Driving future success at Morpeth Golf Club

Morpeth Golf Club has a new approach to running its 117-year-old business – utilising every asset to broaden its appeal and be more than just a golf course.

With new leadership and investment across the site, Morpeth is focused on drawing in customers to the clubhouse, restaurant, pro shop, simulator, events space and personal training facilities, as well as its 18-hole golf course.

A more positive and profitable future is being spearheaded by general manager Chris Liddell and course manager John Scurfield, whose strategy has included a significant investment in course machinery from John Deere.

“If everything around the course is doing well, we have the budget to ensure our greenkeeping team gets all the tools it needs to keep the place looking great,” said Chris, who joined the club in January to support its development through the bar and catering side of the business. A former regional director for hospitality groups such as Pizza Express and TGI Friday’s, Chris has also been a member of Morpeth for 20 years.

“Where I feel I’ve been able to add a bit of value to the club is bringing in the big company principles such as implementing budgetary processes and more structure in how the club is run,” added Chris. “What will be pivotal in growing the club in the future is not only appealing to our current membership, but also broadening our appeal to the wider community. A part of what we have to do here is appeal to every demographic.”

Morpeth has 650 playing members, with more than 20 joining since the New Year. Chris projects the club could have about 750 members by the end of the year. One aspect he wants to rejuvenate is junior golf by developing an academy membership for young golfers.

“In recent years I’ve seen that golf clubs have taken a hit in the number of junior memberships and that is something that I want to change. I want to start getting more juniors into golf because I remember having such great days here when I was a junior member myself.”

To maintain the club’s growth, the parkland course must be maintained to the highest standard, which is helped by Morpeth’s long-standing relationship with John Deere dealer Thomas Sheriff & Co.

Course manager John has been working at the club since he left school and has always used John Deere machinery. It’s a course he knows better than most – holding the record score with a six under-par 65.

“We’ve had this partnership with John Deere for about 30 years, and the investment in the machinery has been necessary,” said John. “As the number of golf clubs in the area increases it dilutes the market, so we have to provide the best possible standard of our course to keep our current members and attract future ones.”

Morpeth’s latest investment includes an 8000A E-Cut Hybrid Fairway Mower, a HPX 815E Work Utility Gator, a 2550 E-Cut Riding Greens Mower, a HD 200 Precision Sprayer, and a 2030A Gator. All the machines are on a five-year finance lease with John Deere.

With only a five-person greenkeeping team, a busy playing membership and the course driven to staying open all year round, there are challenges. But John has taken to visiting other clubs to see how other teams manage.

“On volunteering at various clubs including Royal Cinque Ports and Royal Liverpool Golf Club, I went to see what I could bring back to Morpeth, even though we’re worlds apart from those bigger clubs. One thing I brought back was that staff morale is so important. Despite these guys starting at 4am and working all day, they never stop laughing and joking around with each other and they keep a real team spirit. When handpicking new people to work with us, I’ve learned to base them more on their character than their skillset because team morale is so important.”