie Schools event with over 30 juniors from local schools with a high proportion of girls playing.

The real success of our junior section was the commitment of our junior organizer, Jason Mowe, who did a fantastic job.

A new swing studio has opened at the club, can you tell us about it?

We decided to invest in a new Swing Studio and worked with Creative Interior Contracts on the construction and Golf Swing Systems on the layout. The main reason was fitting clubs from our Ping, Titleist and Callaway brands, but we can also fit putters. The take-up before we even marketed the studio has been fantastic and we’ve seen great club sales since the new studio opened.

You recently opened a new dressing room, how much have you invested in it and what does it now offer more than the previous one?

We have completely renovated our men’s and women’s locker rooms as well as our sanitary facilities. The old showers and toilets were not of the right standard for our club and needed a major upgrade. Creative Interior Contracts was local to our club and they did a great job.

We were very fortunate to have two board members – one who has built and designed hotels around the world and the other who ran his own construction company renovating listed buildings – who developed the space plan and designs and worked with Creative Interior Contracts throughout the project. . The result was stunning and came in at just under £400,000.

Ridgeway Lockers was our locker supplier and did a fantastic job.

What else has the club invested in?

The club’s focus over the past few years has been to improve the overall member and guest experience. With stunning views over the Bedfordshire countryside, we decided to extend our first floor terrace with new furniture and a six meter parasol. We are open to non-members and these improvements have allowed more visitors to eat and drink.

We also spent a considerable amount of money on new machines with Toro and purchased four new pieces of equipment, including a new fairway mower, greens mower, semi-rough mower and Workman.

New rubber crumb paths by Redlynch on many holes really improved the experience and look of our course. We have also worked with Fineturf to make major upgrades to our 15th hole and John Greasley on our recent bunker remodeling and rubber crumbling of bunkers on three holes.

We are now focused on the future with plans to build a reservoir and make significant upgrades to our greens maintenance facility.

What is the club’s governance model?

We have an eight person board of directors who are responsible for club strategy and finances and a general committee which focuses more on the golfing and social side.

Having a board separate from the general committee focused on strategy and finance has meant they have been instrumental in wisely reinvesting club surpluses into the modernization of our golf course and clubhouse . I would encourage other private clubs to adopt a separate board, away from day-to-day discussions about dress code, for example.

Keeping the two separate also helps keep meetings focused and timely.

You have been managing golf clubs since the 1990s. Can you tell us your own story? How do you think the industry has changed since you started?

I first worked in restaurants for Whitbread and Marriott before moving into golf. From there I moved to The Club Company and this resulted in me running the Warwickshire Golf & Country Club for nine years with over 5,000 members in the health club and golf courses at the time. In September 2016, we opened a four-star hotel with 56 rooms. I have been at Bedfordshire Golf Club for two years now and really enjoyed my time at the club. What I enjoy the most is knowing that all excess funds are reinvested back into the club for the benefit of members and visitors.

I’ve been golfing since I was 12 as a junior at Knebworth. The greatest pleasure I feel is to be in a club that caters to both beginners and experienced golfers. I see everyday how this game positively affects the lives of so many people and keeps them fit.

The main challenge in recent years and especially since the Covid, has been the recruitment of staff. Like many clubs and hospitality businesses, we have been busier, but finding the right people to fill key positions has been a challenge. We have only recently recruited for all of our positions and have a great team that genuinely cares about looking after our members and guests.

I also really enjoy dealing with our members who have been extremely patient through all the work.

What are your predictions for the industry for the next few years?

I believe golf will continue to do well because so many newbies have enjoyed it. I’ve seen in our driving range and golf course that there’s a real demand for new people getting into golf and it’s great to see so many women who have started playing and become now full members. Rising costs will be a challenge for many clubs, but clubs that continue to invest in their core product, the golf course and the experience, will continue to thrive.

Michael C. Ford