I have known Jason O’Malley for over 20 years and when I saw that he was celebrating 15 years as Managing Director of Woburn Golf Club I thought it only right that we meet up and write a blog about his time at the club.
Jason and I have played many times together mostly in the GIGS society meetings and conversations are never difficult, we love chatting about the golf industry and the challenges and pleasures it brings. On this particular day, both of us did not have time for a game but instead we met for an alcoholic-free lunch wow how things have changed!
Jason came from a very commercial background working for Marriott for a number of years, having worked his way up in the organisation through a number of positions. He remembers taking over at Woburn and realising straight away that this was a big club with very different dynamics from the commercial group he had previously been used to.
Woburn is owned by the 15th Duke of Bedford, to who Jason reports directly. I asked Jason what it was like to work for one man rather than a worldwide conglomerate and the biggest insight he gave was the realisation that any decision has to fit the Woburn brand and continue to build the family legacy. Woburn will be around long after both Jason and the current Duke, so everything has to have a long-term view as well as a commercial perspective, which is very different to many commercially-run golfing establishments.
After 15 years Jason has formed a good relationship with The Duke and has learned and continues to learn from his ability to see the bigger picture, rather than be caught up in the day-to-day struggles that Jason sometimes has to deal with. He also challenges Jason on any new projects and always seems to ask those difficult questions Jason hopes to avoid.
Certainly, Woburn is one of the busiest clubs in the country which copes with full membership of approximately 1,500 alongside a full corporate calendar. Jason’s biggest achievement of which he is most proud over the last 15 years is his team. Developing and recruiting good people is a passion and underpins all he does at Woburn. An example of this was the introduction of a new courses manager early in his tenure which was a significant change and all three courses have been transformed, thanks to the staff buying into the overall project and to The Duke for investing in machinery and education to implement continuous improvement.
This has led to one of Jason’s other passions, which is sustainability with the objective to be one of the most sustainable and environmental clubs in Europe. Bando towels have been introduced to the club and he believes Woburn can help in a small way within their overall ethos regarding sustainability. Please click on the link below to see what Jason and his team have designed and promoted regarding their sustainable ethos. It could be very useful for other club managers who are maybe looking to design and promote their sustainable and environmental plans.
Woburn has run many high-profile golf tournaments since it opened in 1976 with some of the best players in the history of the game-winning the most sort after men’s and women’s titles. The plan is to continue to be able to host and attract major tournaments taking advantage of its location in the country and the land the Duke owns when it comes to car parking and infrastructure for big events.
The latest project that I was keen to see on my visit was the Titleist Performance Centre a project that took Jason out of his comfort zone but one he really enjoyed working on with a major golfing brand. I have to say the end result is amazing. I have been lucky enough to see some great facilities in my career but as an academy, this is by far the very best I have come across.
It is a cross between something out of James Bond and a Sci-Fi movie. The attention to detail from both Titleist and Woburn is really impressive. It first opened in September 2020 and was to be only used for Titleist tour professionals with some of the biggest names in world golf trying out the facility. Now it is open to mere mortals but just one a day at £500 for a three-hour custom fitting experience.
When I visited there were two European stars who both agreed with my view that this was an exceptional facility. Enforcing the long-term and commercial view The Duke adheres to the academy represents a sound financial arrangement for both parties, but also provides a reputational gain that will be seen for many years to come, as I could not see Titleist wanting to leave anytime soon.
Overall I came away feeling that Jason has really enjoyed his 15 years at the club but there is still so much for him to do and look forward to as Woburn continues to develop and strive to be one of the biggest clubs in the country for now and for many years to come.
Until next time