On the 1st July 2021 I realised I had moved back to England 10 years ago following stints in Dubai and Scotland time flies when you are having fun! I had set up Club Inc in July 2011 after leaving Loch Lomond just a few months before and we got our first recruitment search assignment for the General Manager of Tyrrells Wood soon after. The successful candidate was Tristan Hall who stood out amongst a strong line up of other qualified managers.
10 years later and Tristan is now the Managing Director of Sunningdale golf club one of the most prestigious roles in the golf club industry and I was delighted when he agreed to play the New Course with me as part of my review for the top 100 for National Club Golfer.
I last played the New course in 2016 with Tom Critchley ,the son of Bruce Critchley the well renowned golf commentator and golf writer whose family have been so much part of the fabric of Sunningdale. I remembered that I had really enjoyed the New, but my heart still preferred the more famous Old course.
It is always a treat going to Sunningdale and over the years I have been fortunate enough to play both courses, so I was delighted when Tristan said he was not put off by the rain and was happy to see how far we got as the forecast was not looking too good. Tristan took up the “A round with Niall Challenge” again trying to negotiate more shots due to the fact that he had not time to play etc, which is becoming a familiar trait with my opponents, but we settled on him receiving 5 shots.
For the first time this year I had full waterproofs on, and the rain was steady but despite this the course was in great shape and as always was beautifully presented. I got off to a fast start and was 4 up after 4 and was believing that Tristan had indeed been working very hard. I remembered that he was the youngest club manager ever to receive the highest industry award a CCM (Certified Club Manager) courtesy of the Club Managers Association of Europe back in 2010.
Not only had he had to deal with a pandemic, keeping members happy, taking over the running of the famous pro shop and ensuring the courses lived up to their reputation but he was also getting ready to host The Seniors Open in two weeks’ time.
As the rain eased and the waterproofs came off, we discussed how he was using what he had learnt through his studies and workshops that CMAE provide. One of the biggest areas was the governance programme that the club’s board had bought into at the time of his appointment as CEO. Now he worked with a Chairman who was elected to be in the position for a number of years allowing the captain to enjoy his year of captaincy without the hassles that come with the daily operations and long-term strategy decisions.
The number of committees have been reduced and the members sitting on those committees have the necessary experience in the different fields allowing Tristan and his management team the autonomy to run the club.
The golf courses are such an important part of Sunningdale, and their reputations are second to none so careful management is required. Tristan explained that whilst they have spent money on new irrigation systems on both courses and increasing the manpower to 27 making a huge difference in the quality of the fairways and approaches, the most important thing was to concentrate on the attention to detail when dealing with the presentation, definition and flow of the courses. The scores both from the membership competitions and the national amateur events held at the club proved that the courses were difficult enough so no real need to ticker with the design. From what I saw this policy was clearly working.
When we reached the famous sausage hut after the 10th hole Tristan had found his game and I was just 2 up. As we enjoyed the scenery and of course the fabulous sandwich we discussed his other role as Chairman of CMAE England.
I had held a similar position as Chairman of Scotland for the CMAE back in 2003 – 2007 and was interested to know how things had progressed especially when highlighting what the CMAE qualifications meant and how those people who were the decision makers in clubs got to hear about and understand the benefits when hiring managers.
As you would expect Tristan is passionate about the association providing knowledge and networking opportunities for managers of the future. He had learnt a lot from the governance review carried out by Sunningdale and implemented a number of policies and delivered a strategic plan. He has also introduced a media plan which will be rolled out shortly highlighting the education CMAE provide and the benefits to clubs. You will be able to hear more about these policies and the CMAE in a future podcast I will host with Tristan in September.
Tristan’s game came alive on the back 9 and when he birdied the 16th with a 35-foot putt the match was back to All Square and I was hanging on. Luckily, I managed to halve the last two holes and the matched finished All Square.
This had been one of the most enjoyable rounds I have played this year and I think the course was in the best condition I have played. As you know I have played some great courses in great condition so that says a lot. In fact, I have written in my report as a panellist that I now think my allegiance has changed from the Old to the New and it could even be voted higher in the rankings. The New course is really giving its famous sibling a run for its money as it reaches its centenary in 2023.
As we sat on the terrace for lunch Tristan highlight how much he was enjoying the role and the fact that he has so many projects and goals to achieve. His team are young but well qualified in all departments and you feel that under Tristan stewardship this prestigious club will not sit on its past glories but strive to get better in every area both on and off the course.
You will be delighted to know that Tristan agreed to provide a four ball for one of our blog competitions so the luck winners will see at first hand this great club.
Until next time