A Florida native, Smith’s golf career has taken him and his family from coast to coast, working at Four Seasons Hualalai, The Breakers in Palm Beach and most recently, Kohanaiki, a 450-acre, private residential community located on the Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawai’i. He has also worked at Broadmoor in Colorado Springs and Medina Country Club in Chicago when it hosted the Ryder Cup.
Smith excels at growing member engagement, relationship building, team collaboration and project management. Under his leadership, The Breakers was named the #3 golf experience in luxury resorts for East Coast North America by Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards and during his tenure at Four Seasons Hualalai, the golf course was ranked number three in Hawaii. “Programming is such an important piece of the golf experience,” Smith explained, “I know how to make events feel intimate and fun.”
Smith’s responsibilities will include working hand in hand with membership, ensuring that the day-to-day experience at the golf course is executed well, and overseeing the golf course to make sure it’s manicured to the highest standard.
“The fact that Peninsula Papagayo has made a significant investment to upgrade the irrigation system speaks volumes to their commitment to water conservation and sustainability as an Audubon-certified course, as well as the upkeep and longevity of the course from a player perspective,” said Smith.
In terms of membership experiences, Smith is looking at both the short and long-term ways to continue to elevate the golf experience. “I would like to add a yearly member-member tournament in addition to the annual member-guest tournament, so people can enjoy their friends at the club,” Smith noted. “I’m going to see what weekly programs we can invigorate and what new ones we can introduce. I pride myself on creating programming that builds upon what already works to make it even bigger and better.”
He also wants to activate the teaching facility as a golf suite that caters to fun events like bachelor parties, ladies’ afternoons, and executive team retreats where guests can socialize, hit balls and play famous courses on the golf simulator.
One of the biggest trends Smith sees across clubs is finding a way to make golf faster. “If you have half a day to commit to a round of golf, that’s great, but there needs to be an opportunity where you can play nine holes, or six because you only have an hour away from the kids,” he explained. “It doesn’t have to be this culture of: it’s going to take four and a half hours, we’re going to have lunch and cocktails and then go home. Golf is changing and becoming more casual, not just the pace but also in the environment. It’s no longer about wearing a white polo and perfectly shined shoes. It’s more relaxed, appealing to all generations, especially millennials.”
Spending his teen years working at a local golf course, Smith learned that he loved the club environment and went on to become an avid golfer. He graduated from Florida State University’s Professional Golf Management Program and his career grew from there.
“What I love about golf is that not only is the game an art, the setting is as well. Every golf course is unique—it doesn’t matter if it’s public or private, you’ll always see flowing lines, contrasting colors and different elements at play,” Smith commented. “Then there’s the art of the golf swing itself. There are so many intricacies and so much science behind it. There are thousands of ways to hit a golf ball and shape your shot. I look at the whole game as an art and that’s what drew me into this career and has kept it going.”
Smith is looking forward to moving to Costa Rica with his wife and two children. “Our family loves being immersed in nature and other cultures. We want our children to understand there is a huge world out there and have the chance to become bilingual,” he said. As for the Peninsula Papagayo golf course, he’s looking forward to all the breathtaking ocean views and spotting all the abundant wildlife that calls the links home. “It’s a huge draw.”