An American in Cambridge – Part 2

For the second year Gog Magog were privileged to assist a keen young American student at Florida State University (FSU) with an internship in the U.K

For the second year Gog Magog were privileged to assist a keen young American student at Florida State University (FSU) with an internship in the U.K. After the success of the first year, we at the Club knew that we could help a young aspiring manager ‘learn the ropes’.

Taylor was thrown in at the deep end after an unexpected resignation meant that she stepped into the role of my assistant, charged with managing the visitor golf and membership programme. She thought, learning, working, forming new relationships and seeking knowledge about the industry was the menu for the three months, it turned out to be so much more. Taylor gives a full account below.

This summer, I had the exciting opportunity to work overseas at Gog Magog Golf Club in Cambridge, UK. This is the first time I have travelled outside of the United States and the internship was for three months, from the 17th of May to the 19th of August working for James Fuller, General Manager. When I first got here, I thought I was going to be spending time in each department, divided evenly throughout the summer. James had scheduled everything out for me with important things to learn in each area. However, this was not the case. As soon as I landed in the UK, I hit the ground running. I became the temporary Assistant Manager for the first two months; and the same week I started my internship was the week of the ‘Lagonda Trophy’. Not only was I learning about general enquiries, I was helping to run an amazing tournament that included players from around Europe. I was thrown in the deep end, but the team at Gog Magog helped me to make my stay successful.

What I did at the ‘Gogs’:

Assistant Manager Duties:
Stepping into this position was such a wonderful opportunity as I was able to fully immerse myself in the Club in a short period of time. I worked heavily with booking societies, dealing with guests and processing new members. Booking societies taught me about how every part of the Club comes together to help form an amazing day for guests. Many rules come along with this and David, the Golf Secretary, was very patient with me as I tried to learn all of them. Members come first, but there needs to be balance within the Club in order to create a friendly and warm environment for our guests. During my time at the Club I processed 36 new members, ranging from Full 7-day members to cadets, who are just learning to love golf. Working this intensely in membership has given me the opportunity to work closely with the Captain, Lady Captain and Membership Director of the Club. They have been extremely patient and helpful as they taught me how to correctly work within the process. When Gracie Beynon joined as the official Assistant Manager, we worked together to correctly schedule category changes for the membership. She has worked in clubs for a very long time and it was a great learning experience to sit beside her and shadow her the last month of my internship.

Math is not my strongest skillset. James quickly noticed this and decided to spend a good amount of time slowly showing me how to budget, work with profit and loss statements and plan for long/short term goals. James taught me that ‘budgets are wrong as soon as they are written’, whilst an important guide, the goalposts in managing finances at a Club are always changing. They are not something to overthink, they are a calculated assumption used to create a guideline for you to follow throughout the year. I learned that you should start with income and move from there, looking at each aspect of the Club individually before bringing it all together. I learned more about Capital Projects and the correct questions to ask your department heads. Working with our Account Manager, I learned about inputting invoices in the correct nominal codes, ‘T-charts’/balancing and processing the credit and cash from each department. As a future General Manager, planning will be something I will need to excel in both my professional and personal life. Regarding the Club, I learned about creating milestones, looking at every part of the Club and using facts and research to solidify what you’re trying to say.

Event Management:
My time at Gog Magog Golf Club was not sparse of events. I was able to work heavily on Captain’s Charity Day, Captains’ Putter and Captains’ Day. I created table plans to correspond with the traditions of the Club as well as spreadsheets to keep track of all the Food and Beverage aspects. The most work I did was for the Captain’s Charity Day. I learned a great deal of event planning through this one day as I oversaw the sponsors, the team entries (37 teams were entered by the end) and the payments coming in. Working with both the sponsors and the teams had me balance my time on start sheets and enquiries. I created a pamphlet for the day which included information on all the smaller competitions on the course as well as the sponsors for every hole (34 in total). This was the first time I had ever worked with MS Publisher and I believe it was a successful learning experience. I was also around for the ‘Lagonda Trophy’ as mentioned earlier, as well as the English Girls’ Open Amateur Stroke Play Championship that was held at the Club from the 29th July to the 1st August. This taught me that no matter how prepared your entire staff may be, you always need to be on your toes, as the unexpected, tends to happen.

I was able to witness our greens team perform very in-depth maintenance work on our Old Course. I learned that the grass needs L.A.W.N. to grow; which stands for Light, Air, Water & Nutrients. I watched as our team used the pro-core machines, scarifying and sanded the greens and tees. This was eye-opening as I have never seen the entire process.

People Management:
Whilst playing an integral part in the running of the office, it became clear that people management was a key fundamental. I learnt how to manage professional relationships both in and out of work, an experience that can only be learned ‘whilst on the job’. I learnt that the General Manager has a great working relationship with the staff BUT will do what is necessary to manage the business and the interpersonal relationships within the staff. This can sometimes be a lonely place to ‘exist in’ but key to successfully leading.

This internship was unlike anything I had expected, in the best way possible. It pushed me to my limits and opened my eyes to what exactly being a General Manager of a Golf Club entails. I have worked in Food and Beverage my entire life, so being in the ‘Back of House’ side of things has been an incredible experience. I have learned a great deal including Membership, Society Bookings, Budgeting, Planning, Financing and Event management. I have a lot more to learn on my journey to becoming a General Manager, as well as a lot more mistakes to make. This has been a huge steppingstone in my professional life, and I am truly grateful for the team that has surrounded me this summer, making me a better worker and a better person. James has taught me so much about the type of General Manager I want to be as well as giving me the tools to help me grow. He likes to add in smart quotes while he is teaching me. Some of them will always stick with me and are listed below:

(I know you’ve seen this one before, but it is great) “General Managers think on the business NOT in the business”
“We are not servants, we are not subservient, we ARE of service”
“Lead until you are told not to”.

Becoming a General Manager in this industry will not be an easy task; however, given the right tools, you can navigate your way through the problems that get thrown at you. James was a great teacher who took notice in my passion for the industry and helped me gain as much experience as possible in the short amount of time I had. Through this internship I have gained boundless knowledge, lifelong friends, and a truly wonderful mentor.

Taylor Switters

Year by year at the Gogs we learn how best to help our interns benefit from three months at the ‘coalface’. It has been my personal privilege to give Taylor a little taste of the role that I know she will excel at in the not too distant future. There is nothing like ‘practical learning’ to truly understand the role of GM and nothing more gratifying than sharing knowledge to those who have the passion to learn, grow and improve.

James Fuller
General Manager