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Could the UK’s golf venues be out of the rough?

UK golf venues could be set for a post-lockdown boom, finds Paul Harvey

Golf has long been a popular choice for businesses looking to strengthen relationships with clients, impress prospects and partners, and to reward or incentivise staff.

And in a post-lockdown world, golf seems perfectly suited to social distancing and could be one of the first sports back on the agenda.

“Golf England and the R&A have put easy operating procedures in place for golf courses to follow,” says Andy Hughes, director of sales at golf events company MASHIE. “We are predicting a huge rush when they open if managed well courses will be able to get good footfall through.

“Long term, I think golf courses will be more popular in the UK as travel abroad will take a while to get back to. The courses and resorts that make their offering the most appealing and more like a mini-break will be the winners in this.”

My favourites: Graeme Saunders, groups and MICE manager, Unique Vacations (UK)  

Graeme Saunders

Celtic Manor

Celtic Manor is a golfing playground. There are three different 18 hole courses catering for all levels of golfer. The jewel in the crown is the 2010, which was built for the Ryder Cup – and when you’re playing the course you know you’re somewhere superb. With its own clubhouse covered in memorabilia from the Ryder Cup, you can’t help but spend a few minutes wandering around, taking it all in. The 2010 clubhouse is a superb setting for a cocktail reception/gala dinner, however, there are numerous other spaces including the Roman Road/Montgomerie clubhouse, the barbecue terrace and rooftop gardens that really make this venue stand out.

The Grove

The first thing you notice when you arrive at The Grove is the service, which is first-rate. The team walk down to meet you and take your clubs from you, which is a great touch. It’s the finer touches – such as when you go to The Stables restaurant before heading out, the team ask what time you’re playing so they can make sure you’re not rushed or left waiting – that makes this venue truly stand out. The course is up there with the best in the UK and the superb five-star hotel onsite really makes this a great set up.

My favourites: Kelly Stevens, conference planning executive, Venues and Events International 

Kelly Stevens

The Gleneagles Hotel

Gleneagles is one of Scotland’s most respected golf resorts and an absolute bucket list venue for any golfer. Set in 850 acres in luxury landscape the resort also boasts an opulent ESPA spa and a two‐star Michelin restaurant. If golf isn’t your thing there are many different activities to try your hand at, including shooting, tennis, horse riding, off‐road driving and falconry. A perfect resort for those seeking five‐star luxury and sophistication, where service and scenery is a guarantee.

Stapleford Park

The boldly magnificent Stapleford Park in Leicestershire will guarantee a relaxing stay to any delegate. Surrounded by 500 acres of landscaped grounds it is the perfect golf and spa hotel, located within a traditional English sporting country estate. The course has been described as one of England’s greatest jewels, while he Grade I-listed mansion embodies architectural styles from Tudor to Victorian. If you are looking for somewhere quintessentially English and wanting to give a powerful company message or somewhere to announce the future legacy of a company, with a bit of fun after hours, then this is the place to do so.

Buyer’s eye: Lucie Ashley, senior venue sourcing executive, Ashfield Meetings & Events

“As a specialist full-service meetings and events agency for the healthcare industry, it’s imperative that venues adhere to strict compliance guidelines. But if our client’s meeting is internal, and therefore no healthcare professionals are in attendance, regulations stipulate that we are able to source venues that have golfing facilities.

“There are quite a few four-star hotels within the UK that have purpose-built business centres and also have golf facilities onsite. Most of these hotels will have separate areas for conferences, including entrances and catering areas so that the business delegates can be kept separate to the leisure guests. The Belfry Hotel & Resort in Sutton Coldfield is a great example, and the public areas and bedrooms have all had a recent refurb creating a very stylish and classic interior. Unlike most golf resorts it doesn’t have a lot of golf memorabilia displayed, making it suitable for the corporate market. For something a little different, the Belfry also has its own onsite ‘nightclub’ which is discreetly located in a separate building to the hotel. This can be used for evening dinners, giving the delegates a unique dining experience.

“Carden Park Golf Resort in Cheshire is also an excellent facility which goes above and beyond to ensure the strict pharma boundaries are adhered to. It has great meeting space within the hotel, which houses the Business Centre, but it also has large lodges which can be hired for small meetings during the day. A great advantage is the resort’s vast size as it enables all ‘non-compliant’ features such as the golf course and activity area to be out of sight of the hotel.”

My favourites: Gavin Farley, co-founder In2Events 

Gavin Farley

Trump Turnberry, Scotland

Nothing but amazing in every aspect for me. I appreciate that it holds some bad press as this is a Trump property but couldn’t fault it in any way at all. For a golf incentive group, playing alongside the rugged coastline with views of Ailsa Craig, I honestly don’t think that I’ve ever taken so many pictures of a golf course. One of the best bits, getting caught in the par 3 bunker on the ninth and having the Turnberry team come out and offer me a whisky – “That’ll make it better sir”. Amazing. The venue itself lends itself to most size corporate gatherings and I would highly recommend it.

Goodwood, West Sussex

A curveball and hidden gem on the south coast of England, I love it. The day starts at The Kennels with a locally-sourced bacon butty, one of the best. Then load up your woody (golf buggy) and off you go. Standing on top of the Downs course overlooking the magical landscape with views across the Solent, not bad at all! After the golf, Goodwood has everything you’d want; a hotel, racing circuit, racecourse, airfield and an amazing country house. We’ve worked there many, many times and can highly recommend it for any event if corporates should be considering something different, and only an hour from London.

Case study:

The Vale Resort in South Wales fit to a tee for Paramount Property’s inter-office golf event. Business development manager Paul Doherty has the details…

“This was the first Paramount Property golf event we had arranged and it was a major success. We have two offices, one in Cardiff and one in Bristol, each had a team of 20 made up of staff members and clients and both teams battled it out on the course for the trophy!

“The day was fairly informal, registration in the morning was set in a private function room in the golf club, this was perfect to allow our guests to network over breakfast and give a briefing on the day. A member of the Vale Resort staff helped with checking everybody in, this was very helpful and a nice touch, it allowed me more time to talk with guests.

“We then headed out on to the Lake course, which was in fantastic condition. We’d supplied food and drink on the golf course for our guests which the Vale Resort team managed on their drinks buggy.

“Dinner was back in the private function room, a buffet meal with plenty of options with the doors open allowing guests to spill out onto the terrace. The team at the Vale Resort made it simple to organise, so much so we’ve rebooked for 2020.”

Case study:

Last year Kellaway Building Supplies held its annual summer event at The Manor House Hotel in the Cotswolds, bringing together 48 of its staff, clients and suppliers. Bob Fleetwood, purchasing director, takes up the tale…

“It is important to us that the event is a relaxed affair allowing attendees to build and strengthen existing relationships.

“The Manor House has always appealed to us due to it being the premier location in the area. The overall experience is second to none – the golf course and attached hotel are top class, the service is excellent and professional, yet at the same time incredibly relaxed, which is really important to us. This event is all about building relationships and this is done best when people are relaxed and enjoying themselves and the venue and events team play such a key role here.

“Everyone enjoyed a bacon roll and coffee in the morning and we had full use of the USGA spec driving range. The venue’s golf team ensured it was a very organised start with a fully automated scoring system available to us.

“Following 18 holes of golf on the Par 72 course, we returned to the Manor House for a carvery dinner and prize giving in the Wiltshire Room. It is important to us that guests are able to get away at a reasonable time, so as soon as we were finished on the course we headed straight in for dinner, and guests departed around 7pm.

“The Manor House and its golf course is a superb setting for our event and we look forward to returning in the future.”

Case study:

When Bosch UK required a rural venue for its sales and marketing meeting and team building event that could accommodate 19 delegates for two days, within easy access of London, Cotswolds golf course Feldon Valley fit the bill. Kevin Kelly, sales director, UK & Ireland, explains why…

“The venue was chosen thanks to its flexible and bespoke approach – each department worked directly with the event organiser to plan every element rather than using a set package. Feldon Valley’s outstanding 6,230-yard par 71 course set in beautiful Cotswolds countryside was also a key factor in the decision making process as the group were keen to incorporate golfing activities into the trip. The course is suitable for all golfing abilities.

“The venue needed to have onsite accommodation and golfing facilities that were accessible to golfers and non‐golfers. Rooms were all single occupancy and were located in the Main Lodge.

“The aim was to brief senior managers on upcoming company activity and provide necessary training sessions. Team building and social activities such as excursions, dinners and golf activities were used to further unify delegates and reward them for their hard work and achievements during the first half of the year.”

Updates

  • The Belfry Hotel & Resort’s new Corporate Day Package from £89 per person includes breakfast on arrival; private meeting room hire; 18 holes of golf; full use of the PGA National Academy; and a three-course banqueting dinner among other benefits.
  • De Vere Selsdon Estate boasts an 18-hole par 73 golf course and has just seen a multimillion-pound investment in its new 1042 Restaurant & Bar and refurbishments to its leisure club, Orangery and bedrooms.
  • De Vere Wokefield Estate’s par 72 Championship course is designed to US PGA standards, while a £20 million refurbishment has seen a refresh of its restaurant, bar and luxury bedrooms.
  • The Old Course Hotel at St Andrew’s is undergoing a major expansion project, which will see its bedrooms, conference facilities and outdoor space updated