INTERVIEW WITH IAIN McINALLY, GENERAL MANAGER AT RAEVO
Designed by 18-time Major Champion Jack Nicklaus, Raevo Golf & Country Club presents the finest layout in Moscow with exemplary conditioning and maintenance. The club has recently entered Golf World’s Top 100 Courses in Continental Europe list in 18th position, which is the highest ever new entry for a new golf course. The course also topped the list of Russian entries and marked the first time that Russian clubs had been included in the rankings.
Raevo is a private members club and offers a high quality, family-orientated and welcoming community in Moscow. The property is managed by IMG, the world’s leading sports, marketing & entertainment company, further reinforcing its commitment to quality and providing the ultimate experience.
In an exclusive interview with General Manager Iain McInally, we found out more about his career in golf & hospitality, about the Russian market and Raevo, set to open in 2020.
1. Iain, please tell us a bit more about your experience in the golf industry?
I have worked within the golf & hospitality industry for over 30 years, starting as a golf professional before quickly specializing in club management at an early age. Career started in exclusive private clubs near to London, working at The Wisley for the first five years of its opening before moving to Barbados as Director of Golf at Royal Westmoreland shortly after it opened. I then moved to work with Marriott in the UK at their only 5-star country club before working at the Home of Golf, initially at The Old Course Hotel before joining Fairmont to manage their golf resort nearby. Five years in Portugal followed as General Manager of Quinta do Lago and then at the highly acclaimed Monte Rei, for the first four years of opening. Then I went to Dubai to work with Emaar at their only hotel branded golf resort, The Address Montgomerie, before joining the European Tour to manage their portfolio of branded resorts - initially 12 within the portfolio but 31 by the time I left to join Raevo, five years later.
2. Why did you decide to move to Russia? What exactly created such an interest?
My initial career and motivation was always to work within the very highest quality facilities, and always to be directly connected to golf. Various career choices were taken to widen experience and skills but I have always migrated back to this core objective, hopefully with beneficial experiences from commensurate industries such as hotels, hospitality, real estate development and other ancillary sports that can work in parallel with and benefit directly from golf. Raevo fits this perfectly for me – it has aspirations of absolute quality in both product and service throughout, and while golf may be at the core - and the aspect that most directly drives the brand - there are other important leisure facilities within the country club such as tennis, family pursuits, winter activities, dining, bedroom suites and of course, real estate. From a personal perspective my wife was born in Russia, speaks Russian fluently and we love Moscow as a city, so from a personal as well as a family perspective this is a perfect opportunity.
3. Tell us more about the vision for Raevo Golf & Country Club.
The vision of Raevo is driven by our stakeholders who conceived the project and have brought it all to fruition. It has reached this stage through the engagement of arguably the best course architect in the world, Jack Nicklaus, and all required resources have been provided throughout to create something very special. For a golf course in Moscow to have received the level of acclaim and interest internationally before its opening is unprecedented, and to have gained the recognition as 18th best in Continental Europe and 1st in Russia is testament to this vision and drive. My role now is to take this and create a club that is befitting of the asset and infrastructure – to focus at all times on the vision and values of absolute quality and to lead the teams that will deliver this. The main feature of Raevo will always be the golf course, but every other aspect must match the overall quality of facility created. There are many studies and examples to show that the influence of ‘golf’ within any resort is greater than its operational value alone - for instance bedrooms within hotels on a prestigious golf resort will sell for a far higher price than equivalent rooms locally and this effect is strongest in particular with real estate where the value of property is not only higher as a result of the golf course but enjoys a greater protection against market downturns, increased rental returns and quicker resales.
4. Why is the private format chosen for Raevo and what are the main advantages?
Raevo will absolutely be a private club for our members, their families and guests. There is a great saying that ‘private clubs must act in a private way’ and we will respect this in everything we do with our club. There may be times when we will welcome golfers outside of this criteria, and we will respect our place in society by acting with social responsibility as part of the Moscow community. However, in principle, Raevo will be a retreat for our members – somewhere they can be in peace within their own club, with the best facilities and the most personalized of service. There will be no pressure on tee-times and the environment throughout will be a relaxed one. While we will provide private meeting rooms, private dining options and all technology required for business to be conducted within the club by members, Raevo will typically be an escape from the city, an environment wrapped in nature and tranquility with no road or air noise intrusions and somewhere that members can bring their family and friends to enjoy with them.
5. You have been travelling a lot over the last few years and have seen many different clubs. Which properties have impressed you the most?
Preference as to which facilities are best will always carry a level of subjectivity, but through my working directly with almost 40 top venues worldwide there are venues that I admire in particular for different reasons. The Wisley and Queenwood in London have created clubs with a structure in mind of being private & exclusive and have stayed true to this throughout by maintaining quality, reinvesting wherever necessary and by respecting the needs and desires of their members. From a resort perspective Terre Blanche in Provence perhaps has the greatest quality across all of its facilities and continually strives to improve and innovate; and Finca Cortesin in Spain continues to develop with a focus on absolute attention to detail and both are favoured places of mine. However, as a golfer in my core, when I visit St. Andrews, even when I lived and worked there, I am always overwhelmed by the sense of history. Sometimes change isn’t required, and the feeling at St. Andrews is of an experience that is authentic and has remained largely unchanged for generations - and in this instance it is correct to be this way!
6. How can IMG's global reach help Raevo Golf & Country Club?
IMG are the largest sports marketing company in the world, and as such can bring a wealth of benefit to Raevo. This extends to management practices, marketing reach and access to industry information – however, from a club perspective it brings a platform of direct benefits for our members. IMG have a network of 200+ Prestige golf and resort venues worldwide that offer preferential access to members of Raevo, including revered venues such as Monte Rei in Portugal, Ba Na Hills in Vietnam, Ile aux Cerfs in Mauritius, Le Golf National in Paris, Turnberry in Scotland and Emirates Golf Club in Dubai. IMG also promote and manage events locally such as Moscow Fashion Week, Taste of Moscow, UFC fights along with Tennis and other sports events at which Raevo members can be afforded exclusive privileges.
7. Сontinue the sentence: "Golf in Russia is..."
Golf in Russia is a small market in terms of the size of participation and number of venues, but carries a disproportionately large profile due to the quality of courses & facilities and the profile of the people who engage within the sport. Moscow is the only city with 3 Jack Nicklaus Signature courses and also has 3 venues in the top 100 of Continental Europe, which as a percentage of total venues in a market is unique. The type of in-bound tourism within Russia currently doesn’t generate many golf rounds, which is always a challenge in northern seasonal locations anyway, so golf here is almost exclusively a domestic market – but with the ability and propensity to travel that Russian golfers have, they understand and therefore expect, the very highest international standards.
IMG is a global leader in sports, fashion, events and media. The company manages some of the world’s greatest athletes and fashion icons; owns and operates hundreds of live events annually; and is a leading independent producer and distributor of sports and entertainment media. IMG also specializes in licensing, sports training and league development. IMG is a subsidiary of Endeavor, a global entertainment, sports and content company.