Murray Blair, Club and Branding Executive, Joins Global Golf Advisors as Director

Blair to expand the firm’s club and resort strategy, operations, transformation, and monitoring services

TORONTO, Ontario – Global Golf Advisors (GGA) – the leading authority on successful ownership and management practices for golf, private club, resort, and residential real estate businesses – has announced that respected club, resort, and branding executive, Murray Blair, has joined the firm’s Canadian office as a Director.

As a Director with GGA, Murray specializes in club and resort strategy, operations, brand building, transformation and performance monitoring. “The reimagination of club and resort businesses is in full swing with strategically crafted and nurtured brands driving value creation for savvy owners and operators,” explained Blair. “We at GGA are proud to support superior clubs and resorts around the world in developing and implementing the very best strategy and brand position in order to maximize club investment and lifestyle objectives.”

Murray will continue building upon GGA’s market-leading strategy and operations consulting services and leverage the firm’s robust research and analytics offerings to help clients transform their businesses and implement a game plan for long-term success and sustainability.

Derek Johnston, a partner in GGA’s Toronto office, provided insight into how the firm’s expanding team enhances its commitment to client success, “GGA’s mission is to help our clients solve their toughest problems. We are increasingly asked to remain involved in our club client’s projects on an ongoing basis; to monitor progress and, when needed, effectively evolve strategy to truly maximize performance over the long-term. Murray’s club leadership experience, history of managing premium brands, and dynamic charisma are perfectly aligned to deliver on these services. He is an incredible addition to our team and an invaluable resource for clients.”

Murray rejoins GGA after a successful eight-year stint leading transformations for a large retail brand and one of the top private clubs in the Greater Toronto Area.

“I am eager to rejoin the GGA family,” said Murray Blair, “I have remained in close contact with the GGA team during my time in club management and operations, and have enjoyed watching the firm grow and prosper. I have particularly enjoyed seeing GGA’s younger team members grow into industry leaders. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work alongside such a dedicated and capable group again and contribute to the firm’s continued growth.”

Murray joins GGA to expand on what has already been a multifaceted career in the club and resort industries. Most recently, Murray was the General Manager at Granite Golf Club, one of Canada’s most innovative private family golf clubs, successfully rejuvenating the club’s brand and membership.

Prior to joining Granite Golf Club, Murray spent three years as Vice President at Joe Boxer, modernizing the garment brand for the Caulfield Apparel Group and leading Joe Boxer through an award-winning rebranding process that revitalized the brand, ultimately earning a 2014 Cassies Bronze medal.

Over the course of his career, Murray has also worked for the TPC organization as part of the opening team at TPC Scottsdale; spent four years with Marriott hotels in Arizona and Napa, California; ten years running the golf division for Fairmont Hotels, during which time he was ranked as one of the top 25 most influential people in Canadian Golf; and three years as a Vice President with ClubLink before his initial four years of consulting with Global Golf Advisors.

Through these experiences, Murray has been involved in the development and restoration of a number of great golf courses in North America including Banff Springs, Jasper Park Lodge, The Algonquin Resort, and Mayakoba in Mexico. Murray is active across the club industry serving on a number of advisory boards, including the Golf Ontario board, and delivers education sessions at various industry conferences.

About GGA

Global Golf Advisors (GGA) has provided industry-leading advisory services to more than 3,000 clients worldwide including private clubs, hotels, resorts, residential golf communities, developers, homebuilders, government agencies and municipalities, financial institutions, investors and lenders. Operating out of three global offices in Toronto, Phoenix, and Dublin, GGA is a highly specialized consulting firm focused on club and leisure related assets with a professional services heritage as the KPMG Golf Industry Practice. The firm’s expertise lies in its ability to effectively meld club management and operational expertise with highly capable professional strategists and experienced business analysts. GGA personnel include former club managers with experience leading exceptional clubs, along with alumni of Deloitte, Fairmont, KPMG, Marriott, Pulte Homes, PwC, and Scotia Capital. For more information, please visit

Media Contact

Derek Johnston, Partner at Global Golf Advisors

Murray Blair, Director at Global Golf Advisors

Walking in the Customer’s Shoes

This article is written and produced by Sue Shapcott, PhD. Sue is the founder of Change Golf Instruction, a golf coaching business that partners with public golf courses, and Sports Query, a consulting business that assists sports organizations incorporate social science into their policies and practices. Sue is based in Madison, WI.

Club staff, including managers and coaching professionals can, over time, become immunized to the customer experience and the various touch points that form it. Guest writer, Sue Shapcott, reveals how clubs should take the time to understand this experience – and why it’s crucial when it comes to attracting women, minorities and families.

Without knowing it, club staff can be reinforcing an experience that is off-putting and unwelcoming to prospective members and (current) minority groups.

In a male-dominated sport such as golf, gender stereotypes play a significant role in shaping and affirming people’s views of a club – particularly women.

Think about it: walking in to see a large group of men congregated at the bar, being greeted with a wall of products for men in the golf shop, clubhouse walls adorned with pictures of men in quintessential golfing attire. All of these cues serve to induce stereotype threat. Stereotype threat, by definition, is the demotivation someone may feel when they identify with a negatively stereotyped social group. The traditional golf environment, unfortunately, is likely to induce stereotype threat in women, children and minorities because it underscores who is, and who isn’t a typical golfer.

As well as inducing stereotype threat, the golf club environment will also impact the sense of belonging women and minority groups experience in traditional golf clubs. Conforming to a club’s traditions means accepting this ecosystem which may feel unfair, unbalanced, and ‘just the way it is (and has always been)’.

But importantly for clubs seeking new members, these groups are making a choice based on their experience at that club. Is this somewhere they visualize spending time (with their family)? Do they want to spend time here? Does it have the potential to become a core part of their life or lifestyle?

If they feel forced to conform, and conforming means signing up to an experience that will not enhance their lifestyle, then, simply put, they will not.

Why does it matter?

Removing stereotype threat experienced by women and minority golfers can be a difficult challenge for many clubs out there. It can mean unpicking a culture which, understandably, takes time.

But allowing the cycle to continue will restrict growth and diversity in your current membership base, as well as your prospective target markets – especially at a time when we know younger generations value family time together. So much so they will base purchasing decisions on how these will enhance their collective lifestyle.

Where to start

Shifting the culture starts by seeing the world through the eyes of women and minority groups.

Accompany existing and prospective members on a customer walkthrough and all of a sudden, things will become more apparent. You’ll quickly see what and why things need to change. For example, does your leadership team look like the face of golf’s past, or future? Does the club have photos that celebrate both men and women players?

Unite all the club staff around this process. Educate them on the prevalence of stereotypes, and their effect. You can then arm staff with the knowledge they need to neutralize the environment. Tackling the issue in unison will ensure that staff are conscious and aware, and there are no gaps in the club’s approach.

What areas can you expect to confront and overcome stereotype threat typically experienced by women and minority golfers? Here are some areas which are common, yet often overlooked:

Marketing – if you market to the spouses of existing members what images and/or videos are you choosing to include? What is that telling them about the club? Chances are, you could be confirming stereotypes without realizing it. It’s not about provisioning certain types of images and videos ‘because it’s the right thing to do’. It’s about doing it because clubs need to understand their influence and not inadvertently confirm certain stereotypes – especially when it will harm their goals in the long run.

Coaching – coaches should make it clear to women that they have a high expectation of their ability and performance (dispelling the stereotype that women are somehow not as strong in their ability).

Clubhouse – a contemporary environment which suits the needs of all members is what clubs should strive for. Remove unnecessary imagery which serves to reaffirm certain stereotypes and make it a place where all profiles of member can enjoy, relax and spend time.

Golf Shop – being greeted by rows of hardware, mainly for men, can be a daunting experience – especially so for women new to the game. Make service your priority, and dispel any fears minority groups may have by handing them the knowledge they need to make informed purchasing decisions.

On the course – tees labelled by gender are extremely commonplace, yet are a constant reminder that women don’t hit the ball as far and that this somehow makes their ability inferior. By changing your tees to difficulty-based rather than gender-based creates more of a level playing field and removes the gender factor and associated stereotype threat.

A rallying call

Change at clubs is always difficult when there’s a threat of alienating a certain group – in this case the core membership. But this is where it’s important to take a step back and assess the fork in the road in which we find ourselves:

Road A: We do the same thing. Members age, member numbers recede, and the cycle of stereotype threat experienced by women and minorities continue.

Road B: We open up, we see our club differently, we remove stereotype threats and create an environment a more diverse range of prospects want to be a part of.

As a stakeholder in this industry, I know which future I would rather be a part of.


Connect with Sue Shapcott

The Power of Women

Women are widely regarded as connectors, more likely to invite family members and friends to join them in activities and pursuits than their male counterparts. With that in mind, GGA’s Linda Dillenbeck explores ways in which clubs can increase their appeal to women and unlock new customers in the process.

You have probably read articles encouraging clubs to increase their efforts to attract women and families as a strategy to improve long-term private club sustainability.  Most articles focus on amenities clubs may choose to add or expand, such as adding swimming pools, more casual dining options, or even introducing other sports, such as tennis.

Although the amenity package offered will certainly be a part of a prospect’s decision-making process, equally important, if not more so, is the atmosphere and ambiance a prospect will experience while visiting the club.

Make perception reflect reality

Let’s start with a simple sobering fact; your perception of your club is probably not most people’s reality. To gain a clear picture of how your club is perceived by women and families, you first need to understand what’s important to them and the type of experience they expect.

Conducting a walk-through with different profiles of female and family customers can provide invaluable insights. It’s something all club leaders should be encouraged to do.

To supplement individual club efforts, and help operational teams understand and improve methods of providing a welcoming experience to women and families, I interviewed a number of private club members and club professionals across North America, with some interesting feedback.

“Women are more social then men,” commented Teresa S. “They want to find a connection beyond business or golf, and really get to know someone. If those opportunities are provided through club events, women will bring their family and friends to share in the experience,” she added.

The vast majority of women play golf to have fun and socialize, rather than to post a score. As Kathy G. outlined: “Staff should encourage women and families to play the game as they wish, as long as it doesn’t impede others.”

Comments from several women players related to tee sheet access and were summarized by what Tiffany N. shared.  “The times ladies are allowed to play, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday morning, are not conducive to those of us who have careers. Until private clubs open up their tee sheets, it will be difficult to attract more play for business and pleasure,” she said.

“I always find it interesting when I approach the first tee and meet the starter,” stated Paula F. “They think they are being helpful by telling me where the forward tees are located. They make that statement based on gender, not skill. My advice to any course operator is to instruct their starters to remember this thought: ‘If you wouldn’t say it to a male golfer, don’t say it to a female golfer’.”

Create fun and relaxing events

Keeping two thoughts in mind – women value social experiences and enjoy connecting with family and friends while having fun – will help staff understand the elements your club should focus upon when planning events. To help you get started, here are some examples of events designed to gather women, their families and friends at the club.

  • Schedule ‘Play as you Wish’ days, inviting members to bring family and friends to play golf using formats such as alternate shot, best ball, or middle of the fairway tees that won’t impede play, but will be less intimidating for those who are not avid players.
  • Create ‘Share the Game with a Friend’ days which are crafted to be informative and fun. Instructors can provide basic tips, along with their Top 5 Ways to Feel Comfortable on the Course (positioning this as ‘Course Etiquette’ is not a good idea). Follow the range time with the opportunity to play three holes after which everyone can gather for fun, food, and have the opportunity to ‘ask the pros’ questions that arise from their experience.
  • Hosted events, conducive to family and friends that don’t involve golf, but focus on entertainment and enjoying time spent with each other. For example, a pumpkin-decorating contest with the club providing the pumpkins and tools, an annual gingerbread house-decorating event for the holidays, or a charitable giving day where members bring items (to which the club adds more) and come together with other members, families, friends and staff to assemble care packages for the local shelter.

Know your audience

Women I know do not believe they deserve special treatment because of their gender. Rather, they simply want to have the opportunity to share experiences with friends and family in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, where the goal is having fun and creating some lasting memories of time spent together.

When you provide a relaxed and friendly club atmosphere as a stage, where women can accomplish this goal, they will be your most loyal recruiters, spreading positive word-of-mouth advertising and peer-to-peer reviews across their social networks, encouraging family and friends to connect through your club.

The Family Opinion

Member surveys are not as clear cut as simply gauging satisfaction or opinion of members. GGA’s Andrew Milne explains how, by reaching out to include spouses or family in club surveys, you can gain invaluable insights on how your club is viewed in the context of modern family life.

Renewing a club membership used to be a straightforward matter. The member receives dues notification, pays a subscription, and club life continues. But as much as club managers may want that to be the case, increasingly, it simply is not.

The perfect storm of increased time, family and economic pressures for members means leisure outings are more heavily scrutinized and, occasionally, result in the end of membership and/or the club’s prominence in an individual’s day-to-day life.

Rather than having these decisions debated behind closed doors, with no prior knowledge that they even exist, clubs do have a vital tool at their disposal, in extending a bespoke member survey to spouses and family members.

Branching out

GGA spouse and family member surveys were introduced nearly a decade ago and what we have learned during that time unambiguously supports their role in helping club leaders develop a product and service that is relevant to the whole family.

Among the headline findings collated from across North America, we found:

  1. Clubs typically underestimate utilization by spouses and families. The introduction of spouse and family surveys helped clubs better understand utilization patterns in order to:
    • Realize greater operational efficiencies
    • Develop better informed events calendars
    • Target specific groups of spouses and families with relevant information
  1. Significant variances in capital project support. Spousal and family member support can vary up to +/- 15% when compared to primary member support. Combine this with their increased involvement in the membership purchase decision, and the importance of building a plan which appeals to all comes into sharp focus.
  2. Restrictions to access are a key concern. When contemplating any membership alterations which involve increased time and/or amenity restrictions, input from all member categories will help to arrive at more reasonable, rational and accepted changes and mitigate any negative impact to satisfaction levels.

A club for the entire family

Identifying the importance of both spouses and families is one thing, making changes to the club operation to increase their satisfaction levels (alongside those of primary members) is another.

Do the benefits outweigh the time and resource investment?

If it’s about an underlying connection, then yes. More interaction with spouses and family members will inevitably put the club more front-and-center in their minds, and help clarify its attributes and future role among these individuals.

There are more reasons to engage this audience too:

  • It improves buy-in for future decisions (as supported by survey findings). For example, if family members indicate their dissatisfaction with the current junior leagues at the club and provide insight on how they wish to see them improve, they are more likely to participate after the club implements an updated junior league program.
  • Spouses and family members will feel valued, and appreciate their opinions are being solicited, captured, and considered with care.
  • With the increasing influence of spouses and families on lifestyle and recreation choices, engaging them can help shape the future relevance and strategy for the club and drive overall membership sales.
  • A key challenge for clubs around the world is finding and engaging young prospects to grow the membership pipeline within the club. Collecting feedback from family members can identify the key drivers for this demographic and help position the club to best appeal to this group.

Moving out of the comfort zone

It may seem counter-intuitive to develop a future vision for your club formed from the views of those who may appear not to spend a great deal of time there.

However, across the world we are witnessing clubs making moves towards developing amenities and services which appeal to the entire family and encourage them to spend more time there. These are the clubs already profiting from family and spousal survey insights, building out the core of their membership to now include spouses and family members, and simultaneously becoming a more appealing destination to prospects.

Taking the first steps are difficult, but by seeking a wider base of opinions you might be surprised by what you learn and the future opportunities that arise.

Executive Search: General Manager at Dothan Country Club


The Club:

Founded in 1923 Dothan Country Club is a member-owned club in Dothan, Alabama. Dothan, located in Southeast Alabama, has approximately 60,000 residents and there are over a quarter of a million people living within a 50-mile radius.

One of the region’s most progressive cities, the Dothan community offers a mild winter climate, affordable housing, low property taxes, and a wide variety of products and services which include healthcare, education, shopping, and cultural entertainment. Located a few short miles from the state lines of Florida and Georgia, the area embraces the best that life has to offer, providing its residents the modern conveniences and amenities of much larger cities while also retaining the charm and friendliness of the South.

The Club’s golf facilities include a retail shop, an 18-hole course designed and renovated in 2001 by Bergin Golf Designs, driving range, chipping green, and putting green. The Tennis facility includes 7 clay courts, retail shop, and locker rooms. The Club has a Fitness facility featuring a weight room, locker rooms, and a group fitness room. The Pool complex includes the pool, snack bar and Cabana Bar. The Clubhouse consists of the administrative offices, kitchen, member dining areas, lounge and banquet facilities.

As a result of the 2017 Vision Capital Plan, the Club recently completed a $7.5 million renovation addressing the Clubhouse, Activities Building, Tennis Facility, and the Pool.

Dothan Country Club is home to the Future Masters Golf Tournament, one of the most traditionally rich junior tournaments in the world. An impressive list of golfing greats who have competed in the tournament continues to grow and includes past U.S. Open champions Hubert Green and Jerry Pate, Masters winner Larry Mize, PGA champions Bob Tway, Mark Brooks and Shawn Micheel, and British Open winner Ben Curtis. The Future Masters has become a proving ground for golf’s brightest junior stars, but it has never been only about golf. Rather, it is about the spirit of competition, friendships made, sportsmanship on the course, and the challenge of preserving 70 years of growing golf.

The Position:

The General Manager reports to the Board of Directors and coordinates with the President of the Board on a regular basis. The General Manager implements the policies established by the Board of directors and in accordance with the Club’s bylaws.

He/she develops operational policies and is responsible for the creation and implementation of standard operating procedures for all areas. This includes the preparation of the annual operating and capital budgets and management of the operations to attain the desired results. The General Manager coordinates all management functions and works in concert with committee chairs in assisting them in the development of proposed policies, programs, and events.

The General Manager is the lead coordinator of programming and development of synergy among all departments. The development and execution of the Club’s internal and external marketing strategies for membership growth and member engagement is a critical part of the position.

The General Manager should have a strong presence and embrace highly visibility with the membership and staff. They are expected to set the tone for consistently treating members with first class of hospitality and communicate this expectation to the entire staff as well.

More About Dothan Country Club:

  • 685 members
  • $5.82M Gross volume
  • $2.10M Annual Dues
  • $1.75M F&B volume
  • 102 Employees in-season
  • 15 Board members
  • Average age of members is 52

Candidate Qualifications:

Given the leading role this individual will be expected to play in achieving the strategic objectives of the Club, it is essential that the successful candidate possess the following core competencies, experience and attributes:

  • A minimum of 5 years of progressive leadership and management experience in a private club environment. Current Assistant General Managers or Club Managers at well-recognized clubs, with verifiable records of achievement, will be highly considered.
  • A Bachelor’s Degree from an accredited college or university, preferably in Hospitality Management or Business.
  • Certified Club Manager (CCM) designation preferred.

A pre-employment drug screen and background check will be required. The position becomes available November 1, 2019.

Salary and Benefits:
Salary is open and commensurate with qualifications and experience. The club offers an excellent bonus and benefit package.

IMPORTANT: Interested candidates should submit resumes along with a detailed cover letter which addresses the qualifications and describes your alignment/experience with the prescribed position by Tuesday, November 26, 2019, and if possible, sooner. Those documents must be saved and emailed in Word or PDF format (save as “Last Name, First Name, Dothan GM Cover Letter” and “Last Name, First Name, Dothan GM Resume”) respectively to:

Patrick DeLozier
Global Golf Advisors Inc.
(501) 258-2911

For more information on Dothan Country Club:

Executive Search: General Manager at Granite Golf Club


Granite Golf Club:

Granite Golf Club is an exclusive 18-hole championship private golf course complete with practice academy, located in the Stouffville area, just thirty minutes from Toronto.  Built in 2000, the golf course and clubhouse offer the finest facilities and uncompromising service to our discerning membership.  We offer the best elements of a family golf and social club through varied programs and amenities.

The Position:

Reporting to the Club President and Board of Directors, the General Manager is responsible for leading and directing all long-term and day-to-day activities associated with the Club, including creating a member-focused environment by building and maintaining relationships with members, guests, employees and the Board of Directors.

Specific accountabilities include:

  • Work with the Board in the execution of the Strategic Plan, from the Strategic Plan, construct a Business Plan and a Marketing Plan that drives Club revenues and achieves the agreed upon financial results.
  • Effectively manage and oversee Club Operations. Senior Managers who report directly to the GM and are responsible for the day-to-day activities and processes. Although the GM will rely on the Senior Managers to operate the daily activities, the GM will be ultimately responsible for overall performance metrics and service.
  • Develop and implement an effective sales and marketing strategy to increase membership and awareness of Granite Golf Club
  • Promote Granite Golf Club within the local community and support our valued relationship with the Granite Club
  • Design, implement and maintain operating policies and procedures that align and support the Club’s policies as defined by the Board of Directors
  • Conduct an ongoing evaluation of Club programs and events to ensure the consistent provision of outstanding services to meet the needs and expectations of members, guests, and employees
  • Represent the Club to members, staff and external agencies. The GM is engaged in new member recruitment and onboarding.
  • Manage the development, implementation and ongoing monitoring of the annual operating and capital budgets and the Club’s overall financial results
  • Maintain effective communication with the Board on Club operations, financial reports, risk analysis, compliance, asset management, membership initiatives and capital projects

Candidate Profile:

Given the leading role this individual will be expected to play in achieving the strategic objectives of the Club, it is essential that the successful candidate possess the following core competencies, experience and attributes:

  • A dynamic leader with the ability to build strong teams by motivation and lead by example. Has the ability to provide direction and expectations, performance feedback and recognition that leads to positive outcomes;
  • A post-secondary degree in business or a related discipline is required;
  • A minimum of 5+ years’ experience operating at a senior level in a private golf club or other similar athletic/social facility;
  • Strong professional deportment with a clear commitment to member service through an open and transparent member/customer approach;
  • A strategic thinker with strong business acumen with the ability to “grow the membership” through traditional and innovative sales and marketing techniques;
  • A definite business presence complemented with personal drive, resourcefulness, maturity and sound business judgment, with integrity and ethical conduct in words and deeds;
  • A self-starter approach, results oriented work style combined with excellent communication and interpersonal skills;
  • An innovative and decisive professional who possesses a positive demeanor;
  • Experience reporting to a Board that has adopted a club governance structure and processes to lead the Club and GM to collaborative success;
  • A strong golf background, preferably with an excellent profile in the golf industry.

The position becomes vacant on November 15, 2019.

The Club will offer an attractive compensation package, commensurate with experience, which will include a competitive base salary and benefits.

IMPORTANT: Interested candidates should submit resumes along with a detailed cover letter which addresses the qualifications and describes your alignment/experience with the prescribed position by Sunday, November 17, 2019. Those documents must be saved and emailed in Word or PDF format (save as “Last Name, First Name, Granite Resume” and “Last Name, First Name, Granite Cover Letter”) respectively to:

George Pinches
Global Golf Advisors Inc.

For more information on Granite Golf Club: