Gary Silcock’s CV reads like a travelling golfer’s itinerary – and, like a golf tourist, he would argue he’s saved the best for last: Gleneagles.
Coming up for two years in his job as director of golf for the world-renowned Perthshire resort, Silcock, 47, is able to reflect on a career which has already surpassed anything many of his contemporaries might achieve.
He is also in the enviable position of having two Ryder Cup venues on that aforementioned CV, though he wasn’t at either venue when they hosted the event.
Having qualified as a PGA pro in 1996 he secured his first position at the Home of Golf, St Andrews, working at the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa, as a pro at the Duke’s Course. But he was always ambitious and, within a year, his head was turned by the offer of a head professional role in Portugal, at Parque da Floresta, where he was also golf operations manager.
He gained enormous experience during his five years on the Algarve, from designing and building a new golf academy to project managing the redevelopment of the golf course. That success made him a wanted man, particularly coveted by developers, and his next stop was India, at the Aamby Valley City gated resort, where he oversaw the pre-opening and then managed the floodlit course and PGA-branded academy.
His next port of call was a little closer to home, in Ireland, where, once again, he pre-opened a course: this time the PGA National Ireland at Palmerstown House. While undertaking a complete branding and development of the golf course and clubhouse, he also took on the responsibility of managing the sister property, the 36-hole Citywest Hotel, in Dublin.
In February 2006, he returned to the UK, as director of golf at four-time Ryder Cup venue The Belfry, where he stayed for almost seven years, before being lured to the sunshine at La Manga Club. There, as at The Belfry and in Ireland previously, he was responsible for three golf courses – plus two clubhouses and a Leadbetter Golf Academy.
Finally, he returned ‘home’ in March 2015 to the Gleneagles Hotel – again as director of golf, but this time in a position he readily admits is his ‘dream job’.
He explained: “When I went to The Belfry a lot of the reps, the people that I would chat with, they would ask me about my future; what did I want to do ultimately.
“And I would always say that my dream job was Gleneagles, so I’ve realised my dream. And Gleneagles is so big that I can still grow within it.”
For some, missing out on the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles might be a regret, but Silcock is phlegmatic about the timing of his appointment – and of that at The Belfry, where he was in a not dissimilar situation.
He smiled: “I’ve missed both of them – at Gleneagles and The Belfry. The Ryder Cup was held four times at The Belfry, and what we did there was we managed to keep that legacy going for a long time.
“The Belfry is very much a tour venue as well, as is Gleneagles. It’s very much up there and it needs to stay there.”
As if to reinforce that point, Silcock points towards the hosting of the inaugural European Golf Championships in 2018, an event which is backed by both the European Tour and the Ladies European Tour which will be played over the PGA Centenary Course.
“You’ve got the two man team, you’ve got the two lady team and then you’ve got the male and female four-person team. And then, obviously, we have the 2019 Solheim Cup.”
After 20 years in golf, Silcock remains as enthusiastic and hands-on as ever, busying himself in the day-to-day minutiae that less-committed managers might simply overlook.
He continued: “I am the director of golf, so I’m involved in every facet of golf, including having an input in the food and beverage operation.
“As with sales and marketing, I’m not managing it, I’m not controlling it, but I am an influence in that decision process. Although I have the title director of golf it’s more general management.”
And management, and in-particular the business of golf is on the increase since hosting the Ryder Cup, with both turnover and revenue on the up.
“Since I’ve been here, our membership has grown ten per cent last year, and about seven per cent this year.
“We’ve done that in a different way to everyone else, in as much as we haven’t increased our prices – we’ve invested in the project and made it better. We’ve made it better value and we’ve also created a lifestyle, so here you’ve got really nice members, not customers.”
Gleneagles’ PGA Academy and its three golf courses have seen enormous investment over the last few years – most recently the King’s course which underwent a maintenance programme last winter, including a project to line the bunkers and return the course to Braid’s original design vision.
“We’ve invested not only in the courses and the clubhouse, but in the golf team itself, and we have an ever-expanding team, including a new golf operations manager,” said Silcock.
The investment in golf facilities is just one element of an ongoing multi-million pound investment programme at the five-star hotel. In 2015, Ennismore – a London-based developer of unique properties and experiences – purchased Gleneagles from Diageo plc, and since then, it has been making substantial investment across the estate to enhance the guest experience.
“We’ve already established a world-class reputation for our golf facilities, but what actually sets us apart as a golfing venue is everything else,” said Silcock.
“It’s the culinary offering, the five-star hospitality, the luxury spa and accommodation, and the ‘glorious playground’ of leisure activities and country pursuits we have on the estate – like shooting, off-roading, archery, falconry, fishing – that our golfing visitors are awestruck by when they come.”
After leaving La Manga in 2014, an opportunity to return to his homeland presented itself, and having travelled to Portugal, Spain and India, one might imagine, for all that Gleneagles is his dream job, he might pine for the sunshine. But Silcock’s having none of it.
He smiled: “I actually love the weather here – it showcases golf in the way it was designed to be played – so it’s good to be home.”
With such an impressive CV, Silcock’s name has appeared on many a recruitment consultants short-list when fresh opportunities present themselves.
Yet, despite his considerable experience and knowledge, Silcock has always remained fairly grounded and respectful to each role he has held.
“When I worked at The Belfry, I was very fortunate. Every single top job that came up in the country I was interviewed for, and I went through the whole interview process with a lot of them.
“It was Gleneagles, though, that I always had on my radar; the career move I had always been waiting for.
“I still enjoy playing golf, so it’s my leisure activity and it’s my work; that means on Saturday and Sunday I will come up here with my son, but I’m at work – ultimately, I am a golf pro.
“I still tutor in business management with the PGA which I have done for the past 11 years, and I really enjoy passing on my knowledge and experience.”
Gleneagles may well be his dream job, but with the possibility of another 20 years employment ahead of him, it’s quite feasible to imagine a few more golfer’s bucket-list venues being added to Silcock’s golfing CV.