Can Adventure Golf Grow The Game?
We recently caught up with Colin Mayes, CEO at Burhill Golf Limited, a golf course operator who have seen revenue beat inflation in the past few years bucking the trend in the UK Golf Industry.
We chatted to him about BGL's strategy of adding Adventure Golf to some of their pay & play sites and how this is not only helping their business, but also growing the game:
One thing that struck me in a recent presentation you gave is that you said golf is part of the leisure industry, it is in the business of entertainment, something that we often forget in the industry. Adventure golf clearly fits that statement. How does it work for your business?
Firstly, let's take a step back. One of things that golf fundamentally needs to understand and we see this from the surveys that we do, the majority of golfers are not here for the competitions, they are here to socialise and have a fun 4 hours out with friends, maybe an element of light hearted competition, but not too serious. That is the majority.
And then we do have a competitive group of people who want to play in medals and things like that. Nothing wrong with that at all, but what we cannot lose sight of is that people want to come and enjoy themselves, it is their leisure time and these days people want value per hour and so broadly speaking we are in the entertainment business.
That is the adult side of things, but exactly the same applies for families and kids and so we thought about how we could get more families and kids to our pay & play clubs so that we could at least start encouraging them to start coming to a golf environment and then hopefully get on a journey to play more. So, simply, putting is an activity that can be enjoyed by anyone of any age. When you are three you can hold a putter and you can play with you grandfather or even great grandfather.
So we wanted something that could span that whole activity and that is what brought us to Adventure Golf and the more we researched it especially looking at operations in America and those that were successful the UK, the more we realised that the entertainment side was really important. The design and theme of the course, getting involved in an activity, so that it was more like a trip to an entertainment park. For instance going over water, adding sound and artifacts engaged with the people. That was clearly important.
When we opened the first one we were surprised at how many people who had never been to the club before came. They had always thought it was a private club and they thought that they could not come through the gates. I do fundamentally believe that for those reasons Adventure Golf plays an important part in encouraging people taking up the game.
We have four courses now, three at our own sites and one at an external site which is in a shopping retail centre in Castleford, near Leeds. We are also preparing to open a very large indoor site and while this might be a gamble, there are a lot of people out there that understand golf and know golf and want to engage with it, but also want to have fun with it. This is in my view the first phase in getting people playing the game and the business model is working. My only wish is for a slightly warmer climate as I think we could do even better with it.
Am I right in thinking that all the sites that you have Adventure Golf the takings are also up on the Par 3 course and Driving Range?
Yes, all of the ancillary businesses revenue is up since the inclusion of Adventure Golf.
Proof then that it introduces people to the game?
Absolutely! In particular food and beverage is up as well. The family come into the clubhouse, they realise it is not an alien environment, that it is actually a nice environment and it encourages them to come back. The number of Christmas party or function related business is also up such as children's.
So golf has been it's own worst enemy in some ways?
Yes, golf has such a traditional image that many people don't even consider it, but when they go in a clubhouse it is maybe not as stuffy and more welcoming than they thought.
So, tell me about your junior program. National participation numbers are really poor at the moment. What do you do to encourage juniors?
Well, we make it free for a start! That is the first important thing. If you are struggling to get people involved in a sport, much like all other sports you need at first to offer it for free. Golf has had the ability in the past to charge a reasonable fee, but in this day and age children have so many things they can spend their time on for very little money. So in order for golf to get kids in it has to have a free offering to start with and that is one of the fundamentals.
Once you have them hooked you can charge but it has to offer value for money. We spend a lot of time with local schools and I think the county partnerships have become more aware that more time needs to be spent in schools. Each of our programs is targeted at the schools at junior and senior level and generally that works really well for us. Most importantly we just try and make them fun!
Read our interview with Colin on how BGL has enjoyed great success in recent years, bucking the trend of a declining industry - Click Here
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