The interview…Alex Woodward

Hankley Common’s general manager is in the business of selling happiness, as he tells Steve Carroll Tell me about Hankley Common… Hankley Common is a very special and amazing place. The club owns around 860 acres of land, which is two thirds of Hankley Common itself, although the golf course is only set in about 140 of those acres.  Half the overall amount the club owns is leased to the Ministry of Defence (who owns the other third of land) and we maintain the rest.  Historically, the club liked to be a little bit hidden away. It wasn’t that long ago that they even put the sign at the end of the driveway, to let people know they were there. Whilst that was true, the club have held prestigious events, such as the Senior Amateur Championship. It was a regional Open qualifying venue, and held the Boys’ Home Internationals in 2009 for The R&A.  But, apart from that, they weren’t trying to boost themselves further afield. It’s a little different now. While they were certainly not trying to over publicise themselves, they fit very comfortably at the top of the golfing landscape in the UK.  I was hired to try and push them forward into something that was a little bit more modern and a little bit more of a business-like operation. One of the biggest reasons I love private members clubs is, when you can turn surpluses, you get to pour it back into the product.  There are no owners that take the money away with them. At the end of the year, everything gets ploughed back into the product either short or long term.  Not too long ago, to there was a bit of a restructure. It’s a fairly new management team, working alongside some long-standing employees which gives it a great balance.  Our course manager has been here four years. I’ve been here three years and our head pro has been here four years, although he was a long-standing assistant under the previous head professional. Presumably, given your career background, you were brought in to make the club a little bit more accessible… The best way I can articulate it is that I was hired to work as much on the businesses, as in the business.  There are buildings that need to be maintained, machinery that needs to be bought and updated and a very special piece of land that needs to be looked after.  All of that demands resources, professionalism and good governance, which absolutely was there beforehand.  But they were looking to try and push on from there, to really try and get onto the front foot, and show exactly how wonderful Hankley Common is – not only for a member but as a guest or visitor. Quite unusually for a private members’ club that is highly ranked as we are, we are accessible seven days a week. We will accept visitors at weekends, which is not prevalent at a lot of other clubs of...
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