London Golf Club is a fabulous venue by any yardstick. Located close to Brands Hatch to the south-east of London, just outside of the M25, London Golf Club was founded in the 1990s by a wealthy Japanese businessman who intended to build the finest golf courses in the London area. To achieve this, he had Jack Nicklaus and his design company create a fabulous 36 hole layout across the 500 acre site. The Golden Bear himself oversaw the design of the Heritage course, which is reserved just for the members and their guests; his company, Nicklaus Design, designed the International course. Both are cut and prepared to the very highest standards and have matured beautifully since their inception.
The club has approximately 1400 members, which breaks down to around 600 individual members who pay an annual subscription of over £3500, with an entrance fee set at £6000, and corporate membership, which comes with a £12,000 entry cost and £8000 per annum and gives companies the ability to treat clients and staff with access to this stunning golf facility.
The clubhouse is quite magnificent with an impressive vaulted hall serving as the entrance, with the building sprawling onto several floors, enjoying spectacular views across both of the courses. Downstairs, next to the professional shop, is the Spike Bar. The Pro-Shop has recently been refurbished and is a perfect example of relaxed elegance: oak, stone and leather are all polished and cleaned, perfectly set to welcome the lucky golfer. Upstairs, the Long Bar has also been refurbished and is used regularly for functions, club events and any number of corporate outings and private parties that is such an important part of the business for London Golf Club.
In the last ten years the club has changed ownership and also partnered with European Tour Properties. This gives the venue considerable prestige and attracts a large number of high-profile golf events. There are obvious advantages for any golf facility fortunate enough to be chosen for such a partnership.
In recent times there have been two new key appointments at London Golf Club: Golf Couse and Estates Manger, Lee Sayer has taken over the reins from Peter Todd, who was at the club since 1994, and Stephen Follett, who previously headed the golf operations for Marriott Hotels before holding a key role at Troon Golf, became Chief Executive just over 18 months ago.
Both of the courses can be stretched to full tournament length and would be eminently suitable to host any professional or amateur event. In recent times the venue has hosted several European Opens, and the Volvo World Match Play Championship. It does not get much bigger than that.
The demands of world-class tournament golf are somewhat at odds with the needs of regular golfers who want to enjoy their leisure time on a great course. A stiff challenge will involve long and tangled rough, often grown into the edges of fairways to make holes more difficult and the score of par more challenging. The landing zones for Tour players, even from the back tees, are often well beyond the expected landing zone for a good amateur golfer. In short, a golf course set up for a European Tour event, would not be as much fun to play as one designed for good amateur golf.
Working to a new set of quality parameters, there has been a refocusing for both courses to increase the charm and playability for every golfer. This has already had a substantial effect on pace of play; thick rough means lost balls, which translates into slower rounds and frustrated golfers.
Sayers has been charged with delivering this new vision to the London Golf Club. Since taking over from Todd just three months ago, Lee is now responsible for a total of 25 members of staff: nine greenkeepers for the Heritage course, eight greenkeepers for the International course, 5 casual weekend staff, two full-time landscape specialists, two full-time mechanics, and two full-time irrigation specialists who keep the three vast lakes pumping water to where it is needed throughout the year. The greenkeeping compound is one of the most comprehensive facilities in the UK and allows London Golf Club to be assured of good conditioning for both of its courses, the surrounding grounds and all of the practice facilities.
Golf Features caught up with Lee recently:
“It is a real honour to be placed in charge of the golf courses here at London Golf Club. We have a fantastic set up and a terrific team of dedicated greenkeepers who are all committed to preparing the courses to the best possible standards, regardless of the weather and throughout the year. It’s hard work, but very worthwhile and we are all very proud of the courses.”
The main focus for London Golf Club is the customer. Members, both individual and corporate are at the top of the tree, with guests and visitors of all types a close second. The venue is ideal for all sorts of special functions and plays host to weddings and car launches, private parties and corporate outings. Everyone knows that they will enjoy the venue and the management are careful not to over-fill the venue.
The late and greatly missed boxer, Sir Henry Cooper, was a founder member of the club and one of the function rooms is named after him. There are several other separate and flexible spaces which can be booked for various events and careful scheduling ensures that each event maintains its own identity and all attending feel the special glow that underlines the quality of London Golf Club, both for golfer and non-player. The food and drink offering is exceptional, with reasonably priced bar snacks delivered promptly and served beautifully. The whole catering operation is as thorough as the golf operation, with teams of chefs being engaged to produce fantastic food for all palates.
London Golf Club is always in beautiful condition and this is testament to the fantastic way that Lee and the team maintain the course and grounds, but it is also due to the investment committed by the management to keep everything in such rich splendour, both inside and out.
There is so much to admire about London Golf Club, but I think it is such a success because the people delivering the service genuinely care about their customers and are always friendly and engaging. It makes you want to come back – a lot. If you are lucky enough to play at this fantastic venue, then you will appreciate how all the effort comes together to ensure the very best customer experience. For further details, please visit the website: www.londongolf.co.uk
London Golf Club is a member of Golf in Kent, a partnership between Kent’s finest golf courses and accommodation that was created to promote the county as one of England’s premier golf destinations. More at www.golfinkent.co.uk