Keith Hanley has more than 25 years of industry experience, developing and operating golf facilities nationwide, as well as significant involvement in the construction of 12 golf clubs in the United States, Asia and Central America. Mr. Hanley joined KemperSports in 2009 and currently oversees 10 properties across the country, many of them Top 100 facilities, such as Streamsong Resort, Big Cedar Lodge, and Mossy Oak Golf Club.


I began my career in the golf industry more than 20 years ago – a path that’s enabled me to combine my business background with my passion for the game of golf. For over a decade I have been a proud KemperSports staffer carrying the title of vice president. This has given me the opportunity to direct oversite and day-to-day operations for 10 properties in the KemperSports portfolio.


Golf courses routinely faces issues of staffing from year-to-year. Clearly, the issue in maintaining customer service is paramount. Why is the topic more serious now than in year’s past?

Not only are golf facilities experiencing issues with recruiting staff, but all hospitality businesses are seeing it as well. With unemployment at record lows, it’s one of the most competitive job markets we’ve ever seen. And you’re absolutely correct – customer service is paramount. We strive to provide exceptional golf experiences for our members, guests and loyal customers at each of our properties. The interaction with our staffers is paramount to our success. We train all of our staff through a seven-module customer service training initiative called True Service, which focuses on exceptional customer service and how our team can deliver that service. We are focusing on retaining and retraining our staff as well as continual recruitment of “A” players.

What’s the biggest mistakes facilities make in the hiring process?

Hiring too fast to fill a position and not going through the process to identify prospective staff with the right personalities and interpersonal skills. These qualities can be enhanced through training programs – but a foundation has to be there from the start. Too often facilities just hire a person and throw them into situation that they are not prepared for, which creates poor guest service and disgruntled staff members.

What’s the biggest mistake those seeking positions make in the interview process?

Not fully understanding the features and benefits of the club / golf course and not understanding where they might be a best fit in terms of gainful employment and enjoying their position. More often, job seekers are simply looking for the role that offers the most money.

Turnover is a constant issue and can cause major disruptions. What are some key steps that help minimize its impact?

First, continual training is paramount; we believe staff members are happier when they have the tools and resources to deliver great service. Second is listening to your staff. They have great ideas on how we can improve. And third, we need to make sure our staff understands why company and club culture is more fun and rewarding and how it offers avenues for career advancement.

What is the approach taken by KemperSports?

We take a customized approach to each one of our properties with respect to creating the appropriate service level delivery, tailored to who our members and guests are. But at the end of the day, all of our staff strive to be genuine, friendly and helpful in every interaction. Our True Service program gives them the tools to do that. The KemperSports approach makes a difference.

How successful has it been in both keeping existing personnel and hiring new ones?

Having a consistent base of key staff members and returning staff members is important for the customer service objectives, but also the overall operation of the club. We strive to provide an environment where staffers enjoy coming to work and being part of something great! With respect to hiring new staffers, we seek to identify individuals who have the right attitude and want to be part of a family business that has created a brand of excellence throughout our almost 40 years.

How do you evaluate your efforts?

There are the standard evaluations that all full and part-time staff will receive throughout the year, but we also incorporate department meetings that are set up to get open and honest feedback from the staff about how we are doing. In addition, we have daily surveys of our guests, which provide valuable feedback in core areas of our business as well as annual surveys to our memberships.

Are the challenges in hiring at both the entry and management levels?

There are challenges with hiring both entry level and management levels today based on location of the property as well as expectations. At the same time, if your facility has a reputation of excellence and being a great place to work, more often than not, really good people will find you.

If you were advising people interested in getting involved in the golf industry what would you suggest they do?

There are several different career paths that should be explored if someone is interested in the golf industry. My advice would be for the person to set up some time to speak with the department managers and get their insight into the various teams — golf operations, food and beverage, sales and marketing or agronomics – to see how he or she might fit in. Each area has its own rewarding experiences as well as challenges.

There’s an old expression — that all people are born with two ears and one mouth. How critical are listening skills on all levels?

Listening is one of the most valuable talents a hospitality professional can possess. We need to understand what the member or guest wants and then develop the plan to articulate back to them and ultimately deliver. From handling everyday questions / requests to service recovery issues to providing an exceptional experience, listening first and then responding will create a better dialogue. Teach staff to listen, understand and not interrupt or offer excuses, then move with clarity to the resolution.