A Golf Conversation With Laguna National Golf And Country Club’s Mark Isley

10 Oct 2020

Classic Course Hole #16, Laguna National GCC

Inaugurated in 1993, Laguna National Golf and Country Club is one of Singapore’s premier golf and country clubs, boasting two 18-hole championship courses that have won prestigious accolades and hosted international championships.

Following a multi-million-dollar facelift, Laguna National has developed a state-of-the-art union with Dusit Thani resort. Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore, located within the grounds and comprising of 198 rooms and suites showcasing the best of contemporary Asian design, is equipped for business and leisure with a wealth of experiences for guests to enjoy.

Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore

Diners can look forward to extensive F&B choices like the Greenhouse, an all-day dining multi-ethnic restaurant with show kitchens, The Nest restaurant, Legends Bar, Dusit Gourmet, Tee Deck’s al fresco bar and grill, and the Club Lounge.

Tee Deck al fresco bar and grill, Dusit Thani Laguna

Lifestyle facilities include DFiT’s fully equipped gym, three swimming pools and tennis courts, Laguna Putting powered by Nicklaus Design, Laguna Practice powered by Toptracer and Dusit’s signature Devarana Spa, which offers the ‘Spa Tonic for Golfers’ special treatment.

Villas and poolside, Dusit Thani Laguna

The resort also offers a boardroom, two meeting rooms, three event lawns, eight pavilions, a terrace for private functions, and a large pillarless ballroom that seats up to 520 guests, with a pre-function area overlooking the golf course. Dusit Thani guests also enjoy privileged access to the driving range and Laguna National’s championship Classic and Masters golf courses.

The world though, now finds itself in uncharted territory amid a pandemic. With the evolving and uncertain situation, many businesses have been impacted. After its major transformation, how then does Laguna National Golf and Country Club intend to move forward during and beyond such uncertainties?

Mark Isley, General Manager Laguna National GCC

Mark Isley is the General Manager of Laguna National Golf & Country Club, an industry veteran with over 35 years of experience in managing high-profile golf courses, private golf clubs and major golf tournaments, having cut his teeth in the hospitality industry from the U.S. to Bali.

Today, as the club’s General Manager, Isley aspires to provide an all-inclusive golfing destination with world-class facilities and quality service, and he looks towards building a flourishing future for the golf sector.

Speaking to GolfAsia, Mark Isley discusses the challenges of the pandemic and the much-anticipated opening and union of Laguna National and the Dusit Thani resort.

How is the transformation of Laguna National going to change the golfing experience?
Our newly launched clubhouse welcomes members to a redefined golf journey with state-of-the-art facilities and unique services. At the clubhouse’s main level, golfers only have to leave their bags at the bag drop while they continue to The Shop, Singapore’s largest on-course golf shop, to check-in for their game and browse through a wide range of golf equipment and golf related merchandise. We’re also upgrading golf services to include custom-fitting for golf clubs and custom-tailored golf instruction.

Luxurious golfer departure lounge, Laguna National GCC

Do you think these new facilities and services elevates Laguna National’s standing as a golf club in Singapore and around the region?
Laguna National has been a prominent club in the local and international golf scene since its inauguration in 1993. Over the years, the club has won numerous prestigious international and local awards, and been included in the Top 100 Golf & Country Clubs in the Platinum Clubs of the World.

That said, the club is constantly evolving ahead of the curve with advanced and exclusive digital facilities to improve the overall golfing experience, like Laguna Putting powered by Nicklaus Design, a nine-hole putting course designed over 920 square metres of premium synthetic turf; and Laguna Practice powered by Toptracer Range, a 50-bay practice range offering players innovative sessions on virtual courses. Laguna National will the first club in Southeast Asia to implement these facilities, putting them well ahead of the pack.

Laguna National’s golf buggies with Visage Global Positioning System are designed to enhance the interactive experience for golfers. Apart from high-resolution images of each hole with accurate yardages and tracking to every landmark on all 36 holes, golfers can also access weather updates, dining promotion notifications, messages and alerts from the operations team.

Bridal lounge, Dusit Thani Laguna

Factor in Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore, and Laguna National becomes the first club in Singapore to offer an expansive host of wellness, fitness, and dining experiences.

The Classic course has been reconfigured yet again, how is it different now?
The Classic course features two completely new holes, two partial new holes, and 14 holes that had minor to major adjustments to the original design, where many of the tees were enlarged and several bunkers removed.

Classic Course Hole #17, Laguna National GCC

All 18 greens were also re-built to ensure a greater and fairer selection of pin placements. Some greens were lowered, others enlarged, and all had severe contours removed to ensure at least eight potential pin positions, yet there’s still plenty of movement and a number of challenging pin locations on each green.

With the international market set to take a longer time to recover, what are some of your plans to attract the local market?
These are exciting times for all of us at Laguna National Golf and Country Club. While the Masters and Classic continue to receive widespread acclaim, we’re very much looking forward to unveiling our new clubhouse as well as the Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore hotel. These developments underscore Laguna National’s reputation as a golf destination with ground-breaking facilities and open up a host of opportunities for our members as well as guests from Singapore and overseas.

For example, whether you’re looking to improve your putting stats or simply seeking a fun time with family and friends on a unique nine-hole putting course, the addition of Laguna Putting, powered by Nicklaus Design, elevates putting to a whole new different experience.

Check-in lobby, Dusit Thani Laguna

Along with Dusit Thani Laguna, there is no other golf club in Singapore that offers a level of hospitality and hygiene commitment that carries the mark of a 5-star resort. The luxury urban resort’s focus on wellness, from its holistic leisure and fitness facilities with state-of-the-art equipment for sports professionals, to unparalleled landscapes, will ensure that members and guests enjoy an unrivaled experience.

Also, the resort is currently in the midst of launching a collection of Discover Dusit staycation packages that will offer attractive dining, golfing and spa promotions available from October.

Devarana Spa offers the Spa Tonic for Golfers

What strategies are in place to navigate through the challenges presented by COVID-19?
We have established a task force and placed a large part of our resources on developing extensive hygiene, cleanliness and distancing practices. We have also invested a considerable amount into safety and hygiene programmes, as our overriding priority is to ensure the safety of all members, guests and staff.

Notably, we have implemented electrostatic sanitisation sprays for disinfecting every buggy after each round; compulsory temperature scans for all golfers prior to play, and automatic hand sanitiser and soap dispensers to be placed around the club.

Spacious new golf locker rooms, Laguna National GCC

The star, however, is the installation of Canon’s Facial Access Control Temperature System (FACTS) linked directly to Singapore’s SafeEntry digital check-in system. This allows Laguna National to screen all visitors’ temperatures and record their entry into and exit from the premises for contact tracing.

Do you foresee this pandemic having a lasting impact on the golf business?
It’s inevitable that the golf industry has to adapt to adopt a fresh outlook based on the new normal. The lockdown period has given us plenty of time to reassess the manner in which we run our operations and, in many cases, to re-set. As far as golf clubs are concerned, we’re seeing that those with good management practices and sound finances are emerging stronger and are facing up to the future with cautious optimism.

You only need to look at the pent-up demand among golfers to get back to the course after restrictions were eased to realise how strong the game’s base is. Furthermore, it’s being widely acknowledged that in terms of staying safe and healthy, there are few activities that can match golf, in that you’re able to exercise outdoors with natural social distancing. I believe that’s among the reasons we’re seeing a significant spike in interest in the game, especially among those who played team contact sports prior to the pandemic and are now looking for other outlets to satisfy their sporting appetites.

Masters Course Hole #9, Laguna National GCC

How do you foresee golfers’ habits changing after the pandemic?
The most obvious areas in which we’re all having to change our habits is related to hygiene. Safety is always our top priority, and our adjusted procedures and policies ensure we are meeting and exceeding standards of safety and compliance with government regulations, while still maximising our access to play.

We have taken steps to deep clean our property and implement new practices to help make the return of members a safe and enjoyable experience. We have also outlined an array of implemented measures within a 21-page Ready2Golf Guidebook that has been distributed to all members. These guidelines not only focus on safety procedures before, during and after your round, but also cover our Laguna Practice, the Leadbetter Golf Academy and dining outlets.

Going forward, it’s clear we must remain diligent in observing distancing and safety measures. Many of these measures may be with us for quite some time, while others will be adopted along the way. As the Covid-19 situation continues to be fluid, we are making every effort to balance adherence to current regulations with excellent customer service.