CCM Q&A: Graham Stewart CCM

Graham Stewart CCM is currently General Manager Golf de LaLargue nr Basel Switzerland and has worked in the golf club industry for over 25 years, having worked in PGA Pro and General Manager positions at clubs in Portugal, Germany, Mauritius and now France. Graham is one of our most recent members to have gained CCM in 2017 and is currently on the Board of CMAE.

In this Q&A Graham gives us an insight into how he has developed LaLargue and increased membership and how the MDP is essential for Pro’s looking to take on a management role at the club

You have enjoyed an international career in golf working at clubs in Portugal, Mauritius, Germany and France. Which of these countries was your favourite place to work and why?  

Each country has its own advantage. Weather, earning capacity, cost of living and balanced family life all come in to account. I look back at my time in Portugal with fond memories. I was proud of the golf academy business I set up from scratch with 3 locations on the Iberian peninsula. My time as General manager of Barringtons hotel and Spa in Vale do Lobo was very exciting. We transformed the hotel and created a world class elite sports training center. During my tenure we hosted many Premiership football clubs  whilst growing a health and fitness holiday membership scheme with over 1000 members. 

You have instigated a number of improvements at La Largue, including new membership categories and course upgrades. Can you tell us a little bit more about these and the impact it has had on the club?

My remit was to improve the playing conditions as much as possible and within budget. LaLargue is a  30 year old parkland course near Basel Switzerland that had become very tired. A cash injection via a voluntary  capital share increase  by the members provided some funds for some new equipment and extra staffing.

We contracted  Breamar golf and Turfgrass to advise us and implement a plan for improvement. .we launched some new membership catagories for 21- 40 year olds with reduced annual subscription and a new 1 year trial membership with no commitment.

The club did a complete rebranding a slight name change that led to us renewing all signage, printed material and advertising. We secured over 70 new members in 2017. 

Can you tell us how and why you decided to get involved with CMAE? 

The level of education all of which is residential and with exams following each unit was very important for me. I had attended lots of seminars where the information is just provided and not tested. For me a certificate of attendance is not proof of knowledge, The networking with like-minded managers who all have similar issues to deal with, Recognition of an industry qualification that is accepted world wide and associated with the Club Managers Assn of America.

You completed all 5 MDP courses in 2016 – 2017, no mean feat! What was your motivation for completing the programme so quickly? 

3 reasons, 1) I had amassed a lot of management experience but had no formal qualification for management. 2) I wanted to bring myself up to date with current industry trends and methods and learn from world class instructors. 3) To join a network of likeminded managers.

In what way do you think that PGA pros could benefit and contribute to the MDP programme? 

To manage a golf club from the point of view of a golf pro is in my opinion not a bad thing but the experience and knowledge of a golf pro could come up short in dealing with all of the intricacies, laws and issues of club and facility management.

The 10 core competencies which are taught in MDP 1 & 2 that will lead to a diploma in club management are the foundation of  club management. I would not recommend anybody to take on the management of a club without a Diploma in Club management. Most PGA pros don’t have a clue when it comes to F&B. This was one of my strengths but I took a lot away and gained valuable knowledge from the course at Les Roche Hotel school in Marbella.

The golf operations at St Andrews reinforced a lot of previous knowledge but was still are real eye opener.

The Strategy and Leadership course is an essential part of the CCM qualification providing, real world, in depth solutions to dealing with members, visitors, board members and staff. 

As more and more PGA pros enrol on the training courses with CMAE their knowledge of club management will improve and so should that of their staff.  CMAE is the market leader in training club Managers and staff.