Christopher May CCM has over twenty five years experience in the golf industry, currently Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Golf which owns and manages Dubai’s leading golf clubs, Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. His previous career experience in the UK includes managerial roles at the Jack Nicklaus designed London Golf Club, Woodbury Park Golf and Country Club for former Formula One World Champion Nigel Mansell and Marriott Tudor Park Golf and Country Club. Chris was instrumental in bringing the CMAE’s MDP to the Middle East in 2016.
Here Chris explains the business changes Dubai has seen over the years and how his clubs have managed to stay upright despite intensified competiton
You have been in the middle east now for 20 years, what are the major changes you have seen in the region in that time? Is business getting easier or harder?
I arrived in Dubai in 1999 and at that time Dubai was relatively unknown, and in the period since then the city has been transformed and has achieved global recognition in many different aspects. One of the most important developments has been the growth and success of Emirates Airline in providing a substantial network of destinations linking Dubai to the rest of the world, this has been instrumental in enabling Dubai to grow at such a rapid pace. The other critical areas of growth have been in the hospitality and retail industries which have developed rapidly and transformed Dubai into a world class destination with an array of amazing hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and unquestionably top level golf courses!
Business is without doubt more challenging, competition in Dubai has definitely intensified in the period I have been here in all aspects of business, which I see as a positive as I firmly believe competition encourages improvement. When I arrived there were only three grass golf courses in the UAE, there are now over 20! This scenario is similar in most sectors and without doubt the competition has forced every business to review its performance and to focus on improving and delivering improved customer experiences.
You are responsible for the Emirates Club and Dubai Creek and Yacht Club both of which are the two earliest clubs in the region. They have both managed to stay right up at the top of the list of clubs in the region despite a lot of new competition, what’s the secret?
We are very fortunate to have been the pioneers in the golf industry in Dubai, with the first two grass courses in Dubai, interestingly both Clubs are celebrating significant anniversaries this year, 25 years at Dubai Creek and 30 years at Emirates GC. Both Clubs have managed to maintain their status as the premier Clubs in the region by continually improving and investing in the facilities. Both Clubs have been taken great care to look after members and guests on every visit to the Club and we are really fortunate an amazing team who really make a difference every day and have shown great loyalty and service to both operations. Hosting the Omega Dubai Desert Classic every year has also helped in enhancing the profile of both Clubs (Dubai Creek hosted the event in 1999 and 2000) , and the quality of the courses has regularly attracted the very best players in the world to the event, with an amazing list of Champions including Woods, McIlroy, Els, Ballesteros, Olazabal, Montgomerie, Couples and Garcia.
You were one of the first managers to get the CCM designation in Europe / Middle East, what was your motivation behind that?
Education and development has always been important to me and this was an area that needed improvement when I arrived in Dubai in the golf industry. There was little opportunity for personal development and training, so when CMAE was formed and provided the opportunity through CMAA this was something I was keen to pursue. The journey has without doubt helped me develop into a better leader, and the opportunity for networking with industry leaders and attending CMAA World Conference has been very enriching. I am proud that we are now able to provide the opportunity for others in the region to learn and develop through CMAE with the MDP programmes.
You have been instrumental in getting the CMAE’s MDP to the Middle East and it has had two successful years at Dubai Creek with over 70 delegates. How important do you feel the MDP has been to the development of club management in the UAE / Region?
After successfully attaining CCM certification the next logical progression was to be able to provide that opportunity for others in the region. So with the help of CMAE and Mike Braidwood we hosted the first MDP course in the region in 2016, followed up with two further courses in 2017, with more to follow next year.It has been encouraging to see the support these learning opportunities have received in the region,in particular the development of Middle East nationals from the UAE, Oman , Qatar and Saudi Arabia has been very encouraging for the future of the industry in the region.The MDP programme is invaluable as it provides a clear framework for development and a roadmap for a career in Club Management.
We have seen a small number of Middle East nationals attain the CMAE Club Management diploma, are you experiencing an increasing number of Middle East nationals wanting to enter the profession?
It has been very rewarding to see several Middle East nationals attain the diploma, and this is a natural progression for the industry. We now have local nationals managing Clubs in the UAE and Oman which will further develop in time, CMAE and its education programme helps in developing a clear pathway which is important for us all. We are now starting to see successful nationals from other industries expressing an interest to join the Club Management field, we currently have over 20 UAE national working in our team and this figure will definitely grow in the future.