Meet the Team: John Malinowski
(April 14, 2020) On an average day at the Ocean Pines Golf Club, one would be just as likely to see John Malinowski with a shovel or a wrench in his hand as with a clipboard or a golf club.
Malinowski, the Association’s general manager of Golf, said his daily approach is to “do whatever needs to be done,” from fixing broken golf carts and replacing worn sod, to teaching the next generation of golfers how to play.
“I get there at 7 a.m. … and I leave at some point,” Malinowski said with a laugh. “I work six days a week and there’s just a lot going on, between working with marketing stuff with hotel packages and resort play, to holding lessons, summer camps and clinics, and even merchandise ordering. Each of those are full-time jobs at other places.
“I figure it’s all under ‘miscellaneous assigned duties’ –– unfortunately, I’m the one assigning them!” he added.
Malinowski was born in Philadelphia, but moved all over the country growing up. His father was “a career Marine.”
Also, golf wasn’t his first sport.
“I grew up playing baseball,” Malinowski said. “Baseball didn’t work out quite as I had hoped, so, once that career path ended, I got into golf and picked that up pretty quick and easy in college.”
Malinowski doubled majored in economics and political science, with a concentration in public administration, at Lenoir-Rhyne College in Hickory, North Carolina. His PGA certifications include professional golf management, executive management, golf operations and golf instruction, and he has a rules certification through the United States Golf Association.
In 2003, Malinowski became the head golf professional at the River Run Golf Club, where he worked for seven years.
“It was an all-public golf course and, kinda like here, I pretty much ran everything, including the golf course and marketing,” he said. “That’s why I know the market so well – I know all the players and I’ve been doing it for a while.”
Malinowski said the local market is unique, in that weekdays are much busier than weekends. Tourists book hotels from Saturday to Saturday, and then spend Sundays – the first full vacation day – at the beach.
“At any other golf course, the weekends are packed – everybody works all week and then comes to the club and plays on weekends,” he said. “Here, no one’s playing golf on Saturday or Sunday. It’s amazing – it’s the only place in golf like that.”
After River Run, Malinowski spent three years on the other side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, working at the Montgomery County Club. Billy Casper Golf happened to manage that course and, when they took over operations at the Ocean Pines Golf Club, they brought Malinowski with them as their golf pro.
Malinowski started in Ocean Pines in November 2012, working first under Casper and later under Landscapes Unlimited. By 2017, the course was back to being self-managed, with Malinowski still at the helm.
Besides Malinowski, the other constant in Ocean Pines is the course itself. Designed by legendary golf course architect Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the Ocean Pines Golf Club opened in 1972 and is unique on Maryland’s Eastern Shore for its pedigree.
“It’s just a gem as far as a golf course and the way it’s been designed,” Malinowski said. “It’s an old-school golf course that still competes with the modern courses. It’s challenging, but very fair. If a golfer doesn’t let their ego get in the way and they choose the right set of tees, they’ll have a great experience.”
The course offers seven sets of tees on each hole, counting two family tees and five regular sets.
“Really, anybody can play the golf course, whether they’re brand new or not,” Malinowski said. “A lot of people think the family tees are for kids – and they kinda are – but they’re good for beginner golfers too. We had a 38-year-old man play it last year and he just loved it. It was his first time ever playing golf, so that was really neat to hear.”
Keeping the 18-hole course in shape is “a full day every day,” Malinowski said, starting with spraying just the right amount of water and hoping for the right amount of sunlight. Greens are mowed every day, fairways three times a week, and roughs twice a week.
“By the time you loop around, it’s probably seven miles of golf course,” Malinowski said. “A lot of places are side by side and it’s confined, but we’re so spread out that it makes it challenging.”
Since last May, Malinowski and his team were also challenged with working out of a portable trailer, while the new, 7,200-square-foot Ocean Pines Golf Clubhouse was under construction. The new building is scheduled to open this May.
“Well, it smelled a whole lot better than the old building – that much I can tell you!” Malinowski said. “It’s been challenging. Obviously, we’re not getting the foot traffic that you would with a golf shop. That’s probably the biggest thing – you’re in a 30-by-10-foot trailer, as opposed to something that’s two or three times the size of that.”
Malinowski said he’s most looking forward to offering a strong first impression with a new building – something he’s never had in Ocean Pines.
“That’s been the one missing thing. We had a 50-year-old building that was in disrepair. When you drive up and you see that kind of building, you’re starting off on the wrong foot,” he said. “Now, people are going to be able to come in and get a bite before or after they play, and in a much more inviting atmosphere. You’ll have a great deck overlooking the golf course, and the views are spectacular.”
He said the new golf shop would be “much more streamlined and functional,” with a launch monitor and simulator to use for club fitting. In the winter, the simulator could be set up for cold-weather virtual-golf leagues.
“I think now we’re starting to get limitless on what we can do there,” he said. “It opens up a whole world of possibilities for us that we just didn’t have with a half a building that was infested by mold.”
Malinowski not-so-fondly remembers, each time it rained, “having to run in with a shop vac to suck out the water out of the kitchen, that’s pouring down over the door.”
“We don’t have to worry about that anymore,” he said. “That’s going to ease a lot of the burden for everybody. The new building just raises the stature of our entire operation.”
Raising that Ocean Pines Golf operation, Malinowski said, is a good thing for the entire community – both for golfers and nongolfers.
“Certainly, any home in a community with a golf course tends to sell more. It just makes the property value higher,” Malinowski said. “We have 1,800 to 2,000 homeowners and residents who play, but really we have 8,452 members. Whether they play golf or not, they’re invested in the golf course and the community.”
For those who haven’t yet tried the Ocean Pines Golf Club, Malinowski said there’s no time like the present.
“If you want a great, fair test of golf, it’s the best on the Eastern Shore. You definitely want to check it out,” he said. “It’s quite an experience and it’s unlike any other course out here.”