A happy return to the greens

A happy return to the greens

The grass on the greens often seems greener elsewhere, but that's often not the case.

That's what former North Sound Golf Club general manager Jeff Sauvage, who is now general manager once again, learned after leaving Cayman about three and a half years ago.

He spent the time away playing a lot of golf in the state of Washington and then managing a golf club in Arizona, where he and his wife Jamie endured the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was while living in Arizona that he started missing Cayman.

Sauvage, who has also been the general manager of golf clubs in New Jersey and California over his long career in the golf industry, then received a message to call Erick Fowler.
During his first stay in Cayman, Fowler had been Sauvage's director of golf and then assumed the role of general manager after he left.

"I stayed in touch with Erick while I was away and when I got the message to call him, I was going to tell him how good he had it here in Cayman," says Sauvage. "Before I could say that, he told me that he had an offer somewhere else and was going to leave."

With the door open to return, Sauvage and Jamie moved back to Cayman in May.

"We couldn't be happier to be back."

Growth

During his first stint as general manager of the North Sound Golf Club, Sauvage and his team learned something very important about how to make a local golf course economically feasible in the Cayman Islands: It needed strong usage by the local community.

His team set out to attract more resident players.

"When I first got here, we had less than 200 members, and by the time I left, we had about 350. Now we're at 425," he says. "The growth we've had over the past eight to 10 years is wonderful to see."

Sauvage says there's a couple of trends he has noticed in the membership: The average age of members is younger than it was before, and there are now more women members.

To help attract more women to golf, the North Sound Golf Club offers a ladies-only weekly entry-level instruction programme.

"It's a relaxed environment with like-minded ladies," Sauvage says. "It's been successful and we're getting 12 to 24 ladies each week."

More members coupled with more public play has led to record numbers of rounds played.

"We are busier than we've ever been," says Sauvage. ""We began the month of August with at least 90 rounds played for the first 15 days of the month. I went back through the records to see if we had ever started a month with that many consecutive days of at least 90 rounds, and I could not find a single month.

Finding tee times on weekends or in the afternoons is difficult these days, but for those who can golf weekday mornings, it's still fairly easy.

Once the island opens back up to tourism, Sauvage says the North Sound Golf Club can still accommodate them.

"A lot of the tourists golf on weekday mornings," he says. "To them, every day is a weekend, so they don't have to play on a Saturday or Sunday."

Improvements

One of the nice surprises Sauvage found when he returned was the excellent shape of the course.

Not long after he left, the North Sound Golf Club hosted the Caribbean Amateur Golf Championship in August 2018, and a number of improvements were made to the course.

More recently, GPS was added to the golf carts, which has allowed for traffic control and improved turf conditions.

"With GPS on our carts enabling location services, we are able to set up geofencing for areas that the carts should not be driven," says Sauvage. "This allows us to restrict the carts to only certain areas of the course and as a result, the greens and tee areas have never been better."

This year, a project that saw the paving of the entire six miles of cart paths was completed as well.

"This allows us to keep the course open in adverse conditions," Sauvage says, noting that after heavy rains in previous years, the unpaved cart paths sometime became unusable because of flooding, forcing the closure of the course even if the sun was shining.

Focus

With no more major improvements imminent, Sauvage says his focus now is the golfing experience.

"I want to continue to refine and develop the process and present a quality product for our golfers," he says. "I want to focus on the daily golf experience and make sure that for our 100 golfers every day, it's a positive experience."

Sauvage is thrilled to be back managing North Sound Golf Club, and when he looks out over course these days, it somehow seems greener than when he left a few years ago.

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This article appears in print in the September 2021 edition of Camana Bay Times, written by Alan Markoff.

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