Paul Casely, who is retiring as Kilspindie Golf Club’s secretary at the end of the month, certainly knows how to leave a lasting impression – while other golf clubs struggle to break-even in these tough economic times, remarkably Kilspindie is enjoying what could be its most successful year on record!
Behind-the-scenes golfing guru Casely, says hard work and looking after his members, their guests and visitors are the key ingredients to his undeniable success. He also says having a sense of humour is important, as being a club secretary is no longer a four-hour-a-week honouree position.
Paul, not to be mistaken for Ryder Cup star Paul Casey – ‘there is an L of a difference between my name and his golf game’ – has had 13 memorable years at the Aberlady, East Lothian club, culminating in the club dumbfounding the economic doom and gloom merchants to have its best ever year in 2011.
Paul, who has lived in Aberlady since 1990, explains: “I offered my services to Kilspindie on a short-term book-keeper basis in October 1998 after the then club secretary fell seriously ill, and I have been here ever since. I officially took over in March 1999. I was welcomed by a huge pile of paper work, with no hand over, so the start was not easy. In fact, you might say, if I had been given a job description I may never have taken the job!
“I have had 13 successful years at Kilspindie, and this is mainly down to the staff – office, bar and greens – for without their cooperation and team work it would have been impossible to achieve; and the members who have given their time freely to ensure the club thrives and evolves in the current climate. I would especially like to pay tribute to my assistant, Andrea, who has been with me for nine years and who is fully conversant with all matters. Communication has also played a huge role in the success we have enjoyed throughout my tenure, as I have always listened to what the members, guests and visitors for that matter, want. If you keep the patrons happy most of the time you cannot be doing a lot wrong.”
A lot of changes have occurred during Paul’s time in charge, with the club being in an indisputably better position now than when he took over.
“We have redeveloped almost everything,” Paul explains. “The club house has been completely re-decorated both inside and out; the entrance road has been re-surfaced; as has the car park; we have a new and up-graded irrigation system; and we are about to embark on an extensive upgrade to our green keeper facilities. The club is always looking to better itself, we want to give our golfers the best experience possible.
Paul adds: ”Thirteen years ago the club did not own any of their equipment, today we own everything outright, thus safeguarding the clubs future for years to come. We have achieved all this and have not had to go to the members once for fundraising, which really proves the club is a shining light in these tough economic times. Reserves have been built up so that the club is well funded for any near term, major capital expenditure.”
Kilspindie pitches itself as a different kind of golf course, for example it has never advertised. It relies on word of mouth to attract its members and guests which is quite unique in today’s world. It also places looking after its patrons as its number one priority; the subscription has only gone up £70 in 9 years. Unlike many other clubs, they do not use computerised bookings systems as they value the inter-action and the rapport with clients. Paul’s motto is ‘that you can have all the systems and technology you want, but it is ultimately down to the human being – appreciating and knowing your customer’!
Kilspindie is also in the very fortunate position of having a two year waiting list, another example how the club has dodged the recession. However, Paul takes no credit for this:
“The course is 99% of the operation here, it is such an inviting links golf course. It is a relatively flat, traditional Scottish links course, of medium length and totally exposed to the vagaries nature can throw at it. Visitors and members just love it. When golfers play Kilspindie they simply cannot be disappointed.
Paul goes on: “We are very fortunate that our head green keeper has been with us since he was 16 years old, so he knows the course inside out. He knows what works and what does not, and this knowledge is irreplaceable. This is one of the main reasons why the course is always presented in such fine condition.
“We are also lucky to have a great clubhouse operation, from the bar to the catering franchise. We look to build a fantastic ambience for every golfer who walks through the door, we want their experience to be as memorable as possible. For example, we used to have 4 malt whiskies and two gins available in the club house, we now have 75 malts and 7 gins. This is because if anyone comes in and asks about a malt, we remember, and then go out and buy a bottle – we want our members to feel valued.”
Paul officially hands over the operation to John Leslie, former secretary at the Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club at the beginning of November.
“I am now handing over the baton having built on the foundations of the past. I wish the club continued success in the future and don’t see any reason why this should not happen. It has been a lot of hard work, but I would not change a thing. Kilspindie is a fantastic golf club, and a fantastic place to work. As for me I am going to disappear into the sunset. My wife has a list of chores a mile long that she has been waiting over thirty years for me to do, so I will be kept busy!”
Incoming Kilspindie secretary John Leslie, who has held a similar position at The Merchants of Edinburgh Golf Club for the past six years, is really looking forward to taking up his post.
“I am delighted to be taking over as secretary at such a fabulous golf club. I will look to build on the good work carried out by my predecessors – I am really looking forward to getting started.”
Kilspindie Golf Club http://kilspindiegolfclub.co.uk