When two North East golf clubs felt that some aspects of their operations risked veering off the ‘fairway’ and ‘into the rough’ for various reasons, they decided to introduce some new players to their game and talk to business students at Northumbria University, writes Paula Sainthouse
The two clubs are in very different areas of the region but both have particularly scenic settings. Allendale Golf Club’s nine-hole course in Northumberland is situated among the hills in an area of outstanding natural beauty, while Whitley Bay Golf Club’s 18-hole course in Tyne and Wear enjoys stunning views of the coast and countryside. Each had very different reasons for seeking the input of the students.
For Whitley Bay Golf Club, with over 800 active members and plenty of golfers using the course, the question was mainly about how to make better use of the facilities to generate additional income, without compromising the positive experience of the many loyal players who were visiting the club regularly.
By contrast, Allendale Golf Club has a much smaller member base of just 128 individuals and with many of them older, there were concerns over how to both maintain and increase membership levels going forward. The club is kept open mainly by the hard work of volunteers and many facilities, such as the bar in the grounds, are not fully utilised due to not having employed staff to run them.
Both called on the support of the Business Clinic on the advice of friends and acquaintances who’d had good experiences in the past with the initiative. The Business Clinic at Newcastle Business School is an education scheme whereby a group of business students form a ‘consultancy firm’ to provide free advice for clients. Students are asked to analyse the problem they are presented with, consider possible solutions and provide a detailed report and full presentation of their recommendations for their client.
Two teams of business students decided to tee up for the different golfing challenges. Allendale Golf Course was advised by Katie Eastwood, Lily Johnson, Rachael Russell and Chloe Tully, who joined up to create ‘Team Endeavour’. Whitley Bay Golf Course worked with ‘Four Bridges Consultancy’, made up of Ashleigh Foster, Heather Johnson, Kirsty Huggins and Megan Barratt. The two groups thoroughly researched their respective courses, the facilities and current and potential usage, considering a range of options to suit each club.
Colin Wraith, chairman of Allendale Golf Club, was impressed with the students’ work. “They were excellent, their work provided a great refresher for us when looking at different areas where we could potentially develop the club,” he said. “Their report was very helpful, particularly their review of possible community initiatives. We’ll be sharing their findings with the general committee for discussion. Overall, I have to say they were extremely professional, the work was of a fantastic quality and the whole experience has been great.”
Keith Williamson, one of the directors at Whitley Bay Golf Club, agreed. “The students were very easy to work with and had clearly thought about the problem we posed to them before we even met for the first time,” he said. “The research they provided was thorough and very relevant and it was great to get a fresh look at our club from four non-golfers, as this provided a level of insight we would not have been able to get from our members. Their report is now with members of our committee and we’ll be looking to discuss their findings at future meetings.”
Both Colin and Keith would recommend the Business Clinic to others who are in need of consultancy support. Since the Business Clinic started more than 600 students supervised by Clinic staff have advised over 145 organisations on a wide range business problems. The total value of the students’ pro bono consultancy reports has been estimated by the client organisations to exceed £700,000.
The Business Clinic is part of Northumbria University’s award-winning Business School; recognised as Business School of the Year in 2015 and more recently, the first North East Business School to win the Small Business Charter for services to SMEs. To contact the Business Clinic’s consultancy services email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allendale Golf Course www.allendale-golf.com
Whitley Bay Golf Club www.whitleybaygolfclub.co.uk(