Horton Park

The owners of the sites are Richard and Sally Haygarth. Both of them are highly qualified accountants and spent the first part of their careers working in big practice in Canada for Price Waterhouse. 
Sally’s father, Brian Langmead started the whole ball rolling when he built Chichester Golf Centre, with Sally and Richard expanding the chain to include Hill Barn and Horton Park; another facility in West London should open in the not too distant future.
Horton Park was bought by the Haygarths eight years ago as a distressed purchase - the previous owners had rather over extended their cash flow. There is distinct advantage in having two seriously experienced accountants running such a business: it is highly unlikely that they are going to make the same mistake.
Horton Park is a beautifully maintained 18 hole golf course, an excellent golf range, and an outstanding adventure golf course. There is a great food and drink operation and, best of all, it is in a very busy area, close to Epsom.
Operationally, Sally runs the two businesses on the south coast while Richard focuses more of his time on Horton Park and the other opportunity to the west of London. He spoke to Golf Features:
“When we took over the business it was very run down. Most of the machinery didn’t work properly, the course, range and clubhouse were all in need of some serious maintenance and upgrading. Staff morale was low and the business wasn’t performing very well. Over the last few years, we have just applied some reasonable logic and invested some money in areas that were clearly needing it. The addition of the adventure golf course had a marked impact on the business and has hugely increased our food and drink revenues as well.”
The adventure golf course is beautifully located within the development and, most importantly, the caves and large scale waterfalls can all be seen from the road, so passing traffic is constantly reminded that there is an excellent family golf centre close by. This magazine has often extolled the virtues of adventure golf, but rarely can the benefit of it to be seen so clearly as at Horton Park. The golf complex is now a genuine family facility that has something to offer all generations and all levels of ability. The best part of adventure golf is that everyone can play the game and enjoy it. Golf is only of interest to a small percentage of the population (5 to 6%), but adventure golf is a worthwhile activity for 99% of people living in the UK.
Richard is a board member of the UKGCOA (United Kingdom Golf Course Owners Association) and in March will take over as chairman of the association.  He has been working hard behind the scenes for the benefit of the wider golfing industry and knows how important it is to have proprietary golf courses powerfully represented in the governance of golf.  He elaborates:
“There are many frustrations and injustices when it comes to the current state of the golf industry.  There is a huge amount of distortion due to the crazy taxation within golf.  All of us within the UKGCOA are very proud that we are working to give golf a better future and one that recognises that well over half of the golf facilities in England are  owned and operated as businesses rather than being owned by their members.  Interestingly, over 95% of the game’s future growth will come from the proprietary sector.  These are indeed exciting times.”
Richard and Sally are planning a makeover of the golf range and clubhouse area in the near future, but at present the range offers an excellent opportunity to hit balls with good targets, good quality balls and mats and excellent service from the professional shop next to the range. The balls are collected and the range outfield cut, with the robotic system by True Bots, which is a great time saver and also keeps the first 80-100 m of the golf range in very good condition. The centre is very busy with teaching and retail sales are buoyant. Richards takes a very proactive attitude towards growing the game of golf and has worked very closely with his PGA professionals and the local England Golf county development officer for Surrey, to drive increased interest in golf at Horton Park. It is working very well and hundreds of new golfers are created every year at this most welcoming of golf centres.
The various facilities of the golf centre are nicely spaced out, close together, but not cramped by each other’s presence.  Not surprisingly, the clubhouse has a welcoming bar and a first class array of food is served all day at affordable prices.
The course is fairly flat and has some interesting water hazards - and some charming geese. Geese are not always welcome at the golf facilities, but these wonderful Canadian geese could hardly be turned away given the amount of enjoyment of the Haygarths had earlier in their careers in their home country.
Horton Park was one of the early adopters of FootGolf. The main golf course is shared in the afternoons, with golfers and FootGolfers both able to play. This ruffled a few feathers and certainly disappointed some of the more traditional golfers, but once again the addition of another leisure activity to the site has helped to diversify the type of client that can be entertained on site. Most of the golf, from serious players is played in the mornings anyway.
The secret of running a business like Horton Park well is good quality management, and this is clearly in evidence with Richard and Sally’s guidance. The staff are all well trained, polite and attentive, with the overall atmosphere being friendly and businesslike. It is without doubt a very busy place. There is a very attractive patio area and traditional putting green at the back of the clubhouse, which gets very busy in the summer months.
In order to drive business for the future, the Haygarths will be investing in upgrading the facilities for both the golf range and the clubhouse. They know they have a successful business, but it is always a good idea to improve on something that is working well. We look forward to returning to Horton Park to see the improvements in the future.