THE MURRAY STORY
Glen Murray, from Milwaukee, Wisconsin is a 20-year golf industry veteran and PGA member. Orientated in hospitality with Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel companies. He joined Kemper Sports Management in 2015 as the opening General Manager of Sand Valley Golf Resort.
I often credit my dad for propelling me into the golf industry. He followed in his father’s footsteps in our family business. My dad made an incredible 46-year-career in the Sump Pump industry. He always told me and my brothers to follow our passion and never wavered from that advice, even when it meant passing the family business on to a non-family member.
MATT WARD: Sand Valley opened this year just prior to the US Open at Erin Hills. Describe the excitement and challenge in doing so.
GLEN MURRAY: Opening Sand Valley on May 2nd, 2017, 18 years to the day after Bandon Dunes opened felt like a solid omen. The weather was similar between the two openings, and after 3 months of welcoming guests at Sand Valley the reaction has been more than we could have asked for or imaged.
MW: Wisconsin has made great strides in the last number of years. The Open came to the Badger State for the first time — the Ryder Cup is planned to visit in ’20 at Whistling Straits and three PGA Championships have already been played in the State. You’ll also be opening the full 18-holes of the 2nd course — Mammoth Dunes — in ’18 and there are plans for possibly more golf on property. What makes the States so golf oriented?
GM: As a Wisconsin native, when I left the state almost two decades ago the Greater Milwaukee Open was the states golf headliner. The positioning of Wisconsin Golf has expanded remarkably with: PGA Championships, Men’s and Women’s US Opens, a US Amateur, a US Senior Open, and now Steve Stricker’s Champions Tour Event in Madison. Mammoth Dunes by David McLay Kidd will open at Sand Valley in 2018, as well as a 17 hole Par 3 Course by Coore and Crenshaw. Wisconsinites are proud of our cheese, beer, brats, Harley Davidsons, and now add golf to this list of best in class products.
MW: Course owner Mike Keiser has clearly impacted golf course development in a major way since the ’99 opening of Bandon Dunes in Oregon. How would you characterize his philosophy in terms of attracting core golfers and in layout creation with its clear emphasis on classic architecture that maximizes a fun element?
GM: We are in a second golden age of golf course architecture, the original golden age taking place from around 1915-1933 where famous courses such as Pine Valley, Pebble Beach, Cypress Point, Winged Foot, Los Angles CC, and Augusta National came to fruition. This second golden age has started with Dick Youngscap’s founding of Sand Hills Golf Club in 1995, world class course designers focusing on natural features on exceptional pieces of ground is a style of golf that the retail golfer has been drawn to since venues have followed Sand Hills in this manner are open to the public. Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Streamsong, Erin Hills, Cabot Links, Chambers Bay, and Gamble Sands to name a few.
MW: Affordability is a recurring element mentioned by many in the golf industry to both attract and keep players. How will Sand Valley approach the topic?
GM: Sand is the secret ingredient to great and affordable golf. Building courses on sand sites not only allows for a unique ambiance, it is more cost efficient to complete the construction phase. In the case of Sand Valley our greens and bunkers are native sand, and we can perform maintenance to the courses using our seemingly endless supply. These efficiencies are passed onto the golfer, we also incentivize the golfer in that the second full course hole round is 50% off, the third round is free.
MW: Customer service is regularly touted by many as a key element for any facility to succeed. Define the term and the approach you and your team will be taking at Sand Valley on behalf of guests coming to Nekoosa.
GM: Our managing partner, Michael Keiser Jr., says on a regular basis that our golf courses will bring guests to Sand Valley the first time — it’s our hospitality team that brings them back for a return visit. Our approach to service is to ensure its genuine, friendly, and approachable. Central Wisconsin has a built in friendliness to its culture, people here treat you like a neighbor even when they are meeting you for the first time.
MW: How do you plan on soliciting comments from those coming to Sand Valley?
GM: We ask our guests for feedback on a regular basis, throughout the resort experience and again before they depart the property. Showing guests we are welcome and open to their comments sets a tone where they are more comfortable here and our staff knows we are in an environment where we are as only as good as our last service moment. Our True Review process through Kemper Sports Management allows us to quickly survey golf and lodging guests through email. The survey’s arrive to our leadership in real time, and we have weekly and monthly report updates. Sand Valley very early on has established a culture of continuous improvement.
MW: What’s the approximate number of rounds you expect to do this year?
GM: We were expecting around 16,000 golfers this year, 3 months in we can say we didn’t project high enough. We are grateful for the response we are receiving, especially golfers making second and third trips to Sand Valley within the same year.
MW: Golf is going through some major changes — most notably on the drop-off of players and the closing of courses. If you could advise the key golf organizations on how to turn things around what would you recommend especially among Millennials, women and minorities?
GM: Like many things in life you create an attachment during your youth years. I’m a Green Bay Packers Fan for life after watching nearly every game with my Dad growing up. I came into the golf through my interest in a local caddie job. While I wasn’t a good caddie, I quickly became hooked in the game. Junior caddie programs and junior golf programs are our best chance to grow the game over the long term.
MW: Curious to know — best advice you ever received? What was it and who provided it?
GM: My best golfing buddy Chuck Kubicki would tell me on a regular basis a phrase repeated by many others — “it’s amazing what can be accomplished when people don’t care who receives the credit.”
MW: All golfers have a bucket list of places they’d like to play — what’s at the top of your list and what three people would round out your foursome should you get the opportunity to play that course?
GM: Royal Dornoch in Scotland is on the top of my list to visit and play a few rounds. I’d love to tee it with my co-workers Michael Miller, Steve Kurtz, and Nick Kwaterski. All three of these guys are golf nuts and have been the anchors in putting together the Sand Valley golf experience.WHAT'S YOUR REACTION?