The Interview: Alistair Cook

Fulford’s General Manager cut his teeth in the explosive world of Parliamentary politics. He explains how it proved the perfect preparation to becoming a successful golf club leader As we sit the markets are in chaos. There’s a run on the pound. Interest rates are climbing. Westminster is in panic. The Langer Room at Fulford, where I am meeting the club’s General Manager Alistair Cook, seems a haven away from the frenetic pace of politics. And yet Alistair can see how the chaos in the financial markets may trickle down to golf clubs and he’s already planning. He has spent his career looking ahead. Politics and golf are his two passions and there are so many parallels. Alistair spent his early career at the coalface of Government and Parliament and learned many vital skills that have helped him forge a successful career in our industry. So I quizzed him on the similarities, how he got to this point, and learned more about his top 100 club’s interesting plans... How did you become a golf club manager? I did a politics degree at Exeter University and worked as a researcher for the Conservative Party – back in the very dark days when they were in opposition. I thought that was how my career was going to pan out; in politics as a special advisor. I happened to work for a party that was almost unelectable for 10 to 15 years. I wasn’t getting paid very well for it and was living in London. I needed a career change. There were two passions in my life. One was politics, the other was sports and, more specifically, golf. I always thought to myself, ‘it makes sense if you can do something for a living that’s also your hobby and your passion’. I would have been about 24 or 25 at this stage, contacted a few golf recruitment companies, gave them my CV, and said I was looking for what in those days was an assistant secretary job. One came up at Royal St George’s. I went for the interview and I probably got the job because I was seen as the right fit – based on my background and the type of person I was. They wanted someone to come in for two or three years to do a lot of the day-to-day work of the secretary while he was heavily involved in the preparations for the 2003 Open. Those were the days when clubs had a lot more involvement in running certain aspects of the championship, which isn’t the case now. It was a great way to learn about golf club management. It’s a club where they’re trying to ensure the best of everything. The service levels are very high, and the golf course is obviously fantastic. There were massive amounts of visitor income and, if you wanted to get something done, you had to budget to be able to do it. I learned an enormous amount while I was there, but...
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