Michael Braidwood CCM is the General Manager of Education City Golf Club in Qatar. A Certified Club Manager and Advanced Fellow of the PGA, Michael is a very experienced Golf Industry Professional. Michael was previously the Director of Education for the CMAE, Operations Director for Braemar Golf Developments, CEO of Bahrain International Golf Course Company and General Manager of the Riffa Golf Club, Bahrain. Before moving to Bahrain, Michael was a Golf Professional at The Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland.
In this Q&A Michael explains all about the ECGC project and about the new Middle East & North Africa region of CMAE.
Education City Golf Club is currently in its pre-opening stage and will be opening imminently. Can you tell us a little about the project and what attracted you to the role of General Manager?
We are commencing our soft opening on January 1st and expect to be fully operational by the 1st April. Is it a large upscale golf project featuring 33 holes of golf – 18 hole championship, 9 hole par 3 and a full size 6 hole course which has 3 primary purposes i) Quick golf, people are time poor now so you can play 6 holes in around an hour, ii) the course has 7 teeing grounds per hole which can really help reduce the lengths of some holes, so for beginner golfers they can start on the forward tees and work back as their game improves. Also 6 holes is perfect for a beginner to start out on, iii) with 7 teeing grounds it makes the course multi generational, parents can play of their regular tees whilst kids can tee it forward. I played with my 79 year old mother recently and she loved the course off the very front tees, first time she had had so many birdie chances in years!
The courses are great, but the practice and tuition facilities are also very impressive, we will have the first Trackman range in the Middle East. Trackman ranges allow people to check-in via the Trackman app, so when they practice all shots are tracked, so you get instant feedback on where your golf balls have gone, this information coupled with some innovative games will make practice more engaging and interactive. We have developed a golf tuition facility called the Centre of Excellence, the most technologically advanced and holistic tuition facility I have ever seen, with the latest golf tuition tech., a gym (for golf), indoor putting studio and a private area for Qatari ladies to learn that is in line with their customs.
To compliment this we have a well-appointed club house with huge gardens where we can activate SNAG Golf, Foot golf as well as having a fun putting green, all designed to activate interest in golf !
We are really lucky we have great facilities and a lot of space. My job is to activate this space with the great team of people we have developed.
What difficulties come with maintaining a high quality golf course in a desert region?
The main challenge is water management, in the summer we experience temperatures of over 45C, so our golf course maintenance team are constantly on the lookout for dry spots. This get more challenging if we have to irrigate in the wind. Other factors are grass is susceptible to disease during humid periods and we experience high humidity from June through to October. Another challenge is insect activity were the roots of the plant can be decimated in a few days by hungry larvae.
Our Golf Course Superintendent Darren Smith has worked in this region for over 15 years, so is well versed in the climatic conditions so knows what to look out for. The key is a strong proactive plan to ensure quality playing surfaces all year round.
What role will ECGC play in growing the game of golf locally?
We are doing a lot with a big focus on juniors and students. Over the pre-opening phase we have been visiting schools and universities (there are 9 universities in Education City) introducing golf to students. A lot of the students come from countries where golf is not a main stream sport so this is the first time they have been exposed to it. Its brilliant seeing people’s faces light up when they roll in a 3 metre putt !
We have developed a really good team building product for corporates, so we aim to target new golfers through company team building days.
Finally there is a massive opportunity for ladies golf here in Qatar and we have developed the facilities to do this. If they know you are culturally sensitive and provide what they need (all female coaching staff and privacy) then they will attend. We are looking forward to the challenge and will monitor our results closely.
You spent three years as the Director of Education for the CMAE. What was the transition like going from a small not-for-profit organisation to managing a golf club with your own team of management staff?
The transition was straight forward for me, I had held a similar role in Bahrain 1998 – 2010 so I knew what to expect. This time I was better equipped having attending MDP, various club management conferences and attaining my CCM. The number one achievement for us so far has been the recruitment of top talent for our team, I believe this is crucial to our success. We have been blessed with wonderful facilities, but it is the people that bring the facilities to life.
Can you tell us what plans are in the pipeline for the region in terms of club management education?
We have recently set up CMAE Middle East and North Africa Region (CMAE MENA)and have a Board with representatives from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Oman. All the Board members are either CCM or CMdip so know the education pathway well.Chris May CCM from Dubai will chair the board and following the success we have had with the MDPs in Dubai over the last 3 years I am confident we will be able to further develop CPD and Club Manager education here with quarterly regional work shops. Our first event will be in April where communications expert Bill McFarlan will do a one day work shop in Qatar, Oman and UAE, so this is really exciting for us.I think our only challenge is we are all so spread apart making it challenging to get people together in one place.