Malone Golf Club is a seven-days-a-week operation and, as such, depends on its IT systems implicitly. However, by the early 2010s, it was clear that the ageing infrastructure was struggling to keep pace with the club’s needs, a problem exacerbated by the fact that everything was housed in Ballydrain House, an historic stone-built mansion, part of which dates back to 1608 with a “mish-mash” of cabling from various decades. Recently, to cope with 21st century demands, Malone Golf Club commissioned Xperience Group to design and install a completely new IT infrastructure. The club expects the system to go live in July 2015.
In summary, Xperience's IT Services enabled Malone Golf Club to:
- Future-proof their system which would also require minimal attention
- Reduce downtime by implementing reliable wifi with coverage and reliability they were looking for
Paddy Dean is Malone’s Club Manager and he explains why golf clubs have unique requirements. “Golf clubs are part club and part businesses, and operate seven days a week,” he says. “Even then no two golf clubs are alike. In our case we’re located in an extensive country estate with a 180-year old clubhouse, a former mansion which has been considerably extended and altered over the decades."
“With each recent extension came new cabling with the result that, by 2014, our IT infrastructure had become a logistical nightmare sitting alongside cabling from 30 years ago. So we made the decision that now was the ideal time to rip everything out and start again: new cabling, a new server, new wi-fi and support provision - the works.”
Paddy explains that, as a golf club, they don’t put a huge demand on the server. “But what we do need is bullet-proof reliability,” he continues. “We can’t afford the tills behind the bar to go down or one of the tills that puts the food orders through. A single technical problem could bring everything grinding to a halt. “
“Initially we asked our existing IT provider for a rough idea of how much it would cost to rebuild the IT infrastructure. Then once we’d decided that, yes, we were definitely going ahead we asked them for a more detailed plan and costings. They came back with a report that looked impressive but actually said very little. To be honest, they could have been selling us anything.”
“My predecessor had some dealings with Jonny Weir, who now works for Xperience. So he suggested we call him in and request a similar report. Xperience sent people up to do an assessment and came back with a similarly comprehensive report. But they didn’t blind me with science; what they were proposing had obviously been carefully thought through. Their price was higher than the other quote, but in a way I found that reassuring because it proved that they weren’t simply trying to undercut to gain the business.”
Paddy wanted a system that, once up and running, would require minimal attention and be future-proof. “We didn’t want to be calling Xperience every five minutes or find ourselves having to repeat the installation process in five years’ time,” he says.
But specifying a trouble-free solution isn’t an easy task when you’re operating from a centuries-old building where you can never predict what may go wrong – such as the time driving rain leaked into the IT equipment and power supply. “However we believe that the solution Xperience is providing will deliver reliability as well as a stable platform that can cope with random emergencies,” Paddy adds.
Another issue was the wi-fi. “We already had wi-fi in place but it’s never been that reliable, mainly due to the clubhouse’s hefty stone walls,” he continues. “However Xperience have assured us they can deliver the coverage and reliability we are looking for.”
Was it the right decision to move to Xperience? “Absolutely,” says Paddy. “With our previous IT provider, if they didn’t hear from us then we didn’t hear from them, whereas Xperience are different. They phone us once a month to see how we’re getting along and I find that a comfort. Of course in an ideal world I don’t want to be ringing them every other day. But if they want to check in now and again to see how things are going and I report that everything is fine, then at least that quick phone call gives me peace of mind and adds value to their service.”
“Throughout the process, Xperience have been very open and honest,” says Paddy. “I genuinely believe that what they promise to deliver they will deliver. Another thing that’s reassuring is that I’ve been introduced to the people I’m going to be dealing with so I can put a name to a face should I ever need to call them.”
“At the end of the day we are very happy with the service we’ve received from Xperience,” Paddy continues. “Obviously a lot is going to be happening over the next few weeks or so in the lead up to the Go Live date. And, naturally, we’re keen to get up and running as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
“The good thing is that Xperience understand this and are working with us in terms of the timescale to ensure that everything is switched over sooner rather than later. And because they’ve kept all their promises so far, I trust that the move will go smoothly. So, yes, I’m very happy we brought them in to assist.”
About Malone Golf Club
Founded in 1895 and located five miles from Belfast in the lower Lagan Valley at Ballydrain, Malone Golf Club is where Tony Jacklin recorded his first professional victory and where Gary Player won the Irish Senior Masters. Situated in landscaped parkland surrounding an historic mansion complete with its original lake, Malone is recognised as one of Irelandâ€™s best parkland golf courses.