THE HERRIDGE STORY
I loved golf from a young age and been fortunate enough to have worked in the industry for a number of years. I started my career as a touring professional; I knew I wanted to remain in this industry for as long as possible.
Following my touring days, I then began working at golf establishments before becoming Head Professional and Director of Golf at Leeds Golf Centre. With this experience I have worked at both private member clubs and top-end resorts and have run a number of high-end events, golf days and golf breaks. I thoroughly enjoyed creating, planning and delivering these events and made the decision to turn it into my own business.
Golf VIP was then born in 2018 and put my own vision into Golf VIP events, golf days and tours for customers within my network. Since then, we have branched out into a wider event offering alongside overseas golf breaks/holidays. We are excited for the future and seeing our customers at our events and also helping them with their golf holidays.
What was the genesis for Golf VIP?
To create some of the best golf events and tournaments around for golfers to enjoy as well as giving customers a complete start to finish product, so all they have to do is book and turn up.
What is the major difference between what you do as a company and that of your competitors?
Honestly, I think it’s the service and how we look after clients. Our communication through the booking process is thorough and we work with our customers to achieve a golf holiday for them.
In addition, for our tournaments and events we act as their concierge service when they are away and are always on hand. We seem to see a lot of our competitors try to emulate what we do, so we must be doing something right.
Overall, how did you fare in ‘20 - and how do you see ‘21 progressing?
2020 was tough. We managed to run one of our main competitions - the Royal Pro-am hosted at Royal Birkdale and Royal Lytham & St Annes - which was fantastic. We also saw it as an opportunity to review what we were doing and invest in and better our product offering. We also brought Maddy Pearce in from Elite Golf Management to consult, which has been invaluable. 2021 is progressing well on paper. We have some great events lined up.
Much has been written about pent-up demand for leisure travel once vaccinations reach a critical mass. Do you subscribe to that and what specific destinations will be on the highest list for golfers - especially those travelling from the UK?
Absolutely. I think there will be a lot of demand for golf travel once the sky corridors reopen. Obviously, the likes of Portugal and Spain are ever popular, but I think there will be a big demand for places that have reacted well to the pandemic and have similar vaccine successes as the UK. The UAE for one. Canada has also been pretty impressive on this front and has some amazing golf courses to enjoy.
Who is your customer?
Our customer is anyone who is looking for great service and value for money. We have many types of customers from avid golfers to casual players as well as non-golfers and groups.
We welcome all, and work with our customers to get the best out of their budget. Although we promote a VIP service it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a VIP budget. We give all our clients the same focus and attention to make sure they have the best trip or event as possible.
Have you reached out for feedback from your clients regarding how they view the next 10 months unfolding?
We have utilised our customer database to try and get an understanding of what offerings would be of most interest. The majority of feedback has been that short haul travel - and in the UK - will be most popular.
Most are very keen to get out and about, and are just waiting for the opportunity to go. I think once golf is back open, we will see a lot more enquiries and bookings being made.
Companies routinely tout the importance of “customer service.” Define the term and the approach you follow.
Customer service from our perspective is the provision of support throughout the booking journey, from enquiry to returning from travel. We follow an open, honest and supportive approach whereby we work with the customer to make sure they are getting the most from their trip.
We take time to understand their requirements and then make suggestions as to the best options for them. We are also on hand whilst they are away should they wish to make any changes or need our support.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally - what would it be and why?
Junior golf and programmes. I feel like whilst there are options out there for juniors to take part in, we need more opportunities for them to participate.
We had been hoping to start looking at more junior events within our Golf VIP Events series, however Covid has pushed this back, but we are looking to revisit this in the coming months.
The major golf organisations - R&A, USGA, PGA of America, PGA Tour, European Tour, LPGA - are all seeking ways to engage new players to the game. This is especially for Millennials, women and minorities. If you were counselling them - what would you recommend they be doing?
Make golf more accessible to all. The number of clubs that still don’t offer ways for members to spread the cost of membership fees is crazy. Millennials spend money by what they can afford each month. Health clubs, gyms, etc all offer monthly subscriptions.
Cycling has become really popular in the UK of late. Try to find a cycling shop that doesn’t offer a way to spread the cost of the bike purchase! Golf is so far behind in this regards and golf equipment is only getting more expensive.
Best advice you ever received - what was it and who from?
Don’t sacrifice quality for profit. This was something my Dad said to me when I was first thinking of setting up. Whatever we do, we make sure it’s as perfect as possible.
Even if this means are margins are tighter. Sometimes it’s not all about making money, it’s about seeing people really enjoy something so much that they want to come back and do it again and again.
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