In conversation with… Nick Hovey

MASHIE Golf managing director discusses his company’s new partnership with the GCMA and how he helped save Cleeve Hill…

MASHIE Golf have been welcomed on board as a GCMA Associate Partner. If you didn’t know much about the company, which offers a members’ club, runs events and a clothing brand, managing director Nick Hovey is here to tell you more…

Welcome to the GCMA partner network. Can you tell members about MASHIE Golf?

MASHIE Golf is a social members’ club, run on a subscription basis for both individual and corporate members. Our members join annually and they pay for either an individual or a multi-person corporate membership to join our private network.

It’s social, lots of fun, and we’ve just tried to facilitate our members’ golfing needs outside of their normal club membership.

What are the benefits of MASHIE Members Club membership?

There are a few key benefits, but the main one is our extensive events diary. We’re well known for having about 120 private members’ events every year, where we’ll play a wide range of fantastic courses, and give our members an opportunity to get together and socialise with each other. 

Another aspect is the benefit of preferential green fees. We have partnered with around 150 golf clubs worldwide where we have organised preferential green fees for all our members and their guests.

A third benefit is we have a network of partners we work with within the golf industry, who have kindly offered discounts and offers on their products and services to our members.

You hold events at some great golf courses – Woburn, Swinley Forest, The Berkshire and Sunningdale to name a few. These are highly-rated courses that people obviously want to play…

That’s our USP. We have relationships with these clubs and we’re able to run premium events at these clubs. That gives our members access to a fantastic day at the type of venues you mention, which are often places most golfers aren’t able to get to.

Equally, we look for more local, hidden gem, courses that our members might never have heard of and try to promote them too. It’s not always the most expensive, top end, courses. 

You’ll be familiar to a number of GCMA members, given you are already working with the likes of Hollinwell and Enville, and Sutton Coldfield. What motivated you to partner with the GCMA?

We do know lots of members already, but we’re simply trying to promote our business to GCMA members. 

We book events at all these clubs and obviously that provides additional revenue for those venues, but we also look to try and partner up with those clubs to provide them with additional opportunities.

It might be additional events, as we run a lot of private corporate and charity events that we can bring to a particular venue we work with, and we can also facilitate the introduction of green fees as well, especially for clubs that are looking for those to be filled with the right types of golfers.

Our members are generally pretty affluent – business owners or decision makers at companies – so they have disposable income and will pay a premium for their golf, spend money in the pro shop, have a nice meal, buy a bottle of wine, and so on. They’re not looking for cheap golf and chasing the best rate.

MASHIE Club is a very interesting vehicle for golf club membership – you are doing something that’s distinctive?

Others do something similar but I think we’re unique and, as a testament to that, we’ve doubled in size in the last 18 months.

That’s partly because golf is enjoying a real surge in popularity, which is fantastic, but what we have also found is that our members – and the majority of our members are club members elsewhere – love playing other clubs and they love playing those courses in organised days.

You made an important point there, which is that you’re not cannibalising club membership but adding to it. That’s the point, isn’t it?

Absolutely, and over 90% of our members are already members of clubs. They are still keen to play elsewhere in the UK, and potentially overseas, so we also have an internal concierge team who can help deliver those experiences for those golfers.

There are not many businesses that have their own clothing brands too…

MASHIE was exclusively a clothing brand when it began about seven years ago, but we created a membership from trying to find a subscription model to help us engage with our clothing customers.

We put on a few events, and it snowballed from there. The clothing element of the business is still very much at the heart of what we do.

We provide all our members with clothing and, while it’s not exclusively a members-only clothing brand, we like to think members enjoy wearing our clothing and that it symbolises that idea of being part of the club.

You are also a part of Cleeve Hill through Cotswolds Hub. Tell us about how you became involved in saving that course and how your first year has been?

The fact it needed saving in the first place was unbelievable. It’s a stunning venue. On a clear day, you can see 80 miles in every direction and the views are unrivaled. 

The course has got massive pedigree – a design by Alister MacKenzie and Old Tom Morris – and the club should never have been in that position in the first place. 

While the previous owners were unable to keep it going, we think there’s a huge opportunity.

I think the marketing of the course is key in bringing that history to life. We’ve had some fantastic photography and drone footage done, which has really made it come alive. For people looking at the website, who’ve never been there, it really whets their appetite. 

We’re proud to be involved in the project, and it’s great because there’s a huge link between MASHIE Golf and Cleeve Hill. We really see it as the home of MASHIE Golf, alongside the existing Cleeve Hill membership, which is also growing hugely.

It shows GCMA members, and the wider golf industry, of your commitment to golf. There’s an investment plan, conditioning changes to the course, and there will be a regeneration of the clubhouse. There is a plan to make Cleeve Hill better…Absolutely and, for me, it’s a passion project. 

It’s the course I’ve played for over 30 years with my father, and my friends, on Christmas Eve in the snow. It’s one of those places that is a massive part of my life. 

When I heard it was closing, if I could have helped in any way, I would have done it anyway. It just so happened that things rather snowballed into putting a bid in, which was never really the intention. But I’m so glad things did pan out like that.

It’s great to be involved and it gives me an insight into the other side of the industry. I can understand the challenges and how it works from a club perspective, for general managers and all the staff involved at a club.

It’s super tough. They work extremely hard and they’re really dedicated but, like me, they just love golf. It gives me a real insight into the workings of a club, how members feel, and how ultimately everyone just wants to be a part of and enjoy the club.

As we speak you are in the process of trying to hire a general manager for Cleeve Hill?

We are looking for somebody and we’ve commissioned an advisory company to help.

There’s no doubt it is a small local club with fantastic history, but we feel it can be really put on the map and we want a general manager to help us do that.

We’ve got huge plans for both the course and club. Over the next three to five years, we’ll be putting in some accommodation and rebuilding the clubhouse with a new restaurant and café.

It’s a fantastic spot, not just for golfers, and we’re conscious we want it to be a venue. That’s why we call ourselves the Cotswold Hub – because we want it to be a real venue for any user of the hill. 

We really want to encourage cyclists, walkers, and anyone else in the area to use our venue as a hub. 

What do you think you’ve learned over the last year or so that’s going to help you connect with GCMA members through the partnership?

Firstly, just how tough it is to run a golf club! Members are passionate about their club, and that brings challenges, but also just a sense of how important it is in people’s lives. 

I’ve really felt I can relate to how managers are feeling in their day-to-day jobs and it’s given me a real insight into the intricacies of the golf club.

We’ve hired an entire staff team from the ground up – catering, chefs, greenkeepers, the new GM – right across the entire spectrum of roles, so I’ve got a deep understanding of every role.

Finally, how can GCMA members connect with you and MASHIE Golf?

We are really looking forward to the year ahead, and we just want to get to meet as many members as possible, hopefully in person at the GCMA events I know will be held over the course of the year.

Equally, our phone’s always on and I look forward to hearing from any member that’s interested in working with MASHIE, chatting about Cleeve, or any of the other projects we are involved in.

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By GCMA Content Team

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