Golf Club - Client Interview

Two years ago marked a major milestone in the history of the Box Hill Golf Club – the centenary of the name, Box Hill Golf Club. The Box Hill Golf Club is a client of McPhail & Partners and we were delighted when Russell Donovan, General Manager, agreed to sit down with us and reveal what it takes to manage this great club.

1. How did you get involved with Box Hill Golf Club?
It has been a long involvement. I literally lived 500 metres away when I was growing up, I played all my junior golf at Box Hill and my family was heavily involved in the club. After my schooling, I worked for the Commonwealth Bank in business banking, then left the bank and managed a large pub in Hawthorn for five years. Long and late hours took its toll so I decided to try to get into golf club management, which resulted in General Manager’s positions at Churchill Park Golf Club, Mornington Golf Club and then to come full circle, back to Box Hill Golf Club as the General Manager.

2. What do you love most about your job or (this industry), and what do you see as the biggest challenge golf clubs face?
Everyone who visits the club is coming for an enjoyable time. Whether this is to play golf, coming to eat in the bistro or attending a function, we are in the hospitality business, in a role that I thoroughly enjoy. Concerning challenges, most golf clubs are struggling with retaining members. We are fortunate to be located in the Box Hill area, however maintaining a golf course and a clubhouse that is open 18 hours a day has its economic challenges. As you read regularly in the paper, penalty rates do affect a business of this size.

3. How do you rate your golfing abilities, do you play often?
I used to be a good player in my teens, now days with a busy business to run and a young family; it does not leave much time for golf!

4. Which is your favourite course in the world and why?
I was fortunate enough to attend the US Masters this year at a golf course called Augusta National. It would be the most pristine piece of land in the world. Every piece of grass is perfectly manicured, there was not one leaf on the ground, and if a tree dies, they replace it with a replica and this can mean a 30-foot tree is simply planted where the old one stood. But my favourite courses were in a place called Bandon Dunes, on the coast of Oregon in the United States.

5. Who is your favourite golfer?
I honestly do not have a favourite golfer, but always like an Aussie to win.

6. Tell us about a rewarding moment for you in the business and your involvement in it?
The club is very lucky that it can give back to the community. Every year, the club hosts a charity day for Eastern Health (Box Hill hospital), which raises approximately $25,000 each year. Our ladies committee hosts a second charity day and this raises in excess of $10,000 each year. We receive constant requests for donations such as golf rounds, bistro vouchers etc. that can be used at school/kindergarten auctions which we provide. Although we are a large business, we fully understand that we are a community-based club and will always continue to be community focused.

7. What untapped potential do you see with the golf club?
Box Hill Golf Club is different to most golf clubs in that we do allow social members, (at a cost of $2) to be members at the golf club, which allows them to visit the golf club, have a bite to eat in the bistro and take in the views of the course. The club undertook a renovation in the bistro/members area a couple of years ago and business has increased significantly in these areas. The club runs a very successful give golf a go program which is targeted at beginner ladies and the club is heavily focused on junior development.

8. How does BHGC differentiate itself from its competitors?
The simple response is that we are not just a golf club! The clubs bistro is open seven days a week, lunch and dinner and overall, we pride ourselves on being a friendly club where members and guests can visit in a safe, friendly environment with great views.

9. What do you do when you are not working?
I would love to say fitness fanatic, but running a golf club is a busy lifestyle so when I do get home, there is nothing better than playing with my two kids, aged 7 and 4, (when they are behaving). They are just starting to get into sport, so I am enjoying running after them.

Thank you Russell and we look forward to joining you in a game of golf soon at the Box Hill Golf Club!
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