There are few roles in golf that David Scott has not embraced during his long and distinguished career. Now he is putting the lessons he has learned from his various mentors into practice as the General Manager of Dumbarnie Links, in Fife.
The life of a PGA professional can be one of boundless opportunities and possibilities. In an enriching and fulfilling 40-year relationship with the Association, David Scott has performed a huge range of roles across some of the finest venues in Scotland.
Scott cut his teeth as an assistant at Blairgowrie before becoming the first ever professional at Letham Grange. He moved on to Balbirnie Park then became director of golf at Kingsbarns Golf Links, which opened to a triumphant fanfare in 2000.
Significant posts at the Duke’s Course and the Old Course Hotel, where he was Director of Operations, bolstered his reputation before he moved into his current position of General Manager at Dumbarnie Links.
Throw in a past captaincy of the PGA in Scotland, a PGA Cup appearance for GB&I in 1990 and the award of Master Professional status in 2018 and Scott is being typically modest when he says: “I’ve ticked a few boxes in my career.”
Scott’s latest posting at Dumbarnie Links continues to stir his senses. The Fife course only opened in 2020 during the tumult of the coronavirus pandemic but is already regarded as a jewel in the home of golf’s shimmering crown.
“There were no second thoughts about coming here,” said Scott of a venue which announced itself on the global stage when it held the Trust Golf Women’s Scottish Open in the summer of 2021.
“Kingsbarns was a brand-new course when I went there and Dumbarnie was the same. It’s very exciting having a blank sheet of paper to work with and starting from scratch. I was excited by the challenge. Of course, Covid hit and we didn’t have a clubhouse. But we worked out of tents and portacabins all year and welcomed over 15,000 guests. We made the best of a bad situation.”
In a long, rewarding golfing life, Scott has accumulated plenty of experience as well as some useful pearls of wisdom from those he has worked alongside.
“Stephen Carter OBE was my boss at the Old Course Hotel and a quote of his that sticks with me is: ‘If you stop getting better, you stop being good,’” said Scott as he mulled over the people who have helped shape his own ethos.
“Mark Parsinen, who sadly passed away, was a mentor at Kingsbarns. He took me from a four-star mindset to a five-star mindset and showed me that you should leave no stone unturned in delivering exceptional service. I was also fortunate to have one-to-ones with Herb Kohler when I was at the Old Course Hotel. He has around 40,000 people working for him and an empire that turns over $6 billion a year. He goes into fine detail over everything. When he was adding the extension to the Old Course Hotel, he’d want to know the type of kettle in the room, the exact measurement of the luggage rack, the colour palettes of the walls. Everything. It was inspiring being around him.”
In an ever-changing industry, the skills Scott has learned over the decades continues to stand him in good stead.
Technology may be something of a game changer but the basics of good business nous, and a bit of “common sense”, remain the same.
“Ensure your diary is your bible so that nothing is missed,” said Scott, who has embraced the world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and WhatsApp to keep up to speed in this rapid-fire world of communications.
“Organise and plan, write a weekly report and ask heads of department for an update and plan for the following week. It’s not ground-breaking but you just have to evolve as the industry evolves. I always have a To Do list. You need that with so many plates spinning. Have it written down, not just in your mind. For someone of advancing years like me, that’s an essential!”
“There’s no one-size-fits-all model for success but Scott has his own tips for those in similar roles.
“Keep learning, embrace change and build a good team around you,” he says. “Make those you work with feel proud of what they do for you and for the club they are at.
“You have to understand people have different wants and needs. Some need more clarification than others, some need more time to make decisions, some need reassurances before making decisions. It’s varied. My top tip is to listen to your people. You have to show loyalty and support of your team and they will respond positively. Have regular meetings so everyone is on the same page. And never accept average.”
That desire to provide the best service continues to drive Scott’s ambitions.
“Delivering a high-quality experience for our guests is what inspires me,” he said. “And knowing my team enjoy what we do drives me on too. People have said ‘your team are so friendly and happy’ and that’s music to my ears.”
Now in his fourth decade as a proud PGA Member, Scott’s enthusiasm and energy remains undiminished. “It’s long hours but it’s very fulfilling,” he said. “And if you love golf and hospitality then it won’t feel like work.”