The Adventure Golf Course is beautifully landscaped with large gunite structures, freshly cleaned ropes and professional signage. The water has also been dyed.
The golf range at Addiscombe, just outside Croydon, Surrey, which for the last decade or so has been known as World of Golf Croydon, is one of the oldest golf ranges in the country, dating back to the early 1970’s.
It changed hands several times before it was taken over in the mid 1990’s by Bill Woodman, a prominent golf professional and retailer. Bill relocated his extraordinary business from the cellars beneath the Mansion at Beckenham Place Park Golf Course to the range in Croydon.
Bill was a highly committed golf retailer, specialising in wholesaling vast clearance packages to other golf professionals through the Pro Select buying group. He was so successful that he needed a venue that was smart and attractive for golfers to visit. He therefore invested substantially in the best possible environment he could get for those wishing to use the range. He was one of the early adopters of Power Tees, and the range has been automated ever since. Bill subsequently sold the range, with it being taken over by The World of Golf Group, who also owned the major golf range sites at Beverley Park, Sidcup and Glasgow.
The group has now been dissolved into its constituent parts: most have undergone substantial reinvestment over the last decade or so and many are quite a bit higher, having been subjected to some inert importation projects to raise the range surface. This process has largely benefitted the range outfields, offering a more interesting and sculpted set of features for golfers to aim at. It is without question that the inert importation of soil was extremely good for the owners of the site, who got a massive cash injection from the value of taking ‘muck away’ from major building projects in the area. This cash injection has allowed for substantial re-investment in the sites - all of the World of Golf sites had adventure golf sites added. To complete the dream team for these prominent ranges the retail partner American Golf was chosen and this relationship has worked very well over the years.
More recently, Croydon has suffered from a lack of genuine reinvestment, with a number of alternative uses considered for the site. However suitable planning was not forthcoming, so the range was sold to Holmes Investment Properties Plc (HIP) who also operate Stanley Park Golf Course Blackpool in 2018.
The adventure golf course, which was opened in 2011 was popular from the start. Adventure golf courses require a lot of attention to detail and it was clear that there had been a lack of a thorough maintenance and refurbishment regime for some years. Malcolm Simmonds, from HIP, has been at the helm for around eighteen months and has learned fast. The site, with its superb location is always busy, but other ranges were also far busier and fewer people were playing adventure golf than at many of the other lesser courses in the area.
First on the ‘to do’ list was the range. New Power Tees were commissioned and a smart refit, together with the introduction of Top Tracer. With just 22 bays, this is one of the busiest ranges in the country and it quickly re-established its popularity again amongst local golfers.
American Golf also went through an interesting phase around the period of the HIP takeover, but both HIP and American Golf are committed to investing in the site to create a truly fabulous golfer experience for all customers.
The rationale for adding adventure golf to ranges is simple. Golf ranges are occupied mainly by avid golfers, and those wishing to learn or practise; some level of competence is required to really enjoy golf and while that is sought and often found on a golf range, it is nevertheless true that golf offers little in the ways of instant fun. Adventure golf is instantly playable by anyone from the age of 4 to 94 and beyond.
It is relatively safe, requires less space and can be enjoyed by golfers and complete novices at the same time in spite of wildly differing abilities. It is a perfect golf-themed leisure activity and families love it. But they only return if it is good value and interesting. Persuading mums, who are often the real power in any family, that adventure golf is part of the family’s leisure calendar is easy if the site is smart, but if it is faded and a little ragged repeat trade will be low.
This is precisely the situation Malcolm had to address at the beginning of this season. A refit was long overdue. Then of course we all had a global pandemic to deal with, so chaos and a troubled planet in lockdown were not the ideal conditions to be recreating a family leisure attraction. Funds were also understandably scarce to boot.
Golf Features spoke to Malcolm Simmonds, World of Golf Croydon Managing Director: “Being fairly new to the golf industry, I was slightly concerned that the user experience for our customers had become a little tired over the last few years. This site had a vast array of very good features, but previous regimes had re-focused their efforts on an alternative use for the site and other parts of the business and had let the maintenance standard slide.
“My terrific team have re-polished the whole site and this can be seen very clearly from the range and as you approach the course. I was very fortunate to have some great friends and family members who were available for work during lockdown and were able to utilise their remarkable skills in theatre design and construction to refurbish our amazing course. I’m convinced it’s better than at its very first opening”.
On the course, the water features were tired, the teeing areas were worn out, the signage faded and a general air of dilapidation prevailed. Today every visiting player gets the opportunity to play around a perfectly kept adventure golf course. This is so important to visiting families, who want to ensure their children have a great time in a lovely setting.”
Some of the items did not cost much and other items were more expensive, including a splendid new fountain, which is a visual treat and sounds as tropical as it looks. A strong pressure washer was deployed on all the paths, turning them from a dark miserable brown to a bright, almost cream finish. All the rope was also regenerated by pressure washing, returning to a wholesome colour and finished off with new netting panels held in place by cable ties. As a point of detail, these cable ties were cut back perfectly to hide their unattractive tails, which can look so messy. In addition these cable ties were then sanded smooth, so no little fingers will come to grief as young adventurers use the course.
The signage is great with substantial use of dragon logos, including a ‘selfie seat’ for young players to be snapped by happy friends and parents. Dragon footprints abound and scimitars and swords are picked out with care. There was not the money for a really thorough rebranding with the popular Jurassic dinosaur theme, but this has worked a treat.
World of Golf Croydon is being very well run and future developments include a new coffee shop and an enhanced retail offering with the latest custom-fit bays in shop. For those who may wish to copy some of the refurbishment ideas put into practice at Croydon, it is well worth a visit.
More details: worldofgolf-uk.co.uk