Holywood

Holywood Golf Club is putting a lot of work into improving their facilities at present as they look to continue to develop what they can offer to their visitors. Golf Club Magazine recently caught up with General Manager Paul Gray to find out more about the good work that they’ve been doing lately.

Involvement

He told us, “I grew up at Holywood as a junior member and when I turned Professional I worked in a local Club called Blackwood before moving on to Killarney Golf and Fishing Club in Kerry. Then in 1999 the position of Head Professional at Holywood came up and I was lucky enough to get it.

I held this position for nine years and in 2008 the opportunity came up to move into Club Management, always up for a challenge I thought I could make a difference and have been doing the role of General Manager ever since.  I have a lot of passion for Holywood, I am very grateful to it for bringing me up in the game I love and giving opportunities to have a career in something I love doing.”

The Role

“I love making a difference and improving the facilities and experiences for members and visitors, this is definitely the most rewarding part for me. The most challenging part is when I don’t always get it right and people have bad experiences but I am getting better at minimising these and every bad experience is a lesson that helps to make them fewer and fewer as the years go on.”

Atmosphere

“It is the most exciting chapter Holywood has ever witnessed.  Not only with the emergence of Rory McIlroy but we are building an extension to the Clubhouse which will contain a state of the art fitness suite, an indoor golf entertainment bar and three state of the art Academy Bays with the latest technology.

I was looking for ways to bring new customers to the Club and also upgrade our teaching provision through an academy and had put together a scheme on a scale that I felt the Club could afford. I happened to be in my local gym one morning and bumped into Rory. We were chatting about golf fitness and I was telling him my plan to put in a gym and academy at the Club. He immediately wanted to be involved and called up that day to see the plan, from there he made the dream possible with additional help and today we are building some of the finest facilities in the world.

The members are very lucky to have this opportunity; many of them are members of gyms already so they are delighted that they will be able to have their fitness and golf memberships combined into one.”

2018

“After a terrible winter we have been playing catch up but the summer has started fantastically so hopefully it continues. Our building work is on schedule and that really is the focus for this year.

We aim to complete the development at the Club in March 2019 just in time for the return of The Open Championship to Northern Ireland. Everyone is really looking forward to the return of the Open and excitement is starting to build, it is going to be one of the greatest crowds the Open has ever seen.

We also are recruiting new women to the Club through our Women in Golf programme. These women had never played golf before and after trying our eight week programme we have around eighteen signed up in our ‘New to golf’ Membership category that we introduced.  It’s great to see so many new faces enjoying the game.”

Youth

“Holywood has always encouraged and nurtured young talent. Today we aim to take this a step further and make Holywood the number one family Club in Ireland. We have employed a PGA Professional to teach and run a Junior Academy at the Club. His role is to develop the young talent and grow the numbers of children participating in golf.

He visits local schools and offers free coaching programmes and then we bring them to the Club and from there into our camps. We have grown the under 12’s at the Club from 34 to 135 in twelve months and it’s all down to the hard work from Michael. We run a long term athletic development academy and the gym will be a big part of this as the kids develop at the club.”

Community

“We are absolutely a community club. We are located within the Town of Holywood and a big part of our membership live in the town.  We want to do more for the community when we get our academy built and see if we can give something back to those who need it most in the town.

There is some really interesting research out there that has shown how people suffering from mental illness can benefit from the Social interaction of a group golf lesson. With our facilities we will be able to set group sessions like this up and offer it free of charge for these people to help them. There are lots of possibilities, it’s really exciting. We hope to partner a local charity called Sport Changes Life and through them bring people to golf who would not normally get the opportunity.”

Get Involved

“If you’d like to get involved visit our website www.holywoodgolfclub.co.uk or call or email us.  Holywood is going to be more than just a golf club it’s going to be a Lifestyle.

  • It’s a place where your children will get first class coaching and tuition
  • It’s a place where there is lots for you children to do and get involved in.
  • It’s a place where you can lead a healthier lifestyle by using the fitness suite and classes on offer
  • It’s a place where you can have fun in a relaxed atmosphere
  • It’s a place where you can leave your kids into one of our camps and go get a personal training session in the gym all as part of your membership.
  • It’s a place where you will be able to take part in park runs in our woodlands
  • It’s a place where you will be able to play golf all year round no matter what the weather is doing outside on our indoor golf simulators.
  • It’s a place where you will have the latest teaching technology available to you
  • It’s a place where we take pride in the food we serve and want the best for you

Challenges

“I think we are over the worst of the recession, I see people coming back to golf. I think the Open coming to Portrush is going to help and Belfast is attracting more and more tourists every year.  There were over 100 cruise ships that docked in Belfast this year, there are around 14 new hotels being built or just completed. Room occupancy is soaring and what was once a city under siege is now one of Europe’s hottest city breaks. There is lots to see and do in Belfast but people come and enjoy the life here, they enjoy the people and the welcome.

So with all this opportunity the challenge is to capitalise on it and do something unique that will interest people, that’s what we are trying to do at Holywood. Most Golf Clubs need life around them, they need activity, they need families and kids. So to get that you have to meet their needs and have services and facilities that widen the offer from just golf. It can be a challenge without investment but if you find the right people they will make it happen.

The biggest challenge to me is always about finding the right people, I always want people who are like sponges, the people who soak in the information and want more. They will be willing to change with you, they will take you where you want to go. I am lucky I have a great team at Holywood and its getting better every day, the credit is all theirs. I am just here to ensure they have everything they need to succeed.”

Ambitions

“Our ambitions are to get the Academy up and running is the priority and grow our membership with new fitness and leisure members and golf academy members. We then have plans to redesign the course so that we can install a proper driving range, they are very ambitious plans but I feel that’s my job.

My dad always taught me that if anything is worth doing it’s worth doing well and I like to aim for the sky. As Rory said when we discussed the original plans for the academy, ‘If we are going to do it then we may as well do it in style’.”

To view Issue 02 of Golf Club International Magazine, click here