Never has sport felt more important than in the past two years. Stepping outdoors and enjoying the world around us, while entering into friendly competition, has taken on new significance during a global pandemic and countless lockdowns.
With this in mind, mother-daughter management team Tilly and Julie not only had their work cut out in keeping Colmworth Golf Club running during this period of disruption, but in ensuring the business retained its sense of warmth and inclusivity.
We spoke with Tilly about how Colmworth Golf Club continues to hit over par when it’s needed more than ever.
Colmworth Golf Club has been in Tilly’s family since 1991. The goal of the club, she says, is to rid golf of its stuffy reputation.
Tilly adds, “While the business itself is quite diverse – from golf, cafe, events, weddings and holiday cottages – they are all underpinned by two key principles: being people friendly and planet friendly.
“The world we live in today is fast paced and competitive, and we have created a high quality venue with the warmth and welcoming of your own front room. When our customers come to us to spend their well earned time out, they can enjoy it to the fullest, relax and have fun without feeling judged for not having the latest kit.”
Tilly adds that she works extremely closely with her Mum, and that they are fortunate to have a great team working with them.
“While Mum has the experience and the instinct for what our business and customers need,” she says, “I prefer to use the stats and analyse the numbers – and we usually reach the same conclusion at the end.”
The challenges of lockdown
Tilly describes the most challenging moments of the pandemic, from the first day of lockdown, seeing an empty car park and “feeling completely helpless”, to the constant rule changes making it difficult to plan ahead. But she also touches upon the resilience that’s kept Colmworth Golf Club swinging:
“As we went into the first lockdown it was very unnerving. How long would we be closed for and would we survive it? We decided to try our hardest to embrace the situation. At a time when it has been safest to be outdoors, we were fortunate enough to have plenty of outside space.
“We developed our outdoor spaces to make the new norm better than the old norm. We did our best to support and stay in touch with our customers and local community through social media and phone calls – while they were feeling just as lost as we were. We were in it together!”
This helped the club roll with the pandemic punches. She explains:
“It was lovely to see people emerging after the first lockdown, our business being the first they had felt safe enough to visit for months. We soon became known as the “safest” place to visit for lunch, golf or even to go on holiday.”
She adds that the team are back into their normal roles now – only busier. This poses its own challenges, as staff shortages became a pressing concern in 2021.
“We feel we have been short staffed for the past 18 months and are still struggling to recruit, but we need more staff to allow us to continue to grow,” Tilly says.
Adapt and thrive
As for how Colmworth Golf Club was able to adapt and thrive during this challenging time, Tilly is adamant that digital technology, and Xero in particular, has played a huge part.
“Xero helps us to keep our finger on the button and monitor the health of all the different aspects of the business in real-time. During the pandemic it has been really difficult to predict the future. While we would normally use our past numbers to get a feel for what lay ahead, we were unable to do this, making planning ahead quite difficult.
“But with the help of Xero we could keep a close eye on the monthly changes to the business to help us to predict our new business going forward. It helps us to target the most cost-effective developments for highest return and helps us to plan changes with confidence.”
As for what’s next, the team built a unique wedding venue with an oak framed gazebo created by a local chainsaw artist on a jetty over one of the lakes.
Tilly concludes, “We are really looking forward to seeing this sector of our business grow and evolve over the coming years, and as ever are excited to meet more people who love the vibe we have created as much as we do.”