For the past 100 years golfers have been coming to stay at the dramatic Whitsand Bay Hotel & Golf Course in Portwrinkle, which overlooks the Cornish bay from which it takes it name. Recently visitors have been benefiting from substantial investment by the Phillips family in both the hotel and course maintenance equipment.
The Phillips bought the property in 2003, after looking as far afield as Australia for a business they could run together. “In this business you never get a day off, so we wanted something we could run together. Our family has wide experience in the hotel and restaurant sector, but we have never owned a golf course before,” explains Paul Phillips. “Coincidentally my mother and father had been taking holidays at this hotel for years.”
In the past two years the family has completely refurbished the hotel’s 32 bedrooms. But the golf course was already in fair condition, requiring only investment in new equipment to improve the quality. “I think the head greenkeeper Steve Redman and his team were spending more time fixing the old equipment than they were looking after the golf course,” adds Paul.
As soon as Steve had the go-ahead to replace machinery he went straight to see Roy Key at the groundscare division of local John Deere dealer Cornwall Farmers. “I have worked for a competitor in the past, and I know – from the inside – how good John Deere equipment is and the level of service I could expect,” said Steve. “We sat down with Roy and discussed our requirements, and built up a package that suits our needs.”
The course was laid by Willie Fernie of Troon in 1905 and is designed to suit the holiday player as well as the serious club golfer. Challenging holes mingle with straightforward ones – all with dramatic views. At about 5,800 yards it is not a long course but it has a lot of small greens and light areas which, combined with its age, make it more difficult to maintain.
The new John Deere fleet consists of three 220A walk-behind greens mowers, two 2500A greens mowers, two 2653A tees & surrounds mowers, two 6×4 diesel Gator utility vehicles, a 4610 compact tractor equipped with front loader and a 4110 compact tractor.
The investment is already paying off, claims Steve, with a noticeable improvement in quality all around the course. Presentation is the key, and players are already noticing this, with the club now having more members than ever before.
There are currently 370 members plus 40 associate members, who are regular visitors or have holiday homes locally. The hotel improvements have also boosted visitor numbers. Even on a weekend in early April the hotel was full, with some guests coming from America and Holland to stay and play the course.
“The regular golfers also notice the difference,” says Steve. “They do mention it and it is good for the image, as presentation becomes increasingly more important. People’s perception of golf courses has changed enormously over the past five years. They are used to seeing The Open and other major events on TV and their aspirations increase. They also want to play on finely manicured courses and, indeed, are beginning to expect it.”
John Deere www.johndeere.co.uk
Whitsand Bay Hotel & Golf Course www.whitsandbaygolf.co.uk