Past, present, future blog – Tim Lobb, Lobb and Partners

The Past, Present and Future blog looks at what life was like before, during and after Coronavirus. It considers what marketing and communication strategies are being deployed, how businesses are reacting to lockdown and what they plan to do next. The series was created by The Word Association, an established PR and marketing agency based in Fife.

Despite lockdown, Tim Lobb could be on the verge of securing his first golf course design job in his native Australia. By embracing the disruption and adopting new ways of communicating, his positive approach is already reaping rewards.


Tim Lobb, Lobb and Partners, 12/06/20, 2:00pm

Past –What were your thoughts going into 2020?

“We had some good prospects. In fact, the pipeline was looking amazing. We signed a number of new-build projects in the period just before covid took over. We had also set up an office in Canada which had taken a bit of time to establish. We’ve subsequently announced a big appointment there that actually happened earlier in the year but because of covid, we didn’t think it was appropriate to discuss it. The start of the year was amazing. I was travelling around like crazy; I went to Africa, the Middle East, all through Europe and Canada at the back end of 2019. Travelling was manic. We were looking to have a good year – and we still will have a good year.”

Past –Where are the new-build projects located?

“We’ve signed one in Africa which is going to be a big beach resort with hotels, and we’ve signed another one in Europe. We’ve also signed with a big owner/operator in British Columbia to review their seven courses, which is a pretty decent start to the year!”


Present –When did you first notice your business being affected by covid-19?

“I had a golf trip in Portugal a week before things got serious and I had further trips planned for Turkey and my 50th birthday trip to Cairo with 25 guests at the end of April. That was going to be fun, but it was cancelled. There were a lot of trips cancelled.”

Present – Despite the trips being cancelled, the business continued?

“Yes. We had some design work, but most of the design work had stopped. I wasn’t that busy so we spent quite a bit of time assessing what our company stood for and renewing our design principles to reflect what we were really about and what we were trying to achieve as a company. We were really thinking about how things were going to be when we came out the other end.”

Present – In terms of communication, what was your approach at this time?

“I actually did a few media interviews. I was interviewed by Golf Australia magazine which was interesting because I’ve never actually worked in Australia before. They were doing a section on Aussies abroad and somehow had heard about me. That was nice to do. During the darkest days of the lockdown, I created Tim’s Virtual Pub every Friday which was a get-together of golf architects and a few other people in the industry via Zoom. It was really good fun. We ran it for six or seven weeks. I think about 50 people came on during those weeks. It was a really good mix of people talking about what was happening. I really enjoyed it, and it also kick-started the EIGCA Clubhouse Chat, which is a platform we use to communicate to our members. We had various speakers on that which has been really good. At one stage, it was going weekly but we’ve taken that back to once a month. It’s been really interesting.”

Present – You’ve approached the lockdown very positively.

“It’s been great to have the time to stand back and think about how we’re going to come out of this at the other end and what the future looks like. It’s been brilliant. I really enjoyed it. You could think I’ve actually got less than eight hours of work to do today, but over your lifetime, this will be less than 1% of your life. I’m thinking about the next 30-40% of my life.”


Future – When you look towards the future, how do you think your business will change?

“There’s no doubt that face-to-face communication is critical and still the best way to do business, but I think a lot of people are going to think that a lot can be achieved by more regular Zoom calls. That will be a good way of collaborating with design partners and also to inform your clients as you work your way through the process.”

Future – It seems video-conferencing is something we will all take with us.

“So much of our work is face to face and is done on site. It’s the most critical part of our job, but I think we’ve learnt new ways of communicating. Zoom has been amazing and is an extremely positive way of keeping in touch with people. We’ve had the opportunity to meet new people and I think we’re on the way to finalising another project in my homeland, and that’s all been via Zoom.”

Future – It’s quite a change in attitudes.

“In the past, people might have been worried about appearing on a video call or showing their home office. Not anymore. I’ve never shied away from a client that I have a home office. I love a home office. I’ve had conventional offices in the past and I don’t want them anymore.”

Future – Times of disruption can often prompt moments of real innovation.

“I still want to travel, but maybe we won’t have to travel for a one-hour presentation anymore. Previously I’ve embarked on three-day trips just for one-hour presentations. That might be reassessed now. It makes sense all round.”

Future – How do you think the golf world might change going forward?

“I think it definitely will change. I think golf clubs need to be more adaptable to the market and understand their market better. Golf has a big chance of being a major sport now because it’s non-contact and there aren’t many sports like that. If golf gets it right, this is a massive opportunity. Getting it right means having the right facilities for segments of the population. There will always be a need for members’ clubs, but maybe not three members’ clubs right next door to each other, all based on the same model. Ultimately, some clubs are going to have to adjust and some clubs will go. Some won’t get through this.”

– Ends –

Although Tim Lobb formed Lobb + Partners four years ago, his golfing heritage stretches back to 1993 when he completed a BSc in Horticulture at Melbourne University in his native Australia. He joined his first architectural practice shortly after and ended up as managing director of Thomson Perrett & Lobb in Surrey; the golf course design firm founded by five times Open Champion Peter Thomson who retired in 2016. Despite the lockdown, Tim is now vice president of the European Institute of Golf Course Architects (EIGCA) and could be on the verge of creating his first ever design downunder.

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