As golf returns to the Olympics this summer, there are lots of reasons why it should be on your agenda too
Words: Tobias Gourlay & Heather Steele
In fast times, golf is a slow activity. You’ve got to get there, you’ve got to dress appropriately and then, even if you’re semi-competent, 18 holes will take around four hours.
The rewards, however, are myriad. There are the personal dividends – a cherished memory of a perfectly struck shot – and there are the business benefits of finding the time to play a round with clients or colleagues.
As PG Wodehouse once suggested, ‘To find a man’s true character, play golf with him.’ On the course, you see just how patient someone is – as they bullseye another water hazard – and how they deal with adversity. The same challenges will come your boss’s way too but, if s/he and their partners come through with dignity intact, they’ve probably established the basis for a working relationship. At the very least, they’ve got a tee-up for a drink in the clubhouse after.
Those who play together, stay together. That’s why Barack Obama is always so keen to clear his diary for a game. He played a friendly 18 holes with David Cameron in April and looks set to complete 300 relationship-building rounds before he leaves office at the end of the year. If the leader of the free world can make time for golf, the leaders of your firm probably can too.
After an absence of 112 years, the sport returns to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this August. Before it does, get ahead of the Games with our pick of the courses from around the UK that are best set up to host corporate groups large and small.
Starting life in the 12th century as a manor house, The Belfry
is now one of the UK’s most prestigious golf clubs, hosting more Ryder Cup matches than anywhere else in the world. The club’s most famous course is the Brabazon, which continues to challenge the world’s best, while the PGA National and The Derby courses keep everyone interested with hard and fast fairways.
USP The Derby tests players with its clever parkland design.
Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B76 9PR | 0844 980 0600
Lord Lansdowne’s 2,000-acre Wiltshire estate has an award-winning 18-hole championship golf course and excellent clubhouse facilities. For groups looking to make a stay of it, there’s a fine-dining restaurant, a spa and 43 bedrooms in the on-site hotel
USP With views towards the Wiltshire Downs, this is a place for groups to really get away from it all.
Calne, Wiltshire, SN11 9PQ| 01249 584792
This 500-acre estate
is close to the capital and has two championship courses. The Melbourne was designed by the BBC’s voice of golf, Peter Alliss. The Palmerston winds its way through ancient woodland to create a series of spectacular hazards. Extras such as roving drinks buggies are easily arranged. After the golf, guests might lunch in the stately Oak Room or the Piano Lounge, with overnight accommodation available.
USP The Melbourne has a ferry ride across a lake to the 18th green.
Welwyn, Hertfordshire, AL8 7XG | 01707 368700
In 1,000 acres of Cheshire countryside, Carden Park
’s two championship courses offer a scenic break from the office. Double-option fairways make the Nicklaus a ‘thinking man’s course’. Corporate packages offer a day’s golf with lunch and a three-course dinner.
USP Golf not enough? The new Carden Aktiv Retreat rejuvenates guests with fitness classes and plenty of time for relaxation.
Chester, Cheshire, CH3 9DQ | 01829 731000
Celtic Manor Resort
Host of the 2010 Ryder Cup, Celtic Manor
has a trio of championship courses. Beware the Twenty Ten: there’s a sting in its tail at the 18th. Beyond the golf, the resort has 400 bedrooms, seven restaurants, a luxury spa and an award-winning convention centre. Hang on until 2019 and the resort will have an all-new £80m convention centre.
USP The 1,500-capacity conference centre already marks this out as one for the largest corporate groups.
Cwmbran, NP18 1HQ | 01633 413000
Craigielaw Golf Club
One of four golf courses belonging to the Gosford Estate, Craigielaw
is a championship links course within 5,000 acres of beachfront grounds, just 12 miles from Edinburgh. The club has held more than 20 professional and amateur championships, as well as large events for companies such as Porsche and Bovis. The modern clubhouse has space for up to 160 people.
USP Gosford’s six-bedroom beachfront villa, Green Craig, has its own 50-capacity function room.
Aberlady, East Lothian, EH32 0PY | 01875 870801
Opened in 1924, this
extensive resort in the Scottish Highlands offers three championship golf courses. More experienced golfers can choose from the craftily designed King’s course, the secluded Queen’s course and the classic PGA Centenary course, which hosted the 2014 Ryder Cup.
USP Andrew Fairlie
at Gleneagles, which is Scotland’s only two-Michelin-starred restaurant.
Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF | 0800 047 6407
Designed by golfing great Jack Nicklaus, this
par-72 championship course has plenty for players to sink their teeth into. Groups can spend a morning at the Golf Academy, which has a large putting green, two driving ranges and two short-game areas, as well as video swing analysis by PGA pros.
USP The recently launched Games Room has a golf simulator on which guests can play 15 of the finest courses in the world.
Ware, Hertfordshire, SG12 0SD | 01920 487722
In the historic grounds of Hever Castle
, this club offers 27 holes of high-quality golf, top-notch practice facilities and tuition from PGA professionals. The Kings and Queens 9s championship course has hosted events including the Kent Open and Kent PGA Championship.
USP The castle itself – the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Corporate groups should combine a tour with their day’s golfing.
Edenbridge, Kent, TN8 7NP | 01732 861800
Kildare Hotel, Spa & Country Club
Within a five-star resort running along the banks of the river Liffey, the K Club (as it’s known) is just 24 miles from Dublin airport. It has two challenging, watery championship courses and a clubhouse with large and small meeting rooms that look onto nearby fairways and greens.
USP The only course in Ireland ever to host the Ryder Cup.
Straffan, County Kildare, Ireland | +353 01 601 7200
Mannings Heath Golf Club
Amid 500 acres of Sussex downland, Mannings Heath has two championship courses that rank among the UK’s ‘must play’ hot spots. In a hybrid setting of heathland, downland and parkland, groups can take on an exciting and entertaining course.
USP The 17th-century clubhouse has a log fire for winter warmth.
Horsham, West Sussex, RH13 6PG | 01403 220346
Old Thorns Golf & Country Estate
Built more than three decades ago by Ken Wood – he of food mixer fame – Old Thorns’ current owners have brought this four-star Hampshire resort bang up to date. On the edge of the South Downs, its 151 bedrooms are complemented by 14 function rooms, a couple of bars and the Kings restaurant.
USP An on-site Starbucks means there’s one less excuse for wayward tee shots at the first hole.
Liphook, Hampshire, GU30 7PE | 01428 724555
Nowhere rivals St Andrews for the quality and quantity of its courses. There are seven in total, scattered in and around the town, with the Old Course – the ‘home of golf’ – taking centre stage. Bespoke corporate packages can be based at the Old Course Hotel, which has views out to St Andrews Bay and the famous 17th hole that runs alongside it.
USP The ‘road hole’, obviously. The 17th at the Old Course might just be the most famous in all of golf.
St Andrews, KY16 9XL | 01334 466666
Tracy Park Golf & Country Hotel
Built around a Georgian manor house, Tracy Park’s two championship courses rate as some of the most challenging parkland courses in the South West. A recently renovated driving range and high-spec practice green help everyone get their eye in. With high ceilings, grand windows andhandsome soft furnishings, the house is the place for group dinners.
USP The Carriages accommodation block has four-poster beds and views across the courses.
Wick, Bath, BS30 5RN | 0117 937 1800
Trump International Golf Links
This course is a picturesque destination for golfing groups. Undulating through sand dunes and along the rugged Aberdeenshire coast, the championship links course engages players of all abilities. When battle ceases for the day, the five-star, 19-bedroom MacLeod House & Lodge Hotel is a luxurious refuge.
USP If not the owner Donald Trump, then the new clubhouse, with its bespoke tweed, leather and velvet furniture.
Balmedie, Aberdeen, AB23 8YE | 01358 743300
Founded in 1903, this
Surrey golf club is no stranger to organising corporate away days. Groups looking for informal drinks on the 19th will enjoy the venue’s bar and dining room, overlooking the picturesque putting green.
USP This historic club counts four prime ministers among its previous members.
Walton-on-the-Hill, Surrey, KT20 7TP | 01737 817632
This world-famous venue is just 45 minutes from London and provides a triumvirate of championship golf courses. Wentworth’s West Course, redesigned in 2009, hosts the annual BMW PGA Championship, while the EastP Course was the setting for the Ryder Cup in 1953.
USP The on-course restaurant mirrors the style and cuisine of its sisters, The Ivy and Le Caprice.
Virginia Water, Surrey, GU25 4LS | 01344 846334
THE GOLDEN RULES OF BUSINESS GOLF
Make a good impression with these six golfing guidelines…
1. Pleasure first, business second You’ve got four hours of face time, and that’s just on the course. That’s more than enough to talk shop, so get to know them and allow them to raise business matters first.
2. Gauge your guests’ personalities Then adjust your play accordingly. Playing with a real golfer? Be respectful, don’t rush them and don’t mess about. Equally, if you’re with a wannabe comedian, don’t insist on taking the whole thing too seriously.
3. Make running repairs Picking up your broken tees and repairing pitch marks looks good.
4. Don’t let them win Everyone can spot a cheat, even if it’s one who’s trying to lose. It’s insulting, and you’ll just look calculating.
5. Don’t drop the ball Once the scores are in, don’t ruin everything with below-par entertaining. Pick a club with great food and a private dining room to seal those deals.
6. Signed, sealed, delivered That said, don’t expect to have everything wrapped up by the end of the day. Golf is about meeting people in an informal, setting and getting to know them. Don’t be forceful just because you’re footing the bill.
Playing a tournament as part of a big group? Hospitality provider Keith Prowse
(020 8712 8953) has launched a live scoring app in partnership with Plus Golf. Players score each hole on a dedicated handset, before the scores are immediately calculated and displayed via live leaderboards on all player devices around the course. Prices start from £495, which includes all devices, touchscreen leaderboards and a team to run it for you.
This article was first published in Squaremeal Venues + Events, Summer 2016