The whole Pharaoh family are involved in running Golf World Stansted, with Colin and Tracy, his wife, leading the team with eldest daughter Leanne as general manager, who is also in charge of events and weddings. The younger daughter Emma, is a freelance photographer and responsible for all the beautiful photography around the clubhouse and also for keeping the venue prominent in people’s minds via social media and the website. Their son Daniel also works in the business part time.
This is a very busy golf venue with a large variety of activities on offer including: a nine hole golf course, three hole academy course, a nine hole FootGolf course, a driving range, pro shop and buzzing café, 1066 themed 18 hole Adventure Golf, golf academy for adults as well as juniors. In addition to all of these golfing-themed activities, there is the function hire side of the business, complete with all the specialist wedding paraphernalia, along with a well-appointed gym and health and beauty centre. There is even a small CL caravan site.
The nine hole course, which has full length holes, is still a good test for golfers starting their journey. It is set in gently rolling parkland and is very popular, particularly with seniors, ladies and juniors.
The whole complex is very accessible and those who play regularly are invited to buy a season ticket, rather than be a ‘member’ of the club, as this seems to create the right atmosphere for this multi-activity venue. Many might be put off, if the clubhouse was dominated by member only competitions. Some of the more traditional golfers were also a little disgruntled when the dress regulations were relaxed, but such outdated rules don’t really belong at such a magnificently informal leisure venue.
The range currently has 10 bays in one run, with a further six bays in front of the clubhouse patio, three of which are covered by a Dryrainge. The range is currently being re-profiled and so at present it is run as a golf pod, with the fully enclosed meshed structure measuring 40 metres long with a 10m high roof. The latest technology, Toptracer, has been installed, which somewhat offsets the reduced flight issue. Behind the netting, the range is being comprehensively re-profiled using inert imported materials.
Colin Pharaoh has had a lot of expertise in dealing with such things and used to run a waste management company with huge contracts for Essex County Council. Re-profiling the golf range will result in much better definition and includes 5 new target greens cut into the landscape. The range will also be raised and perfectly drained and will provide a much more attractive surface onto which to hit shots. Best of all, this process is profitable and whilst it is a lot of work, it will allow the Pharaoh family to reinvest this money in some of their other projects at the venue.
As you turn into the car park, it would be impossible to not see the adventure golf course, which is themed on British history dating back to 1066, complete with Viking ship and Norman castles. The course was built in-house by Colin and his team, with the specialist finishing work for laying the putting surface itself being subcontracted to others - but all of the landscaping, paving, huge Viking ship, buildings, stockade fencing and water features were built by Colin and his team. It has been a lot of hard work, but since the course opened in July last year, the takings have been excellent. The adventure golf course has quickly become one of the most important parts of the business and brings in dozens of families every day who all love the diverse facilities offered here.
The venue also boasts the most remarkable junior academy, which is currently the biggest in the country with over 300 juniors registered to receive coaching and golfing nourishment from the professional team and this very user-friendly facility. Paul Ring heads up the teaching pros and has devised this quite remarkable junior academy, which mixes tuition and play so that these young golfers have a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the sport early in their careers.
The venue extends to about 95 acres and the Pharaohs recently purchased the freehold to strengthen their investment in the long-term. They have now put the golf venue on the market, and it does seem to represent very good value for money at £1,350,000. There is planning permission for a two tier 22 bay golf range and also a new 5,000sqft pro shop, gym and office extension. Colin is clearly passionate about the venue, but has been running it for 11 years now and there are so many other challenges for him and his family that they may well now sell the business and take up some of these new opportunities. Colin explains:
“The business is going really well and there are lots more things that we will be developing here if we don’t find the right buyer. But having put the business on such a sound financial footing, including securing the freehold, we would now like to do different things with that most valuable of assets - time.”
Once the landscaping of the range surface is finished, the range will reopen as a two tier facility.
“We are very keen that the golf range becomes part of our family entertainment programme and that’s why we’ve invested in Toptracer. Even with the range netted, we are still taking good revenue from the range and once the full flight range resumes operation, we are confident that we will be very busy with lots of players wishing to practice and enjoy the Toptracer technology.”
The two-tier range will marry up with the function business. The upper tier of such centres, as with TopGolf, tend to fill up with those more inclined to regard golf as an occasional leisure activity, rather than the committed golfing purist. With so many diverse activities, it is very popular with companies wishing to hold corporate events. Not everybody is a golfer but there is definitely something for everybody at this venue.
What ever the future holds for the venue - whether family sells or not – it seems certain that the centre will become hugely profitable in the coming years with all of the new elements of the business coming together.
For those wishing to see how a truly diverse golf and leisure venue is run, have a look at the website: golfworldstansted.co.uk
or come and see it for yourself.