Richard Odell, General Manager of Sherwood Forest, talks to Marie Taylor
How did you get into golf club management?
I started my career by turning professional at 16. I was PGA qualified at 18 – as the youngest person to ever qualify, so I believe. Following an ‘A’ grade in the teaching module, I decided to head to Europe for some experience (and money) and landed in Germany where I had a few different positions.
But for the last five years I was head professional at Dortmund GC between 1995 and 2000 and latterly became the head pro and secretary too for the last three years.
Returning to the UK, I was asked to manage the golf academy section of Branston G&CC, in Staffordshire – a new 9 hole academy course, driving range and pro shop. Eventually I became director of golf at Branston, in 2009, but not until after spending seven years helping enrol over 85,000 children in 550 clubs onto the Young Masters Golf coaching scheme. I finally got my first general manger’s position at Sherwood Forest in late 2016.
What are the challenges?
Sherwood has had a few general manager changes over the past few years so consistency was needed when I got here.
Now a year on, the challenge is to provide direction in what is challenging times for golf. The course and reputation are excellent. Being ranked 84th in the top 100 clubs in the UK and Ireland attracts a certain type of visiting clientele. But, like most clubs, three quarters of our takings are membership subs and so is key to make sure the members get value for money and we keep a surplus of new members coming in.
“The key is to make sure members get value for money and we keep a surplus of new members coming in”
For convenience of the members, and in the interests of staff efficiency, we are upgrading the systems across the club to continue moving the club forward. One project underway is a new state of the art, 350-yard amphitheatre driving range and short game being built ready for spring 2019. The car park is also being extended too, which will help us accommodate the Brabazon Trophy in August 2020. This project will take the club ranking to another level.
What innovations of yours have delivered success?
We tested a membership promotion this winter. It was a trial subscription for three months. Trial subscribers paid the same standard rates but it allowed us to show off the course to them. It gives us the opportunity not only for them to have a look at us but us to make sure this was the correct club for them. We permitted them to play in competitions like normal members and, with us being a very well drained sand base course, the result so far is that we’ve refilled our memberships and hope to have a waiting list again soon. What are your aspirations for Sherwood Forest and where are the opportunities? I’d like to see us move up the rankings and, as our facilities improve, I’d like to host the bigger and more prestigious competitions. I’d also like to get the Open Championship qualifiers back.
What’s your proudest golfing moment?
Hmm, I played in the last round of the European Tour qualifying school in 1993 with Andrew Coltart and Gary Nicklaus (Jack’s son). Back in 1992, I won a car in a Golf Rules Competition. It was a Volvo 945 Estate that I had to pick up from Wentworth. However, my proudest career moment has to be being offered the position as general manager here at Sherwood Forest.
By Marie Taylor