Golf Features News Roundup

European Tour legend Lee Westwood extends stay as touring professional at Close House

Reigning Race to Dubai champion Lee Westwood, who has recently returned to the top-20 in the world golf rankings, has extended his relationship with Close House as their Official Touring Professional. 

§A 25-time European Tour winner, Westwood opened Close House’s Colt Course in 2011 and has been a pivotal member of the club throughout its ten-year existence.

“We are honoured to have Lee representing Close House on the global stage,” commented Sir Graham Wylie, owner of Close House. “It makes everyone at the club extremely proud when we see the Close House name on the side of his hat, and it is testament to everything we have achieved together that Lee has extended his stay as our Touring Professional.”

Westwood has been pivotal in the development of the club and its courses, having hosted the British Masters at Close House in both 2017 and 2020, bringing the European Tour to the north-east of England for the first time since 2005. 

Close House has become a home-from-home for the former World Number One, having contributed to the re-designing of some of Close House’s most famous holes, and he is a regular visitor at the club when not playing on tour.

“I am delighted and honoured to announce that my association with Close House has been extended,” said Westwood. “I visit the club on most days during my time off, and I am privileged to have been able to showcase Close House to the wider world when I hosted the British Masters here on two occasions.

“I would like to thank Graham and the staff at Close House for all their assistance and support over this past decade and I am really looking forward to seeing them when I return home in April.” 

For more information on Close House and Lee Westwood, visit www.closehouse.com/.

Darren Clarke CBD appoints GMS to drive dynamic UK launch plans

Darren Clarke CBD - an exclusive partnership between major winner Darren Clarke OBE and Sana Lifestyle, distributor and licensee of CBD and plant-based wellness products - has chosen GMS as its marketing agency, effective immediately.

2011 Open Champion, Clarke, has teamed up with industry expert Sana Lifestyle to create an all-new Cannabidiol (CBD) range with golfers in mind, and the soon-to-be-launched Darren Clarke CBD has selected GMS to assist with the company’s expansion into a market that is set to become one of the leading growth categories for wellness in 2021.

Commenting on the partnership, Ben Hamburger, Managing Director at Sana Lifestyle, said: “With the modern golfer living a busy, active lifestyle, consumers are turning their attention to the benefits of CBD-based products as a convenient, natural solution to aid their physical performance and recovery.

“There are, of course, common misconceptions of cannabis which is why we have selected GMS to help us to demystify consumer perceptions around CBD derived solutions and assist us in introducing our pioneering product to the market.
“GMS has an impressive client base, and the team has experience working with some of the biggest brands in the golf industry which is why we knew they were the right choice for us as we embark on this exciting new venture.”

The new Darren Clarke CBD range will initially comprise of four 30ml CBD flavoured oils offering different strengths, with launch of the products slated for May 2021 at various retailers.

“With the expertise and scientific knowledge of Sana Lifestyle and the credibility that Darren Clarke brings, we’re certain we’re partnering with what will become the dominant CBD brand in golf,” commented Sam Elder, Director of GMS.

“This is a great opportunity for us and one that we believe will absolutely solidify a new category that will be a mainstay for years to come in the golf industry.

“CBD products have been used by golfers in other markets for some time now. However, in the UK, the benefits that CBD can bring to the game are perhaps still underappreciated which is why we are delighted to be able to amplify that message and help launch Darren Clarke CBD products to golfers of all abilities. 

“Every product is tested, regulated, and certified by the appropriate bodies so consumers can make well-educated choices and trust the products they use. We are delighted that we will be able to help our client to grow into one of the industry’s most respected and trusted wellness products.”

Darren Clarke CBD joins the current GMS client roster which includes Bernhard & Company, BGL Golf, Close House, ECCO GOLF, Essendon Country Club, Foremost Golf, Golf Genius Software, Golf Pride Grips, La Finca Resort, La Reserva Club, Nippon Shaft, Shot Scope Technologies, Toptracer, PING, PING Apparel, Prince’s Golf Club, Royal Lytham & St Anne’s Golf Club and Sotogrande SA, among others.

BGL’s consistent success cemented with 7th place ranking in Sunday Times annual BDO Profit Track 100 awards

Burhill Group Limited (BGL), owners and operators of 22 golf courses across 10 UK golf clubs, as well as 10 Adventure Leisure facilities, has ranked in 7th place in the 22nd annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 awards. The full listing was published yesterday within the Business section, on the tablet edition, and on the Fast Track website. 

The Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 is an annual league table published by the Sunday Times newspaper. It ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing profits over their last three years of trading. The league table is researched and produced by Fast Track, an Oxford-based research and networking events business, and is typically published in the Sunday Times each April. The ‘Covid-19’ special edition measured profits up to the end of 2019, therefore covering the three years pre-pandemic.

“After what was undoubtedly an extremely tough year for the entire leisure and hospitality industries, we’re delighted to place so highly in a ranking that underlines our success over a significant period of time before the pandemic hit,” said Colin Mayes, CEO of BGL. 

“The results were aided by numerous successful transactions across our extensive property portfolio during 2019, but the placement is also testament to our team’s outstanding delivery and unwavering commitment to providing excellent products and services to customers across our golf courses, our crazy golf, and ‘competitive socialising’ leisure destinations in the UK.

“While the pandemic and resulting lockdowns have been extremely challenging for everyone, as a business we are still committed to assessing continued investment in our existing businesses and development opportunities throughout the leisure sector when they arise. We are determined to grow our business further as we put Covid-19 behind us.”

As one of the largest multi-site golf and leisure venue owners and operators in the UK, BGL recorded strong profits over the pre-pandemic period. The profits are the result of property transactions alongside sustained, sensible investments across the group’s facilities that focus on creating welcoming and high-quality golf, leisure, and entertainment destinations for every occasion.

Namely, in recent years, the group has invested significant sums on the rollout of their hugely successful, Mr Mulligans, and newly formed, BUNKERS! adventure golf brands, which now exist in 10 locations across the UK.

On the core golf business, the company has reaped the rewards of a £5million investment into a new health and fitness facility that opened in 2016 at their Birchwood Park site. Equally, BGL has diversified and grown its facilities and driving range technology, displaying dedication to growing the game for golfers of all levels as well as a commitment to the future of golf and family activities. This goes alongside other astute investments in both long and short-term projects designed to improve the overall customer experience at its venues.

“These results have been delivered by our fantastic, dedicated team of people across the entire business and, as every business knows, people are at the heart of success,” added Mayes. “We truly are grateful to have such great teams in place at all of our locations.”

The 22nd annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100 award ceremony will be held as an interactive virtual event on Tuesday 15th June. This special Covid-19 edition recognises the impressive past performance of the featured companies, and the contribution they have made to the economy and to society during the pandemic. 

For more information on Burhill Group Limited visit www.bglcompany.co.uk. 

Toptracer Launches “Driving Challenge” Game at Toptracer Range Locations Around the World

Toptracer, the world’s leading ball-tracing technology, today unveiled “Driving Challenge,” which taps into golfers’ insatiable desire to drive longer and straighter. “Driving Challenge” joins a robust line-up of game options at its 350 Toptracer Range locations worldwide. 

Toptracer is on a crusade to grow the game through bold, innovative technology and gamifying the range experience. Toptracer’s “Driving Challenge” allows golfers of all skill levels to “grip it and rip it” in a risk vs. reward nine-hole game scoring both distance and accuracy. 

“The tee shot is golf’s most visceral experience. Toptracer has harnessed that raw power in a competitive nine-hole game created specifically for our range technology,” said Toptracer President, Ben Sharpe. 

“Our ongoing goal is to build an environment filled with traditional and non-traditional golfers who enjoy the game on their terms. We are providing a positive experience for people of all skill levels that elevates the entertainment value of the game.”

Each drive starts with a virtual flyover of the hole to help determine an aiming point, while a heat map shows players where best to place their drive to achieve maximum points. Up to eight users can simultaneously compete, teeing off on nine holes, all of them being par 4’s or par 5’s. Points are awarded for the length of the drive and its accuracy. If players don’t hit the fairway or the pin is obstructed from the next shot, there is a penalty. As with other game modes, players can sign into the Toptracer Range app to view progress and compare scores with friends. 

Check out the “Driving Challenge” and other new offerings such as virtual golf at Royal 

St. George’s, Bethpage Black and “Go Fish.” 

For your nearest location, please visit toptracer.com/locations. 

Multiple Winners Honoured As 59club Industry ‘Oscars’ Goes Virtual

The golf industry ‘Oscars’ went ‘virtual’ this year, with hundreds tuning in online to watch their contemporaries receive a coveted 59club Service Excellence Award, as the market-leading performance-management specialist continued to honour its best performers across the UK and Ireland.  

And, for two individuals, it proved doubly worthwhile, as Long Ashton’s Glenn McNaughton and Goring & Streatley’s Matt Aplin retained titles they received the previous year.

McNaughton repeated his feat of being crowned ‘Food & Beverage Manager of the Year’, while Aplin continued to bloom as one of the victorious ‘Greenkeepers of the Year’, both within their respective qualifying categories. 

There were also more celebrations at the Bristol-based club, as Long Ashton was named one of the class winners in the ‘Golf Operations Team of the Year’ category, while retail manager Jack Heginbotham secured the club a third title, and the venue went on to retain its my59 Service Excellence accolade, in the virtual event hosted by presenter and broadcaster Dan Walker.

Owing to 59club’s ever increasing portfolio of affiliate venues, along with the diversity of the golf club industry, an additional tier for the 2020 awards was introduced, which saw winning performances recognised across three categories, to reflect the respective price points and the market segment each property has chosen to compete within.

McNaughton was joined in the F&B winners’ enclosure by Kingswood’s Simon Ibbotson and Stoke Park’s Christian Tarca, while Aplin’s fellow greenkeeping celebrators were Phil Chiverton, of The Grove, and Gary Nicoll, of Panmure GC. The latter three venues enjoyed further celebration when Panmure landed a my59 Service Excellence award, Tim Harris (Stoke Park) scooped ‘Golf Retail Manager of the Year’, and Brad Gould (The Grove) was crowned ‘Golf Manager of the Year’, alongside Tom Lawton (The Mere Golf Resort & Spa). 

Speaking of the Long Ashton’s triumphant successes, Gareth Morgan, General Manager said: “Over the past 2 years, 59club has given us the structure and the theory to ensure everyone in the team knows what is expected of each other across multiple departments, and that has assisted us to develop our reputation for delivering great customer experiences both on and off the course. I can genuinely say there is a buzz around the place every time a mystery golfer report lands. 

“The recognition the team have received this year has been well deserved in my biased opinion. Despite all of the challenges COVID has thrown our way they have each contributed to an increase in service levels, and I am incredibly proud that every possible area of the Club received a nomination for this year's awards.

“We are already looking ahead at how we improve from here.  Because, as 59club always tell me - better never stops!"

Will Hewitt, 59club UK’s general manager, said: “This was our 11th annual Service Excellence Awards ceremony, but the first – and, hopefully, the last – we’ve been forced to host remotely.

“As always, our congratulations go out to all the winners and those who secured ‘podium’ finishes, which is still a sign of exceptional quality. But a special mention must go to Long Ashton GC for stealing the show in securing four titles.” 

Stirling GC witnessed a double celebration as Kenny Monaghan scooped the ‘Golf Retail Manager of the year’, while the venue claimed the ‘Golf Operations Team of the Year’ title alongside Gleneagles. 

Also landing two titles was Farleigh GC, which secured both a ‘Golf Manager of the Year’ award, through James Ibbetson, and the much-coveted ‘my59 Ultimate Service Excellence’ title for its commitment to engage, analyse and enrich its members and guest experience utilising the my59 survey tools.

Two other venues shared the ‘my59 Ultimate Service Excellence’ award: newcomer Glynhir GC, and Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa, which retained this highly prized title from 2019.

Phil Stickler (St Pierre, Marriott Hotel & Country Club), and Dan Hawkins (Celtic Manor Resort) were both victorious within the individual ‘Golf & Leisure Membership Sales’ category, with Branston Golf & Country Club claiming the ‘Leisure Membership Sales Team’ award.  

Other venues celebrating success on the day were Ashford Manor GC, Dulwich & Sydenham Hill GC, Edgbaston GC, Haydock Park GC, Highgate GC, John O’Gaunt GC, Pollock GC, Radyr GC, and Trentham Park GC. 

The places in the 59club service excellence awards are determined by scores collected from its impartial mystery shopping audits, which evaluate the experience afforded to visiting golfers and prospective members, in accordance with objective benchmarking criteria. And they represent all areas of the business: sales, service, operations, retail, golf course, food and beverage, and management. 

59club’s coveted industry benchmarks of excellence – its gold, silver and bronze flag designations – are scheduled to be revealed at a ‘live’ event in the summer, as 59club recognises member clubs and resorts that provide excellent facilities for golfers to enjoy, as well as having achieved the required standard of customer service throughout the year. 

For more information on 59club, and to watch the Awards Presentation, visit www.59clubuk.com 

WINNERS (and runners-up)

My59 Service Excellence, sponsored by Golfbreaks.com 1, Ashford Manor GC; Dulwich & Sydenham Hill GC; Edgbaston GC; Haydock Park GC; Highgate GC; John O’Gaunt GC; Long Ashton GC; Panmure GC; Pollok GC; Radyr GC; and Trentham Park GC.

my59 Ultimate Service Excellence, sponsored by 3D-IFS:  1, Farleigh GC; Glynhir GC, Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf & Spa.

Leading Individual Golf Membership Sales Performance, sponsored by Albatross: 1, Phil Stickler (St Pierre, Marriott Hotel & Country Club); 2, Philomena Wilkinson (Forest of Arden, Marriott Hotel & Country Club); 3, James Flesher (Dunston Hall Hotel).

Leading Individual Leisure Membership Sales Performance, sponsored by Tacit & Eagle:  1, Dan Hawkins (Celtic Manor Resort); 2, George Wainwright (Branston Golf & Country Club); 3, Victoria Martin (Old Thorns).

Leisure Membership Sales Team of the Year, sponsored by Kennet Leasing: 1, Branston Golf & Country Club; 2, Celtic Manor Resort; 3, Old Thorns.

Food & Beverage Manager of the Year*, sponsored by Comesto: 1, Christian Tarca (Stoke Park); Glen McNaughton (Long Ashton GC); Simon Ibbotson (Kingswood GC); 2, Craig Sutherland (Brora GC); Jacques Hobson (The Belfry Hotel & Resort); Leanne Ray (Wexham Park GC); 3, Daisy Foster (Foxhills Club & Resort); Greg Smith (Edgbaston GC); Josie Swift (Farleigh GC). 

Golf Retail Manager of the Year*, sponsored by Asbri Golf: 1, Jack Heginbotham (Long Ashton GC); Kenny Monaghan (Stirling GC) Tim Harris (Stoke Park); 2, Alyson Lilley (Gleneagles); Paul Babbage (Farleigh GC); Stuart Morrison (Tain GC); 3, Matt Lacey (Hurtmore GC); Peter Lane (Harpenden GC); Sean Graham (Foxhills Club & Resort).

Greenkeeper of the Year*, sponsored by Toro: 1, Gary Nicoll (Panmure GC); Matt Aplin (Goring & Streatley GC); Phil Chiverton (The Grove); 2, Angus MacLeod (The Belfry Hotel & Resort); Craig Parry (Edgbaston GC); Derek Hunter (Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club); 3, David Wyborn (Foxhills Club & Resort); James Braithwaite (Long Ashton GC); Terry Wharton (Haydock Park GC). 

Golf Operations Team of the Year*, sponsored by Club Car: 1, Gleneagles; Long Ashton GC; Stirling GC; 2, Farleigh GC; Stoke Park; The Mere Golf Resort & Spa. 3, Dalmahoy Hotel & Country Club; Porters Park GC, The Grove.  

Golf Manager of the Year*, sponsored by Golf Genius: 1, Brad Gould (The Grove); James Ibbetson (Farleigh GC); Tom Lawton (The Mere Golf Resort & Spa); 2, Gareth Morgan (Long Ashton GC); Karen Drake (Burnham & Berrow GC), Stuart Collier (Stoke Park); 3, Andrew Jowett (Gleneagles); Ruud Hercik (Gaudet Luce GC); Tom Scott (Harpenden GC).

*Three categories

For further information on 59club please contact Sarah Connelly on sarah@59club.com