Farleigh Golf Club’s general manager, James Ibbetson, is celebrating a remarkable 12 months in charge of the Surrey club after being named Golf Manager of The Year in the prestigious annual 59club golf customer service awards.
The 27-hole venue in Warlingham was among a select few of the UK’s leading golf clubs and resorts to be rewarded and recognised for their standards of service at the virtual ‘Industry Oscars’ which went live online on Wednesday, March 24.
Hosted by BBC presenter Dan Walker, Farleigh picked up two awards for its achievements and continued level of service, despite the unprecedented circumstances of the past year.
The pandemic hasn’t halted Farleigh’s ambition to be one of the most highly-regarded golf clubs in Surrey, with Ibbetson leading the club through three forced closures, reopenings and the ever-changing government restrictions to achieve record membership numbers and also the my59 Ultimate Service Excellence award.
The award winners are determined by scores collected from 59club’s impartial mystery shopping team, which evaluates the experience afforded to visiting golfers and prospective members collectively, in accordance with objective industry-leading benchmarking criteria.
Ibbetson has managed to keep up the Farleigh ethos of making customers ‘feel better when they left than when they arrived’ while keeping them and his team safe through a number of Covid protocols introduced at the club, both on and off the course.
Farleigh successfully capitalised on the UK golf boom with a number of innovative marketing campaigns, leading to a waiting list being introduced for its full seven-day memberships.
The club also places an emphasis on membership retention and satisfaction and has impressed with its regular communication with members throughout the lockdowns with two newsletters per week – keeping them engaged and stimulated and still getting value from their membership despite not being able to physically use the facilities. The regular content included course management tips from the PGA professionals on how to play all 27 holes at Farleigh, drills that members could practise at home, fitness videos, course updates from the greenkeepers, as well as cooking recipes from the club’s chefs.
One Farleigh member said: “I would like to compliment Farleigh on the regular newsletters and updates and general communications we receive as members.
“I happened to be chatting to a friend who is a member at a nearby club, and they were astonished when I told them everything that is going on – the support for members and the general feed of news from the club. I think he was very envious and surprised at how much the club management and staff are doing to keep communications channels open.”
Ibbetson joined Farleigh in November 2019, so only had four months in charge of the club in ‘usual’ circumstances before the pandemic hit.
He said: “I can’t really remember what it is like to manage the club on a pre-pandemic normal day. The past year has certainly been a challenge, but one that I am proud that we have come out of the other side stronger and better than ever.
“We have an incredible team at Farleigh which always goes the extra mile to make people’s experience at the club as memorable as possible. The way everyone has adapted over the past year has been nothing short of remarkable and they deserve all the credit they get. Everyone has played their part and it’s fantastic to receive this kind of recognition to show that the hard work pays off.”
Farleigh was nominated for five awards in total with Josie Swift also nominated for the Food and Beverage Manager of The Year Award, Paul Babbage nominated for Golf Retail Manager of The Year and the club’s PGA professionals being nominated for Golf Operations Team of the Year.
Renowned for its beautiful surroundings, high-quality layout of its John Jacobs-designed course, as well as its unrivalled year-round course conditions with the ‘Farleigh Guarantee’ of no temporary greens and tees, the club has established itself as a prime venue for national PGA tournaments after recently hosting the PGA Fourball Championship and PGA Assistants’ Championship.
Its well-presented fairways, USGA-standard greens and extensive range of practice facilities – which include a driving range, putting green and short game area – has seen it build an enviable reputation among golfers of all abilities.