The journey to CCM – Les Durno

What a journey – July 2012 – appointed General Manager of the Club that I’d been a member at since 1970  – proud as punch to be the man at the helm, with a really strong team behind me with such longevity in many of the roles. It was my first foray into Golf Club Management.

Finally in March 2022 a newly qualified CCM. Sounds good!

I’ll document a few of the events from then to now.

Les Durno CCM

October 2012 – I’ll never forget going home after a Scottish Golf meeting at Murcar Golf Club, explaining that there one place left at an MDP course at Stlrling Management Centre and it was residential. What was MDP – I’d no idea – but the Captain and I felt it was important. Wouldn’t normally have been an issue, but my wife had just arranged a few days away to celebrate my 50th birthday for that same week! However after 26 years of marriage, she was used to me and off I headed to Striling to sit in various meeting rooms with my peers and some fantastic presenters and facilitators.

The MDP courses then came thick and fast and I as revelling in the interaction between attendees and presenters at the same time building up a network of likeminded people from all over Europe.

In 2017, I was the recipient of the Joe Perdue Bursary which enabled me to book the CMAA World Conference in San Francisco early 2018. The Beast from the East put paid to my visit as all flights from Aberdeen Airport were cancelled. Unperturbed I headed to Nashville in 2019 to be thrust into the world of Club Managers big style and I loved every minute of it. Perhaps the early morning knocking at the back door of the property we had rented was the only issue – when two individuals – let’s call them Kevin and John – who couldn’t focus clearly on the keypad entry in the dark. The poor lighting at the back door was to blame apparently.

I set myself the intention of sitting the CCM exam in 2020 – however along came Covid.

Like many Golf Club Managers, I was thrust into the new world of Covid and all the issues it was to bring with it:-

Our Revenue had dropped by £590k in the first year – that was over half our annual income – solely down to not having any visitors.

That led to re-booking them all or cancelling and refunding – that was in March 2020 when we had over 5,000 individual bookings already in place.

For the first few months we had minimum two meetings a week – in the evenings – with a small management team from the Club Council – best thing we did – but that then meant minutes had to be sent to full Club Council the next day.

Weekly Cash flows were prepared as grants/furlough etc became available and costs were reviewed and adjusted.

When golf was permitted – members play went from 11k rounds per annum to 24k rounds per annum, despite almost 3 months of no access  – and very quickly the honeymoon period of being back to golf ended – members didn’t like the new rules, the limited tee times, play only two’s, not being able to travel more than 10 miles to the course, then having only members in one postcode area permitted – despite the fact that some members could be 50 miles away as the Aberdeenshire postcode engulfs the Aberdeen postcode area. Plus why was the course in poor condition when they came back to golf.

We like many Clubs had an increase in members and the introduction of a waiting list.

Daily we had walkers, dogs, bikes, prams, campers, even a go cart on the course – but I will admit to finding the Toro Irrigation App as a fantastic deterrent to people walking on the greens and made me smile at the time.

We had to learn new procedures – e.g. furlough.

Dealing and advising staff on furlough – advising furlough staff that they had to take holidays

No longer any extra student assistance in the summer, despite being really busy.

Applying for loans – Bounce Back and CIBILS.

Probably like many I worked all through it from March 2020 to March 21 with one week holiday and  4 days off over the festive period – why – the business needed someone there.

We had constant changes in hospitality rules.

These issues were probably just the same as any other Golf Club Manager – our main issue was, that while many were revelling in the boom of new members, we were suffering from minimal visitor income.

All this meant that sitting the exam in November 2020 was not possible, but March 2021 was on the radar.

Then in January 2021, the day I was due to take a week’s holiday and we were having our VPN telephone system installed, we suffered a ransomware attack. We lost all our 2021 tee bookings from October 2020 onwards and every document and picture we had on file. Thankfully our member database and the wages software were safe.

That event was the straw that broke the camel’s back – I basically had a breakdown, crying three times in one day as I spoke to the Club Captain and in the end offering my resignation. That same night, I sat through a Zoom Club Council meeting and cried in front of the 8 members!

However that’s all in the past now – I had immediate support in the form of a part time person from the pro shop and was able to re-allocate some of the duties and get the business back on an even keel again.

I studied hard (well in my opinion I did) spending time going through the Joe Perdue Book on Club Management and taking notes upon notes from it and the past MDP Courses that I had attended.

My good friend Debbie Pern CCM offered to be my mentor and she assisted in providing a room at Deeside Golf Club to host the exam in March 2022, offering to invigilate on the day – which was greatly appreciated.

I’d sent my Case Study practice document to the St Andrews Management Centre and took sight of their positive comments.

How did I pass – I’ve no idea – didn’t think I’d done well at all in the morning multiple choice, in fact during a call to my wife at lunchtime – I’d suggested not wasting people’s time by doing the Case Study! But that call from Nigel Cartwright will remain with me for the rest of my life – I was elated, shocked, buzzing, almost in tears – but I’d passed the exam and was a CCM!

Without the quality presenters and fantastic facilitators involved with the CMAE, SGCMA, Scottish Golf Ltd, GCMA and CMAA, who all provide amazing education opportunities, this would never have been possible.

I cannot express enough my gratitude to everyone involved in the education experiences.