The Viking Quest Adventure Golf Course designed and built by City Golf
Moreton Hills was originally set up in the 1980s by the PGA professional Chris Gill, who sadly died over 10 years ago. Today, the facility is owned and operated by PGA Fellow, John Andrew. For many years John spent his time as one of the biggest retailers in the country running Direct Golf UK.
Moreton Hills is a beautifully run golf centre. There are 25 indoor bays and a further 25 exterior bays with a grass teeing area that is best enjoyed in the summer months. There is an excellent café bar bistro, trading as the Green Hut, which provides a family-friendly welcome and delicious food, washed down with a selection of coffees, soft drinks, wine and bottles of beer.
Also, perhaps slightly unusually, Moreton Hills has its own ice cream parlour. The unit, which is called Molly’s Ice Cream Parlour, was built from six shipping container units that have been bolted together and decorated to create the new unit. It has done extremely well during the lockdown period using the App Just Eat to connect with scores of customers wanting the specialist takeaway deserts. Obviously, the ice cream also goes down exceptionally well with the younger adventure golf enthusiasts, particularly in the summer months.
The Green Hut provides traditional fare as well as modern and elegant meals for those using the adventure golf: it has a mini Vikings menu, which is well priced and delicious for children. The normal menu options for groups had to be adjusted substantially due to the COVID-19 regulations, which have - quite rightly - ensured that food is provided safely during the pandemic. There are nice touches throughout, and the presentation is stylish and thoughtful. Buffets, however, are gone for the foreseeable future.
The golf shop was for many years part of the Direct Golf UK group; today John rents the shop to Major Golf Direct, which is run by his good friend Simon Corp, another PGA professional. The shop is rammed full with the latest merchandise and has been doing outstanding business since the restart of golf earlier this summer. The shop is well positioned and allows customers to try clubs on the range with that old adage ‘try before you buy’ being a major benefit to sales. Fully custom fitted clubs are becoming ever more popular and none more so than at a golf range like Moreton Hills, where a huge array of equipment is available with expert PGA advice on hand.
Obviously golf ranges offer a fabulous chance to learn and improve your golf swing. The academy is very busy with individual lessons and group classes for juniors, ladies and beginners. Angus Law leads the team of four PGA coaches and has been a PGA professional for over 37 years. Traditional coaching skills are assisted with the use of the latest video equipment and a TrackMan launch monitor.
Since leaving Direct Golf UK, John has devoted himself to refurbishing and improving the performance of the golf centre. The bays themselves have been considerably smartened up and now have the latest Toptracer system in many of the bays. The technology allows for a different type of customer, as John explains:
“Beginners find it much more interesting hitting balls and learning to play the game when the very practice is in itself a game. It’s more fun and they are much keener to return and have another go. Also the advantages of using this type of technology are there for all golfers. A practice session is no longer the act of a devout golfer, but is a much more interactive experience, where the golfer can work on his or her stats and see real improvements to their game. Best of all, everybody enjoys the variety that they now have access to on the range.”
John was very keen to develop a family-focused, golf-based leisure centre with various different options for those coming to enjoy the centre. Work started on the new Viking Quest adventure golf course in December 2018 and the course fully opened at the end of April in 2019. Since then trade has been brisk and, more importantly, there has been a much more diverse set of customers coming to the centre. Of those wishing to enjoy some time out, many are not even golfers at all. By broadening the customer base, the facility became much busier.
Perhaps John’s best idea, and one that he is keen to encourage other golf operators to borrow, is his promotion giving all adventure golfers a 25 ball taster session on the range completely free of charge. There are no catches, and free club hire is also included. It is one of the best ways of getting more people into golf, as John explains:
“We wanted to make it easier for our putting customers to have a go at golf. Although the range balls are free, the number of people who return and pay for balls, lessons and golf equipment is astounding. I would urge all other operators who have similar facilities to try it out. Nothing has created as many new golfers as this promotion.”
The adventure golf course has several water features and is heavily themed with Viking memorabilia and equipment out of respect for the Wirral’s rich Viking history. The course itself has plenty of interaction with the water features and it is great fun to play. Economically, it is making an excellent return on the money invested and will have comfortably paid for itself in less than four years, including being closed for much of the spring and summer this year.
The course was designed and built by City Golf who has done a great job of turning a piece of unused land close to the centre into an exceptional breeding ground for new golfers. In addition to the course, John spent a lot of money with Premier Plants, an excellent local plant wholesaler, so that the areas between and around the course were magnificently planted by John himself. This greatly adds to the enjoyment as pampas grass and elegant shrubs set a beautiful backdrop for those important family gatherings, complete with Viking hats and Longships. John added:
“City Golf were really rather marvellous throughout this whole process. They had a few problems, with weather and some of the unseen ground conditions, but they stuck to the job, professionally handling all of the issues that arose whilst sticking to the budget completely. Thomas Black sorted out all of the problems and he, together with Gary Jenkins and their team of expert installers, were a delight to work with. I’d recommend them to anybody building an adventure golf course.”
Gary Jenkins, the UK representative for City Golf was also delighted with the finished product:
“It is always a great honour for us to be selected to build one of our adventure golf courses, regardless of the client. Moreton Hills was an exceptional site and John and his team were great fun to work with. We know that it will do extremely well and we are so pleased with the way that the course turned out that we regularly use photographs of it to help promote further sales.”
The six hole disused course has been re-landscaped in late Summer 2020 and is expected to open to golfers in Spring 2021.
This par 3 academy course is a great addition and the perfect pathway for new golfers to learn the game on a more relaxed pay and play basis, complementing the other features beautifully.
In the future, there are plans afoot to re-launch the six hole course which has not been in operation for over eight years. Currently the facility is extremely busy and there is a real buzz of contented activity throughout; the centre is well laid out and beautifully run.
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