GBN talks to Freddie Rextrew, the recently appointed Operations Manager at La Vie Club in Oman, about his career to date and how working for Troon Golf has helped provide a rich and varied choice of working opportunities around the world
What is your background and how did you first get into golf?
Freddie: I grew up in Wimbledon, south west London, where I started playing golf at the age of 12 at Coombe Hill Golf Club. For a club that at the time had a rather small junior section, there was a group that I was part of that played and practiced at any opportunity we could.
After college I attended the Tournament Golf College in Plymouth for two years, before then being given the opportunity to do an internship with Troon Golf at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club in Abu Dhabi, shortly after graduating.
Since 2013 I have worked at six Troon-managed properties, including Saadiyat Beach; Abu Dhabi Golf Club; Royal Greens Golf & Country Club in Jeddah, Centurion Club in Hertfordshire London, Vattanac Golf Resort in Vietnam, and now La Vie Club in Muscat. I’ve also done summer placements at Queenwood and The Wisley.
What first attracted you to working abroad?
Post-graduation I and others from my university course were given the opportunity to go to Abu Dhabi for a 9-month internship, which to myself was an incredibly exciting opportunity. I had never taken the chance to go travelling or take a gap year, so travelling with golf included was a huge attraction.
How important a role has Troon Golf played in the development of your career?
Troon Golf has unprecedently been a huge support in the development of my career. The culture of Troon became apparent very quickly whilst being at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, and the essence of that culture working with a variety of industry professionals from different nationalities has remained the same.
What was it like to work at Centurion Club and how did you develop your skills in that period?
Centurion was a great experience during my four years, especially navigating through COVID. It was my first experience of working at a private members club, but Centurion has none of the stuffiness that perhaps might be associated with those kinds of clubs. Although it is clearly a premium venue, with membership fees at the higher end of the scale, it always had a relaxed and welcoming environment which promoted the inclusion of the whole family as appose to just avid golfers.
Centurion certainly taught me to think outside of the box from an operational standpoint, especially as we reopened post-COVID. The club and its members will always hold a special place in my heart.
How did you hear about the role at La Vie Club and what qualities do you think got you the job?
I had been approached by Troon International’s corporate office with regards to the project at La Vie. With regards to my qualities for the role, I had previously been a part of a Troon pre-opening at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, and a takeover project with Troon going into Vattanac Golf Resort. With both of these experiences and previous time in the GCC I think these experiences helped me in becoming the successful candidate for my current role.
What is the remit of your new role and what does a typical working day involve?
My current remit is overseeing the pre-opening and operations of the revived facility at La Vie Club, which occupies a site which was previously known at Muscat Hills Golf & Country Club. Muscat Hills originally opened in 2009 and boasts an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Paul Thomas from Dave Thomas Ltd.
On joining this project, our current ownership, Oman Real Estate Investment Services (ORIS), took over a property that had been left without any maintenance for nearly 18 months. Day-to-day during the week I am predominately working with our senior managers with progress reports in their respected departments, meetings with the ownership group to update on our timelines for planned opening phases and on the weekends meeting with guests and visitors to assist the team in ensuring we are providing the best experience possible.
What areas of the club’s operations are you looking to enhance and what future plans does the club have?
On taking over the club, the new owners have had to build a new clubhouse and maintenance building, which has been a huge task. We have also got an intense spring/summer interseeding project to change the grass from Bermuda to Paspalum. We’ve recently installed Toptracer at our driving range, the first club to do in Oman, and towards the end of this year we will begin building a multi-purpose lifestyle destination within the 39,000sqm land adjacent to the 10th tee, which will include an 80-bedroom Tivoli boutique hotel & spa, and around 100 private and commercial properties.
What do you see as being the most challenging parts of your new role?
Golf is currently not a hugely popular sport in Oman, with the view of it being a sport only for wealthy individuals. Oman is also not recognized as a golfing destination for global tourism either. Therefore, we have two considerable challenges to get new golfers in country playing, especially with the Omani nationals and to work with our partners in Oman and globally to grow golf through tourism.
We are all very excited to re-establish the club as one of the premier golf facilities within the region serving golfers, the community and growing the game of golf in Oman. We will be delivering the ‘Troon Experience’ and are focused on being a fun and family-friendly club.
How easy has it been to settle into life in Oman? How different is it to the other countries in the Middle East that you have worked in?
Having lived in five countries in the last nine years I have never struggled with settling quickly in a new location. However, Oman has been considerably more welcoming than other countries I have lived in. The Omani nationals are unbelievably welcoming and supportive, and this seems to have transcended into all of the expats that live here also.
Have you had any mentors during your career or people who you have been able to lean on for advice? If so, who and what have you learned from them?
I have been extremely fortunate to work with some great leaders in my time with Troon. A few stand outs are Paul Booth from my time in Abu Dhabi, Belhassen Ftouhi from my time in Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, Karl Whitehead from my time in Abu Dhabi and Cambodia, Scott Evans from my time at Centurion, and both Mark Chapleski and DJ Flanders from the Troon International Corporate Office, who have both been extremely supportive as I have progressed with Troon Golf.
What do you know now that you wish you’d had known when you first started out?
Ten years ago I knew that to get to where I wanted in my career I was going to have to work extremely hard and put myself outside of my comfort zone as much as possible. When I started with Troon, I was Golf Operations Attendant at Saadiyat Beach Golf Club, this role included cleaning golf carts, picking the driving range balls and cleaning clubs, which in the Abu Dhabi sun was certainly tough at times. Hard work, commitment and determination through any of the roles I have done in my career with Troon has helped me to where I am now, and I would certainly be telling my younger self that although it is difficult, it is certainly worth it.
For more details on La Vie Club, visit www.troon.com/locations/la-vie-club/
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