It was built and developed from farmland and taken over by the current proprietor Graham Curtin, in 2002. Graham, who had previously run a very successful food distribution business, was looking for a new challenge and for a vehicle to invest his time and energy into. He was a two handicapper and was delighted to be involved in a business in which he was such an eager participant.
Graham spoke to Golf Features:
“There were many things to do to make the initial nine hole course more profitable. We bought more land and built a superb golf range and professional shop from which we could trade more commercially and attract people from the wider section of the market. This allowed the business to really take off and we haven’t stopped growing since.”
Over the years, Graham has gained several valuable planning permissions, which have allowed him to build additional houses on the site. He had planned to sell houses to reduce his debt, but, together with his business partner, they decided to retain all of the buildings and let them out in a variety of packages: they had effectively entered the hotel business. The rooms offer a great variety of accommodation from large houses overlooking Lake Windermere to town houses and lodges close to the clubhouse. All are finished to an excellent standard and would sit between a four and five star hotel, but with the added benefit of a warm welcoming staff on the clubhouse happy to help with all sorts of requests.
Self Catering Accommodation is available for a minimum of 2-3 nights and has four-bedroom luxury Town Houses, the Golf Penthouse with fabulous roof terrace, or a 2 bedroomed cosy Golf Apartment. All are self-catering properties and have sumptuous furnishings, spacious living areas with large flat screen TVs, Sky package including movies, fully equipped kitchens and washing/drying facilities.
If you prefer to avoid the kitchen and take advantage of the Carus restaurant, The Lodge at Carus is a beautifully appointed converted barn offering room only en-suite accommodation available on a nightly basis. All the rooms have luxury walk in showers in all en-suites.
Graham has always been interested in quality and a top-notch customer experience, so in transforming Carus Green into an elegant destination he has managed to defy the general drift in the golf market, he continues to outperform the majority of golf operations. This is not particularly easy and takes an awful lot of time and dedication: until recently Graham worked seven days a week at the golf centre. In the early days he was out there cutting the greens, pulling pints, selling golf equipment and taking green fees. As the business has grown his role has changed, but the intensity of his effort to do the best he can with the golf centre is undiminished.
The clubhouse, which has been built to the very highest standard, comprises of changing rooms and offices on the ground floor, the main bar, club room and restaurant on the first floor and a remarkable function suite on top of the building, complete with sweeping curved roof and panoramic views. It is a thrilling place to visit, be a member of and also to work at. Graham elaborates:
“We have always tried to supply the best possible environment for our visitors to enjoy. Although we have a committed and strong membership, we don’t like to think of ourselves as a traditional members club, but rather as a destination where all sorts of people want to come and enjoy themselves. Our members get a fantastic deal and we greatly enjoy looking after their needs. The clubhouse has moved from just attending to golfers’ requirements to becoming a mainstream function venue. I had always planned to have a rather swish apartment on top of the building, but when I looked at the possibilities for using it as a function suite, I quickly changed my mind. We are so proud to host weddings, which are events regarded by many as the most important day of their lives. The fact that so many people choose us for that day is deeply flattering. I was delighted to have our own wedding here just a few years ago, so it really is easy to recommend it to others. Of course, none of this would be possible without the exceptional team, many of whom have been with me for many years and we’ve also built up a remarkable customer base here at Carus Green. Many of our customers are personal friends and it is a real delight to work in such a great environment.”
Following on from the Golf Features editorial just a couple of months ago, Graham checked the position with his own arrangement with BRS and GolfNow. He was using the barter time system, so he had a free booking sheet with BRS in return for bartered tee times, which were then being sold at a price he could not control. As a busy man attending to the multiple needs of his company, the peril of allowing a third party to set his prices had not really been noticed, but he immediately called a meeting with his area representative, who agreed that the green fees would not be offered at a discount below a set price determined by Carus Green, not by GolfNow and their various companies. It took somebody with Graham’s strength of character to demand a fair deal, or else he would take his business elsewhere. He explains:
“When I first realised what was happening I rang several of my colleagues in the area to find out their views. I was horrified that our prices were being set well below the figure that we thought was fair. Obviously these bartered green fees were selling through strongly for GolfNow, but it made it much harder for us to achieve the full price for our course fees with those people that had previously got a very large discount from the GolfNow network. I made it absolutely clear that I was not willing to continue on this basis and the representative quickly agreed in writing and verbally that I could have a ceiling placed on the discount offered for these bartered times. I realise that this may well set a precedent which will be almost impossible for GolfNow not to honour throughout the country, and I’m delighted if this helps other operators get a fairer deal too.”
The golf course has been radically transformed during Graham’s tenure. All of the holes have been redesigned, adjusted or tweaked and the 18 hole course is now a great risk and reward layout, with good scores possible but plenty of trouble for those biting off more than they can chew. The whole of the course and complex is set in the free draining Kent river valley.
Whilst Carus Green is a fairly flat layout, the surrounding scenery is very easy on the eye and a joy to play. Golf Course manager, Chris Hodgkinson and his team use a fleet of John Deere cutting equipment to maintain the course, range, short game areas and landscaping. The course has a par of 70 and is perfectly presented and closely cropped with crisply defined fairways and excellent greens. There are number of water hazards including the rivers Kent and Mint which lurk with menace for errant shots.
The retail space has a grown several times over the last 16 years. Initially the pro shop shared the central hub with the clubhouse, but more space was needed and so a new pro shop was built which provides a walk-through on to the golf range from the left side of the practice facility. The old shop had access to the range from the opposite end. On the range there are custom fitting suites and a SAM putting lab, with an indoor putting green. Graham himself built the beautifully presented golf range in the very first year of his ownership. Since this time, golf retail has changed enormously and the five professionals including Dave Turner who has been at Carus from the start with Graham. The other professionals are Andrew Pickering, Lee Edwards, Tyson Barclay and Adam Lynn and the retail manager Alex Wood a highly professional golf retailer, but one who retains his amateur status. They drive a strong retail business, with a substantial turnover and a phenomenal custom fitting business, which is highly popular in the region. The senior tour player, Gary Wolstenholme, is attached to Carus Green and is enjoying a new senior professional career following from his long amateur career when he famously beat Tiger Woods in the Walker Cup.
Carus Green is one of only a handful of venues in Europe to enjoy PGA Academy status. This is offered to golf centres, which offer a comprehensive set of facilities and professional expertise to back them up. It is a strong honour and well deserved. Obviously, the teaching set up is very strong, with the professionals sharing various duties of club fitting, shop cover and tuition. It is a great place to teach from with a useful short game area, complete with a synthetic green, a great range and a great course to utilise. Those wishing to learn come from miles around due to the strong reputation and team is well gelled together with the membership and regular players enjoying great service and friendly banter. If only all golf clubs could be like this.
For more details on Carus Green, please visit the website: carusgreen.co.uk, or better still visit Carus Green. It is friendly and exceptional and there is lots to learn for anyone interested in golf, either side of the counter.